How to market a startup product? Stephen Rumbelow speaks to Relevant as a marketing and sales expert, bringing to the table everything you need to know if you are looking to build a successful go-to-market strategy for your startup. Stephen regards himself as a global citizen and recognised digital marketing leader, with over 20 years of professional experience. Stephen’s experience boasts of not only corporate knowledge from some of the biggest brand names out there, such as Virgin Money and Virgin Mobile but also first-hand expertise in creating his very own startup and helping others thrive.
Stephen has a proven track record of delivering international growth and value in European, Asian Pacific, and Latin American markets, as well as developing his own set of methods to create business results, which he refers to as a battle-tested set of tools. Stephen is currently providing his expertise for companies such as Delvify, where he works closely with the founder and senior management team to develop and execute this growth accelerator model, while also assisting them in designing and implementing the best sales and marketing tools and techniques to market accelerate to profit and a successful financial outcome.
In this article, you will learn how to build a successful marketing and sales strategy based on Zone4 CEO’s expertise and how to implement them into your business. Moreover, Stephen shares with us his journey, what type of people can make a startup work, and how to find and cultivate the perfect sales team.
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It’s been about a year since Stephen spotted an opportunity to put his nearly 20 years of knowledge to good use and decided to launch Zone4. It was a choice he began to seriously develop after working with Charles Allard, the creator of Delvify, where he applies his experience to the go-to-market strategy for tech startups.
Working with Charles and Delvify ultimately benefited me in three ways: first, I was able to sit down and plan and execute their go-to-market strategy, assisting them in getting their product to market and securing a specific level of monthly recurring income. Building on that, I worked with Charles to begin looking for investment and then to assist the firm in scaling and growing. I assist businesses in achieving a position that allows them to: leave, sell the business, and achieve various successful outcomes, as well as enhance their growth accelerator model.
I’d say my time at Virgin was the most beneficial to me. Richard Branson was an incredible mentor and leader, and they constantly encouraged you to put yourself in your customers’ shoes– to consider your potential consumers– at Virgin. My experience at Virgin suggests that once you have a dedicated paying client base, scaling and growing your business is much easier. That’s my main takeaway: always put yourself in the shoes of the consumer. It doesn’t matter what this is, whether it’s your market, your website text, or your sales materials.
When considering your product and how it will benefit its consumers, Stephen emphasises the significance of asking yourself the following questions:
Delvify is an excellent example of a business that puts itself in its customers’ shoes. It has a high degree of technology since it is powered by AI–machine learning, and natural language processing. They provide a visual search and visual suggestions as one of their services.
Let’s say someone owned an e-commerce fashion and clothing website and said, “My site searches are poor, shoppers can’t locate the things they’re looking for. I’m losing customers as well as sales.” As a result, our solution makes it five times faster for buyers to discover the goods they want. Increasing conversion, average order value, and overall sales income for the firm. People don’t buy AI and machine learning; instead, they buy solutions to their issues.
I have a selection of battle-tested tools and techniques, as well as 20-year experience in sales and marketing, to help me overcome marketing and sales hurdles, which can be very complex. People love producing huge marketing plans for startups, huge strategies, and spending a lot of money, but my strategy is to establish a growth accelerator model that focuses on just three core areas.
The goal here is to sit down and devote a significant amount of time to defining:
Stephen states that tackling this process with these questions will help you to frame your target market, your core messages, and the go-to-market channels that you can use to reach those customers.
The purpose of marketing is to ensure that your target market becomes familiar with you and expresses an interest in your product. Its job is to effectively raise awareness and generate leads, but you also want to set up a sales process that allows you to acquire, nurture, and convert prospects into paying clients. The main goal is to get prospects to develop a business relationship with you and make their first purchase.
This is when all of the work you did in stage 1 comes together. It’s now time to start generating income and breaking even utilising proven sales techniques. I believe that excellent sales procedures, particularly in b2b, employ consultative and advisory selling rather than hard selling. Sharing relevant, entertaining, and valuable information should be part of your selling strategy. Someone might be interested in your product, but they may not grasp its relevance, or they won’t be ready to buy for six or twelve months. You must then do the extra legwork and continue to drip feed them content, providing value to what you think they’ll find interesting, and capturing them at the perfect time–when they’re ready to maybe buy your product.
Customer Value Management is a term that refers to the value journey, designed to help grow, retain or upsell your paying customers. This process starts when you are working on your pricing strategy.
Key takeaway: How do you add additional value and charge more for it while keeping your customers happy?
It’s also critical to leverage referrals as a technique of picking up new consumers. Consider how you can manage referrals, be proactive, and get existing clients to recommend you so you can capitalise on those relationships. It is a phase in which you must establish trust with your existing clients and ensure that they are satisfied with the product to the point where they will refer you without hesitation needing to be encouraged.
I’d say the first stage–focusing on your ideal client profile–is especially important if you’re a startup because you may not have the luxury of an unlimited budget or numerous resources. You must be quite specific when defining your ideal customer profile. Choose one section, one niche, and make it your own! Don’t be overly general; instead, concentrate on one particular area.
Because one error we all make when working is getting bogged down on needless duties, Stephen emphasizes the necessity of identifying your ideal consumer profile and that specific niche, completing tasks that aren’t right for your marketing strategy for tech startups just because other companies do it.
You shouldn’t try to sell yourself on TikTok simply because everyone else is. Why bother if your ideal consumer doesn’t? Simply pick one or two channels and master them, then expand from there.
Not spending enough time on that kind of go-to-market strategy and ideal customer profile.
When it comes to designing a high-demand product, it’s critical to consider your product from the perspective of your customers. Even if you work with incredibly skilled people, their vision and technical talents will only get you so far if you don’t meet the demands of the customers. You can get so caught up in the process of building your business that you lose sight of what your customers want, and it’s like being “so deep in the weeds, you can’t see the wood for the trees.”
Stephen emphasizes the need of putting yourself in their position and asking yourself these questions:
– How would your solution improve their lives?
– What kind of USPS do you have?
– What distinguishes you from the competition?
– What are the benefits?
You can think about it from the customer’s perspective while building your website, such as your branded product headers and subheaders. You must put the work in at the start, by going to market to raise awareness and focusing on the sales side to nurture and capture leads. Then figure out how to manage customer value to upsell your business and create additional value. Consider the retention statistics.
I believe it boils down to understanding what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what you’ll use to measure it against since not everything will work. You must be adaptable and capable of pivoting when the situation demands it. It’s good to try things – fail fast, learn quickly.
We’re working a lot on LinkedIn for Delvify, for example. Phase one is discovering what targeting works at an industry, job, and country level, fine-tuning the app because some activities will just burn budget and achieve nothing. But ultimately, our metrics are around awareness, engagement, and driving leads.
PPC works best when someone is already interested and actively looking for something, which is most likely a visual search solution. In terms of Delvify, it proved beneficial to put a small amount of budget on certain keywords, capturing that audience.
I believe that SEO is always a smart idea, especially when it comes to blogs and backlinks. However, you must be aware of the length of time it takes to establish these things, especially if your organisation is brand new and trying to build that credibility.
I prefer to concentrate on content marketing. It’s a form of consultative advice selling that links back to your ‘ideal client profile,’ and it fits well with Delvify’s growth accelerator strategy.
You’ll need content marketing if you want to raise awareness, interest, desire, and action. However, consider what you want that individual to do after they’ve read your blog. Do you want people to sign up for my email or my LinkedIn newsletter, for example?
Content marketing is a simple strategy that may be refined over time by adding a podcast, for example. This could happen later, and it could be more about advocacy and retention, ensuring you keep in touch with your existing clients, rather than attraction. Then there’s LinkedIn, of which I’m a big supporter. You need to attract that attention, whether it’s with a video, a striking image, or a compelling title, which is simple to produce on LinkedIn.
We’re currently conducting a lot of campaigns using Delvify in which we’ll create a blog or a guide, then boost the post on LinkedIn with a small amount of budget. However, it is critical that we remain focused on who we are targeting, which country and business we are in. It’s simple to measure because we can track user interaction and click types, allowing you to see how many leads you’re producing. Also, it doesn’t cost a lot, it’s easy to measure and you can test and refine it as you go along.
Your first salesperson may be the most important hire you ever make for your company. It is the source of that initial growth. If your salesperson is good, your company can hit the jackpot with many sales early on, affording you the opportunity to hire other sales and thus grow and create revenue at a faster pace, but a bad first sales recruit can be the reason your company could go up in smoke. There is no one perfect answer to finding your best recruits as it depends on so many different factors, but there are certain characteristics that Stephen believes are vital for achieving success in a go-to-market strategy for startups.
I wouldn’t want to recruit someone who just spams people’s inboxes. You need a professional great at building relationships, someone who wants to learn about the product and its features, and comfortable thinking about providing thought leadership or consultative advisory selling. Finally, you need someone who likes data, KPIs, and measuring, these are crucial aspects of selling and hitting targets.
When compared to other positions, sales hiring is one of the most demanding and difficult placements for recruiters to fill. This is because the impact of not having a quota-achieving salesperson in your company is immediate. Stephen stressed the importance of recruiting your first higher as somebody that has that potential to grow into a head of sales or sales director level, providing you, as the founder, with the opportunity to think about what would be the ultimate kind of or the optimum sales structure. Simultaneously, it is important to think about those additional resources that complement that particular sales recruit, therefore, enabling them to step up and continue moving forwards.
For the startup world, I would say you need someone that’s hungry, that needs to make it happen, needs to close that deal. They need it more than others because they need the money, the bonus, or they want to help the company grow because they can see the potential for themselves.
With a startup, you can also give them equity. Many people who have worked in a large corporate all their life may find it very tricky to transition to this type of system–it’s a very different environment. Someone who is a bit of a go-getter, entrepreneurial kind of mindset, can make things happen, and roll their sleeves up to get down to work would be the ideal first recruit.
I read this great phrase that says, ‘in the corporate world, the focus is on covering your butts, whereas a startup focuses on kicking butts’. Somebody could have shone in the corporate world of sales–closing multi-million dollar deals, etc. But if you take away that corporate company, were they successful because they were backed by a corporate, the brand, and those resources, or was it down to themselves. Also with a startup, you can’t fall back on a legal team, a compliance team, or a huge marketing department–you have to do things yourself. If you don’t know how to implement something, you might just have to google it and, therefore, build those skills over time. You need to personally figure out our problems, not because you want to, but need to.
My approach is to strip things down to the bare bones. You have to think about what things really drive results. When I was at Virgin Mobile, I was working and simultaneously undergoing a marketing degree, in my spare time. I had a mentor and upon sitting down with him we spoke about one assignment I had to complete–a marketing strategy. I reeled off all the tasks we as marketing and sales experts should do when creating a strategy. He just laughed at me and said, “We don’t do that. We don’t have the time. We don’t have the budget. We do literally two pages of this and get straight to the point, straight to work”. This is what I have tried to replicate, that is those three stages: How to get to market? How do you get customers? These customers are therefore retained by focusing on that ideal customer profile, one with target messages and through those KPIs!
We can get so busy, wrapped up in superfluous tasks. Take a step back and think about what exactly are you doing and why, and how is it going to help.
Instead of bombarding customers with unnecessary questions, come back, put yourself in the customers’ shoes, think about your customer, and how to join all of these dots up.