Of all the problems facing startups, few are as daunting or consternating as marketing and distribution.
In a survey of 54 startups at the Startup Launchpad Oct. 2016 show, we found that 41 percent struggled cited distribution and expansion into new markets as their biggest concern while 24 percent struggled with marketing and product positioning. These are both areas that startups often struggle with.
Here are a few refresher tips for developing effective marketing and distribution strategies.
It may seems straight-forward, but many startups struggle with this. It can range from defining themselves by a single product, addressing a problem that isn’t really a problem for target buyers, or failing to recognize marketplace conditions including over-saturation and potential encroaching innovations.
Remember, as Levitt said, “An organization must learn to think of itself not as producing goods or services but as doing the things that will make people want to do business with it.”
Don’t be like buggy whip makers, railroad companies or Kodak.
2. Do your research
One major contributor to marketing myopia is that many startups create products first and then go looking for their target market after. This can result in a product that’s a solution looking for a problem, vaguely targeted at every consumer in the known world instead of a tightly honed demographic.
By conducting thorough market research, startups can better understand their target buyer and their largest problems in need of product solutions. This will not only ensure a steady market for a startup’s product, but also help to clearly message the existent problem their product is going to help fix.
Dartmouth offers a solid package of informational resources for startups to beginning their marketing journey.
You can also find a good list of initial questions to ask yourself when starting your initial product marketing plan here.
After doing your initial research, create profiles for the main consumers you want to target as well as the customers you don’t want and evaluate the potential product and services you want to offer based on the needs and perspectives of each of the profile consumers. Does your product effectively serve each? If not, go back and reevaluate your product design, the features you plan to emphasize and your messaging.
3. Create channels for additional feedback
After honing your product and your messaging, solicit additional feedback by providing free samples to people in your target demographics and then obtaining their feedback via user surveys or forums. This provides one final way to ensure your product design and targeting is on track for success.
1. Consider embracing flexible channel arrangements
Infrequent uncommon yet critical customer requests you can’t fill yourself, international competition and increased savings and productivity opportunities are all reasons to consider unconventional arrangements with partners in your distribution channel for mutual gain, writes James Narus. Widely shared information and logistics systems can help enable this kind of cooperation, which can result in significant cost savings and higher customer satisfaction.
2. Maintain control
Many companies in a rush to enter new markets will just accept distributors who approach them. Others will go after distributors with a few high-profile connections. But as David Arnold writes, taking a more deliberate, strategic approach will ensure you remain in control and result in a better chance of success with international distribution.
Dedicating sufficient resources and building relationships with those in your distribution channel by treating them as partners rather than entry points will help ensure their dedication to growth and adherence to marketing strategy. Maintain control through regular marketing strategy meetings, obtaining detailed performance data from
3. Regularly evaluate if your distribution system is working effectively
Once organizations develop distribution systems, they will often stay with them until they’re outdated or no longer sufficiently serve customers’ needs.
Regularly evaluate the spaces and channels you’re distributing through. Are they outdated? Are there more convenient methods available or new platforms your customers would prefer? Are your outlets consistent with your pricing, brand and marketing?
Asking yourself these questions will ensure your distribution is working with you rather than against you and fight against stagnation. Louis Stern offers a good guide for evaluating distribution channels and combating assumptions to ensure your approach is always current.
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