Jenny Fernandez '98SEAS '97CC

Jenny Fernandez '98SEAS '97CC

Marketing Executive, Professor, and Leadership Coach

7 Marketing Principles to Drive Your Venture to Growth

“Everyone is a marketer!” I have heard people say. In my marketing career, I have learned that founders and business owners are the true marketers. You work on every aspect of the business. You are the founder, strategist, finance manager, brand evangelist, and marketer all in one!

You know that marketing is not about sales but about customers. It’s the ongoing process to satisfy customer needs and build customer relationships. These seven marketing principles will help you better understand, satisfy, and connect with your customer and grow your business.

1. Consumer Insights: How’s your customer journey? Know your customer preferences and pain points to create a long-term relationship. Pre-funding uses personal experience, friends and family, advisors, employees, and public data to validate ideas. Expansion or scaling up requires large spend decisions so connecting with customers is a must! Maintenance involves ongoing customer “checkins” to stay current using online surveys, online focus groups, or in-market tests. Experiment with different options to see what works best for you.

2. Marketing Strategy: In the busy startup world with so many priorities and do-or-die situations, marketing strategy may take a back seat. But, spending time to craft one out will reap great results. Create a game plan with a holistic view of all the customer touch points. As shown by Salesforce.com small business growth essentials, understanding the relationship between the customer journey and your venture’s marketing funnel will give you the ability to answer, “Are we delivering the desired customer experience every step of the way?”

3. Focus & Prioritization: As a founder or business owner, you have a million things to do. You will get pulled in many directions. If your business is doing well, everyone wants your time — customers, employees, and (soon) investors. Or, if something is not working, you will be busy working to turn around the situation. When prioritization is difficult, always refer back to your marketing game plan. Delegate to others or put some initiatives on pause. Focus on what you need to do to grow your business.

4. Marketing Funding: Spending decisions are critical for startups. According to Deloitte’s CMO survey, marketing budgets are on average 10 percent of the firm’s total revenue. A startup in the growth stage may spend double that amount. Marketing effectiveness varies across channels. Be diligent in tracking marketing spend results to maximize ROI.

5. Media Choices: You will have many media options within today’s POE (paid, owned, earned) media landscape. Key questions to consider: 

  1. Where does your customer consume paid media? Do you need a Tiktok or Instagram Strategy? Can brand ambassadors communicate your message?
  2. How can you leverage your owned assets? Have you built a robust email database to do CRM (customer relationship marketing)? Can content creation drive customers to your website and social media outlets?
  3. How can you amplify your message through earned media? Is your product / service PR worthy? Can your social media content go viral?

In addition, can strategic partnerships with likeminded brands (share the same values / customers) extend your marketing spend? For example, as the Oreo brand director in Asia Pacific, I collaborated in a partnership with the movie Transformers 4, which helped drive brand awareness, social media engagement, and in-store sales.

6. Personal Branding: Who doesn’t love a good story? A compelling founder or origins story can drive a lot of affinity and loyalty with customers. Share your passion and context about your venture. Also, as stated by personal branding author Dorie Clark, the best form of personal branding is to become a recognized expert. Amplify your message — use content creation to build your reputation as an expert. Write articles and pitch to publications, collaborate on podcasts, and offer free speaking engagements in conferences. This effort will pay off!

7. Hiring Talent: Marketing priorities and funding help guide hiring decisions. There’s no right or wrong answer between inhouse and outsourcing of staff. Do you know what skills are needed for the venture to succeed? If so, start building this internal knowledge. Do it yourself in the beginning, but when funding is available, look to hire skilled talent to strengthen the team.

Creating customer relationships takes time. Being a marketer means having a learning mindset, listening to your customer, and having a game plan! Execute, track, and reassess your plan and keep your focus on the big picture. You will succeed.