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Start-ups and the ever-changing playing field

Andrew Hardman

Andrew Hardman is the MD & founder of MyMarketology (providing online marketing courses for digital marketeers) and loves to solve business problems and bike.

We’re now a month into our start-up journey and a lot has happened so far.

We have launched the business; we have started advertising using PPC; we have already made adjustments to our website and user experience flow. You may have already read about these in our previous blog posts, you can see these here if you would like to back and catch up.

At this stage we are still a little behind our projections on the number of active users on the platform, but not everything was going to be plain sailing was it?!

Some changes are required to our marketing. We are able to produce a high number of impressions to all of our content at reasonably low costs. This wasn’t ever going to be an issue though, as we have a lot of proven experience in the world of PPC marketing.

What we are not getting enough of at the moment are new users, or conversions if you want to look at it from a marketing perspective.

In this situation we know from experience that our targeting and messaging isn’t quite right somewhere.

What we need to do is reevaluate our audience personas to ensure that:

We are targeting the correct people..
With the right content..
In the right places..
With the most relevant type of content..
That answers their questions and gives them solutions to their problems.

That’s not too difficult, is it? After all, we advise that no matter what marketing discipline you are going to use, you need to start with:

Defining your objectives and goals
Creating buyer/audience personas so that you know who are targeting
Choosing a strategy that aligns with the audience and objectives above.

Here is an example of what I mean from our own business:

Our current objective is to reach 100,000 active users on the MyMarketology platform.
We set this out for the world to see in our first blog post. That’s the reason for this blog – to share our journey to that objective with you.

Our current audience personas are:

Individual users who are looking to develop their digital marketing knowledge and career
Businesses with marketing teams who can benefit from our business services solutions

audience personas from

We have gone into much more detail than that in our internal persona documentation, such as where the individual users may spend their time (social networks, forums, etc.), their pain points and goals, and the types of content that they prefer to engage with.

These personas are only the ones that we want to target now to achieve our objectives though. When we have successfully completed that, we will create new objectives and then new audience personas, if they are required, to achieve those objectives.

Being flexible

This brings us to the title of this post: “Startups and the ever-changing playing field”.

All businesses are built on shifting sands whatever their size and history. Nothing stays constant, especially for startups.

We need to be more flexible and ready to adapt than the longer standing businesses. We can grow quickly and adapt to changes much quicker, but the downside to that is that we have nothing to fall back on if we get it wrong!

Marketing material is never guaranteed to go viral, but that shouldn’t stop you trying to create content that has the potential to. After all, viral content isn’t just about cat videos and memes. It’s about creating accurate audience personas and then laser targeting your content, including advertising copy and imagery, to that specific audience/segment that you are targeting.

If you get it right and it resonates with your audience, then they might just feel ready to share the work that you are doing. Even if they don’t share, it should make them take an action.

If your personas and content are not absolutely perfect for their specific purpose, they won’t be as effective as they should be and this action won’t happen.

This makes it sound like audience personas are a “one and done” solution to audience targeting…..

They aren’t!

Just as businesses change, so do prospects and customers and more importantly their buying behaviour. This buying behaviour could even change from one month to the next.

We have all read those statistics about startup businesses and how only a small percentage become successful.
We’re not going to quote any of them, because they don’t affect us!

We know that every single business out there, no matter what size it is now, was once a startup.

Think about the large brands that you know and see every day. You may be thinking Apple, Coca Cola, Facebook, Starbucks, McDonalds and the like.

These examples came off the top of my head, I didn’t pick them for any specific reason. You can choose any companies that you think are great successes in their respective industry.

Have you ever looked into the history of those successful companies and realised that they weren’t immediate, overnight successes? Success doesn’t happen overnight and it certainly didn’t happen for these companies!

Each one came across obstacles and made mistakes. They worked hard, they adapted, they learned from those mistakes and they carried on. It’s a simple process, but a difficult one to follow when times are proving a bit more difficult than you would like.

This applies to every industry, every niche and every business. It’s the reason why companies need to keep on their toes, analysing their data and looking at every opportunity for areas that they can improve. The playing field changes every time that you look at your data.

Even if you are over-achieving, there are still areas where you could improve. Apple are a great example of this. They could have just created the Mac and left it at that. They didn’t though. They realised that their users had other requirements from their technology and that portability was the next big thing. They created the iPod and the iPhone and subsequent products all based on what their users and data were telling them.

They didn’t sit back and relax; they wanted to keep driving forward and giving everything to produce the products and services that their users needed and eventually loved.

If you want your startup to be the next Apple, or Google or Facebook, you’re going to have to work hard for it.

What’s next?

This is the situation that we are in right now. We are actively seeking new solutions to optimise our marketing and to open the taps on our user sign up process. We aren’t sitting still and waiting for success to come our way. We’re going out there to grab it ourselves.

Here is our checklist of work that we now need to do:

– Revisit our audience personas and ensure that they identify our current target audiences exactly. We are not looking to target every single audience at this stage, just the ones that will help us to reach our goals and objectives. This ensures that we know exactly who we are targeting, where and for what purpose.
Based on this new information, we will amend our content and advertising content accordingly. We will look at the CTAs that we are using, the imagery, the text and language we use in our ad copy and also where we are going to advertise and distribute our content. This will ensure that we are optimising our content and increasing our chances of it going viral. Going viral isn’t a goal for us, but if we’re producing the most relevant content and delivering it to the right audience, then it may happen.
We will address our current advertising approaches to identify whether they are relevant for targeting our newly defined and amended audience personas. If we identify that certain channels are not used by our target personas we will stop their use because they won’t align with our objectives and strategy.
– Gain feedback from our current users as to how we can improve. User feedback gives us the ability to see our business from their point of view, rather than make guesses as to what we should be doing. This is extremely important and needs to be remembered by every business owner – you have one idea of what your business is about and how it is seen, but that’s not important! How your prospects and customers see your business is vital in understanding how it should be marketed.

We have realised that we are going to need to keep following this process, making changes and improvements as we go.

Behind the scenes we are preparing to launch our next 2 courses which are PPC Marketing and Advanced Email Marketing, which you will be seeing shortly. We have also created and recorded the content for another 7 courses.

Some people might say that we’ve come a long way already – but our journey is still only beginning!

I hope that this post has helped you to see that the playing field is always going to be changing for businesses and that you need to stay on your toes to keep up. Startups have the advantage of flexibility over larger companies when it comes to making changes and being flexible, but you need to base your decisions on data and customer feedback, rather than just guesswork.

I’ll see you again next week!

Andrew Hardman
Andrew Hardman is the MD & founder of MyMarketology (providing online marketing courses for digital marketeers) and loves to solve business problems and bike.

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