It’s not so complicated: Prioritizing marketing efforts for early-stage startups

Posted on 07 Jun 2022
Go To Market StrategyGrowth Marketing

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About this episode

Have you ever felt that there are too many choices when considering the marketing efforts of your startup?

Too many channels, or too many things that you could be doing?

Or maybe have you ever spread yourself too thin among different marketing channels? Maybe without knowing what you are doing, or what’s the impact for your company.

In this episode, Anna Furmanov is simplifying these thoughts explaining to us what startups should be doing to survive in this chaos.

What they talked about:

  • The problem with startup marketing efforts
  • What to do instead, and how to prioritize
  • What types of efforts should be done first
  • How startup buzz-words confuse startuppers or marketers even more

Related: 6 tips to build a long-term growth engine for startups


Anna Furmanov: All right. My name is Anna Furmanov. And I’m the founder of Furmanov Marketing Consulting. And I’m also the host of the podcast, Modern Startup Marketing. There’s a couple more things that I do, but those are probably the most important for this episode.

Spyros Tsoukalas: Hello, Anna, I’m glad to have you here. We’re here to discuss about prioritizing marketing efforts for startups. And I think that’s one of your favorite topics, at least recently. So what’s with this domain? Like, what’s going  wrong with the startup, especially early stage startup marketing efforts?

Anna Furmanov: Okay, let me tell you, let me give you the lay down, what’s going wrong. Because this is something that I see over and over and over again, this is not new. And people that are listening in probably have some kind of connection to this as well. So what I’m seeing is, in general, when startups decide to do marketing, it might look like marketing and might look more like sales. But like when I give that question out, like, what marketing are you doing? Sometimes they say, Well, we’re sending out cold emails, or we’re doing cold outbound through phone calls. That’s not marketing. But what ends up happening is a lot of the time, they’re kind of spreading peanut butter across the bread, so that it’s not really focused marketing. It’s just kind of like we’re on Tik Tok, we’re on Instagram, we’re on Facebook, we’re doing blog posts, were working with influencers where it will probably most likely not, but like we’re doing all of these things. Because that’s what we should be doing. Right. That’s marketing. So we wrote some blog articles. And we have to tell people about it. Let’s post it across all social media, that’s marketing. The problem with that is when they go back and look to see what actually what actually happened, what were the results from that the results are also very spread thin, like peanut butter on the sandwich, there’s, and then they don’t really know what’s working well, because nothing is going to work well, because they’re not taking a focused and prioritized approach. So that’s the big problem. And I can tell you how to fix that, if you want.

Spyros Tsoukalas: I’m highly related to what you describe, because having been a founder in the past, I have totally experienced that like, like the huge number of choices and channels that the startup has, like you don’t know how to prioritize, you might know how to use some tools, or how to engage some channels versus others. And you are lost in this like labyrinth of choices, like not knowing what to do, how to do it, what to prioritize like, it’s a mess. So how do we get out of this mess?

Anna Furmanov: The way to get out of this mess is to say, it’s just to understand that you’re in the mess, just you know, be honest, and say, Okay, we’re in a mess right now. So first, admit it. And you’ll know this because you will not be seeing results to pipeline from your marketing, you will not be seeing results to revenue from your marketing, your marketing needs to drive that marketing needs to drive sales at the end of the day. So I want to back up a little bit, because another another thing that’s really important before you pick your channels is you have to make sure that you’ve actually done the background and built the marketing foundation and cleaned up your house, so to speak. That’s what I like to refer. So when when you’re prioritizing what to do with your marketing efforts, make sure you start with the marketing foundation. The marketing foundation is all about talking to doing you know, obviously you want to do competitive analysis, you want to spend time understanding who else is out there, you want to start, you know, start there as well. But you want to spend a lot of time with customers, and doing voice of customer research and figuring out who is your target buyer who loves you so much. Why do they love you so much? What are the benefits? What’s the value that you’re providing your product or services providing, and have those conversations and for B2B, I recommend having at least 8 to 10 conversations which could take an hour each. So it takes time. And then you pull out the signals and you’re actually going to find out like okay, I’m hearing a lot of this. These are the goals for this person that challenges for this person. I understand them, I have empathy for them. What can we do now that we know this? Like how can we make it more clear that with our messaging and positioning now that we know that our superfan talks about us in this way and has this benefit? So that’s cleaning up the house and only then can you use that information, those insights and start to then make The rest of your foundation built out your website, right? Your social media company pages, your whatever else, wherever else you live online and make it consistent. So that’s step two. And then step three is what everyone’s like, Okay, we have to create awareness for you know, we’ve, we’ve created our website, we’ve got our social media, we’re ready, we built everything out. And now, that’s where we were just talking about, like, the challenge of spreading yourself thin across lots of channels. And the way to prioritize your top marketing channels is actually coming from those customer conversations that you originally had, where you ask them. Hey, where do you hang out online? Like, are you on LinkedIn? Are you on Snapchat? Are you? Do you follow any influencers? Do you listen to podcasts like this one? Right? Do you go to any events to stay in the know and like your area of work? And so you’re not guessing. And that’s what like a lot of marketing strategies. I don’t know if a lot of them but many that I’ve seen, start from a place of internally, we want to do it this way. Internally, we want to create Google ads. And like, we know, we’ve got an expert on the team that can do that. Let’s start the Google ads. Let’s start the blogs, we got a writer on the team, let’s start writing blog posts and people are going to just like, snap of the fingers are going to come to our website and start reading our blog posts. No, they’re not. I hate to say it, but it’s going to be increasingly hard to create amazing content today, to get people to come over to your website and read your blog post. But there are channels where it will be easier to create awareness, create demand for whatever your offering is. And that’s what you need to prioritize. Because now you know, oh, okay, I talk to my customers. I know enough about them. I know where they hang out online. And I know they’re going to be on those channels. Hopefully that answers that question.

Spyros Tsoukalas: Pretty clear. So you’re basically saying, listen to your customers, like first step the messaging, then using the voice of customer understand where they hang out. And then focus your marketing activities in at least in the beginning in the channels where you know, that your customers and your bigger fans are.

Anna Furmanov: Yes, so then you avoid that guesswork. And then you can really double down your efforts in one or two channel that you know, because they all work. Like what I found as I work across different startups and help them with their growth marketing efforts is all the channels work if you double down on the ones where your target audience hangs out, and not spread yourself too thin.

Spyros Tsoukalas: So what I can say after that is that it’s a trend lately, at least in the in my feeds around the internet is like you can start from non scalable efforts, start and knowing better what you’re doing, like validating your strategies, etc, before moving towards all these exciting scalable channels that everybody’s looking for within the startup world, because everybody’s looking for like the most scalable tactic they can identify to become a millionaire tomorrow. So you’re basically saying start from non scalable, right?

Anna Furmanov: Start from those hard things that nobody wants to do. Because guess what, that’s why I have clients like, people don’t necessarily want to or love to spend the time talking to other people getting to know them, like you’re doing with the podcasts, like how I have a podcast actually really like to get to know people spend time talking to them, ask them specific questions. It’s a skill, and then taking all of those answers and thinking strategically, like what did I just hear? What was that common thread? Throughout those conversations, what actually matters, and then pulling those insights out? It’s a key skill for any marketer for any product marketer, right? It’s essential. And that’s where your, your backbone starts for all your other marketing efforts.

Spyros Tsoukalas: So you gave me a great pass to ask the following. So when talking about growth marketing, you are involved in the growth marketing world, if I’m not mistaken. So when talking about growth marketing, experimentation is a big part of this umbrella that is implied under growth marketing. But what we’re basically discussing right now, at least for early stage startups, is that, you know, all these experimentation ideas, like with all these different tactics shouldn’t be like the first priority of an early stage startup like they could go first, to the more boring and customer driven activities and like maybe at the later stage, they can experiment with new channels and identify that big opportunity did they bite the missing in the beginning? But do I perceive it right? Like you are basically saying that early stage startups like growth marketing, at least under the context of experimentation is not the best choice.

Anna Furmanov: So how do you define growth marketing? Because for me, it’s like, marketing is anything you can do to grow customers. And growth is like what you want for your business? Are you talking about paid performance? I want to make sure I understand,

Spyros Tsoukalas: I actually this is a very, like, difficult term for me to define. I listen to this definition earlier in the day, and I’m repurposing it in our discussion. So under your definition, that’s not relevant, so.

Anna Furmanov: It doesn’t matter. You know, marketers love to create these buzzwords. And to me it like, it all kind of comes down to whether you call it demand generation, for B2B or growth marketing, which is more likely for B2C and some people are like I’m a I’m, there’s so many different names, and I can’t think of like, but really marketing is marketing. So whatever term you want to use, oh, growth hacker, hate that term, horrible. There’s no hack, okay? Like you have to really understand how marketing works, and then do the hard work. And it takes time, right. And so my, my expertise is in organic, organic takes time, organic, I personally believe it’s, it can be harder, because there’s not that like, oh, we just did something. And then we saw that the customer acquisition cost went down and like this, this test did better than this one, like there’s not that immediate understanding of what’s happening to the numbers with organic growth, organic marketing. And so it’s a long play, and you have to get good at reading the signals. So that’s kind of that’s where I dabble. But your question was around like.

Spyros Tsoukalas: No, forget it. Actually. Getting rid getting rid of all these marketing buzzwords is actually helpful, especially for early stage startups. I was I used to be like, terribly lost in that area, like demands and leads and email marketing, growth, marketing, growth hacking, like I was even looking looking for the definition. So let’s move on. Let’s move everything to the side and just stay with what we understand. From what you explain

Anna Furmanov: That’s one thing I will say that there is a big difference. When companies come to me and saying, and tell me I’m looking for someone to help me with lead gen, I say, I’m sorry, that is not what I help with. I help with the full funnel, because I truly do believe that marketing should impact sales, you should not think about marketing is just top of the funnel. Because what ends up happening is generating leads is great, but it’s only part of the sales process. So marketing should really tie into the whole entire funnel, what from creating demand at the top of the funnel to the middle, how do you nurture people? How do you get them to like continue to be excited about you interested in you, keeping in touch with you, even if you’re not the right product for them at this particular moment, moment in time, and then become a customer. And then after they’re a customer, they love you so much, because you’ve created such a great experience that they want to tell people about. That’s smart. That’s where marketing is touching as well. So it should be the full funnel. It’s not just lead. So there is a big difference. When people say lead gen versus demand gen I that automatically rings a bell of like, yeah, clear difference, but everything else. Yes, you’re right.

Spyros Tsoukalas: I totally agree with what you just said. And if you allow me to add, like all the departments of the companies somehow add to the revenue in the end, like retention, customer success, everything gets in the mix. So yeah, it’s not like just acquisition that we’re all so obsessed with. Anyway, last question, because we want to keep it short. And favorite tool lately and favorite book, whatever it could be.

Anna Furmanov: Oh, yeah. You caught me off guard there.  Favorite tool. Um, you know, I just love Trello like I’m in Trello. And I love how it organizes everything for me. And I’m in like, I have three Trellos is open because I have one for the for my own, like client work. And then I have one for podcast production. And I have one for video clips production. And it just organizes the heck out of my life. I don’t know I think what when HubSpot will create a really good app because I just want to use HubSpot as an app. It’s not there yet. Like it’s not as easy to use for me. Then I will say that I love HubSpot too. I think everybody everything should just be like Super usable in the app format, like when you’re on the go. And favorite book.

Spyros Tsoukalas: If any.

Anna Furmanov: Right now, well, I have a lot of different books, The Alchemist, like I love that book. Have you read it?

Spyros Tsoukalas: No, but I know what it is.

Anna Furmanov: It’s great. And then for non-fiction I read a lot of obviously I read, I read fiction because it gets me out of the marketing and business world, you need to get out of there sometimes to get more creative, but I still like reading non-fiction. And currently I’m reading Cashvertising. It’s It’s an oldie, but I never read it. And it was highly recommended. So Cashvertising. And he were both squeezed this it’s all about, it’s more about writing that propels people to take an action. So getting better at that.

Spyros Tsoukalas: Thank you very much, Anna, for sharing all these insights and answering all these questions across this episode. And I hope that our listeners will enjoy their time with you as much as I did.

Anna Furmanov: Thank you so much. This is great.

In this episode

Spyros Tsoukalas Head of Business Development @ GrowthMentor 💜 | Passionate No-Coder ⚙️

I’m a computer engineer transformed into a ⚙️ passionate No Coder ⚙️. Reach out if you want to get introduced or learn more about the No Code world!

Anna Furmanov Marketing Consultant

I have 12+ years marketing experience at big name brands (Groupon, Blistex, Del Monte Foods) and tech startups. I’ve led marketing at two venture-backed Series A/B tech startups. My passion is with early stage startups. I’m also host of the Modern Startup Marketing podcast.

A talk by Anna Furmanov
Marketing Consultant
Hosted by
Spyros Tsoukalas Head of Business Development @ GrowthMentor 💜 | Passionate No-Coder ⚙️

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