Marketing: return on investment or education

It’s a fine a balance achieving the right marketing strategy at outset.

It’s a fine a balance achieving the right marketing strategy at outset.

Our latest Best Business Decision got me thinking – how does an early-stage company get its name out into the market.

For someone like Crowdcube, whose co-founder Luke Lang revealed that securing the services of a ‘smart boutique PR agency’ was the best decision he has ever made, gaining awareness in the appropriate sectors early on was critical.

While many businesses may operate in stealth mode for a while, ensuring that their technology/service/product is fully tested and ready for public scrutiny, most companies need awareness for early traction.

Getting the right message out, particularly for a first-time entrepreneurial team, can be as much trial and error as anything else. If I showed you just some of the poorly considered (and even written) press releases I sometimes receive then you’d be shocked.

Marketing costs money of course, something most start-ups are in short supply of in the early days. Most want to only commit where there is a proven return on investment (ROI) – where ‘x’ leads to ‘y’, and customers are secured.

But this can often be misguided, with Crowdcube a great case in point. Much of what the equity crowdfunding business did early on was to educate the market on the new approach being taken. After all, you’re going to have a hard time selling someone a product if they have no idea what it is or what it does.

So it’s a case of having a balanced approach to marketing at the beginning. There is definitely obvious benefit to ROI initiatives, which will win customers – but it’s important to remember that investment is required to create a recognised presence in the desired marketplace.

I’ve noticed an increasing number of launch event invites dropping into my inbox during the last year. I think these are a great way to informally introduce a new business or concept, face-to-face. While they undoubtedly cost money to host, getting everyone you want in the same room at the same time to give a brief presentation is far more effective than sending round a glossy media pack that may or may not get read.

Marketing is a dark art, and one which if done correctly can be incredibly powerful. So I would urge all new entrants into the market to think long and hard about how they spend money on the business discipline – it’s pivotal, and very easy to get very wrong.

Hunter Ruthven

Bernard Williamson

Hunter was the Editor for from 2012 to 2014, before moving on to Caspian Media Ltd to be Editor of Real Business.

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