When it comes to marketing communication the biggest issue start-ups face is they don’t know who they’re customers are. Until you know that, you don’t know where to find them or how to reach them. Consequently, when asked about marketing communication a common response is “I’m using social media”, like it’s a some sort of cure all for marketing. Actually, without focus it’s a scattergun approach, shoot something out there and hope it sticks! The consequence is you spend a lot of time and resources marketing to people who just aren’t interested, and time and resources is the one thing start-ups are short of.

So, before you start it’s essential to ask yourself 4 questions: 1) Who am I after, 2) Where do they hang out, 3) how will I reach them and 4) what do I want to tell them.

Who am I after?
The first step is to really home in on who your customer is. Again many start-ups say “I can sell to everyone”, no you can’t. You need to target and understand exactly who the customer is. Of course this needs to be tested, the first customer identified may turn out to be the wrong one. However, it’s a process that you have to go through until you’re confident you have it right.

Where do they hang out?
Once you know who you’re after you need to understand where you will find them. Ask yourself what publications do they read, what events do they attend, what social media do they use and what trade bodies do they belong to. Trade bodies especially are a great source and almost every sector has them. The essential thing though is to be where your customers are.

How will I reach them?
Once you know where they hang out you should be able to identify the channels to reach them there. Is it email, direct mail, blogs, advertising etc. Whatever you use they must be channels that are familiar to your customers. Channels are also dependent on what you want to tell them and other factors and that’s what I’ll cover next.

What do I want to tell them?
Obviously, you need to be clear about the message but you need to also consider how that message needs to change and be delivered at different times and phases of customer communication. There are two things to consider: 1) The phase of the sales process and 2) how the customer adopts new technology.

The Sales Process
A useful model here is the AIDA model. It considers the way customers move through the sales process. First there is Awareness, then Interest, Desire and finally Action. So, if you’re trying to raise awareness then what do you want to tell them and what is the best channel for this stage of the process. In this way you can map out exactly what you need at each phase through to purchase.

The Adoption Process
The model to use here is the “Diffusion of Innovation”. It maps the way new innovations are adopted in the market. It identifies different types of customers: Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority and Laggards. What you need to reach and tell Innovators is different from Early Majority. Innovators are risk takers, they like to be first whereas the Early Majority is conservative, they need more reassurance. Your choice of channels and communications should reflect this.

By working through a marketing communication plan in this way your messaging is much more likely to hit real customers and resonant with what they need. The impact and the return on your efforts then will be much stronger and will help your business to rapidly grow and succeed.