Don't Start Marketing Before You're Ready to Start Selling Creating a demand for something you can't deliver will hurt your brand reputation and your bottom line.

By George Deeb

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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A solid marketing plan is crucial to support growth as you're scaling a company. But how do you know when you should flip the marketing switch and go live?

The answer is pretty intuitive: not until you're ready. The secret is knowing what that means for your business model, internal processes and external branding. Read on.

Make sure your product is ready.

You have nothing to sell until your product is complete. It sounds basic, but too many entrepreneurs rush to launch while they're still working out a few fundamental issues with their actual offerings. Don't invest marketing time and resources until you have a product you're proud to announce to the public -- a product you're confident won't break. Make certain you've taken it through a quality-control process. You get only one chance to make a favorable first impression. A minimum viable product (MVP) is quite fine. You don't need all the bells and whistles to start. Just remember the key word: viable. Your product must be good enough to satisfy a customer's need and solve (at the core) a major pain point in your market.

Related: 6 Tangible Steps to Launch an MVP Product

Fine-tune your customer-service processes.

Once you're actively selling to customers, you're likely to get questions or requests for help. Make sure you've created processes to handle inbound phone calls and quickly resolve any bugs that users report. If something manages to slip through your quality-assurance procedures, communicate clearly with customers. Apologize. Let them know you're on top of the issue and report back when you have a solution. Addressing after-the-sale issues is every bit as important as the experiences you create during your customers' sales journeys.

Build in follow-ups for customer retention and influencer marketing.

As soon as you convert a sale, you need to think about how you'll retain that new customer. Are you building in ways for customers to follow you in social media? Do you have a process to collect email addresses so clients can opt in to your monthly newsletter? About that: Are your template and content calendar ready to go? Create possibilities for consumers to become a brand ambassadors and share their experiences with friends or colleagues. Leverage excitement while positive impressions and interactions still are fresh in their mines.

Related: Find Out How to Find Affordable Influencers to Rocket Your Reach and Sales

Test your marketing economics.

It's not smart to spend $10,000 on marketing in one month until you have tested $1,000 across 10 different channels. Leverage growth-hacking techniques and set clear objectives around calculating your marketing ROI. Once you have a sense to which marketing techniques are working best, double down on these efforts and concentrate the vast majority of your spending in targeted areas. Test, test and test again until your cost-of-acquisition metrics are low enough to drive a healthy profit from the lifetime value of your revenues per customer.

Related: 9 Cool Ways You Can Use Data-Driven Marketing to Gain Customers

Get ahead of recruiting and back-office needs.

If your initial marketing efforts are successful, it's time to pour kerosene on the fire by dedicating even more marketing efforts and up-front investment. A growing company requires additional people. And your larger back-office needs must be effectively managed. What additional expertise, equipment or space will you need to be successful in the future? Start warming up potential candidates and scouting available locations. When it's time to engage, you need to be ready to go.

Be sensitive to the Catch-22 effect.

It's a classic quandary, really: You can't sell what you don't have, yet any venture capitalists you hope to win will want to know you've tested your marketing strategies before they buy into your brand. In one breath, I'm advising you to proceed slowly and cautiously. In the next, I'm recommending you go as fast as you can -- if raising capital is important. You'll have to walk this tightrope very carefully. You need marketing data to attract funds, but not at the expense of upsetting your early adopters and first customers.

Related: How to Use Authenticity to Capture the Attention of Generation Z

Preparing your business for an initial marketing effort is much more than working to acquire new customers. You also must retain them, leverage word of mouth, efficiently scale your business and attract investors. With so much happening all at the same, it's crucial you send the right message from your very first ad, post or mailer.

George Deeb

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Writer

Managing Partner at Red Rocket Ventures

George Deeb is the managing partner at Red Rocket Ventures, a consulting firm helping early-stage businesses with their growth strategies, marketing and financing needs. He is the author of three books including 101 Startup Lessons -- An Entrepreneur's Handbook.

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