5 ways to stop marketing like a startup when you are scaling

How to scale your marketing strategy.
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There is an enormous difference between the marketing goals of a startup and that of a scale-up.

Recognising these differences can help you take your business to the next level and stop you from wasting money on marketing methods your business has outgrown.

Product-market fit is everything for a startup

As a startup, the early days of fundraising and networking can be exciting times. It can be very tempting to focus most of your efforts into these areas. However, the deal breaker is establishing your product-market fit without blowing all of your resources.

The product-market fit will ultimately determine the success or failure of a startup.  It’s sometimes a strange concept for people to get their head around. In a nutshell, it’s creating a product that really resonates with your target market and solves a problem.

Your ultimate challenge as a startup is to create a product that your customers will love. This requires rigorous testing and constant iteration. No amount of fancy marketing will save a business that hasn’t got the product-market fit right.

The startup phase is one of exploration and searching for a business model that is scalable.  The focus of startup marketing is to acquire new customers who can act as guinea pigs and give you vital feedback in these early stages.

Scale-up marketing is completely different to startup marketing

When scaling, your goals are completely different. Your business model should be proven and sustainable, and you should be at a point where you are looking to increase revenues, extend your presence in the market and also increase the number of employees on your team to help you scale.

A scale-up should already have a solid base of happy customers, have already solved all those nitty gritty startup challenges and is now ready for growth.

You may have spent a lot of money testing various marketing methods and now it’s time to begin fine tuning those efforts into a plan that will help you grow.

You must centre your efforts on developing the work you have already done and increasing the sales of your existing customer base. Whether that involves collaborations with other companies, pay per click campaigns or running events.  You’re building upon the tactics that you have already proven to work for you.

Here are five marketing tips to help you develop your scale-up strategy:

1. Email marketing isn’t dead!

New marketing methods are always emerging, but email marketing has proven itself time and time again.  A startup would focus on building a great list of leads.  A scale-up would focus on getting the most return from this list through cleverly targeted campaigns.

It’s far easier to get people to buy from you a second time, so you must focus your efforts on your existing customers. The goal is to increase the revenue made per customer. Small businesses’ resources are often limited; you must ensure you get the biggest return possible from all of your marketing activities.

 A survey conducted in 2016 by the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) found that email had a median ROI of 122% – that’s over four times higher than other marketing formats, including social media, direct mail and paid search.

Segmenting your customer lists means you can target your campaigns more effectively. Not everyone will care about everything you have to offer. Fine tuning your email campaigns by sending highly relevant emails to the right customers will help you dramatically increase conversions. 

We recently worked with a health products company who used a lapsed customer campaign to re-engage their old customers. They implemented a four-step email campaign and won back 100 customers. 

2. Invest in retargeting people who have visited your website

More and more technology is being geared towards targeting people who have already come into contact with your brand. This is great news for marketers. Having the ability to re-engage with people who have already seen your products or services is an absolute game changer.

Again, this is about building upon what you already have. The great bit about scaling is you are not trying to reinvent the wheel every time. You can build upon your previous successes and gain as much revenue as possible from each potential lead.

Retargeting uses technology to gather lists of all users who land on your site.  With this information, you can ultimately ‘follow’ your audience wherever they go on the web. A small piece of hidden code on your website logs new user’s information and allows you to show ads or banners automatically as they browse other sites which allow display ads. 

There are a number of retargeting provider’s solutions, the most well-known being Google Adwords which is a great all-rounder for small business. Research shows only 2% of new customers convert on their first visit, so retargeting helps you re-engage with the ones who left, making it a great return on investment.

An amazing tip for ecommerce brands is to retarget anyone who leaves an abandoned a shopping cart. Setting up an automatic email to follow up anyone who leaves items in their basket without making a purchase is a great way to get customers to convert. 

3. You must find your killer marketing strategy

The chances are you’ve tried lots of different tactics when it comes to marketing. A scattergun approach is not going to work here; you must have a strategy in place.

You may have some marketing methods that have worked time and time again to increase sales. Whether you have a strategic partnership that offers regular and consistent referrals, or content marketing that brings in regular enquiries, these are the methods you need to focus on in your scale-up strategy.

You should aim to have three killer methods that form the basis of your strategy. Once you know what your methods are it is worth investing in these and tweaking them until they are even better at converting. You must be willing to spend, test and track performance to develop your perfect strategy.

If you still don’t have your killer combo, defining these methods will help you scale to the next level. An experienced marketing person may be able to suggest what methods will work for your particular industry and business.

If you are really stuck, take a look at your competitors. How are they generating more leads, what methods are they investing in? Your competition is a wealth of tried and tested knowledge. That’s not to say everything they are doing is working, but you should be able to get a good idea of what is working for them and what isn’t.

4. Finessing the marketing methods that work!

A marketer’s work is never done. Once you know which methods are giving you the best return, it’s time to start tweaking, testing and improving. A company that will scale successfully knows they are going to have to undergo constant improvements if they want to keep growing.  

Maybe your killer method is Facebook adverts. As a scale-up, it’s time to find out just how well they can work. A/B testing involves running two campaigns alongside each other to find out which one works better.  You can A/B test advert images and copy to see which ads bring in more customers. You will find that as you improve these methods and really fine tune them, they become more effective and the cost of these adverts actually goes down.

A fitness company we have recently been working with has had great results A/B testing their Facebook adverts. They are trying two different ad approaches, one with a positive message and one with a more negative message to see which converts the most customers.

5. You must hire your own dream team

Many business owners overlook this important step in scaling.

Hiring the right talented people to help you build your empire is crucial to your progression as a scale-up. Marketing is always changing and has a lot of specialist areas. A handful of superstars in your marketing team can help you solve your marketing hurdles.  

Even if you hire a marketing manager, they may require a team of experts to help them implement everything. At Grow, we have a team of people all over the world who help us implement, including remote designers and web developers. It may be you need an expert to help you run a PPC campaign or even a team of writers who can provide you with content that is SEO optimised.

You must use due diligence when hiring your team. Be sure to take your time when hiring to avoid taking on someone who just drains time and money. It’s worth investing more into the hiring process to avoid nightmare hires.

About Alasdair Inglis


I am the MD of Grow. I deliver marketing consultancy and training to small businesses, universities, business programmes, charities, and social enterprises.

Since 2000, I have personally worked with over 150 fast-growth small businesses and managed to get great results - check out our success stories below. 

I am the Marketer in Residence at The British Library. As a partner, I host Digital Marketing Workshops there every month where I have personally taught over 2000 entrepreneurs. 

I have taught on the Goldman Sachs Small Business Programme, mentored tech start-ups at IdeaLondon and delivered Sales Strategy Workshops to UK Lebanon Tech Hub in Beirut.


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