One of my favorite parts of the work I do in growth marketing is serving as an advisor to entrepreneurs in the Atlanta Tech Village. Recently, Karen Houghton at the ATV told me I was a subject matter expert in “smarketing” after I led a workshop for the It Takes a Village cohort on marketing and sales alignment.
After the workshop, Villager Tori Madison, the Founder of My Recovery, sent over a list of questions about marketing for early-stage companies. Her questions showed enormous potential and are exactly the type of things entrepreneurs should be thinking about when trying to launch a startup.
The first question she asked me—and probably the most important one—was this: When do you know your company is ready for marketing?
Like, wow, y’all! Can we talk about a “meta” question? Growth marketing is always one of those ‘chicken or the egg’ kind of questions. Should a founder (or the founding team) invest in marketing when they don’t have a minimum viable product (MVP) or are still in the midst of doing customer discovery?
Here’s one critical piece founders need to think about: marketing doesn’t need to be an investment in capital, especially if you’re fundraising.
Marketing in the earliest days of your company is about building your brand, both your personal thought leadership and the future brand identity of your new startup.
If there’s one big takeaway I have from the time I spent working for Sangram Vajre at Terminus, it’s that when your company is in its earliest stages, your brand—both the company and your personal brand—will drive demand.
So here’s what I tell entrepreneurs in Atlanta Tech Village…
Marketing your startup should start the minute you start the darn thing!
If you’ve taken the step to actually found a company by filing the incorporation paperwork, launching a website, or quitting your day job to do it, then you better tell your network what you’re up to with social media, a blog post, however you think it will work to share your story.
You should immediately grab a domain name (you can always change it later on) and start publishing content there. The advantage of sending traffic to your site goes back to domain authority. Once you know the type of audience you want to engage with and the keywords you want to rank for, you should be publishing content and sending traffic to your site.
Another key component is to have social media channels aligned with your new startup for cross-promotion of your content.
For example, when I launched Pretty Southern and started publishing blog posts, I immediately grabbed the social media handles for Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter (note – in 2011 – Instagram wasn’t even a thing yet).
At Motivo—the startup I joined following its graduation from Techstars in early 2019 and now a Village company—we have an amazing social media freelancer who posts on our “core 4” social channels. I call it our “LIFT” for LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter where we post every business day.
We have freelancers helping us post new blog content every Tuesday and Thursday, plus a weekly newsletter. Now finding a solid freelancer to support your business is not as easy as it seems. When I’m vetting freelancers, I ask for work samples pertaining to our industry vertical because I want to see if they can write eloquently and expertly on our subject matter.
Now Motivo is scaling out of our infancy (we just launched the platform in March and raised $2M+ in seed funding) so when I’m asked what the marketing metrics should be at this early point, I say it all comes down to engagement. It’s all about building buzz around your work and why (thank you Simon Sinek) you started this endeavor to change the game somehow.
At this point in the early stage of your business, it’s about how are you going to get to $10K in monthly revenue (with how many paying customers), then $25K, then $50K. Remember, 99% of startups will never achieve $100K in monthly revenue ($1M in ARR).
I’m also often asked about when is it right to start publishing press releases. This is a question I’ve gotten from countless founders over the years, about the impact of doing a PR, and it’s super important to remember here.
Building up a rapport with your target media is essential before you pitch them. You need to send them an email, connect on LinkedIn, or give them a shoutout/share a story on social before sending them your PR.
One of the reasons I’ve been successful in this role is because I have spent years building up my press connections. Since most founders are starting from scratch, the best move is to make a list of the 5-10 reporters who are covering technology, your category, industry vertical, etc. and then go from there.
When it comes to growth marketing, nothing is ever easy—that’s why I don’t believe the BS around growth hacking, a blog post for another time. But what should feel easy is telling your origin story.
Why did you decide to start this company? What are you trying to change? And how are you going to do it?
Thinking through how to tell your story and where you’re going to do it—on your blog, personal social media, email to 100 people in your network, you name it—is the easiest way to start marketing your startup.
What’s your story? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.
Lauren Patrick is an Advisor for the Atlanta Tech Village. A graduate of UGA’s Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication, she’s spearheaded growth marketing for a bevy of technology startups including Preparis, Urjanet, MemberSuite, Terminus, Bark, her own website, PrettySouthern.com, and now Head of Marketing at Motivo. Follow Lauren on social media @Pretty_Southern.