The Scale-Up Marketing Blog

Start-Up Marketing 101 – There is such a thing as a “free-lunch”, find it!

As someone who came to a start-up from a series of very large corporates, the last 9 months have been a crash-course in scale-up marketing.

When people ask about working in a scale-up I always say, “It’s different!”  There are some “good differences” autonomy, freedom of action, and clearly defined objectives and there are some “less good differences” lack of budget, lack of resource and a huge to-do list.  On balance, I think the “good differences outweigh the “less good differences”.  I get to work with a great team in a vibrant and dynamic environment.

There is an “I” in team

The biggest shock for me in scale-up marketing was finding that there was an “I” in team.  I’d come from a corporate environment where I had a large marketing team, within an even larger marketing organisation, and marketing budgets measured in $millions. I had administrative support. I had social media specialists.  I had access to web design and full-service marketing agencies and most importantly a team of experienced marketeers able to peer-review, advise and support any marketing activity.  Moving from that to a team of one, took some time to adjust.

In Scale-Up Marketing you have to be a “jack-of-all-trades” which can be tremendous fun or a horrific nightmare depending on your disposition and personality.  Personally, I love the variety that comes with being the sole marketeer, but it can be frustrating when you’re challenged as to why you’re spending money with a design agency or on search engine optimisation (SEO).  Part of the role is educating people about the role of marketing and some of the specialisms, and also knowing what you can do, what you can’t do and what you can learn to do.

To answer my own questions:

1. “I’m spending money on (graphic) design because I am not a graphic designer, and I don’t have the right software, and I want my website or email campaign or poster or exhibition stand to look professional.”

2. “I’m spending money on SEO because I can optimise my website to the first three pages of Google search results, but I want to appear in the first three results.”

Lean and Agile Marketing

Moving from a large corporate marketing organisation to a scale-up you realise how large budgets can make you wasteful. On the positive side you have budgets to experiment.  On the negative side you sometimes choose the “best solution” over the “best solution for the money available”.

In the past 9 months I have found some excellent marketing tools that are either free or inexpensive that can deliver excellent results.  This is “lean” marketing. 

Marketing “agility” is achieved through a change of mindset.  Instead of focusing on a robust, belts and braces approach to marketing activities, I liken my approach to that of my software development colleagues.

Instead of developing a Minimum-Viable-Product (MVP) I focus on delivering Minimum-Viable-Marketing.  I don’t want you to think that this means that standard or quality are ignored, its just a more pragmatic (and hopefully less expensive) approach.

In a Scale-Up 90% may be good enough.

5 Free or low-cost tools for Scale-Up Marketing

To support the lean and agile marketing approach its important to use tools and automate as much as possible to be effective in your role.  Here are five tools or applications that I have found invaluable in my time in a start-up.  Sometimes you have to make a quick evaluation and take a decision, and you don’t neccessarily have the  luxury of time when chosing an application, tool or platform.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on my selection and any alternatives, particularly if they are lower cost.  Here we go….

#1 – Mail Chimp – Email marketing and much more

One of the first things I did in my Scale-Up was create a monthly newsletter. Despite being “Old Skool” email newsletters are an important way of keeping in touch with customers, prospects and investors.  Mailchimp is certainly one of the best, and if you have under 500 database contacts Mailchimp is free.  It has four subscriptions – Free, Essentials, Standard and Premium.  During the year I migrated from Free to Essentials and with 1,500 contacts I pay $19.99 per month.

Mailchimp is a very powerful tool and I know I could do more with it.  Most importantly the platform is GDPR and CCPA (EU and Californian Privacy and Consent regulation) compliant as your CEO won’t thank you for a fine of 4% of turnover for breach of regulation.

 

#2 – Buffer – Social Media…managed

Buffer is a great social media management tool.  It allows you to manage up to 8 different social media accounts for both channels and individuals.  Buffer quite simply allows you to “buffer” social media content for scheduled publication.  

Once a fortnight I spend the morning selecting and scheduling content for the next two-weeks.  I can set the content to publish flexibly, and I can then supplement that with “spontaneous tweets” in response to news or announcements.  I spend $15 per month on a single-user PRO licence.  

#3 – Copper CRM perfect for Google companies

In many large corporates, Salesforce is the defacto CRM choice.  It is flexible, powerful…and expensive. Fortunately there are a number of good, inexpensive CRMs available to the market.  I tried Hubspot CRM, which is free, but quickly found the things I wanted to do took me to a pay-wall.

Copper, formerly Prosper Works, is the best CRM I’ve found for a company using Google’s G-Suite.  It integrates really intuitively and in 9 months I’ve grown the CRM database from less than 200 contacts to nearly 1,500. Copper has three subscriptions – Basic, $19 per user, per month, professional and business.  I use professional because the API’s allow me to use an automatic business card scanner application on my phone and scan cards directly into the CRM. The free trial is free, and you don’t need to hand over payment details.

#4 – Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a “no-brainer” the platform tells you how your website performs, and huge amounts of analytical data about visitor behaviour.

Google Analytics is free and it helps you understand what your customers like and don’t like about your website and content.  Awesome. On the downside, it means Google will know even more about you than before but thats modern life.

#5 – Pixabay – Free images and video clips

I love Pixabay.  It’s a free image site that increasingly has illustrations, graphics and video content.  To use Pixabay regularly you need to sign up and contribute a number of images to the site.  The images are free under a Pixabay licence and can be used commercially, edited and posted without needing to give credit.

Pixabay doesn’t have the same breadth of images as a professional site like Shutterstock or iStockphoto but it doesn’t cost $35 per month either.  I’ve found some fantastic images for use on the Zeetta Networks website.  My only ask is that if you do use Pixabay do please pay it forward and make a donation to the site or individual artists if you like their material.

I debated long and hard as to whether I should add Grammarly to the list.  As a solo marketeer it’s difficult to get your content proof-read and grammar checked.  Grammarly is a fantastic grammar checker.  Its recently added a “tone-detector” [This is apparently admiring and optimistic] which feeds back on the tone of the text.  

The thing I don’t like about Grammarly is how it seems to default back to “US English” every time you turn your back on it.  When I write realise, I mean realise, not realize and I don’t like being corrected.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my first blog in the “Scale-Up Marketing” series. I found my first 9 months in a Scale-Up great fun, and sometimes just a little bit frustrating. Some of the tools and applications I found by chance others were recommended to me.

In some cases, Copper CRM, I found out about them through well-targeted and relevant inbound marketing campaigns.

If you like my suggestions please share them with your friends and colleagues.

Do feel free to comment, suggest alternatives or even contradict me.  Your feedback is welcome.