Cross-posted from LinkedIn.

What’s the big deal about Marketing at a startup? Is it really that different than the Marketing function within an established company? The following article takes a look at 5 challenges and 5 advantages to startup Marketing.

The Challenges

Whether yours is a bootstrapped side project or well-funded and venture-backed, you face several challenges when going to market. Each is relative and unique, but overcoming these challenges is unavoidable.

1. No one knows who you are – Obvious, but important. You have no reputation, no track record. Not only will prospects be more guarded and reluctant to buy from you, they may never consider you in a purchase decision to begin with.

2. You don’t know what your target market wants – Many (if not most) startups begin by trying to solve a problem that exists for a defined market segment. But even with a perfect solution to a nagging problem, it takes time, iteration, and numerous sales cycles to come to the right mix of product, price, sales process, and delivery model. The world is littered with companies that had great products that never made it for this reason.

3. Time is the enemy – There simply isn’t enough time in the day to do everything. If the following list is a good sample of Marketing tactics startups should consider, how will you do all of them in a given day, week, month, or quarter? You can’t without sacrificing quality.

4. You likely have a small budget – You can’t outspend your competition, so spending to do more isn’t an option. While a massive awareness and PR campaign could be a shortcut to letting prospects know you exist, the expense alone is probably prohibitive (and not a great long term strategy).

5. No one wants to be first – “This sounds interesting. Send me at least two case studies from customers in my industry with a similar employee count and switching from the product I’m currently using.” Sound familiar? Trying something new is risky.

The Advantages

Though the challenges above are real, don’t feel defeated! In fact, the optimists among us read each of the above while seeing how each could be seen as a competitive strength and opportunities to beat the competition.

1. No one knows who you are – No baggage! When no one knows who you are, you can create your personality. You can assume a voice and tone without the weight of existing perception. You don’t have to play it safe, and that alone can make you stand out in the market.

2. Your target market doesn’t know what they want – Though they know the problem, your target market may not know exactly how they want it solved. This is a beautiful thing, letting you experiment with different solutions including delivery models, trials, ROI calculators…the list goes on.

3. Time is on your side – In a startup, you can have an idea for a campaign in the morning, content written by noon, and emails, landing pages, ads, and social all up and running before 2. The ability to move quickly cannot be underestimated.

4. Constraints equal creativity – Not enough time, budget, or resources require creativity. Some of the best Marketing campaigns are created because of constraints.

5. Everyone roots for the underdog – One of my favorite campaigns right now is from Act-On Software, a Marketing Automation company that competes with Marketo and HubSpot. Their tagline: Marketing Automation for the Fortune 5,000,000. People root for the underdog, and that’s especially true when it comes to startups facing established incumbents.

Startup Marketing is different. It’s difficult. It’s the art of creating something out of nothing, convincing the world that a product will solve a problem, and making the customer feel that they’ve made the right decision. And if you’re a marketer, it is simultaneously the biggest challenge and most fun you’ll ever have.

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