Startup Marketing Secrets: Marketing Strategy Explained

You don’t have to go to business school to understand the critical components of a marketing strategy. In fact, if you can identify some key strategies for your practice, putting those strategies into practice in the form of a website or blog post will be a lot easier.

[A value proposition] says, in shorthand, what your promise is to your customers about the value you will provide them.

by M. Carolyn Miller, MA

Marketing is a misunderstood beast. Many business owners believe it involves little more than putting up a website and getting on social media. But marketing is a lot deeper, richer, and more strategic than that.

Startup entrepreneurs are well aware of this. Armed with innovative product and service ideas, they emerge from business schools and startup incubators having learned from the best how to mine the marketing landscape because they know it intimately.

That landscape includes the industry and specific market the entrepreneur wants to introduce her product or service in. It also includes the competitors, partners, opportunities, and threats in that market.

New entrepreneurs also spend time getting to know who their “ideal customers” are via market research groups and surveys. Finally, based on all they learn and are able to surface, new entrepreneurs then refine their products or services in such a way that those ideal customers will purchase them automatically.

This is marketing strategy in a nutshell. And all that comes later—the website, the blog posts and content marketing plan, the social media, the sales conversations—is the implementation of that strategy.

You don’t have to go to business school to understand the critical components of a marketing strategy. In fact, if you can identify some key strategies for your practice, putting those strategies into practice in the form of a website or blog post will be a lot easier.

Those strategies include overall strategies that will guide your practice long term, such as how to exit the practice when you’re ready to retire. They also include more detailed strategies, such as who your customers are and how to serve them in a way that addresses their needs.

Overall Marketing Strategies

There are three key overall strategies that drive every practice, formally or informally. By identifying these for your practice, not only will you ensure its success, you will also set its direction more clearly.

Every industry has multiple markets where buyers and sellers meet to do business. This “ecosystem” includes buyers, competitors, and partners.

How Will the Practice Make Money?

How the practice will make money is perhaps the most pressing need and most top-of-mind issue for practice owners. But that “how” is more complex than it appears. It includes more than all your various income streams—that is, all the ways you make money from your products and services. It also includes all that can affect the ways you make money, such as the good customer service that ensures repeat business or the inefficient accounting system that makes it difficult for customers to work with you.

What Is Your Practice’s Value Proposition?

The phrase value proposition is used a lot in the startup world. It says, in shorthand, what your promise is to your customers about the value you will provide them. For example, in its classic ad campaign, FedEx promised that customers’ packages would “absolutely, positively be there overnight.” (Value propositions are often a company’s tag line.) For a practice, a value proposition may be a promise about stellar customer service or one-stop shopping for all your pet’s needs.

How Will Your Practice Enter, Grow, and Exit the Marketplace?

This question demands that you identify who your customers are and how you’ll reach them before you open your doors for business. This is your market entry strategy. Once those doors are open, you will then implement your growth strategy—that is, how you’ll grow the practice, such as by offering new products or services. Finally, by deliberately identifying how you’ll exit the practice when you’re ready to retire, you can put systems and processes in place that will more easily facilitate that.

Once you’ve identified your overall marketing strategies, you’re ready to put some more specific strategies in place.

Detailed Marketing Strategies

More detailed marketing strategies involve a lot of research—about your industry, the market you operate in, and the customers who populate it. But there’s a boon in that. The more you know, the more you are able to anticipate the needs of your customers and provide them with what they didn’t know they needed until you offered it.

Social and Industry Landscape

A veterinary practice, no matter how small, is part of a larger economic system and its influences. Those influences can be generated by the society the practice operates in, and come in the form of social trends, government regulations, and demographic changes. For instance, your practice financials might suffer because clients elect to visit a corporate pet store to save money.

Another economic influence is at the industry level, be it healthcare in general or veterinary medicine. Industries, too, carry unique trends, demographics, and more. An example is the rise of the millennial demographic whose desire to be “good pet parents” may show up as a boost in the number of views of your educational videos or blog posts.

Video Link

This video can help you more easily draft your practice’s value proposition.

RO_03.jpg

Market Ecosystem

Every industry has multiple markets where buyers and sellers meet to do business. This “ecosystem” includes buyers, competitors, and partners.
There are multiple types of buyers, each with unique values, buying habits, demographics, and more, be it the millennial who prefers to communicate via text or the baby boomer who prefers a phone call. By understanding their unique habits, you can cater to them.

Your competitors are both direct and indirect. Indirect competitors can include, for instance, the trend to make one’s pet food rather than purchase it. Competitors can also be more direct ones, such as the practice down the street.

Partners are also part of your market ecosystem. These may include any strategic partnerships you’ve developed, such as with the practice down the street that provides services you don’t (and vice versa) and with whom you have set up a referral system.

Partners also include “supply chain partners,” so called because they are a part of the chain of providers that take your product or service to market. They include the diagnostic equipment company that provides your in-house equipment, or the graphic designer who produces your brochures.

Your Ideal Customer Type

Startup entrepreneurs spend a lot of time getting to know their ideal customers intimately. They host focus groups. They partner with market research audiences. The get inside the heads of their ideal customers and provide them with what they didn’t realize they needed until they saw it.
To do this involves finding out what your customers’ greatest pain is—that is, what keeps them up at night, such as the client who worries that she isn’t being a good pet parent. Your work here is to identify that pain and all the ways your client is currently alleviating it. Once you do that, you can then identify how you can alleviate that pain better and more innovatively than others.

Your Practice’s Brand

People often think that a brand is graphics, pretty images, and a nice story. But in fact, a brand says who you are and what you are or want to be known for in the marketplace.

A brand also tells prospective clients that you know who they are and what their pain is (because you know it from working with them or doing some research). A brand also shares the promise you make to your customers—your value proposition—about how your product or service is different, more innovative, and better than your competitors’ products or services.

All of this knowledge then goes into the story you share on your website and in the content marketing you produce, such as blog posts and educational videos. This knowledge also informs the types of images, graphics, and even the fonts you use in your marketing materials and on your website.

Next Steps

To sketch out some ideas for your practice’s marketing plan, and its overall and more detailed marketing strategies, begin by answering the following questions.

Overall Strategies

  • What is your business model—that is, what are all the ways your practice will make money, including supporting services that will enable this?
  • What is your practice’s promise to its customers—that is, its value proposition?
  • How will you or did you enter the marketplace?
  • How will you grow your practice?
  • What are your ideas or plans for exiting the practice?

Detailed Marketing Strategies

  • What social trends are affecting or may affect your practice, and how will you respond?
  • What industry trends are affecting or may affect your practice, and how will you respond?
  • Who is in your market ecosystem? That is:
    • What customer types does or will your practice serve?
    • Who are your direct and indirect competitors?
    • What strategic partnerships do you have or want to put in place?
    • What supply chain partners help you deliver your products or services?
  • Who is your ideal customer and what is her greatest pain?
  • What brand ideas do you have for messaging, visuals, graphics, and more?

Answering these questions will help you lay out a strong foundation for your practice’s marketing plan. You can then build on that foundation to go about marketing your practice in the most effective way, to maximize your reach and capitalize on your strengths. 

M. Carolyn Miller, MA, is the author of Entrepreneurship (McKinley College, 2008) and designer/developer of entrepreneurial programs for new and high-growth entrepreneurial startups. Visit her website at cultureshape.com.

 

Photo credits: ©iStock.com/Mykyta Dolmatov

Advertisement

Close

Subscribe to NEWStat