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Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue ScientistTue, Jul 19, 2016 8 min read

Why Inbound Marketing Could Be Called Start-Up Marketing

Start-Ups Have To Be Agile, And Inbound Marketing Is 100% Built To Be Agile

Inbound Marketing and Start-UpsStart-ups are the sexy side of business. You get this brilliant idea, you kill yourself boot-strapping the business to get it off the ground, you struggle, you win, you lose and then suddenly – bang, you’re Facebook or Twitter or Uber and you’re rich. That’s the story many start-up business CEOs are looking for: the fast track.

The reality is that most businesses fail in their first year. The stats are actually abysmal: According to Forbes, 80% of new businesses are out of business in 18 months. This parallels what many businesses experience with marketing. Everyone is looking for the silver bullet, the quick fix to generate leads. Then reality sets in and most businesses give up on their marketing because it failed after just a few months. But did they really give it a chance to succeed, or was it destined to crash and burn from the start?

Many parallels make inbound marketing and managing a start-up dramatically similar. Here are a few. 

Start-ups Need To Respond To Market Conditions

Most start-ups are created to respond to a need in the marketplace. Start-ups need to understand the market and deliver products or services that target a specific situation, issue or challenge. The ones that do it the best are the ones that thrive.

Inbound marketing is exactly the same. People are buying differently, so we need different marketing to get their attention. Market conditions present unparalleled opportunities to take advantage of changing buyer behavior with new marketing that optimizes search, mobile, lead nurturing, website experiences, social media and other inbound tools.

Start-ups Need To Be Lean And Agile

If you’ve done any time with a start-up, you know they need to stop on a dime, pivot and go full speed ahead in a potentially new direction. They need to bring products or services to market quickly, even if they’re not 100% perfect. They also need to prioritize features and new services quickly, delivering those that will have the biggest impact with the least effort.

Inbound marketing, done well, utilizes many of the same principles from Agile and Lean thinking. You’re going to want to prioritize tactics and tasks on a regular basis (usually every 30 days) based on the same methodology: What is going to produce the biggest results for the least effort. Inbound also works well when new tactics are done as opposed to being perfect. This allows us to get data on tactics and make adjustments in real time, giving clients better results in less time.

Start-ups Need To Use Data To Make Decisions

Inbound_Marketing_and_Start_Up_Data.jpgNew companies typically set goals and use data to make strategic decisions. I know this is not unique to start-ups, but most start-ups seem more focused on the quantitative nature of business, compared to older, established businesses, which might be more in cruise control vs. growth mode.

Inbound is a 100% data-driven marketing approach. Every single tactic is measurable. No inbound marketing tactics are deployed without specific performance metrics. This allows us to track and adjust everything we do daily, weekly and, if necessary, monthly.

Start-ups Need To Use Their Budget Efficiently

Most start-ups are run on tight budgets, with money spent very judiciously. Even well-funded start-ups are under tight control. The cash burn is optimized to ensure the company doesn’t run out of money before it's lifted off.

Inbound has a very similar philosophy. Every tactic has a specific ROI attached to it. The cost of each lead can be calculated, and you get to see which tactics are delivering the most cost-effective leads. Then the overall program gets tweaked and adjusted over time to optimize your marketing budget, driving up the ROI even more aggressively.

People Investing In Start-ups Are Looking For Results

The professionals who invest in start-ups are executing a very specific business model. They know that only one out of 10 investments is going to pay off, but that payoff has such a dramatic upside that it takes care of the nine companies that never make it. Regardless, the pros also know they need to work hard with each of their portfolio companies to get that one success to hit it big.

Inbound isn’t much different. Marketing is a science, so the application of data, results-driven analysis, scientific testing methodology and process optimization makes inbound marketing one of the most predictable, scalable and repeatable marketing methods on the planet. It produces results in almost every single client scenario. The scale and impact of the results are different company by company, but the application is the same time after time.

You’d think with all these similarities, start-ups would flock to inbound marketing. The reality is that we work for a fair number of start-ups, but the effectiveness of each program is driven more by the actual client, not the type, or stage, of business the client manages. To be more specific, we’ve had positive experiences with start-ups that view us as their partner, that follow our guidance and that allow us to be Agile and optimize their program in real time.

But we’ve also had challenging experiences with start-ups that have to run everything by their board, or that have board members who think they know how to do inbound and owners who are micro-managers. Start-ups like this actually prevent our team of experts from applying our experience to drive program performance. I know it seems kind of obvious, but for some people, it’s just not.

Thinking about your marketing as if you’re a start-up is a solid way to apply a filter for efficiency, for being Agile, for making your marketing data-driven and for expecting results. But make sure you do so with the right resources, partners, budget and expectations.

Square 2 Marketing – Inbound Results Start With ME!


Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist

Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.