What’s the Right Time for Paid Marketing? [contd..]

Mili Kataria

Head Branding & Marketing – Hesa | Founder @ Pandora’s Box | Mentor – I help Startups understand and explore their Core & translate it into their Growth Story | Passion that drives me – #Impact1founderAday

Research highlights that 73% of marketers use paid marketing to achieve their business goals as they believe it has a direct impact on their growth goals. The above also applies to startups in every stage. Although the right time to invest in and to what extent they can do paid marketing highly depends on the financial and growth priorities of the stage.

While in the initial stages your goals are related to brand awareness and customer acquisition, in the later stages you can use paid marketing to solidify your position, achieve loyalty and lifetime value, and gain sustainable growth.

In our previous blog, we discussed how to choose the right time and extent for paid marketing of startups in Ideation and Early Stage.

In this blog, we will pick up the next 2 stages in a startup’s journey, Go-to-Market and Scale-up and share why and how we can use paid marketing to achieve various growth goals.

Paid Marketing

Go-to-Market Stage (Growth Stage)

It is the stage where your product has found its market fit and is entering the market to reach its target segment, expand its customer base, and strike a differentiation.

Here, you receive organic growth because early adopters spread the word about your product which helps you attract and convert potential consumers and grow your base.

You will gradually, though steadily move towards paid marketing to accelerate your growth and strengthen your position in the market.

Financial Considerations During the GTM Stage

It’s the most crucial and decisive stage in your startup’s journey as your product has entered the market, the target audience is interacting with it, and there’s growth in revenue. At this stage, you have to ensure that all the aspects and departments of your business are functioning smoothly and resources are allocated proportionally to all of them.

Hence, paid marketing will now take up a lesser portion of your overall fund allocation, typically around 20-40%

In this stage, some of the areas you should further invest in are:

  • Product Development: Your product has finally entered the market full throttle.

You will receive a lot of real-time feedback on how to enhance your product to serve your customers better and gain a competitive advantage.

Based on the insights you receive, you will have to make decisions such as addressing existing bottlenecks, enhancing functionalities, or adding new features. Hence, you will have to allocate sufficient resources on this activity to help your product stay relevant and ahead in the market.

  • Team Building:  As your startup has moved one stage ahead and is now competing head-to-head in the market, it is crucial to shift your focus towards building a strong team.

You should strive to build a team of individuals who have expertise in the areas of product development, sales, organic and paid marketing, and customer service to help you reach your growth goals.

  • Market Research: The market’s landscape keeps changing at an unpredictable pace. Hence, you should continuously invest in research to be abreast of the emerging trends and shifts to make decisions such as new product development, market penetration, and market expansion.
  • Marketing & Brand-Building: It’s the right time to start building a positive perception and experience around your brand through organic and paid marketing.

It enables you to win loyalty and support of early adopters, grow your customer base, strike a differentiation among competitors which helps you in the long-race of fighting for the top spot in the market.

Paid Marketing Activities in the GTM Stage:

You already began experimenting with paid marketing in the early stage of your startup. Now, it is time to refine your approach and scale your efforts to see considerable results.

Here are the next steps you should take –

  • Focus on High-Performing Channels: You should look into the insights from your early stage paid marketing efforts and double down on the channels that yielded the best results (eg. paid search ads or social media ads).

Doing so will help you cut the noise and focus on further experimenting and optimizing your efforts on channels that have worked for higher conversion and impact.

  • Experiment with New Channels: Now that you know the channels that work in favor of your brand, it’s time to discover new channels and add them to the mix to amplify growth. You have to choose a channel that aligns with your target audience, goals, and brand’s personality. Some of the options you can explore are Display Advertising, Video Advertising, Influencer Marketing, Affiliate Marketing, and Podcast Advertising.
  • Retargeting: You should leverage retargeting campaigns to reach users who have previously engaged with your brand but haven’t taken any further action yet. It is a highly effective paid marketing strategy as it reaches out to an audience that is likely interested in your product but needs that one push to take an action and convert.

You can retarget users who have visited specific pages on your website (eg. the payment page, or added products to the cart), have engaged with your social media pages, or have signed up for your email.

Scale up Stage

Scale-up Stage (Maturity Stage):

It is the stage where your business has a brand position in the market among your competitors, as you have a well-developed product, a loyal customer base, well-built revenue streams, a talented team, and a strong value proposition.

By now, your business generates revenue to be profitable and you have enough capital to invest in solidifying your position in the existing market and experimenting with new product lines, customer segments, and markets.

Financial Considerations in the Scale-Up Stage:

While paid marketing remains a crucial activity even in this stage, the focus of it evolves from pure customer acquisition to retention, retargeting, brand visibility, and long-term growth strategies.

At this stage you have a lot of financial commitments as your expansion and growth plans will need heavy capital and resources. Hence, a comparatively smaller budget of around 10-20% is generally allocated to paid marketing, as until now your brand has already built a continuous cycle of effective organic and paid marketing which started as early as stage 2.

Here are the other areas you should focus on:

  • Solidifying your Market Position: An irreplaceable spot in the market will act as a catapult for your market expansion plans and growth goals.

One of the things that help you gain a strong positioning in the market is a customer base that’s constantly growing. In today’s time, brands that achieve loyalty and lifetime value of their target audience are set to win in the long-term. Some of the ways to win your customer’s trust and build a relationship are:

  1. Loyalty programs that reward and appreciate them
  2. Exceptional customer service across all touchpoints to ensure a smooth experience for them, and
  3. Personalized organic and paid marketing campaigns to target their right needs, make them feel needed, and cater to them the best.
  • Innovation & Expansion: As you work on solidifying your position through organic and paid marketing strategies, it’s also crucial to shift focus towards newer markets, customer segments, and product lines to gain exponential growth and stay ahead of the curve.

The various strategies are to either build a new product line (product development), or go to newer markets with existing (market expansion) or newer products (diversification).

  • Building Brand Equity: Having a strong brand equity indicates a high level of customer loyalty, stakeholder trust, profitability in business, and positive perception around the brand. It acts as a bridge that makes it easier for you to gain traction in new product lines and markets and ensures you have sustainable growth to gain long-term success. You can build your brand equity by co-branding or strategic partnerships with complementary brands and engaging in social impact initiatives that align with your values.

Paid Marketing Activities in the Scale-Up Stage:

In this stage, your paid marketing strategy evolves to reflect your new priorities of brand awareness, loyalty, customer experience, and etc. Here are the activities you can focus on to achieve the above –

  • Focus on previous Paid Marketing efforts: You should closely evaluate the performance of your channels (social media, search engine, email) and strategies (referral or retargeting) and continue investing in activities that yield high results.

At this point, all your organic and paid marketing efforts will start exhibiting a multiplier effect, as your brand will experience more growth than before, even with lesser capital.

  • Strategic Public Relations: At this stage, there are two things you have to focus on – first is building an undeniable image of your brand in your niche and second is to take your business to the next level with strategies such as expansion, penetration, and diversification.

Hence, investing in PR becomes crucial as it helps you address two concerns at once. You can build a public opinion by developing narratives, participating in events, initiating campaigns, and creating press releases important to your target audience and brand’s purpose.

A crucial part of PR is to build good relationships with media outlets, publications, and journalists for high and quality media coverage.

  • Up-sell and Cross-Sell Opportunities: As we discussed above, achieving your customers’ loyalty and lifetime value is the ultimate way for your business to reach the top of its niche.

Cross-selling and up-selling are two such marketing techniques that help your customers stay longer with your brand, build strong relationships, and encourage them to purchase additional products & services, boosting their LTV for your brand. You will have enough data about your customer’s preferences and purchase history to leverage at this point to craft personalized campaigns and loyalty programs for them.

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That’s all on what’s the right time to invest in paid marketing for startups in 4 stages: Idea, Early (Seed Funding), Go-to-Market, and Scale-up.

As I have mentioned before, there is no One-size-fits-all approach to invest in paid marketing. It’s all about the stage of your startup, its financial priorities, budget, team strength, and brand marketing and business goals.

Pandora’s Box is a brand marketing agency that enables firms to establish a strong, differentiating, and consistent online presence through our expertise in organic and paid SEO, Social Media, and Content.

You can book a workshop/ training session with me to understand and kickstart your organic and paid marketing initiatives in search engine, social media, and email.

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