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So, your site has gone from alpha to beta and has finally taken the leap to go-live. Now you’re ready to grow it—and grow it fast. Where should you start? How much should you spend? What areas should you concentrate on?

With Global Startup Battle right around the corner, many startups are thinking about *gulp* what’s next—what’s beyond the pitch? For Global Startup Battle 2015, .CO is providing over $20,000 in prizes, including a trip to Amsterdam, to the winners of the .CO Innovators Track. With so many awesome prizes at startups’ fingertips and there for taking, it’s key to have your action plan in order.

Top customer acquisition & retention experts Grow.co have come up with some great tips to keep in mind when putting your marketing plan together.

Before you dive in creating your marketing plan, it’s important to take a step back, a deep breath, and get all of your ducks in a row. Ask yourself the following questions before you even begin creating your budget.

  1. Are you really ready?

Make sure you’re completely 100% confident in your site, service or product before even thinking about a marketing plan. What’s the point in spending money on marketing a sub-par site or product that won’t resonate or convert well? It’s natural to get into that ”sell, sell, sell” state of mind when you’re in pitch mode, but when you’re putting your marketing plan together, it’s absolutely necessary to be completely, brutally honest with yourself about your site and/or product.

  1. Do you know your audience?

Before you begin creating your plan, spend proper time identifying your audience. What are their spending habits? What are their online habits? What age group and geo-locations will you target? How tech-savvy are they? You’ll need the answers to all of these questions and more.

  1. Have you done your homework?

It’s essential that you have identified your closest competitors and taken a good, hard, long look at how they’re spending their marketing dollars. What’s their online presence like? What kind of advertising are they doing? Content marketing? Social media activity? SEO? Take some lessons from how they’re executing their goals.

  1. Is there money in the bank?

We all know the old adage that it takes money to make money. But, if you can barely pay your light bill, is it really the right time to shell out your cash on marketing? Think long and hard about how your spending decisions will impact your immediate— not-so-immediate—future.

  1. Have you exhausted all of your free and/or cheap options?

It may seem like a no-brainer, but many startups and businesses forget to tackle all of their free or cheap options before throwing money at a splashy campaign. Have you launched an aggressive word-of-mouth campaign? Launched a smart social media strategy? Are you producing great content? Active within your industry’s online communities? Leverage your existing connections and resources first, and think outside the box.

  1. What are your needs?

Do you want immediate results? Then you won’t want to turn your immediate focus to SEO, which can take months to actually pay off. Do you need immediate exposure at events, trade shows or meet-ups? Consider spending your cash on swag—pens, cups, bottle openers, you know the drill. Hoping for an immediate online presence? Explore if PPC is right for you.

After you’ve done your due diligence, it’s time to create your budget.

There are a million templates available online to help create your marketing budget, but a simple old spreadsheet works just fine. Break out tactics by category and don’t forget to factor in costs such as office space and expenses, staff, manufacturing…any little cost that will impact how much you will be able to spend on marketing. You don’t want to be living off a diet of ramen noodles in three months!

Now that you’ve got plenty of items to add to your to-do list, you’re ready to create your master plan.

Go forth and prosper, young grasshopper!

.CO is a proud sponsor of #GSB2015!

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Dae Smith Dae Smith