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Marketing is essential for startups; Seun Odegbami’s advice on how to go about it

Joan Aimuengheuwa had a chat with Seun Odegbami on marketing strategies for startups. 

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Startup marketing Seun Odegbami
Seun Odegbami

Marketing is an essential for startups and even established companies.

Left to me, marketing is a really hard task which I run away from. I don’t like the idea of trying to pull people into my business and then I have some of them insulting or treating me in really annoying manners.

That’s why Seun Odegbami, an expert in branding, a TEDx Speaker, Growth Marketer and and founder at Twentyonelights, had a conversation with TechEconomy.ng, to change this mindset, which I know is spread among lots of people, helping us understand if marketing is as terrible as is widely thought or there are ways to go about it.

Well, Seun said it’s actually very difficult for companies just starting, people would really insult you and tell you to get off their lists. Marketing is for the strongest and those flexible enough. He believes that with the right strategy, and a growth mindset, marketing can be seamless.

Despite its difficulty and the fact that it’s not for everyone, these abilities would help you pull enough return on investment when it comes to marketing.

Seun has always had a niche for marketing. He studied marketing as a first degree. “Nature was calling out to me and I was eager to do this,” he said.

Back then when he started, the only channels available for marketing were billboard ads, tv ads, among others.

Currently, digital transformation has made a great impact in the sector. Online marketing has really widened the scope of marketing. Copywriting, digital marketing, email marketing, among other opportunities are now driving the sector.

“I found an opportunity in the online space where I could share my knowledge and insights based on my experience and schooling.”

Today, there are startups that have dropped off in the middle of their journey due to poor marketing, while some are closed, others are trying to get back on their feet. All because they are not getting the returns they aimed to get from the beginning.

marketing strategy

What marketing strategies are needed by startups still at the early stage?

Lots of people start their businesses but sales and marketing is an afterthought. A company building a user app has to have a ‘customer-first’ mindset. You need to think of marketing while building your application.

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“You don’t want to build everything all fantastic and nice before you start thinking of your marketing, it has to be from the onset.”

Lots of startups need cash flow which has to do with payments for utilities from friends, families, among others. “The truth of the matter remains that startups need to get a marketer into the business”.

It takes some time for you to get the results you want from marketing. “For instance, if you’re a B2B startup dealing with software, it’s going to take some time for you to sell your product to a client because they might have been using another software already. Rather than immediately, it would take some time for them to make the decision to buy from you.”

What you need to do is put in some strategies. “What I usually advise is that you should have a product guide person, a salesperson and a marketer. Because you might not have the resources to employ lots of people….”

What methods are you using to drive your marketing? social media, physical presence at offices, or other means? How are customers coming in?

Even when these customers come in, we need to understand that out of 100 customers that you’ve brought in, there’s a probability that 90% might not be ready to buy, especially if you’re selling premium products. Out of the 10%, it could be just 1% that would be ready to convert.

Seun Odegbami

Seun’s advice to startup founder: “What I usually advise is that you should have a product guide person, a salesperson and a marketer. Because you might not have the resources to employ lots of people…”

What would you do with the 90%?

You bring the 90% into your pool; engage them with your social media platforms, email marketing, SMS, salesperson’s engagement, or just talk to them, trying to understand what exactly it is they want.

There are little things you need to incorporate. Do your salespeople know how to close? Do you personally know how to close a sale? Do you know how to get a customer to close? These are questions you need to ask yourself as a marketer, sales person, entrepreneur or business owner.

Once you have these processes all together, and in some cases, if you’re good at it, you can automate it so it works very well for you.

You need to understand your product life cycle. How long does it take for people to buy your products and services?

For startups already in the business, how can they retain success and get better?

For an existing business, “I want to work on something already existing, but I want to improvise, I want to do better, I want to scale up. If there were initially 6,000 customers, I should get 200,000 customers, which are scaling up on what’s existing.”

That would mean leveraging strategies to scale up. These include campaigns. “For instance, if you want to promote a particular product and service, you might want to get influencers on board.

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You might not have enough cash for major influencers so it could be technical influencers. They could have a particular niche related to the products and services you have to offer. They can help you promote your products, drive engagement to your pages. “But this is not enough because what these guys are doing is just awareness creation; you need to have it processed.”

What processes do you have in place? When new customers come in, what do you use to engage them so as to eventually convert them?

“Lots of people might have seen and liked your products but the truth is, they are not really ready to buy.”

It takes at least seven touchpoints to convert a customer.

You need to be in touch with the customer seven times. If you’re a sales person, and you call a customer once or twice, it’s not enough. Only a few people respond. “Follow up is the key to closing and making sales.”

A marketing person who is ‘existing’ in an organisation needs to keep sending emails, sms, and engaging the customers to get some people to close.

Marketing strategy

If you engage someone once and the person says no, you need to ask an open ended question: why are you saying no? Is it a price rejection, quality objection or service experience objection?

Some people reject because of the price, not like they are not interested in what you’re offering.

Most sales are closed at the sixth try. Some people give up at the first or second try saying it’s not working, this person is not interested in the products and services, and it’s hard to sell.

But then, people find it difficult to make decisions especially when you’re selling a premium product. They need to think hard before buying.

“If it’s just a shirt, I don’t need to disturb myself when buying a shirt because I know that it’s within my budget, I can easily purchase it. But something that takes a lot of decisions, probably involving a company, would take a longer period to make a decision to buy.”

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What about a situation whereby you have a client who wants you to reduce your price but it’s at your own loss? Would you let them go or not?

You’re in business to make profit. There’s a price you’ve set for yourself and you know that at that price is where you’d make profit, if you sell lower than that you wouldn’t make profit. So you should have a mindset that there are people out there that would buy your products. “If you go lower, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.”

Don’t go lower for people unless what you’re offering is not matching up to the amount, then you can reduce the price. “But if you know, with your full chest, that your products are of high quality and match the prices, then stick to your price.”

If the person really wants your products, you could do a premium plan for them; 70% up front and 30% later. If they still can’t afford it, then you could refer them to someone else.

There are startups that do not have enough funds to employ all the marketing skills they require, hence, go ahead to employ one person to do the entire job. Is this advisable for the fact that the funds and the skills required are not available or there’s a way around it?

“This is something really happening now because some business owners can’t afford to pay several people for the department so one person is choked up and at the end of the day, people resign.”

The best thing you can do as an entrepreneur is to also learn these skills. You can do some things on your own to help lift the burden.

These include automation. Get tools that can allow you work seamlessly. You can use it for your email automation, productivity ads, digital marketing, and sales funnel. “You could have all these setup and have a business that’s scaling despite physical hands not being on board.”

On the other hand, as a business owner, you need to think strategy. You might not have the time to do everything by yourself; hence, you need to get someone on board. You need to be clear on how much flexibility you’d give this person, and how much you’d pay, which should commensurate with the job.

Find out what is working for you.

You don’t necessarily have to be on every media platform. There are companies that leverage just Google. Their analytics shows that lots of customers reach their website from Google.

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The best thing is to run a Google ad. You could pay a person to work remotely and help you do that. After this works out to a good level, then you can go ahead to leverage other platforms, bring in influencers.

Ensure you build your client list and save it somewhere else when leveraging just one platform. This is in case you encounter account blockage.

This will help you not to lose your customers, including those that will buy your products six months or a year after you advertise to them.

Customers are always still convertible. They come back to you after they’ve made money or have an increase in salary. You could sell another product to them since you might have added more products and services within the period.

In essence, it’s better to first of all focus on one thing and ensure it works out rather than spreading your wings around everything else and you get really minimal results.

Even when you encounter insults at the fifth or sixth reach out, people shouting at you or blocking you out, you should still go on to the next person and keep trying others.

In a conclusive statement to startups, Seun Odegbami said:

“Everyone wants to get revenue on sales, but as much as possible, be patient. Whatever is working, scale it up, add more money. Those that are not working shouldn’t stop you from pushing further. At the end of the day you’d need a very strong head to pull through the hard times, when money is not coming in. When you pull through, you’d see that everything would be seamless.”

Don’t forget to share your views in the comment session below.

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