You're trying to inject life into your company every day. So have you noticed that when your marketing is muffled, the whole company acts mummified? It's easy for marketing to get caught up in its own wrappings and trappings. I thought about this a lot as I attended a series of startup strategy meetings this last month as an advisor at my PR firm.

I'm sharing some of the most prevalent ways I saw startups getting twisted up in their own stuff--and how they cut loose:

1. Wrap your message in the customer's culture

Your marketing team is almost never living the same life as the target market. That means it doesn't have the same gut-level frame of reference.

You tend to assume people like or relate to the same things you do, but if you started a company; you're sort of different. When you are not your target market, projecting too much of yourself instead of them just deadens your message. There is a simple two-fold fix to unwrap this trap.

  • Spend time with your target market in their daily environment. Go to where they are. Take in their business reality. Eat their lunch. You might be surprised at the insights that a physical, and not a digital, relationship with prospects will give you. You should still show them how you're different and be your authentic self, but do it in the words, phrases and actions your target market finds consistent with their world, not necessarily your world.
  • Market with case studies. The beauty of the case study is that if you do it well, you can't help but showcase your customer's perspectives, ways of speaking and points of view. For details, here's a guide I wrote about writing case studies.

2. Prioritize brains and brawn

The second "mummified marketing" issue I'm seeing a lot is putting too much budget in the place of brains and brawn. For example, configuring 100 keywords for Google advertising in order to send more traffic to a site that has qualified organic traffic but poor conversion.

Adwords are amazing. You're generally right to deploy them. Do so in a disciplined, scaling fashion to make sure what you're doing converts. Sending more traffic to a stale site that won't convert it is a classic waste of cash. It's the ultimate marketing mummification move.

Free your creativity to create conversion, then pour Adwords dollars into a working funnel. It takes time-just good old muscle-and brains to create conversion. Don't shortcut with budget: it doesn't create those long term wins your company needs to grow sustainably.

3. Don't give in to decision decay

One of the fast-growth software startups I'm working with has two goals: deeper penetration into existing clients and net new clients. The whole team is excited about achieving this together. In execution though, there's a stumble. Is it marketing or is it sales that is really responsible for cross selling existing clients and net new clients? This is decision decay. Not making precise decisions deadens marketing and sales effectiveness.

The antidote is to answer the unasked questions. Clarify that, "Marketing: you are responsible for generating cross-product leads from existing clients at a rate of 20 per week. Sales: you are responsible for closing a minimum of 50% of that input and I sent you a suggested bonus structure over that. Discuss and let us know how we can help next week in the management team meeting."

Failure animates success

Your goal is a living, breathing brand that walks and talks on its own. Marc Andreesen's recent tweet really summed it up "My goal is not to fail fast. My goal is to succeed over the long run. They are not the same thing."

By focusing on engaging the actual culture of your target market, testing your message conversion as you grow, and creating clear internal accountability, you can speed how fast your marketing program goes from stumbles to successes.

Published on: Oct 27, 2015