Foundational Marketing

Getting started with marketing? What founders must think through first

By Trusted CMO

As a young company, you must establish your market position and create demand for your product. However, many startup founders don’t have a background in marketing and struggle to know when it’s time for marketing and what to expect when they invest in it. 

So, what should you do first? 

This article explores the essential concepts startup founders must understand and work through as they plan to invest in marketing. 

Foundational questions you need to answer before you start marketing 

Marketing is about creating a market for your products. Start your planning by answering some foundational questions: 

  • How can we describe what we are building in the simplest terms? 
  • What problems are we solving with our product? 
  • Who is the primary user of our product, and who else will be involved in a buying decision?
  • Why would our buyers and users want this product, and what is urgent about buying it?   
  • Why should buyers buy us over other offerings in the market? 
  • Why are we the best company/people to build this product? 
  • Given our target market and what we sell, how will we price it and entice our potential buyers to use our product? 

Your responses to these questions form the basis for your go-to-market (sales and marketing) strategy. 

Positioning your company: what corner of the room do you own?

Positioning is the strategic differentiation of your company and its products in a market. Typically, you create a new market category (consider whether this is true or not) or an offering that is more valuable and effective than competitive alternatives. 

Determining positioning is a collaborative exercise involving internal team input, customer feedback, and competitive analysis that aligns everyone behind a narrative around naming the problem you solve and how your company uniquely delivers the solution.

You’ll usually stick with your positioning for a few years until you find a reason to change it. 

What is messaging, and how is that different from positioning? 

Positioning is a core input of messaging, and unlike positioning, messaging is never finished. You should continuously evaluate whether your words effectively communicate the value you deliver and resonate with your target customer.  

Think of messaging as the next layer cascading down from your positioning—like examples and proof points that build awareness for and help buyers connect to your company and product. 

There are a few flavors of messaging: 

  • Product messaging: what is it, what can it do, who uses it, outcomes
  • Strategic messaging to stakeholders: why they should buy you, value, speed, etc. 
  • Sales messaging: ways to help build buyer belief in your product 

And this is just a short list. 

How does “brand” fit into all of this? 

Brand is a scary word for a lot of founders. It feels like a hand-wavy agency thing that will cost a lot of money and has a murky connection to revenue growth.  

Brand is how you show up in the market and the expectations people have about how you show up. Brand permeates every interaction with your company, from how you conduct yourself in sales, talking to customers, your website and product UI look, and the information you're putting out. You can’t build a memorable brand if your company shows up inconsistently. 

Founders must think critically about what they stand for and how they’ll conduct themselves at each brand touchpoint. Establishing a conviction about your company’s place in the market informs all critical decisions beyond logos and color palettes. 

Interested in learning how to get marketing started or make it work better? Talk to us

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