APAC
Go-To-Market
Strategy

The Human-Centered Marketer’s
Go-To-Market guide for tech startups in APAC

Congrats! You have a fantastic tech idea that's going to change the world and you are ready to press the launch button. It's one of the most exciting feelings as a Founder, Marketer or Product Leader. 

But, before we press the launch button, let's check that you have your APAC Go-To-Market strategy in place so that you can meet with success on your entry into the Asia-Pacific market.

What is a go-to-market strategy?

definition
-
A Go-To-Market strategy is a plan of action to drive growth. An actionable GTM strategy aligns teams in the business across 9 areas:

  1. Know Your Customer
  2. Know Your Market
  3. Know Your Value
  4. Know Your Goal
  5. Know What
  6. Know Where
  7. Know When
  8. Know How
  9. Take Action

A successful action plan brings together Founders, Product, Marketing and Sales with clear goals and aligned tasks to drive growth.

These 9 steps are non-linear, you'll jump back and forth as you keep fine-tuning your plan. And, each time you pivot based on market feedback, it makes it easier and faster to apply what you've learned. 

human-centric-banner-image

HUMAN-CENTRIC
INGREDIENTS TO
LAUNCH AND SCALE IN APAC 

There are three essential ingredients that separate startup success and failure in Asia-Pacific. It’s empathy, focus and consistent action. Together, they are the most significant sticky points I’ve come across with tech startups across the region. 

01

Why start with Empathy?

Empathy is how you build a product/market fit. It’s walking with your customers, colleagues or stakeholders. It's about focusing your orientation towards the customer and being ok with doing things that don’t scale in the beginning. This is a crucial step in Asia because you'll be operating across a range of cultures and customer groups each with different needs and desires.

Our Go-To-Market approach will help you identify gaps in the market, who your ideal customer is and how to spot behaviours that travel across geography.

It also helps if you are operating a lean team because you’ll be working with a range of talent across countries, cultures and virtual teams. 

Tip:

Do things that don’t scale like speaking to customers or prospects every day. Stay empathetic and don’t add automation if it builds a barrier.

02

Why is Focus critical?

When an organization has focus, you’ll feel confident that what you and your team are working on actually matters. Asia-Pacific spans over 30+ countries and represents 60% of the world's population. It's easy to get lost in the region or shellshocked by the sheer choice of customers or nations to focus on.

Add to that the magnitude of what you could do when marketing your brand and it's easy to feel overwhelmed. Where I’ve experienced chaos inside startups is when the team doesn't have crystal clear focus on their goals and priorities. Lack of focus slows down growth, slows down the team and slows down decision making.

Having your goals and priorities clearly defined is critical as you go through the complex motions of pivoting based on market feedback and working with different specialists who don’t always have visibility to the full picture. No matter where you are in your growth process, having clear focal points of achievement will set you and your extended team up for success. 

Tip:

Focus is golden.
Keep it clear.
Keep it simple.

03

Why is Action important?

I've spent years writing strategies for brands. And, they were only useful if action was actually taken on them. All the empathy and focus in the world won’t help you if it stays on a piece of paper or in your head. 

The most successful startups I’ve worked with take action daily and do this as a way to test their theories and learn. Without effort and action, we’ll never achieve anything of true value.

Tip:

Get your head out of the clouds. Take action that’s focused.

01

Know Your Customer

The first stage is to define your ideal customer as well as your persona. This is a unique part of our Human-Centered Marketing secret sauce. It's critical for the success of your tech product launch and future business growth in Asia-Pacific.

Great decisions are based on what your customer needs. Anything else in the first few years of business could be a rabbit hole or a way to waste precious resources.

What is an Ideal Customer?

An Ideal Customer is the type of business or person that you'd like to engage. It's your operational zone of genius.

For Business (B2B) you’ll include:

  • Category the business operates in
  • Size of the company in turnover or employees
  • Stage of Business and Market Development
  • The geographic reach of the business depending on countries focused on
  • A current problem or behaviour that you can solve

For People (B2C) you’ll review:

  • Current category behaviour
  • Spending patterns
  • Value and volume of usage

The goal is to identify an ideal customer who's the right fit for your product. The market and competitive analysis will help you spot what your operational zone of genius is when it comes to identifying your ideal customer.

Tip:

Knowing Your Ideal Customer is just as important as knowing who isn't the right fit. 

What is a Persona?

A Persona is a human you are engaging with and targeting. A persona can be the key decision maker or, if you are driving Enterprise deals, a persona can be a group of stakeholders or influencers. It helps to give the persona a name so that your team can identify with the customer or group. 

What do you need to know about your persona?

  • What is their day to day role
  • What is the current pain point of theirs that you can solve? Why is it a pain point?
  • What is their current attitudes and beliefs inside the business?
  • What are their goals? What is stopping them from achieving these goals?

The picture you’ll paint when you identify a key persona includes:

  • Their attitudes and beliefs
  • Passion points and cultural interests
  • Current and future behaviours
  • How they make decisions

Identifying your persona is essential for business clarity and in determining how you can truly help this customer. It will be the guiding light for everything from the product you build to the content you create on your digital channels, or even how you sign off an email. 

Tip:

Your customer is a human. Personas help you to understand and walk in their shoes.

How To Uncover Current Customer Behaviours

We were able to break down the current market behaviours in a client's category while launching a new product for them in the Enterprise market. We framed this launch as an "old world" vs. "new world" situation as the product is genuinely changing behaviour. 

What is OLD WORLD?

  • What are people currently doing?
  • What's the current market behaviour?
  • How much time is it taking?
  • What are the pain points?

What is NEW WORLD?

  • What would people like to do in the future?
  • How would this change their life or reduce their pain?
  • How would this benefit them?

By doing this exercise, we were able to quantify the value that their product would deliver, which helped us to reframe the selling conversation.

Tips On How To Understand Customers

DAY 1

  • Leverage your network to speak to “prospects”. Don’t sell. Listen.
  • Build out an “Ideal Customer” and key “Personas.”
  • Identify the key triggers to drive acquisition.
  • Create a test plan for a product/market fit.

YEAR 1

  • Go deeper with conversations – customers you’ve won and customers you’ve lost.
  • Collect consistent feedback as you onboard and build out customer success.
  • Use the insights you’ve been gathering as a team to make your offering even better.
Tip:

Buy good walking shoes. Get off your phone and explore the real world walking with your customers.

02

Know Your
Market

The second stage is to take a real, honest look at the market. Take off your rose tinted glasses and critically work out where you stand in the marketplace. 

If you're entering an established category, you'll want to stand out in the sea of SaaS sameness, crowded cloud. or fragmented fintech depending on the market you sit in.

If you are looking to build a new category, you'll want to work out how you can establish your product within a context that prospects and customers will understand. Simplicity and context are helpful, so your customers have an easy frame of reference. Many excellent products have failed because they were too far ahead of the category and didn't do a good enough job with messaging and positioning. 

What I find useful when reviewing a new market is to identify the current norms and behaviours of the market. By spotting norms, you'll be able to determine new opportunities to disrupt.

Context is king when you are researching the market. Here are some tips to help you determine what market you operate in. You'll use this as fuel to work out how to position your product uniquely. 

How To Do a Competitive and Market Audit?

A competitive market audit takes a look at 12 different areas to give you insight into what's going on in the market and how you can differentiate your business.

Here are twelve areas and 60 questions to audit the market.

Voice of Customer

  • What feedback can you find online from competitors customers?
  • What are customers saying on social?
  • Are there customer reviews or testimonials?
  • How do customers talk about the available solutions?
  • How can you design to solve their problems better?

Features and Benefits

  • What are the key features and benefits across competitors?
  • What language and words do brands use to describe themselves?
  • How do brands rank their features and advantages for priority?
  • What brands are talking about their benefits in a unique way?
  • How can you design to differentiate?

Search Trends

  • What keywords do customers search for?
  • What keywords have the highest volume and competition?
  • Can you see keywords that competitors are targeting?
  • What longtail keywords are you looking to own?
  • How can you design for SEO?

Content Trends

  • Who are they targeting?
  • What type and format of content are brands sharing?
  • Is it gated or ungated?
  • What topics are brands looking to own?
  • How can you design for Content that converts?

Channel and Technology Trends

  • Where is the brand engaging customers from Social Channels to Website?
  • How do they use each of these channels?
  • What's the context of the journey for the customer?
  • Can you spot what Marketing Technology or Automation they are using?
  • How can you use channels and technology to connect with customers?

Brand Story Analysis

  • What's the messaging and brand story?
  • Do brands talk about their origin story or why they exist?
  • Or do brands talk about their features and the product story?
  • Is there a unique story that stands out?
  • How can you tell a meaningful story that connects?

Pricing for Value

  • How are the products priced? Is there a value metric?
  • Is all pricing transparent or do you need to connect?
  • Are features broken down into modules and add-ons?
  • What is the simplest pricing model you can spot?
  • How can you design pricing that a human values?

Trial and Demo

  • How do you request a demo or trial?
  • Is it instant or do you need to set up a time?
  • Is the demo automated or do you connect with a human?
  • Is there a free trial offer? What is the free trial period?
  • How do you design to convert?

Purchase and Payment

  • What are the typical payment methods?
  • What are the currency options? Is it local pricing?
  • Is there a free trial period and automatic purchase?
  • How do you cancel?
  • How can you design for one-click payment?

Onboarding

  • What's the onboarding process?
  • Is there a welcome video or a welcome email?
  • How do you navigate as a new user?
  • What happens when you need help?
  • How do you design for effortless onboarding?

Growth Marketing Tactics

  • What tactics are brands using to drive growth?
  • Can you spot tactics that are used consistently?
  • Can you spot tactics that have been stopped?
  • Where in the customer journey is the growth focus?
  • How can you design for sustainable growth?

Customer and Employee Reviews

  • Can you see customer reviews for the products?
  • What are the areas for improvement?
  • Can you see reviews from employees on places like Glassdoor?
  • What are the critical ingredients for team success?
  • How can you design for happy customers and a happy team?

How To Disrupt Category Norms?

Once you've completed an audit of competitors and the market, it's easy to see how brands are positioning themselves. Now you can decide what and where you want to disrupt! 

How To Manage Across Different Market Development Stages

Every country in Asia-Pacific is at a different stage of market development. The easiest way to decide which of the 30 countries to tackle is by bucketing markets into various stages of growth or development.

I recently worked on a project where we built out a blueprint with a 3 and 5-year roadmap. We grouped markets into 3 tiers: Gold, Silver and Bronze. Gold was the single biggest priority markets based on the growth goal. This cluster required the most significant amount of energy, effort and resources. If this market cluster wasn't given focus, it was not possible to achieve their overall goals.

A Gold market might be a country where you'll look to set up a physical office or one persona group depending on how you Go-To-Market. A Gold market represents a longer term priority for your resources.

Silver markets were the second tier of countries to focus on or second grouping of personas. They received a smaller amount of investment and were potential growth drivers in the longer term. You may look at Partners to help you drive expansion in this tier. 

Bronze markets were the third tier of countries to focus on. Useful to include, but not critical at the expense of Gold and Silver. 

This is a practical approach to ensuring all your team members are crystal clear on who and what represents the most important markets. For example, if your team asks to travel to a Bronze market, the question you should be asking is, "Why is traveling to this Bronze market more important than traveling to a Gold or Silver market?" Likewise, if there is a launch event or you are looking for PR coverage, your priority should be on the Gold market. Defining these market tiers can help you quickly make critical decisions based on the market sandbox across Asia. 

Tips for Understanding Your Market

DAY 1

  • Take time to get an overview of the market at a high level
  • Focus on 3 – 5 competitors so you can learn from their experience
  • Use the market intelligence to help you focus and take action

YEAR 1

  • Reassess market development changes and new competitor entrants
  • Reassess priority markets based on success, growth and changes
  • Dig into competitor activity to reflect on what to do next

03

Know Your Value

According to CB Insights, 42% of start-ups fail due to product/market fit! Let's focus on this area so that you can confirm there is, in fact, a need and that your product can speak to this for success. 

Finding the ingredients to your product/market fit takes time and plenty of sales conversations. And, once you’ve found it, are you able to explain your value in 3 seconds? Rather than 3 minutes? 

Clarity on your product/market fit becomes critical to closing sales, inspiring your team and in creating messaging consistency.  

The critical thing to remember with product/market fit is coherency. I've found the most straightforward approach to doing this is by connecting the Vision and Mission to the Value Proposition. 

In the big corporate world, I used to participate in workshop after workshop to re-craft mission and vision statements. In the startup world, I’d suggest a lean approach in year 1 and year 2, where you work to capture the essence of your mission and vision, but don’t lose sleep over trying to find the perfect words.

So, let's take a closer look at a company's Mission and Vision. Think about why the business started and what you want to achieve. 

Tip:

Make the mission actionable. Make the vision inspirational. Keep it short and sweet. 

What is a Mission?

definition

-

An actionable “why” behind your company and how it exists today.

What is a Vision?

definition

-

An aspirational vision for where your startup is going in the future. And, an intention of the mark you’d like to make in the world.

 

Next up is defining your company values – how do you want to behave? Typically you’ll pick 2 or 3 words that describe this. This is useful for determining the behaviour of the founders, the team and the brand. Clarity on values helps shape culture as well as content.

What Are Company Values?

definition

-

Company values steer the beliefs and behaviours of employees, brand and business. 

 

Most founders I’ve partnered with have clear visions, missions & values. Where the extra help is required in crafting the brand story & value proposition. It’s because there are so many different ways to tell the story.

What is a Brand Story?

definition

-

A brand story is the origin narrative behind the brand. It weaves together both the rational and emotional brand experience. And does this beyond a product story. 

 

One of my favourite ways an old client of mine used to describe a brand story is to see it as the front cover of your brand's book. Each of the chapters then operates as programs to bring your brand experience to life. 

What is a Value Proposition?

definition

-

A value proposition is a simple way to explain how your brand solves your customers' problems. 

A great value proposition answers two questions - why the customers need you and how you address their issue in a unique way.

Tips for Crafting Your Value

DAY 1

  • Link to your Vision and Mission
  • Use your customers' language to differentiate your offering
  • Listen to customers and observe their behaviour
  • Craft your positioning so it’s unique
  • Explain the User value

YEAR 1

  • Create it in a way that matters
  • Use this as a meaningful way to drive growth
  • Link to product roadmap

04

Know Your Goal

Identifying your overall goal and what success looks like is critical. Goals are vital for giving yourself and your team a focus area to rally around.

I’ve found that defining a purpose based on a financial goal is the most meaningful way to craft a Go-To-Market strategy. Start by referring to your company Vision and Mission and then work out the financial goal (customer acquisition) you want to achieve. This helps to put the financial goal in context as you have an awareness of who you are serving and why. As we progress, we’ll be able to work out whether or not the goal needs to be sliced and diced with different persona groups, markets or verticals. 

How To Calculate a Smart Goal

What is a Smart Goal?

definition

-

A Smart Goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic + Time-bound.

 

SMART goals give you focus for your product launch. It helps determine the amount of energy, effort, and budget you put into the product launch. It also allows you to celebrate successes and identify where to optimise. 

With SaaS and tech startups, I've found that the lead or acquisition target is often less costly than you would think once you work out the overall goal and conversions. When you have determined your goal, you'll be able to see whether the universe size is large enough or how this compares with the overall proportion of the category. 

If you are keen to launch across multiple countries - a goal will help give you focus. Think about the countries you are targeting as Tier 1, 2 and 3 when you map out targets. In Asia-Pacific, it's easy to get lost in the number of countries and lose scale.

The Importance of One Goal

When you launch - start with one ultimate goal.

There is already so much going on with creating a brand, telling a story and often coming together as a new team. It will help you with focus and will also shape the way you do business. Over time, you'll go back and check in on all the broader metrics. What I've found is if you get the first goal right, the rest will follow. 

It will also keep all the humans aligned as they work together as a team on the Go-To-Market strategy, and that's incredibly helpful when you are working across multiple countries, cultures and languages. It will reduce confusion and increase efficiencies in the long run.

How To Calculate One Goal Across Multiple Countries

If you are looking to expand across multiple markets in Asia-Pacific or sub-regions like South-East Asia, the answer depends on the size of your goal, the language your product is currently in, and where you think the growth opportunity will come.

If you are starting from scratch and your tech product is in English, you may not begin with a geographic focus -- especially, if you are looking to drive Inbound growth. However, if your product requires a more in-depth demonstration to fully connect with your customers, you'll want to focus on one or two key markets to start. 

We'll answer this question by understanding our market (link to Know Your Market) and our persona (Know your Customer). In my experience, behaviours can travel across APAC. The thing to watch out for is government regulation or infrastructure, which can impact how fast you can scale. 

Tips on Startup Goals

DAY 1

  • Keep it Simple
  • Define your vision
  • One metric for revenue like acquisition, MRR or ARR
  • Quantify the number of customers x price to make it achievable

YEAR 1

  • Define your goal as a north star for the business
  • Start forecasting for annual, quarterly, monthly targets
  • Start going deeper on Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
  • Only shift to churn and more in-depth analytics when you scale or if your growth has slowed

05

Know Your What

It’s time to start working out what you need to do to achieve the goal. Get ready to brainstorm and identify your action plan.
Achieve your goal with your ideal customer in a way that lives true to your mission and vision. 


80% of your time will be focused on the 2 or 3 activities identified. So it’s critical to sort the “must-haves” from the “nice to haves.”

How to Identify a Must-have

  • Traffic Driver
  • Relevant to your persona
  • Sustainable

The customer journey will help you identify the areas you want to focus on and what will help you drive traffic while maintaining relevant and sustainability. 

When you are launching, you’ll want to focus at the beginning of the customer's journey to drive traffic. Everything else can be adjusted later on. If you don’t have demand, then you don’t have a business.

Mapping Out The Customer Journey

I’ve been mapping out customer journeys since 2006, and I’ve moved through waves of different methodologies to build them out. Some of the journeys I’ve worked with are broken into dozens of stages with multiple on- and off-ramps going down to the most intricate details. 

For lean startups to be pragmatic, it’s easiest to bucket into four broad areas

 

  1. Discovery & Awareness – why prospects find you
  2. Consideration & Interest – what prospects need
  3. Purchase – how prospects buy
  4. Retention – how to create a happy customer

Discovery + Awareness: Why Prospects Find You?

It’s best for a brand new startup to focus here and here alone until you start to gain momentum. 

When we think about the customer journey, remember that it’s their journey, not yours. The first question to answer is, "Why prospects find you?" And, you’d love prospects to see you because they need you, rather than because you hunted them down.

Activities to Drive Discovery

  • SEO and content
  • Partnerships
  • PR
  • Paid Media
  • Referrals

Consideration + Interest: What Prospects need?

Once you have traffic and demand, it’s time to help your prospect learn more about how you can help. 

To help identify a strategy, think about your persona and how they like to learn or make decisions. This will help you determine the right mix of “what”.

Activities to Drive Consideration

  • Long-form content
  • Nurture emails
  • Webinars
  • Podcasts
  • Live challenge or training
  • Testimonials and case studies

Purchase: How Prospects Buy

I've got good news for you if you are in this stage: Your prospects are interested and keen to buy! So, what’s the best way to convert them? 

Again, go back to who your persona is and how important this purchase is. If it’s a SaaS product for $99 a month, do customers need a simple sales page? Or, is this an Enterprise deal and you’ll be having sales conversations with multiple stakeholders. 

Activities to Drive Purchase

  • Demonstration
  • Sales page and check-out
  • Chatbot for Sales Conversation
  • Live pricing and quotes
  • Sales pack for enterprise deals

Retention: How To Create Happy Customers

The lifeblood of SaaS is reducing churn. And, I believe that happiness starts in the first 90 days. 

Once you are here with significant traffic and sales conversations, it’s time to focus on keeping the customers that you’ve worked so hard to win.

Activities to Drive Happiness

  • Onboarding
  • FAQ and knowledge hub
  • Customer success check-in
  • Product release updates
  • Response time to concerns

Tips on Startup Marketing Focus

DAY 1

  • Pick one stage of the customer journey to start
  • Identify 2 or 3 activities to achieve your goal
  • Test, test, test
  • Hold the course for 90 days to see results

YEAR 1

  • Reassess what’s working
  • Check to see if you switch out a focus area
  • Stay lean and keep going

06

Know Your Where

Once you are clear on the “what,” it’s time to identify the 2 or 3 places where you’d like to do this. 

We’ll look at where you want to focus your energy and we’ll also look at where you need a base level of presence for consistency. 

One sticky spot I’ve experienced in lean startups is the marketing team being spread too thin while trying to cover all channels. It’s impossible to achieve success this way. And, having also worked in the Enterprise world where budgets are significantly higher, spreading resources too thin still isn't a smart way to operate because it simply isn't useful. 

Identifying Channels and Partners

The three questions to help you identify critical channels for focus:

 

  1. What channels do your personas currently use to make decisions about your category?
  2. What stage of the customer journey are you focusing on?
  3. Once you grab a prospect's attention in that channel, what do you want them to do next?

Persona Channel Usage

Knowing what channels your personas use and why helps us be where they already are, rather than trying to change behaviour. 

Good old-fashioned “context” planning works because your persona is in the right mindset and open to your offer.

If your customer is an Enterprise making a $50K decision, they’ll be more open to communication on LinkedIn rather than Facebook. Whereas, if you are targeting SMEs and it’s the founder who is making the decision, conversing on Facebook could be the winner. 

 

Stage of Customer Journey

It’s also useful to identify channels based on the stage of the customer journey. This will help you decide whether you focus on channels like Medium and Reddit or if you want to target broader tech channels with content. And, if you are hunting for your first 10 customers, you may focus purely on relationships and referrals. 

What Happens Next?

The final thing to consider is what you’d like your prospect to do once they've found you. Do you want them to sign up for a demo? Do you want them to join a webinar? Do you want them to visit your website or book an appointment? 

--

Answering the three questions above will help you come up with a shortlist, which could be as simple as: 

  • SEO with a priority on Google rankings 
  • LinkedIn for Enterprise engagement 

In addition to the areas of focus, it’s also great to have a consistent “boilerplate” and baseline presence across listings and social channels to drive link building and presence. This is different from needing to be active in these channels.

Tips on Channel Focus

DAY 1

  • Pick 2 or 3 channels for growth
  • Update your “boilerplate” for consistency
  • Stick to it

YEAR 1

  • Reassess the focus areas
  • Continue with channels that work and adapt tactics
  • Cut out channels that don’t work and double down on the ones that do

07

Know When

We aren’t selling ice cream here, but you may notice throughout the year that there is some seasonality in your sales. With both SME and Enterprise clients, there are often quiet periods during tax season or a hot sales period if there is budget left over at the end of the fiscal year. 

During the week you may also spot different responses to activity – whether it’s when you send out nurture emails or when people respond best to demo requests. 

The guidance here is to be human. While you’ll always have a 24/7 digital presence, think about how your prospect's day works and when they are in the right frame of mind to engage. I’ve seen uplifts in reading long-form content in the evening and over the weekends, and I’ve seen other products experience a lift in the middle of the week.  

There is no hard and fast rule. Watch the data. Observe your customers. Understand their work patterns and how they make decisions.

The only exception is when you have a global customer base. In this situation, it’s important to consider when you arrange calls, demos, webinars and even when you send out an email. I’m not the only one who is receiving webinar invites for 4am in the morning – and it makes me think that the company isn’t thinking globally. 

Tips on When to Market

DAY 1

  • Check for seasonality
  • Understand your prospect's day
  • Test for response

YEAR 1

  • Optimise based on trends
  • Plan ahead to overcome seasonal dips or movements
  • Keep testing
action-yellow-ball-img
action-transparent-ball-img

ACT
ION

08

Know How

I’m going to call it and say that nobody knows how to do all of it. They’d be a unicorn. It will take a village to work out how to execute seamlessly. 

It’s a strategic decision on whether you’d like to build a village through a community of independent people or whether you’d want to create a direct team. Both have advantages and disadvantages. This is something we've helped a range of startups with over the past few years: Mapping out the longer term goals, talent requirements and timing. 

Building a Marketing Team

I’ve seen lean teams start with one person in Marketing and I’ve seen other teams with over 10 people in the first few years.

How you build out an internal Marketing team depends on who your prospect is and how they purchase.

  • If your prospect requires a deeper sales process – then your investment will be focused on sales hires to close.
  • If your prospect can be nurtured with Marketing – you’ll look at a bigger marketing team.
  • If you your prospect is hungry for content – you’ll get a content marketer.
  • If you are scaling with partners – you’ll hire a partnership marketer.

The range of talent required will depend on your Go-To-Market strategy and the 2 or 3 focus areas for the year ahead. I haven’t seen any magical structure that would work for all startups. The best guidance I can share is to match your hiring needs up with your customer's needs.

Tip:

Know Your Ideal Customer is just as important as knowing who isn't the right fit.

Virtual Marketing Team

It's normal now for startups to tap into the gig economy, boutique agencies and freelancers. Once you’ve made a call on what talent you need to grow, it’s time to see if the talent required can be found internally or externally.

The first question to ask is whether the talent gap is short term or long term. When you are getting up and running with a new startup, a lot of the requirements are one-off projects such as creating the brand look and feel, building the first website, creating the first round of social assets or building out the Go-To-Market Strategy. These type of tasks can be easily completed with external talent or virtual teams.  

Where it doesn't make sense is if the virtual marketing team needs to engage with your customers directly or the task is something that is likely to be ongoing and significant for growth. That's when you'll need to pause and work out what's a suitable mix.

Tips on Building Your Team

DAY 1

  • Map out what talent you need based on goals
  • Identify your short-term vs long-term project requirements.
  • Start building with one core team member

YEAR 1

  • Look ahead to see what type of talent you need to grow
  • Borrow virtual talent when you spot gaps
  • Build up a network of talent to help you scale

09

Take Action

Ready to take action?

It's easier now that we know the who's, why's and how's. Some teams I've worked with haven't taken the time to work these out and end up just "doing" or "putting out fires" rather than taking action out of a position of strategy. 

Making a Choice

A great Go-To-Market strategy helps you make a choice about what's critical to act on and what can be put on the back burner. Once you've made that choice, taking action becomes easier because it's measurable and aligned with the overall strategy. 

Tools for Action

Inside a lean startup, tools are useful, but we don't want to go overboard in the first year. The four most essential things to have is an action list, a way to present briefs, an approval process, and a way to test and measure results.

Action List

The action list will include 2 or 3 challenging items you've identified and a list of tactics or activities to help solve these issues. I like to score each action item based on the amount of energy and effort it will take to resolve the problem. Additionally, I like to assess the success rate to make sure what we are doing is worthwhile and achievable. 

A backlog is also helpful to make sure that you don't forget about what's next. 

Brief

When you are a startup - your brief is your Go-To-Market strategy. I spent years writing briefs both with clients and as a client. In a lean startup environment, briefs are useful for clarity. However, once you have a high-level Go-To-Market strategy the time should be spent executing and testing in the market. 

In my former big corporate life, we'd sometimes take up to 6 months to work on a brief and 18 months to ship a product. In a lean environment, this is a waste of time because the market moves so quickly and it's more useful to test in the real world rather than spending weeks perfecting a brief. 

Approval Process

It's important to decide who approves the marketing that goes out the door. Come to an agreement on what's critical for Founder input versus what can go out day-to-day. Ultimately, it comes down to the Founder's interests and whether they would like to have daily involvement with Marketing.

Testing

Set up a way to measure results. Both quantitative and qualitative results will help you make decisions on a daily basis to stop, start or continue.

Typically, in the first year or two of a startup, you'll have hard data such as a google analytics as well as softer qualitative data from prospect conversations. It's important that you keep a record of all data, tests and analysis to help steer your success.

Failures and Celebration

And finally, every single day is a school day. Learn to cherish the epic failures as much as the sweet successes. If you take no action, you don't fail and you can't win.

DAY 1

  • Decide on the 2 or 3 areas to activate
  • Have a plan with focus on execution
  • Test and optimise

YEAR 1

  • Stay light on strategy and heavy on execution
  • Continue to learn from your successes
  • Adapt from your failures
post-lunch-banner-image

WHAT TO DO
POST LAUNCH 

It’s a wonderful moment when your business starts to take off. You discover your product/market fit, customers love the brand, qualified leads roll in, clients come on board, and the team culture is coming together. You might have even been brave enough to turn your mobile off for a couple of hours. But now that the early-stage party is over, what’s next?

Sustaining growth will be the next challenge. Here are four lessons to keep teams focused on what works as you start to scale.

01

Be Consistent and Add 1

Marketing is part science and art. Each business is building their own magical growth formula to connect and acquire customers. Once you’ve cracked this formula, I’ve found that it's consistency that gives you the biggest gains.

I recently worked with a brand that was looking for a more innovative Go-To-Market strategy. Their current marketing mix was a healthy blend of search, content marketing, and events, which was driving consistent demo requests and qualified leads. The plan was working.

My brief was to uncover a more exciting way to go-to-market. The risk in this question was shifting the current marketing team away from what was working to a modified strategy of engaging new customers. I’ve seen this a lot with marketers too: They get bored with what they’re doing or have a fear of “wearing out” what they know works.

The pragmatic solution for this was to select one new innovative approach to test each month. I call this the +1 strategy. This had to be something that the brand hadn’t done before — anything from using a new channel to working with a new set of partners.

The +1 ideas came from a pool of suggestions the team would share in a Google doc the month prior. As a collective, they would select the new idea to prep and test for the following month. This gave the team enough space to play with new ideas without being distracted from what was currently driving acquisition. For example, they could test a new partner webinar while still keeping inbound content and emails going as planned.

Tip:

If you’ve cracked the formula, keep at it. Don’t lose focus with a shiny new approach.

02

Improve with Meaningful Testing

I love data and A/B testing. However, unless you have a beautifully resourced team with a limitless budget, it’s more important to focus on why and what you are optimising.

I recently worked with a client that was A/B testing multiple elements of their marketing mix — email headlines, SEO keywords, paid search, website CTAs, gated or non-gated content, and Facebook ads. This is awesome if you have a big team who can manage all the moving parts, but much tougher to do with a lean team who will, inevitably, be spread too thin.

The challenge the team faced was finding time to apply the learnings from these tests. Because there was so much testing, it was hard to understand what elements to modify and what to keep the same. Most importantly, there wasn’t enough traffic moving through each test to make a call on a meaningful action.

We came to a more realistic solution: Choosing up to three key areas to optimize each week. This was done using existing campaigns or assets. The team huddled on a weekly basis to discuss optimisation efforts and their subsequent results in the context of the overall pipeline. This focus on testing led to more growth and less effort, since they had all the resources they needed to take action and improve on results.

Tip:

Meaningfully optimize and test. The results are golden if you spend time understanding it. Spend your energy working out how to apply the learnings. 

03

Automate Only WhenYou Know What Works

At lunch last week, a client asked, “When is the right time to set up marketing technology?” The answer is when you already know what connects with customers. I’ve seen businesses of all sizes spend considerable time reviewing technology to help automate their marketing. Not only does this involve a significant technology investment, it also involves training and extra time to make the entire system work seamlessly.

One exercise I did with a client recently was to map out the entire customer journey and identify where we could put in place “micro-automation” tools. These included planning or scheduling for Instagram and Facebook, a chatbot with a basic script, a simple tool to book demo appointments, a really clean nurture and onboarding email process, and a basic CRM approach.

We decided not to spend on an infrastructure to link this all together until the business was ready. Distracting everyone for an entire quarter on selecting a tech solution was not going to help drive growth.

Tip:

Micro-automate when you have the formula for what works, as it saves you time. Hold off on boiling the ocean until you’re really ready to scale.

04

Ask and Listen to Customers Everyday

I recently asked a group of marketers when they last spoke to their customers. One person said it was when they were hunting for the latest round of testimonials and case studies. I asked why, and they told me it was because the marketing team felt that the responsibility of engaging the customer to get feedback should fall on the customer success or sales teams.

Making human, emotional connections with users and customers is the same growth tonic as using new technology; it’s just more durable and harder to copy. I’ve just kickstarted a project with a team to engage customers throughout the development of their MVP. Not only is it about building relationships, it’s also about creating a dialogue for feedback. The plan is to keep up that dialogue long after launch. This becomes the responsibility of everyone inside the business.

Your success so far does earn you a golden ticket. But, every day is a school day when it comes to finding sustainable growth. Be consistent, test and apply, and stay in the trenches to keep learning from your customers. These are the most rewarding things you can do.

Tip:

Set aside 30 minutes a day to listen, observe, and share feedback on customers. Everyone owns the customer.

last-section-rectangle-img
last-section-pattern-img
last-section-lady-img
last-section-blue-circle-img
gtm-bottom-blue-ball-img

Cat Williams-Treloar founded Humanisation, a Human-Centered Marketing Consultancy.

Humanisation was born to help startups make a human impact in a digital world as they Go-To-Market across APAC.

-

Read more about Humanisation & our why here, or get in contact with Cat@Humanisation.com.