Marketing in its various forms & strategies


By Heather Wentler – StartingBlock Entrepreneur in Residence

It’s that time of the year where we’re supposed to be filled with joy and anticipation of the season. Cue the twinkling lights and colors of every shade sparkling in front of our eyes with time away from work curled up in front of a fireplace and a warm cup of the beverage of your choice. At least that’s the dream, right?! 

Did you know that over 70 holidays are celebrated around the world between November 1 and December 31? While here in the US we’re mostly focused on turkey, the big guy in red, and midnight toasts, there are so many other holidays and traditions celebrated and not given recognition within the general public. This brings me to this month’s topic…marketing.

This time of the year is pretty stressful if you’re an entrepreneur and/or small business owner. The majority of business sectors bring in their highest sales during Q4 annually and are all working overtime to fill end-of-year budget gaps and lure in customers and clients for the next year. We spend Q3 preparing for this through purchasing, getting ads lined up, having those initial (and many, many additional) conversations with distributors and clients to be ready to sell right now.

This year is probably different than last or any other previous year because of the various struggles put on businesses due to the pandemic, which are even different struggles than we all faced in Q4 2020. It’s not a surprise to anyone when I say supply chain and shipping are lagging behind – big time! This creates additional costs, time, and resources placed on meeting goals and expectations and additional time with customers & clients to make sure they know you’re doing everything possible to get your business to them within the expected time frame.

Marketing takes on various forms. One is direct sales funnels such as advertisements and messaging. This process works to stop and pay attention to your message and get people to click over to your site to confirm the purchase. This approach entails numerous talents and people (if you have them) developing and creating all of the pieces needed to get someone as a customer. The average consumer requires 14-21 touchpoints (which has doubled since 2019) to convert into a customer. That’s a big “uff da” for team members in small companies as it’s a heavier lift than ever before. 

How are you breaking through your competitor’s noise to bring in leads and customers/clients? I follow StartingBlock member Pop-Dot Marketing on Instagram and love a lot of the posts they put out highlighting themselves and their clients. One thing I notice the most within their company posts is the authenticity of who they are as an agency and as people. Their branding is eye-catching and sets them apart from other agencies without being boastful or pushy. Just by looking at their pictures, I feel that they’re putting a lot of time into working with their clients to really find what sets them apart from their competitors, then take those gems into the marketing pieces they create for them. This is important to supporting clients for them bringing in those customers they need and also feeling that the money they’re spending on Pop-Dot is well spent and bringing in returns in investment.

Another marketing technique is the scarcity approach. Think of empty aisles of toilet paper. One of the first questions I ask entrepreneurs is “Who are your competitors and how are you different?”. If they respond with “I don’t have any” I question how much thought has gone into their idea/venture – like, have they even Googled the problem they’re fixing? Trying to market as the only solution is a recipe for failure. Everyone has competition. You may not look at them as competition for various reasons, but you are never the only one trying to solve the problem your company addresses. 

A different way of asking who are your competitors can be “What’s your competitive advantage?” What sets you apart or defines your company as different from what’s already available? We see this all over Madison with the various Epic spinoff companies. They’re needed and able to succeed because they’ve identified how they make their target market’s lives better by focusing on what they specifically solve instead of trying to do it all.

Knowing your target audience is the key to marketing. Many people in biotech industries don’t have social media for their ventures, so some will ask me “Do you think I should create accounts?” My response back is always the following questions:

  1. Are others in your sector on social media? 
  2. What are you going to post about on social media to build and maintain an audience? 
  3. Is this the best way to reach your target audience or could you be prioritizing your time better somewhere else?

The answers to these questions are usually no for this business sector. They’ll get more responses sending an overview and asking for meetings than spending time creating interesting post pictures and text. 

As an entrepreneur, you know that you don’t have the luxury of being able to spend time just focusing on marketing; you’re building and flying the proverbial plane at the same time – and hoping the sticks and glue will hold it together for arrival at the next destination. So much goes into building a marketing strategy and sales funnel before an actual takeoff and successful flight for your venture. 

At some point, taking time to figure out the strategies will be something you can’t ignore any longer, and you will have to take a step back to focus. Typically I see this happen too late. The call for help comes when the tailspin has happened. Take it from someone who has gone through it personally, and also supported many in going through it. Even while we’re in the middle of the Q4 rush – and the holiday season and family expectations are pounding on us – the time is still now to step back and create a better plan.

Want to talk more about marketing strategies for dealing with the Q4 pressures so you’re ready for Q1 2022? Or to talk about anything else related to running and working for a startup? Schedule an Office Hour with me.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates about the Wisconsin startup scene.

You have Successfully Subscribed!