When should you begin to market your startup? Traditionally, companies don’t start thinking about marketing until they’re actually ready to go to market, or sometimes even after that. However, recently there’s been a growing trend of startups that begin inbound marketing earlier. Some even start before their products and services are clearly defined. To some, this may seem counterintuitive. How can you promote your product before you know what your product is? But in fact, starting inbound early can be an excellent way to build your brand and set the stage for the future success for your new company.
Inbound Success: It Will Take Longer Than You Think
Inbound marketing takes time to see results.
Wait, let me repeat that: Inbound marketing takes time to see results!
In fact, many inbound marketing agencies today won’t even take on a client unless they sign a one-year contract. There’s a great reason for this – it takes time to create and execute a strategy and see results from your work.
Why does it take so much time?
There are several reasons, many of which are highlighted in Hubspot’s report, Marketing Benchmarks from 7,000+ businesses. The more content you create, the more traffic that you’ll attract. It takes a considerable amount of effort to create this content. Therefore, you’ll experience a compounding effect on traffic as time goes on and you continue your content creation efforts. As such, company websites with 51-100 pages generate 48% more traffic than company websites with 1-50 pages. Furthermore, B2B and B2C companies with 101 to 200 pages generate 2.5X more leads than those with 50 or fewer pages. Again, in order to get there, it will take continuous work over time, so if you think that you will magically begin to generate a large volume of leads out of the gate, your expectations are not in line with what is considered typical within the industry.
Have I overwhelmed you yet? To early stage startups running on little sleep and even less time, hearing this can feel really heavy. Here’s the good news: there are manageable ways to build results over time if you:
- Start early.
- Stay consistent.
One of the best ways to achieve the milestone of 50-100 website pages is to blog. Companies that blog 15 or more times per month get five times more traffic than those that don’t blog. The sweetest news for startups? Companies with 1-10 employees tend to see the largest traffic gains from posting articles more frequently. This means that you have control and you can do it! If you have three people at your startup that can contribute to writing blog articles, you’ll only have to write five blogs per month (just a bit more than one per week). Even better, if you have five employees that can blog, then each team member only needs to contribute three articles per month. Then again, you don’t necessarily have to write 15 blogs at your startup. It’s ok to start small as long as you stay consistent and understand that it will take time – but the more you post the faster you’ll get your results. That said, it is much more realistic and manageable to start early and start small.
Then again, if you wait until that moment that you are ready to launch a product (or shortly after, as I’ve seen many times), you are starting with a lag in the pipeline. In this case, you’ll be waiting until the moment that you are ready to sell to begin attracting folks to your site, generating leads, nurturing those leads (prospective customers can spend as much of 90% of the sales process before wanting to even have a discussion with a sales rep) to get to the point where you have something worthwhile for your sales folks to act on. The rule of thumb is that it takes 3-6 months after starting inbound to begin to see results. That doesn’t include time for strategy and implementation of marketing software. Also, the 3-6 month mark is just the beginning of results coming in – not a robust inbound program that generates solid monthly results.
But wait, what if we’re not ready yet?
It can be scary to start your marketing efforts before your product is 100% set for the main stage. As I mentioned earlier, it often seems counterintuitive. However, there are significant opportunities that emerge from starting early, even if it is uncomfortable:
- You get to know your buyer and have the opportunity to test assumptions and understand pain points.
- Through interactions with your audience you have the opportunity to gather actionable intelligence that will allow your startup to evolve.
- You will generate anticipation for the launch of your solution.
- And, of course, you can build up your traffic through awesome high-quality content that solves something for your audience.
So when should you start your inbound campaign? Now. It’s never too early to get started and begin learning. Ideally, if you lay the marketing foundation in advance, you will have built an audience of ready followers when you launch.