Minimum Viable Marketing for Startups

So you launched your startup. Congratulations. Now the hard work starts.

You’re busy, really busy, working on the product, building your team, finding funders and getting ready to ship. Marketing? Yeah, that’s probably something you think “comes later.”

That’s a mistake. Startups need to think about marketing from the earliest days of the company. That doesn’t mean you’re spending scarce dollars on wasteful ad campaigns or hyped-up parties. But it does mean focusing on the marketing strategies and tactics that add the most value at the lowest cost in the early stages of your company.

We call this Minimum Viable Marketing (MVM). You may already talk in terms of being a lean startup and building out a Minimum Viable Product, or MVP—the first product you can ship and generate revenue from. With this “lean” approach you iterate product features, learn from customer interactions, and revise your product accordingly. It’s a repeated cycle of learning.

Marketing your startup is no different. With MVM, you focus on a core set of affordable actions that will support your development and growth. This makes your company look real; something investors and customers can confidently engage with. You need to learn and refine continuously.

Every startup is different, but for most there are five essential components to Minimum Viable Marketing, some strategic and some tactical:

  • Positioning and Messaging
  • Branding
  • Pitch Decks
  • Social media
  • Web site

So start first with truly understanding who you are, the value you offer to your customers and where your product fits in the market. That’s your positioning and messaging. Figure that out, and convey it consistently, and you’ll be one big step closer to capturing those venture capital dollars you’re lusting after to fuel your company’s growth.

Branding uses that positioning and messaging and turns it into something visual. A proper logo, color palette, and fonts, used consistently across all your materials, delivers a professional image to your audiences. It also helps you look bigger than you are – that’s a good thing for any startup in search of credibility.

In your early days you are likely going to do a lot of presentations. You need a proper “pitch deck.” Your PowerPoints need to use the positioning, messaging and branding you’ve developed to tell your story effectively. They can’t be too long or too technical. Remember to customize each presentation to your audience – VCs and potential customers will have very different needs.

Social media is another key component of MVM, no matter if your company is in the B2C or B2B space. Figure out the right channels for your audience and get engaged.

There is no barrier to entry in social media and some VCs will even look at a startup’s social following as one way to measure early market traction.  Use social as a way to define your brand and engage with your customers, partners and others. It can be an important platform for inbound marketing or narrowly targeted advertising.

A website is arguably your startup’s number one marketing asset. It’s the first stop people make when checking your company out.

What will they find? Go beyond the one page site, or even worse, the page from the company you registered the domain with – think about the message that sends. Again, keep it lean. In the early days, you don’t need an elaborate (or expensive) web site, just one that looks good and tells your story well – you’ve already worked out your positioning, messaging and branding – now put it to use on your site.

The components of Minimum Viable Marketing are the core first round of things you need to do to tell your startup’s story and lead it firmly toward customers, partners and investors. MVM is a pragmatic approach to startup marketing: it recognizes the limits of your time and cash resources. This is a lean approach to marketing, one that echoes the way you’re developing the rest of your business.

Want to learn more about putting the power of MVM to work for your startup? Check out Bonfire’s free ebook: Minimum Viable Marketing – A Startup Playbook.