Marketing through the Funding Lifecycle: From Seed to Series A

On Thursday, my colleague and friend Christine Alemany, Chief Revenue Generator at Trailblaze Growth Advisors, and I presented at the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center here in San Francisco. Our topic: “Marketing through the Funding Lifecycle: From Seed to Series A.”

marketing1.png

This hands-on workshop was designed specifically to help emerging companies in the Angel to Series A stage of capitalization navigate the marketing landscape. To our delight and surprise, we had a packed house and enjoyed a lively and thoroughly interactive session.

The primary question we were looking to help answer was this: Does marketing matter in the early stages of a company’s development? And if so, which marketing tactics work best at which stages for a company with limited experience and resources?

marketing4.jpeg

It’s useful to think about this in the context of success-failure ratios. It’s widely believed that most start-ups don’t ultimately succeed. So what is special about the ones that do? The answer is multi-faceted, but I am absolutely convinced that smart use of marketing resources plays a key role. After all, marketing is probably the most efficient way to shape the perceptions of potential buyers who are unfamiliar with your brand.

Over the course of two hours we took the audience through the basics of marketing: demand generation, brand building and public relations. We discussed what they are, how they are different and what you should prioritize in each stage of business growth.

We then worked on a marketing bootcamp with two emerging and promising start-ups: Oneva, a technology-enabled service company specializing in “concierge in-home and on-the-go” service, including certified home care; and CleanMe, a company providing a high quality, “radically personal” home cleaning service. The two companies  participated in a real-time value proposition development exercise as an example to other attendees.

A few key questions and themes came up, and our discussions could serve as valuable pointers for any company in a similar position:

What’s the right marketing mix to reach my company’s goals?

Get clear on the goals for your company at this stage – funding, product development, customer acquisition, due diligence prior to product development, brand awareness and so on. Different tactics are called for at different times and when resources are limited it is vital to prioritize.

marketing3.jpeg

When should I start thinking about marketing?

As soon as your technology, product or service is in place you are ready to think marketing. Start small and leverage the time you have to refine your brand and voice while you are still in the early stages of development. A quick side note: Remember to save all your marketing collateral. This might sound like a no-brainer, but more than once we have worked with companies who lost final copies of marketing materials when a staff member left. Staff churn in the early days of a business is high and misplaced work product is all too common.

As a start-up, what marketing tactics should we prioritize?

If I were to choose a single first step into marketing, it would be to create the company logo. The time and work that goes into this effort will set the tone for all branding to come. It’s an essential foundational step. It is also vital to test your message. This can be one of the more expensive parts of setting up your marketing function, but it is vital to gauge the reactions of at least a 1,000 people to get an accurate sense of broader market perceptions. It may cost you upfront, but it will save you money in the long run.

How do I know if my marketing people are right for my business? What should I look for?

In many start-ups, people wear multiple hats. Just because a great marketing expert wants to work for you doesn’t mean that person will be the right fit in your scrappier environment. Look for people who can optimize a limited budget and who know how to roll up their sleeves and get stuff done. In many cases, start-ups are just not at the point where they can afford a full-time marketing person. However, there are some great alternative options, including agencies and consultants that can support you. Check out Upwork, Writer Access and Graphic River.

It was invigorating to see so many start-up companies at the session and get a taste of the incredible innovation happening around us. I can’t wait for my next opportunity to connect with today’s entrepreneurs and tomorrow’s success stories.