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Smart Juggling is the Key to Winning with Startup Marketing

As a startup marketing executive, I identify with circus jugglers; when you are building marketing infrastructure from scratch, or close to it, you are a startup marketing juggler. But this is no circus –- the stakes are real
A man in a clown costume juggles during the annual parade marking the Jewish holiday of Purim in the West Bank town of Hebron on March 24, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A man in a clown costume juggles during the annual parade marking the Jewish holiday of Purim in the West Bank town of Hebron on March 24, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

I remember going to the circus as a child growing up in Miami. Whenever Ringling Brothers’ nearly century old show came to town, we spent hours inside and outside the tents. I especially remember the jugglers and tightrope walkers.

When I founded my first business in 1995, I felt like a tightrope walker. I was 24 years old with a new business aspiring to be high above the ground. One critical mistake and I could fall down hard. 20 years later, I never fell and didn’t pay any interest on the mistakes that I did make.

Today, as a startup marketing executive, I identify even more with the circus jugglers. When you are building marketing infrastructure from scratch, or close to it, you are a startup marketing juggler. But this is no circus – the stakes are real.

Build and Move On

The first thing I do is to build the pipes. I need a funnel, ASAP. If it’s B2B, the funnel is likely more complex. For B2C, it’s a digital drive-thru. Either way, I don’t have time to be a perfectionist. I can improve my funnel until my company runs dry – or I can come up with realistic goals and a “Time to Move On” strategy.

Build the pipe and move on.

I’ve had discussions — and even arguments — with c-levels who insisted that I perfect the funnel. When I am the only marketing professional in the building, it comes at a high cost. What’s the point of having a pristine funnel if there are no leads inside? If you have only a few leads per channel, zooming in on them won’t help you. When your leads are low, don’t waste too much time perfecting your funnel tracking. Make money, and then buy the Ralph Lauren wallet.

Campaigns are all wrapped around content, so an Army of Content comes next. Blog posts, landing pages and emails are great exercises that help me to “find my marketing voice”. Emails and landing pages are a tight medium — like cool jazz, every word and note counts. After a few of the above, I am ready to work with Product and start churning out eBooks. An eBook every 2 months is fine — 6 eBooks in a year is a wonderful place to be.

Invest Wisely

My experience as an investor has helped me immensely when it comes to deciding where and how much to invest on each campaign. I learned all about “asset allocation” 15 years ago and the same best practices work in startup marketing.

My low risk campaigns are typically Facebook, LinkedIn and AdWords (though not LinkedIn for B2C). I know they perform in most cases. Next are the industry specific news and information sites. Many of these are independently owned, and it is easy to negotiate with them. (No one negotiates with Google or Facebook!)

The risk area of your campaign portfolio is in buying leads. You can’t buy love just as you can’t buy someone’s interest in your product. Sometimes it works, but it usually doesn’t. Come up with a percentage for risk investment. I suggest about 3-5%.

Juggle On!

Now that campaigns are running, I’m checking numbers. But I don’t have the luxury to be an “analytics wonk” like my enterprise peers. I look at Google Analytics and campaign results daily and I know what works and what doesn’t, but I don’t have the time to create 20 page reports. I have to get back to improving the funnel, writing more content, dealing with graphics designers and dozens of other vendors, and back to campaign asset allocation.

That’s the challenge – and fun – of startup marketing. How many marketing roles can you juggle at once?!

About the Author
Kenny Sahr is a startup marketing executive. His first startup, founded in 1996, was featured in Time Magazine and on 60 Minutes. Kenny moved to Israel from Miami, Florida. In his spare time, he is an avid music collector and traveler.
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