Transactional marketing is dead! 8 expert tips to build strong relationships with your base

Transactional marketing is dead! 8 expert tips to build strong relationships with your base

In a highly fragmented media world, where engagement rates on social media are measured in fractions of a per cent, it’s becoming increasingly important to nurture your clients and leverage existing relationships, especially in traditionally transactional industries.

Lead generation is also getting tougher. Banner blindness has drastically reduced the effectiveness of paid advertising on social media and online channels, whilst increased competition is driving up the CPC of the more effective keywords.

Banner blindness relationship marketing
Eye-tracking heatmap illustrating banner blindness -Viewers no longer look at the ads

Ask any small business where they get their sales from and the holy grail is always word of mouth. 84% of consumers cite recommendation as to the reason for buying from a company.

Word of mouth leads are stronger, more engaged, convert higher and are presold, because they already know who you are and what you can do for them.

Nurturing leads and previous customers also have a significant impact on profitability, by reducing the cost of acquisition for new business

But this doesn’t happen by accident, its a reaction to a relationship that you have nurtured with another client, and based on their experience or dealing with you. And it’s this third party trust that you benefit from as their credibility adds value to your perceived value.

It doesn’t just work for service businesses though, with many of the techniques being adopted further up the funnel, as businesses seek to nurture and cultivate their leads and tie potential leads in before they even make the decision to buy.

This is especially true in the Real estate market, where businesses like Keller Williams are seeking to offer value-added content and services to potential homebuyers regardless of where they are in there buying cycle.

Gary Keller advocates a 33 touch campaign, which seeks to maintain regular, meaningful contact with a database to position yourself top of mind with homebuyers when they decide to buy or sell.

Keller Williams 33 touch campaign relationship marketing

This could be personal, text, phone or email content, but the key is “meaningful” – the content has to achieve two things. It needs to add value to the recipient, such that they want to receive the contact and it needs to clearly position the agent as trustworthy, experienced and professionally competent.

Keller Williams has gone a step further, viewing it’s subscribers as a tribe with specific needs outside of the core real estate products and services, leveraging big data to offer personalised financial products along with home maintenance and design services.

Have a clear brand identity

Before you run off and start blogging, remember that you are building your reputation, so your messaging needs to be consistent with what you want to be known for. Keller Williams Ireland, for example, promotes a two-pronged approach, which positions its agents as being expert both professionally and “Hyperlocally” so that the audience knows that the agent is the authority in selling in a target market.

Marketing content is split equally between building these two facets of the personal brand.

personal branding relationship marketing

Even in large businesses, there is an opportunity to strengthen corporate reputations by building up personal brands. The messaging from a CTO or CMO on LinkedIn will have more credibility on certain subjects than the Sales team for example and can be used to create a much richer picture of the brand and it’s offering that the standard marketing media.

Build a relationship – listen to their feedback and comments

Relationships are built on dialogue, to monologue, you don’t get to understand what your customer’s need or want by talking, and this is doubly so in a highly competitive market place.

From Facebook to email, attention heat maps are constantly demonstrating that we’re blind to banners and other ads, as we seek out relevant answers to our own problems. Voice search is now over 50% globally, and questions are now the major search terms used on youtube and Google.

If you’re not answering the questions that your customers are asking, someone else will be, so you have to constantly adjust your messaging based on customer feedback. Forums’ subscriber groups, comment sections and regular keyword reviews are essential to make sure that you continue to be the solution to your audience’s problems.

Keep regular contact but make it meaningful. People expect it and are willing to accept it.

There is a psychological theory called the “mere exposure theory’ which suggests that we automatically accept and feel comfortable around things we are used too. It’s the reason why certain Christmas songs remain popular even though you’ve heard them 500 times!

Similarly, familiarity with your content will increase the open rate and ensure that people will be open to your messages, which is essential when you start to add more sales-focused CTA’s further down the funnel.

Add value! This is not about you.

This is the key difference between inbound and outbound marketing. Outbound marketing bombards people with messages they don’t want to see, shouting the advertiser’s message to a wide audience in the hope that it might be heard.

Inbound marketing and content, in particular, aim to influence people by providing content that the viewer wants to see.

content marketing influencer marketing relationship marketing

The main difference is the message. Good inbound marketing adds value to the viewer’s life, by providing a solution to a problem. It answers the questions that the consumer is asking, in an engaging and entertaining way, as this ensures that, not only will the recipient get to the end fo the message, but they will remain engaged and are likely to retain 10 times as much of the message

There are multiple markets and make content relevant to them

Regardless of your industry, it’s likely that your customers are not the only people referring you. There is a range of affiliated but non-competing companies that can be nurtured for referrals, but their needs are different, so you might want to communicate with them specifically.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that a small commission will drive referrals, most businesses will generate significantly more from their repeat customers than they will ever earn in commissions, so you need to communicate how they will benefit from being associated with your business, how it will enhance their offering with no risk to their reputation.

Grow your list, not facebooks!

Social Media is a great way to communicate a simple message to a lot of people, but it’s not a great place to communicate a complex and lengthy series of messages.

You want to be in control of your audience and how you communicate with them. A Facebook follower is not a lead, it’s an opportunity to see, and the level of engagement is very low. Social media is another media platform, now more or less so than TV, Radio or the internet, and as a business, you need to be able to pull your potential users closer and closer with time.

An email subscriber is an engaged potential lead, so your aim should be to create online content on your site and promote it via social media, rather than placing the content on the media platform itself, and coupled with lead capture as applicable. Ideally, you want your viewers to subscribe to your site or at least to email.

Reward loyalty and treat your subscribers differently

Your subscribers have indicated that they want a relationship with you, to be more than just a casual visitor. You need to respect and recognise that and treat them better than the norm.

Content should be stratified, dependent upon the level of engagement, from short intro pieces on Facebook and Linkedin to more detailed onsite content, and finally exclusive content for subscribers.

This could be a more in-depth article or a different format, such as a webinar or video content. Ideally, you want to create content that is exclusive to the subscribers, as this recognises that they are more engaged.

This is common in the online marketing services space, where freelancers and consultants offer free one to one consulting to their subscribers, which adds significant value ( and obviously increases the potential for lead generation!) but can work in other segments, especially where knowledge is the commodity.

Make sure this can transfer to a lead flow

Ultimately, this is a business, and your marketing has to work for you.

Don’t forget that this is a process, and its function is to provide selling opportunities in the future, in the most efficient and cost-effective way possible, so you need to pull people down the funnel.

Marketing funnel stages
relationship marketing

Whilst your top of funnel content needs to be highly customer focussed, with limited overt CTAs, you should give them the opportunity to drive the engagement further at their pace. This can be as simple as links to relevant, more sales focussed information, more detailed information on applications or more in-depth lead capture.

As your audience comes more engaged, they are more informed and looking to have a closer relationship, CTA’s can be more overt, and more personal contact.

Relationship and content marketing are the real game-changers for real estate.

content written

With the rising cost of leads and reduced conversions rates, lead generation is becoming more expensive and less sustainable than ever. But with long sales cycles and limited opportunity for repeat business, is content marketing the alternative?

Real estate is, by its very nature, transactional.

We buy homes so rarely, that we don’t get to know our agents and have little need to remain in contact with them from sale-to-sale.

From the agent’s perspective, therefore, the focus is two-fold. Firstly, getting leads and winning listings and secondly getting as many people into view a property to guarantee that sufficient numbers are willing to bid to get the house. 

The rate-determining steps are therefore lead generation and conversion rates. Mosts leads are still sourced from lead lists either purchased or created through outbound email or coldcalling.

Some agencies such as Castles in Dublin have been very successful with personalised leaflet drops and flyers, leveraging their strength in their target markets and brand awareness in discrete territories.

However, both of these routes are time-consuming and expensive.

Are search and social the answer?

Search and social media advertising is less common, accounting for about 22% of all lead creation, However, targeting at a local level is difficult and produces variable results. General keywords are competitive and expensive. CPC rates around €5 and conversion rates below 2% mean each lead’s costing over €100. 

Either way, each of your leads is going to cost between €50 and €100, and if you factor it conversion rates of less than 5%, that’s giving a cost per sale between €1-2000, which, in the face of declining prices and commissions is not sustainable, especially in Ireland for example, where commissions are down to 1.5%. 

No wonder then that many agents are looking in different directions for their business, but what are the options?

Relationship marketing for estate agents


Many successful agents are taking a leaf out of the corporate sales book, realising that the two key advantages of the referral are trust and expertise.

The fact that someone we know to be independent has had a positive experience pushes up the trust learning curve with a referral allowing us to reach the point at which we are willing to work with a company much faster than if we approached them cold. 

It also means that we know that the referred contact has expertise which is relevant to us through the discussions with our trusted third party.

Content marketing

Agencies are starting to recognise that content marketing and marketing automation allows them to get over the hurdles caused by long gaps between sales by creating relationship opportunities which will ultimately lead into listings or sales in a more cost-effective manner. 

This means the creation of online communities of individuals who opt in to receiving your communications and are prepared to engage with the content you create.

This is important because recognising that the content needs to be what the audience wants to hear, not what the writer wants to say is a key concept for effective content marketing. No-one wants to be bombarded just with new listing messages!

The platform is important too.

Social media offers a great opportunity to broaden the audience base, but it’s very low engagement, whereas email subscriber bases will be smaller and more difficult to build but will be substantially more engaged.

Stepping into content

Depending on how committed you are to content management and your ROI timeline, you can create deeper and deeper levels of relationships.

That’s the key to success, realising that you’re not selling houses in your marketing, you’re selling relationships. Your audience needs to buy into you before they will buy what you are selling.

The Marketing Funnel

For the company shifting from a transactional to a relational selling model this is the simplest step, as it allows you to start to build a content marketing funnel without losing sight of the importance of a call to action leading to a specific endpoint. 

This approach centres on providing content which is relevant and interesting to the audience, but retains some focus on the sales process. The rule of thumb is that 80% of the content should be pure content and 20% sales focussed. 

This can mean retaining a call to action on all mails or focussing some mails or posts on the process or competitive advantages of the product. The key is the mix. More obvious calls to action or a sales approach will push some people down the funnel faster but are likely to disengage a lot of people. 

Content marketing

Companies coming from a softer, marketing-led background or who have found their funnel approach plateauing, tone down the overt sales pitch in favour of a greater focus on content which builds authority and trust with the potential for messages to be shared. 

This is the more traditional social media approach and leads to greater engagement and lower dropouts, forming a strong and growing audience.

video Content marketing

Sales messages are downplayed considerably so it takes a bit of a leap of faith coupled with strong marketing skills to create what is essentially going to become a strong source of high-quality leads, akin to those generated from referrals. 

One example of this is the 33 touch campaign run by Keller Williams companies.

In Ireland, this involves a 2 strand approach, developing the agent’s reputation for both professional and local knowledge, tapping into the audience need for estate agents that they can trust both to know the area intimately and be both professionally competent and successful.

Audiences are split by region of interest and receive two communications per month, one focussing on the area ( best restaurants, relevant news stories etc) and the other a market report detailing new listings, price movements and general commentary. 

Selling and listing call to actions are conspicuously absent.

The upshot of this is open rates in the late 20’s and virtually no unsubscribers, leading to a growing audience. Listing enquiries naturally fall out of the process, but there is no push.

From an agent’s perspective, Keller Williams automated marketing tools are linked to the CRM, making lists and campaign management simple minimising the need for marketing support and letting the agent’s personality shine through. Social media posts can also be scheduled automatically from within the platform. 

Monetising your base

Like Google and Facebook before it, Keller Williams has realised that once it has a loyal audience, it has the potential to offer them a range of products and services outside of the core offering.

The products and services it offers need to be relevant and aligned and obviously provided either internally or via aligned, well-vetted but non-competitive providers.

Keller Williams is able to leverage its global reach and size to negotiate good deals on traditional real estate products like mortgages, home improvement loans and insurance, but also recognises that the transition from one home to the next is only relevant for a small portion of its audience, whereas the others are settled homeowners.

growth business analytics

Plumbing, gardening, home warranty and cheaper utilities are much more relevant to the majority of its base and providing compelling offerings is a great way to both provide stickiness and an ongoing revenue stream. 

This isn’t without its pitfalls, however, as the affinity benefit means that whilst a good experience will act as a halo around the brand, any bad experiences with third parties will also negatively impact, so picking the right partners is essential.

It’s also important to limit the offering and ensure offerings are aligned with the core proposition otherwise you risk diluting the brand.

The revenues from cross-sells are rarely high compared with the core proposition, so it doesn’t make sense to lose sight of your core business.

Servicing your base through data mining.

As it transitions to a technology company, Keller Williams is already planning the next-generation technology utilising AI and hyperlocal content to provide an invaluable real estate tool for consumers and agents alike.

On the consumer side, content is localised to a specific address, giving access to a range of services specific to your home, acting as your home’s personal assistant effectively. 

Want to know what your house is worth now or projected into the future? How about what it would be worth rented on Airbnb or Long term rental? The app gives consumers to create their own landing page, with details on their home, its current value, services in the local area and anything else that the homeowner might need.


Partnerships with companies like Nextdoor allow additional features like combining the best features of a Facebook, WhatsApp or Justeat in a local, curated group or provide highly localised and differentiated services.

From the corporate side, datamining and AI allow agents to predict when a consumer is likely to be considering a change, prompting a reach out, for example. 

Content remains at the heart of the offering, as effective adopting requires access to service and content which continues to be relevant and useful to consumers.

The benefits, however, are game-changing.

As the go-to app for all of your homeownership and needs, Keller Williams stands to own the consumer’s interaction with their home, and who do you think will be the first person they think of when it comes to selling their home?

The future is relational, not transactional.

Building strong, long-lasting relationships with potential consumers is the future for real estate and this takes courage, patience and a long term approach.

You need to focus on what you can offer your consumer not what they can deliver for you, it really is a buyers market! However, the rewards are potentially huge.

Not only can first movers capture a large share of voice which can be translated into a cost-effective lead flow, but they have the potential to broaden the revenue base for the company and potentially lead to diversification and derisked revenues long into the future.

Inbound marketing flavours. Am I a growth hacker or a demand generator?

And does it matter????

As an entrepreneur, the range of inbound marketing approaches can be confusing, but what is the real difference and which one is right for me?

Inbound marketing has a reputation for buzzwords, from Aida to Zeitgeist the marketing world naturally creates niches within itself, replete with its own language and cachet.  

Demand generators look down on lead gen specialists, whereas growth hackers are the new hipsters.

But what really is the difference, and, for small businesses, does it really matter??

The short answer is yes and no. 

Yes, because it’s important to apply the right tools to the right problem.

No, because we have to be able to jump from one mindset to the next as required. 

Inbound marketing has the potential to drive growth faster and at a lower cost than traditional sales activities or outbound marketing, but has become a complex field with lots of subtle flavours.

Growing your business fast requires an understanding of these flavours, and which ones are right for your business now.

Inbound marketing vs outbound marketing

The umbrella term for this is inbound marketing, which is business methodology aimed at attracting the attention of individuals with a level of interest in a particular subject through content and experience that they will value and enjoy.

It’s the opposite of the invasive sales and operations led approaches like spam emails, mass, untreated advertising and cold calling. Tools which are being progressively legislated out of existence.

Inbound marketing puts control in the hands of the consumer, and asks their permission to receive information, whether through explicit opt-in statements or by making consumers actively decide to view the content. 

The first soap operas are a great example of inbound marketing. The messages were clear, “our products are an essential part of the modern domestic lifestyle’, but the media was more subtle and in a form that viewers enjoyed consuming.

Nowadays this has become search marketing, content marketing, social media, all of which require the audience to find and consume the media to receive the message. 

Whilst this may seem an expensive and risky communication strategy, the payoff is much better engagement, offering greater influence and higher conversion.

However, it needs to tie together and have a clear focus on the endpoint of repeat sales, rather than pure brand awareness.

The importance of the inbound marketing funnel.

The inbound marketing funnel is a great tool for two reasons:

  1. It acknowledges that there are different audiences out there with varying degrees of interest and motivation
  2. It recognises that a percentage of these audiences can be motivated to move towards an end goal with the right process

What this means is that we need to link together a series of relevant marketing tools to migrate people through to an endpoint.

We start with educational, informative and engaging content to reinforce interest in a problem attracting a wide audience and gaining their permission to communicate with.  

This is classic demand generation, which raises the profile of the problem, not it’s solutions, placing the need top of mind for consumers, priming the pump and creating the demand.

This leads to more specific, connected and solutions-focused content to guide users to narrow their solution set. 

Finally, relevant and timely content on how our specific product and provider are the solution of choice leads to one to one communication, creating an opportunity to sell.

This level uses valuable calls to action to either create a conversation, or prompt buyer behaviour and is modern lead generation.

The funnel also recognises that the customer has to buy into the process. They need to engage and want to take the relationship further, so marketing becomes more about influence than interruption, asking people to opt-in, rather than trapping them into a relationship. 

This means it needs to be subtle, add value as part of a product and consistent with the company’s ability to deliver on promises made.

Inbound marketing people are engineers

Marketing is complex. It uses a wide range of tools to accomplish different tasks, using well thought out messages to influence its audience in multiple ways. 

Large enterprises and small start-ups have disparate needs, objectives and resources, which also require different skill sets. Growth hacking and Viral marketing emerged from the need for startups to achieve rapid scalable growth with little or no resources and championed the inclusion of marketing in the product itself.

Linkedin’s email upload which allowed you to invite all of your contacts to join Linkedin or Hotmail’s inclusion of a subscription link on each of its users’ emails being obvious examples. 

In this respect, marketing has become like engineering. It’s not about inventing something new each time, but measuring performance and making small iterative improvements using a range of specialist tools. In fact, part of the original definition of growth hacking included the ability to code and create products, not just market them.

So where does that leave me?

As a small business owner looking to expand their marketing activities with limited resources, getting the right strategy is key and should dictate the skills and competencies you want to recruit.

If you have an original, easily amendable product or service with a freemium option and little money, then growth hacking will fit your purpose, as it’s the focus is on creating a viral product, instead of a viral message.

If you struggle to gain traction for your product because the problem it solves is not a high priority, or the solution too complex to explain, demand generation is where you need to look, as you need to raise the profile of the issue and build authority and credibility before you can sell the solution.

If you’re operating in a mature market and looking to build market share, your focus will be on creative positioning and promoting conversations, hence lead generation is the key priority, although you may need to incorporate other approaches to give you an edge.

Even if you’re not in a position to hack your product to make it viral, Growth hacking’s marketing approaches and focus on growth are still worth looking at. It acts as a type of lean marketing which and can drive fast growth and create cut through, so definitely worth a look.

Location, location, location…The importance of hyperlocal marketing in local businesses

The Internet is full of people willing to tell you how to leverage globalisation and advertising to create niches giving you a global reach, but for the vast majority of businesses, their customers are more local and time-bound.

With banner blindness growing and voice searches increasing, marketing and sales will become more “hyperlocal”, so it’s time to optimise your marketing to capture the fastest-growing search term – “near me” which are growing by over 250% each year.

What's driving the growth

The general model of marketing suggests that people will identify a need, spend time researching for a solution and then make a choice from a set of product and supplier options. 

However, consumers are becoming less patient and more impetuous. We know what we want and we want it now, and, as we’re searching on our mobiles, we want it here!

Time has become a factor in decision making, and consumers are willing to pay a little more and travel to collect goods, rather than pay for shipping and wait for delivery, which has lead to the growth of “click to collect” delivery option, as people become more time-constrained. Therefore distance to the product has become more relevant. 

This is obviously true for restaurants and events, where the opportunity exists now, as people make snap decisions to eat out or find a different pub or club when out. 

Marketers are now talking about “micro-moments”, opportunities that exist now, but won’t be repeated, so you need to structure your marketing to capture them.

How does this work?

Whether you’re on your phone or desktop, your ISP needs to know where you are, so records your general location, unless you tell it not too, and most people don’t.

When you conduct a local search, for example, “ restaurants near me”, Google prioritises results close to your location and will rank these higher than the more general results. In addition, Google gives the user the option to view locations on a map, making results easier to navigate to. 

Your webpages and site need to be optimised to catch this traffic. If you have a physical location, you need to make sure this is reflected on Google maps. If you’re servicing a specific area, your SEO needs to reflect this.

So how do you go about making your site Local Friendly?

There are lots of obvious ways that you can tag your location, from simply tagging your location on Google maps and setting up a Google MyBusiness Profile to including location-specific code in your Header which will be categorised by search engines to recognise your location.

Obviously, as location-based searches are most relevant to mobile users, making sure your site is mobile friendly is a must.

But, like all websites, optimising the content is by far the most effective tool to make your site hyperlocal.

This means making sure your content is relevant to the area you are targeting and the people who’re living there. Make sure you link to local businesses and reference local events and example. Include local pictures rather than generic stock images, as these are instantly recognisable to local searchers, and familiarity breeds comfort!

See past the organic. Hyperlocal as a brand value

If Estate Agency is all about “location, location, location”, then having a reputation for being the leading agent in that location is obviously going to position you strongly with prospective buyers and sellers.

Castle Estate Agents espouses the Keller Williams touchpoint culture which emphasis nurturing relationships with a discrete audience who are likely to either be in the market for a home in the future or be in a position to influence other potential buyers and sellers.

With a large database of contacts, the company make extensive use of targeted, engaging email content to both keep contact and reinforce the company’s positioning for professionalism and local knowledge within specific geographical regions.

Castle segments its audience based on geographical interest and sends regular emails that provide relevant local content to residents, whether it’s showcasing new or popular restaurants, highlighting upcoming events or discussing matters of local importance such as major planning approvals or infrastructural work.

Buying or selling homes isn’t mentioned once. It’s all focussed on what’s relevant to the audience at a hyperlocal level.

And it’s paid off considerably.

Open rates have more than doubled across the board ( trebled where video content is used!) and unsubscribe rates are non-existent, so the base is growing rapidly and more engaged than before.

This success has migrated down the funnel as well, with listings up more than 55% since the campaign began and an increase in referral business

Location is going to be one of the most important criteria for customer-facing businesses over the next few years, as consumers seek the fastest need fulfilment, so optimising your presence for hyperlocal searches will position your business as the supplier of choice for the local minded consumer.

Holes not drills

Coaching and mentoring

Customers are looking for solutions not features, so your comms need to talk less about what you do and more about how you solve their problems.

One of my favourite comments about marketing is from Thomas Levitt, who said “People don’t want 1/4″ drills, they want 1/4″ holes”.

What he’s talking about is the importance of understanding why your potential customer is looking for a solution, what motivates them to either seek a solution proactively either online or by visiting your store, or makes them receptive to your call. It also helps to define whether they see value in what you’ve got to offer.

Taking Levitt’s analogy a stage further, we know instinctively that the vast majority of people don’t wake up in the morning with an overriding urge to buy a drill bit ( if you do, then great! more power to you!), what they want to do is hang a picture or put up a shelf and buying a drill is just one solution.

One of the most common mistakes entrepreneurs face when selling is knowing the difference between the features of a product and its application. They feel that the features they’ve developed and the hurdles they’ve overcome have value and this is generally related to how difficult they were to develop or how clever the solution. However, this misses the fundamental reason why people buy things, they want to solve their problems.

Regardless of whether you are B2B or B2C, your potential customers are people.

They wake up in the morning (or in the middle of the night) and have problem they need to solve or an objective they need to reach. How you help them achieve this is your value, your benefit.

This has implications in a number of areas. If affects your communication, your product design and your sales approach.

How easily and completely you deliver the solution is the level of value that you provide, and will define what people think your service is worth, so it is essential that you understand  customer needs and how you can meet them

Effective Startup marketing – 6 major mistakes and how to avoid them

Effective marketing can be the difference between success or failure for startups, so getting your startup marketing right is essential.

It’s a scary fact that more than 90% of startups fail according to Failory, whether it’s through lack of funding, a product that doesn’t meet expectations or simply because they don’t get the right message out to the right audience.

Proper marketing sits are the heart of these tasks, as it involves understanding your audience’s needs and expectations, communicating on their terms and fulfilling their requirements, whether they are customers or potential investors.

But it’s not all about Google ad words, Instagram feeds or hype, it’s about building a clear picture of how you want your product and company to be seen and interacted with and onto how you actually want to make money from the relationship.

Here are some of the major startup marketing mistakes and how to avoid them.

What am I trying to do?

There are a huge range of tools, techniques, channels and approaches that form part of the marketing toolkit and an equally large number of people that will tell you their approach is the right one.

Effective marketing starts with an understanding of what you are trying to achieve both at a strategic and tactical level. Building a consumer-facing brand requires a very different approach to selling a complex tool to Corporates and a very different expectation of success.

Equally, your objectives today will be very different from those 3 years from now, and there is no point in getting ahead of yourself.

Are you looking to build exposure for your brand or product? Are you ready to promote engagement and create demand for your concept or category? Is a strong lead flow your primary objective as you’re in a competitive space? Is your business transactional or relational?

Clearly identifying your business needs today will let you select the right tools and channels and build an efficient marketing plan.

Who's my audience

All marketing starts with the customer, and if you can’t clearly identify who they are and what they fundamentally need, then you are in trouble!

How do you know whether the product will have a need?

Where do they go for information and what language do they use to discuss their problems?

Who else do I need to influence and in what way?


Startup marketing has to be efficient and effective, as you don’t have the time or resources to waste, so you have to say the right things to the right people in the right place a the right time. And you can’t do that if you don’t understand your customer.

Chances are you know the answers already, that’s what drove you’re to set up in the first place, so just make sure you have that picture in your head at all times when planning your marketing content, tools and channels

Don't be a startup marketing magpie!

Startup marketing is an everchanging industry, and obviously one that’s very good at self-promotion! Every company out there wants to be the next Google or Facebook and will bombard you with reasons why their approach is the only approach that you need!

Investors can be as bad. Constantly being asked “why aren’t you on Google ads??”, ” What’s your plan for Instagram?”, “Why aren’t you on Youtube??” can be disheartening and make you question your strategy, but you have to avoid putting the cart before the horse.

Too many companies see using marketing channels as the objective, rather than recognising that they are a tool. They are not the reason you are in business, they are there to help you achieve your own goals.

Magpie managers are always chasing the shiny! They read an article and think “I must do that” instead of thinking about whether it will help you achieve your startup marketing objectives.

Start from the top down. I want to achieve Authority or Awareness, how can I do that? Will Youtube help me to become recognised as an expert or communicate a complex idea? Will Linkedin let me reach my target audience?

Choose the tools that help you achieve your strategy, not the other way round.

Where do I want to take them?

Understanding the customer journey is essential when planning your startup marketing tools and content. This is especially true with social media, which has the potential to create a niche audience for Instagram instead of your brand if not used correctly.

You want to guide your customers through a path that will ultimately lead to them being highly satisfied with your product and service, but they will start from different points on the spectrum.

Many businesses fall into the trap of thinking that they need to sell the features of their product without first selling the need for the product in the first place, which misses the opportunity.

The marketing funnel concept demonstrates that your audiences need to go through distinct steps from awareness to action and many won’t get all the way through.

Putting it simply, you’ll have a lot more people interested in understanding the problem you can solve, than in understanding why you’re is the best solution, giving you the opportunity to build a much bigger potential audience for the future.

The next phase is to understand how to transition people from one stage to the next, and that requires an integrated approach to your marketing and patience.

Building the right brand in the right place

Social media is brilliant for building and spreading influence, but it can be misplaced. Sharing and linking from a personal profile rather than a corporate profile can shift the emphasis from the corporate brand to the personal.

That’s not always a bad thing though, but it does mean you need to be very clear on what brands you want to build and what you want each of them to say.

In the B2B world, Linkedin is very good at building personal profiles, and you can use this to provide different voices to support your brand. What a Sales rep might say will be different from the interests of the Financial or technical teams, and most likely aimed at a different audience.

This lets you communicate different facets of your story and proposition to relevant audiences, building up a more complex and deeper picture.

However, all of this needs to be tied back to a central, corporate profile and preferably one that will let you develop a subscriber base that you control, rather than leaving all that rich data on Facebook’s site! Try to push people to landing pages on your site and offer subscription options to build your own subscriber lists.

Fish where the fish are

If you know who your customers are and what they need, this should be easy. But if not, you need to go back and do a bit of research.

Most sales cycles start with a problem followed by a search for a set of possible solutions, of which, presumably, your product is one. This search will take place in a particular place and using a particular language, which is relevant to the problem.

As an example, a call centre is unlikely to be looking for a new automated phone system which can route calls, as this is only one of a range of solutions, whereas the product is in fact, one of productivity and man-management.

“How can I increase call volumes?” “How can I route calls more efficiently” are more likely to form the search than ” Automated phone system” for example.

Similarly, people looking for professional and technical advice are as likely to search Reddit or Quora as they are to go to Google. Specific sector and competence related sites and groups are also a major source of information and can be a rich source of leads.

And don’t forget, Youtube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world!

You need to know where your customers go for advice and knowledge and make sure you are active in those locations. If you aren’t answering your customer’s questions, you can bet someone else is!


And, as Voice is expected to account for over 50% of all searches next year, the idiosyncrasies of the search language are only going to get more critical!

Effective communications are customer-centric


If you are selling or marketing, your aim is to win the resources of the customer and the most precious commodity is their attention. Good communication is key

Whether you are selling or marketing, your aim is to win the resources of the customer and these days, one of the most precious commodities is their attention.

From lead generation onwards, your most important task is to get the customer to engage with your communications, to give you their attention and as media becomes more fragmented it’s just becoming harder.

Unless you are a commodity, your proposition probably needs to be explained.

If you’re business is set up with a single purpose around a specific problem, it’s easy to explain to someone what you do and why you are relevant, but for most business, its often not clear what the benefit is and there is a tendency for business to focus on the features of the product and assume that the buyer can see why that’s relevant to them.

Buyers don’t have the time to sit and think about what a feature might mean in the context of their business and how this might translate into tangible business improvement that would justify an investment. You have to do that for them.

I do a lot of lead generation on LinkedIn, where you only have 300 characters ( including spaces) to grab the attention of the prospect, so it’s essential to make them instantly see what the value of the product is to them.

Put yourself in the shoes of the prospect and consider how their lives will be better if they buy the product and paint a picture for them.

  • Understand what issues face the industry you are targeting and what the trends are
  • Understand how your product benefits the target company and collect any tangible supporting evidence you can find
  • Understand who owns that benefit, who might have an objective that requires the benefit to be delivered.

If they are passive customers you need to ensure that your outbound communications get straight to the point

Communicate context, solution and include a call to action that lets you retain control. “x is a major issue for Irish companies, but by doing Y, we can deliver a 50% improvement in X, would you be free for a call to discuss?”

If the customer is active and searching, then chances are they are searching on the internet, so it’s important to remember that they are likely to research from the perspective of the problem, so ensure that your keywords cover the problem set, not just the solution, and that your communications are written with the keywords in mind.

Consider what questions you would ask if you have the same problem. If your computer fails, you don’t search for data recovery services, you are more likely to be searching based on what the symptoms are.

Remember, whether B2B or B2C all consumers are time poor, so anything that you can do that simplifies their research and decision making is going to increase your chances of delivering leads and sales