How to initiate marketing for startups?

In my global research on startups, I found only a few exceptions to this observation. Most of the 1,447 startups I surveyed couldn’t bear t...

In my global research on startups, I found only a few exceptions to this observation. Most of the 1,447 startups I surveyed couldn’t bear the costs of a marketing or business development consultant before they’d found their product-market fit and got on track to earn revenue. There were few exceptions, but those were startup founders who were serial entrepreneurs with solid personal and financial backgrounds who could afford to hire consultants at any time. But for startups that are bootstrapped from zero, with no connections and financial capital (as are most startups), hiring consultants can be extremely beneficial. Why? As I delved deeper into the research, I became more confident that a solid and hard to copy value proposition is essential for a startup to be successful. Sean Ellis believes that hired consultants can improve the growth trajectory after the first business model is developed. This means that startups are on their own to build a great value proposition by finding their problem solution market fit and the initial traction. Once you have that, you can attract investors and hire consultants to help scale your business, but at the very beginning at the hardest period startup founders are alone and have to find their way based on their own efforts.

Startups, unlike traditional businesses, can measure their success not only by revenue but also by the knowledge they gain on the way to confirming the problem solution market fit and building a profitable and scalable business. Startup Evolution Curve covers five stages of startup development with different objectives in each.

It doesn’t much matter if you develop a buyable startup or any other kind of startup, this methodology keeps you focused on creating a profitable and scalable business. The concept can be applied to different kinds of businesses: whether it’s an online or offline business, a service or a product, business to customer, or business to-business. There are few exceptions (for example, medicine and biotechnologies) where this methodology would be hard to apply in whole, but different aspects could be adopted.

How to initiate marketing for startups

If you run an ordinary business, it’s possible for you to learn from the experience of others, to check what works and what doesn’t, what your competitors do, and how you could do something better. But this post is designed for business pioneers; for those who are taking their business journey to where no one else has gone before. Therefore, the Startup Evolution Curve goes up with each stage, even if there is some turbulence in building a solid base of knowledge or verified business model with an actual revenue stream.

Some tasks might look like they are being repeated in different stages in this blog. This is intentional because many aspects of a startup business must be reviewed and updated at least a few times with deeper understanding and precision each time. Percentages in conceptual startup evolution curve indicate the progress and how many tasks are completed in particular development stage. It’s quite possible that due to iteration process startups will have those percentages changing up and down.

marketing for startups

Startup Evolution Curve is designed to be convenient for people without much time and who want to take action right now:
  1. Choose one of the five stages you are currently most interested in
  2. Review the topics to get an overview of what should be done in that stage
  3. Review the “how to do it” infographic at the beginning of the topic and follow the instructions
It will help you to find out where to focus your attention to get the most value from this blog in your particular situation. Plus, by answering the questions, you’ll better understand the whole methodology and get some insight into how you could improve your startup business.

Each stage of the Startup Evolution Curve has the same number of lessons to be learned, but each lesson includes a different number of tasks. There are 164 tasks in total. You can quickly run through these tasks highlighted by the icons to review the whole concept. Read those tasks that are most relevant to your situation and follow the instructions. If any questions arise, you are welcome to join the Startup Evolution Curve on Linkedin where members of the startup community and I share our experience and answer questions.

If you are not sure which stage of the Startup Evolution Curve you should focus on first, take the online self-assessment test (www.evolutioncurve.com/test). It will help you to find out where to focus your attention to get the most value from this blog in your particular situation. Plus, by answering the questions, you’ll better understand the whole methodology and get some insight into how you could improve your startup business.

Each stage of the Startup Evolution Curve has the same number of lessons to be learned, but each lesson includes a different number of tasks. There are 164 tasks in total. You can quickly run through these tasks highlighted by the icons to review the whole concept. Read those tasks that are most relevant to your situation and follow the instructions. If any questions arise, you are welcome to join the Startup Evolution Curve on Linkedin where members of the startup community and I share our experience and answer questions.

Key thoughts before you start marketing for startups:


  1. The founder of a startup never feels relaxed until he sells all his shares of a venture and takes a well-deserved break before creating a new startup. You should not relax after successful fundraising. On the contrary, now it’s time to prove the trust that investors put in you.
  2. A one-man band will never sound as good as an orchestra. It’s highly beneficial to have an advisory board of experts in different fields meaningful to your business. This can yield not only great insights, but valuable connections, investments, and even your first clients. Don’t be too self-contained. It’s better to seek out potential advisors.
  3. Testing, testing, testing! Never stop testing, but do it reasonably. Get used to the fact that you’ll have to run many tests and most of them will end up in failure. During my research, I didn’t meet a single startup that became successful without raising weighted hypotheses and wisely testing them one by one. To build a successful startup without testing is something like winning a jackpot in a lottery, but the failure price in the startup is much higher.
  4. Use wise metrics and measure only what really matters. It’s good to see growing numbers and justify your decisions. But only wise metrics show your real progress towards a profitable and scalable business. Don’t become obsessed with useless vanity metrics.
  5. Get used to planning and change your plans quickly. In today’s economy, not the largest but the fastest wins. Use any online or offline planning tools that are convenient for you, check templates at Evolutioncurve.com, or at least plan on a whiteboard in your office or at home. If you want to keep progressing, you must keep track where you are now, where you are going, and what tasks you should do next.

Marketing for startups feasibility Study

Generally speaking, a market feasibility study is a way to minimize a startup’s risk. Why should you develop products or services that customers won’t buy? Why should you risk creating a non-profitable business? My global research on startups that I conducted in 2016 showed that 1 hour spent on a qualified feasibility study saves 2.7 work days (or 21.6 hours) on average in product development and market entry stages. That’s amazing return on investment (ROI) of your time. So don’t ever assume that a correctly performed feasibility study is a waste of time. I’ve personally conveyed a number of feasibility studies in recent years and can tell you that it can save huge amounts of money as well. I remember a $59 million case where the startup founders already had investments from Switzerland, but the feasibility study showed that their project as it was planned has no chance to become a profitable business. Even if everything went according to the most optimistic scenario, they could expect only about 80% of the revenue needed to reach the break-even point. It was sad and disappointing that such huge business project was never launched, but the feasibility study helped avoid burning out $59 million!

The correct attitude to market feasibility study should be to find out what customers need and want, check whether it’s a profitable opportunity, then create and give it to them. Following this, the market feasibility study:

  • reduces the amount of time, money, and energy it takes to create profitable products and services
  • aligns your solutions and possible offers with customers’ needs and wants
  • helps to increase targeted traffic and bring you more potential customers
  • increases the likelihood that customers will like and trust your product or brand more
  • allows you to achieve higher sales conversion and retention (get new customers and sell more to existing ones).

Usually, the preliminary feasibility study is performed based on secondary data (information which is already collected by somebody else). It’s much cheaper or sometimes even totally free, allows you to approximately evaluate the potential of your idea, provides insights how it could be adjusted, and identifies what you should test in practice. In the empirical part of the feasibility study you have to collect data by yourself: run surveys, interviews, and experiments. The goal here is to test assumptions about your business idea and get as solid as possible facts how this business idea might work out in the best way.

Main goals of this stage:

? create a value proposition
? evaluate the potential market size
? define a possible business model

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Thought Leadership Zen: How to initiate marketing for startups?
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