4 Strategies for a Strong Early Marketing Plan

Start marketing before your launch, and customize your approach to the product and its target market.

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By Q Manning

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Joining the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, Pinterest is adding capability for video advertisements that may give other social media channels a run for their money.

After testing with advertisers for a year, Pinterest decided to follow in the footsteps of Facebook with the autoplay format. But Pinterest is also addressing known issues by allowing advertisers to use metrics from third-party sources such as Moat and Nielsen.

Related Video: Marketing Strategies for Small Businesses

Mobile Marketer reports that this worked: Visa saw a 33 percent gain in its image as an innovator, and Cheetos experienced an increase in purchase intent of more than 50 percent as result of Pinterest's adaptation.

Pinterest's decision to jump into the video ad pool illustrates its commitment to an evolving marketing platform. Startups can learn a lot from this approach -- not because video advertisements are the end-all, be-all of marketing, but because a strong and pragmatic early marketing plan is essential to company viability and growth.

Creating the hype

Marketing should begin even before a product launch. After leaders figure out the desired launch date, they can then work backward to create a schedule for the launch team that is as specific and detailed as possible, and initiates the pre-launch campaign.

Related: Smart Startups Can Learn How to Create and Manage Hype

This pre-launch period allows customers to anticipate the product, helps verify that everything is going smoothly and is critical to the product's ultimate success. Resources such as Buffer, Sprout or Hootsuite are great tools to help leaders track social media interactions. If the company then finds that the target audience is skeptical or concerned about specific product details, it can take that feedback and apply it preemptively, ensuring that consumer expectations aren't shattered, and staving off any negative reviews that could stifle the enthusiasm of the eanticipated customer base.

In the digital world, Mailbox had one of the most successful pre-launch campaigns for the Mailbox App. The company tapped trendsetters to endorse the quality of its app -- a vital part of all app or digital launches now -- and built initial hype through the "velvet rope," where users could watch a demo video, then sign up to be part of the download queue. The Mailbox App campaign also prioritized the most important aspects of the product, such as the snooze feature to bolster novelty.

Spreading the word

Too many entrepreneurs approach marketing with a "one-size-fits-all" mentality or a heavy reliance on word-of-mouth advertising. Many also wind up chasing the latest trend. While a highway billboard may at first seem antiquated, a product that's an app that helps people find the cleanest nearby restroom could be a perfect fit.

Ultimately, the product itself and the target market should dictate the approach. Here are four strategies that leaders can implement when cultivating a business's early marketing plan:

1. Make sure your product stands out. Let the target market know how the product can be differentiated from its competitors' by using data to locate the right audience and communicate with them constantly.

For example, Tinder brought the evolving landscape of online dating -- capitalized on by sites like Match.com and eHarmony -- to the mobile sphere, simplifying its design and offering users an exciting new UX method: "swipe left." This addictive approach became a highly efficient way for its target audience (16-to-34 year olds) to search for love interests, and early marketing efforts included going to sorority and fraternity houses around the University of Southern California campus to promote it.

2. Speak your audience's language. Narrowing down your marketing efforts will make them more effective, increase your conversion rate and maximize your budget, so don't launch your product with a blanket campaign that tries to reach everyone. Understand your key demographics -- everything from age to attitude to geolocation to shopper type -- and coordinate your marketing plan accordingly by triangulating that information with like data on various marketing platforms.

Related: 8 Ways to Make Your Marketing Message Stand Out

According to Social Media Today, the average person spends up to two hours daily on social media. That statistic, though, comes with a caveat, because you need to dig deeper to also discover that teens account for 76 percent of Tumblr and 74 percent of Instagram users (evidenced by a sNewsCred Insights study). If you don't do that digging, you may wind up creating a marketing plan that targets the wrong sites and the wrong demographic.

3. Evolve your strategy as necessary. As you deploy and test your initial marketing goals, take heed of what the audience is actually responding to. Acquiring audience data from processes as informal as online or in-person surveys, to ones as formal as Google Analytics, can help you figure out how and where your efforts should be targeted.

A marketing campaign is an evolving process that requires commitment and revisitation, so don't be afraid to tweak it (or the product) as you receive feedback, to make sure that it accomplishes what you envision.

Instagram began as a check-in application called Burbn and essentially failed. But, after reviewing the data to determine what users actually wanted -- a photo-sharing platform -- the creator revamped, renamed and re-released the app, turning it into what would become what 700 million users enjoy today.

4. Don't be afraid to kill your darlings. Unfortunately, and even with astute strategizing, not all marketing plans are successful. And while it's difficult to know exactly when it's time to reassess, leaders can rely on two primary methods: First, if the promotions from a campaign launch aren't going to pan out, then leaders should reevaluate and reposition their marketing. Second, if a particular campaign fails to get results, leaders should adjust the format and rewrite the copy. If the situation still doesn't improve, they can abandon it and revisit their core strategy.

When Sony erected a billboard advertising the new white PlayStation Portable portraying models of different ethnicities instead of the devices themselves, customers took issue. The problem was exacerbated by Sony's defensive response; the result was that people are still talking about this failed campaign more than 10 years later.

Related: 7 Ways to Correct a Failing Marketing Strategy

Understanding distinction, knowing your audience and adjusting your strategy to accommodate the market's volatility are all ways that entrepreneurs can help ensure the early success of their organizations and launches. Even after a product's release, tools such as Google Analytics, Twitter Fabric, Mixpanel and Flurry can help you identify usage patterns and issues, as well as dropoff rates.

Information like this can then help you continue to tailor your marketing platform. Because, as great as a product might be, if it doesn't reach the desired audience, people will never know it or even that your company ever existed.

Q Manning

CEO, Rocksauce Studios

Q Manning is CEO of Rocksauce Studios, which crafts custom mobile apps for all platforms. Rocksauce Studios’ goal is to create an amazing user experience that can succeed in the marketplace when that experience is coupled with powerful, eye-catching app marketing.

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