What You Should Work on When Nothing Seems to Work

Ideas need time to spread. They need proponents and adopters. Marketers play an integral role in the spreading of ideas. A business is an idea. So is a piece of content, designed to promote that business. Every startup is a thesis, backed up with a product or service, ancillary efforts, and various strategies. The market will either accept it, reject it, or shrug. 

A rejection or shrug can be particularly crushing to small startup founders and marketers. Many business owners and executives feel that their sectors have recently become even more competitive, further increasing the pressure. 

When nothing seems to work, what should they be working on? It’s not just a matter of dwindling resources but dwindling psychological energy, so prioritization could be the way to get through that and come out the other side with a successfully released product or service. Successful prioritization might be based on data, intuition, or a blend of both. 

Vicki Brakl, VP of Integrated Marketing at MNI Targeted Media, told DMN that disheartened startups can reset by reminding themselves why they were initially excited about their proposition. 

And after looking inward, it’s time to look outward. 

“Identify your target,” suggested Brakl. “Do you understand who they are, what motivates them to your product/service, and what their media consumption habits look like?” 

The necessary research doesn’t stop there. Startups can also reevaluate the various competitors and customer journeys occurring within the digital landscape. 

“Visit websites and chat rooms in your competitive set to get a sense of how they operate and how targets are reacting to them,” said Brakl. “Gather assets. Check out emails, taglines and social channels of brands you compete with and admire to collect samples and inspiration.” 

Brakl also recommends that startups analyze their visual identity to ensure that brand materials feel consistent. “Make sure that language is tailored to its time, place, and targets to drive engagement and loyalty,” she recommended. 

Brakl said that startups should use data insights to determine their positioning and ensure that they’re active on the channels that resonate most with their target audience. An audience might over-index for satellite radio listening or under-index for TV. These unique audience attributes should inform a marketing spend. 

With this clarified understanding, a startup can then choose the most relevant media types and employ multivariate testing to optimize creative messaging. Creativity, language, targeting, and good partnerships all matter. Good strategies can transcend paltry budgets. 

“Ample funding helps, but money is usually not the true barrier,” said Brakl. 

Neal Pecchenino, founder and CEO of Boxi, told DMN that struggling startup founders should carefully vet information and choose their agency partnerships with discernment. He said that founders should be cautious of agencies that encourage indiscriminate spending. And when founders do spend, it’s important that they have the proper media mix. 

Pecchenino’s company, Boxi, helps businesses to increase their real world brand awareness by putting billboards on box trucks. 

“I wouldn’t recommend anybody trying to build their company just through online advertising,” said Pecchenino. “Even if you are a more direct response type of product, it’s still important to have a presence out in the world, whether that be on billboards or buses or shelters or trucks. It’s important to have a presence out there and to look beyond the screens in your pockets and the screens on your desk. People live in a lot of other places and there’s a lot of other ways to influence people.”

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