Marketing is essential for businesses of all sizes and sectors, but perhaps even more so for startups. After all, if no one knows about your startup, your solution and what you can provide, how will you ever gain traction?
A good marketing strategy can make a difference in a startup’s growth and can help sway the tides towards success. However, many startups decide to not invest in a marketing strategy or team, seeing it as an inessential cost they can’t squeeze into the budget. But that would be a mistake.
From email marketing and blogging to social media posting and paid advertising, there is a range of things a startup can try to get started with marketing strategy. For startups, the most important bit is getting the word out, building a brand and nurturing a reputation. This is where a communications-based approach can help.
“If you build it, they won’t come”
Olga Grinina, currently the VP of Marketing at fast-growing Berlin-based blockchain startup Gnosis has had extensive experience in leading marketing and communications campaigns. With a background in linguistics and the legal world, Olga is passionate about telling stories and the power that language can have in influencing behaviours, perspectives and attitudes – bringing this philosophy directly into marketing plans. Over the past couple of years, she has been working within Silicon Valley’s bustling startup scene, learning from the local founders, VCs, and broader Web3 players on how to bring a product to market and make sure it reaches target KPIs.
She believes that marketing and communications begin by thinking about the value of your product and solution, nailing that message and then tailoring it and moulding it to suit the specific person you’re talking to. Sounds simple? We chatted with her to find out more about building a strong marketing strategy, and why startups need to take note.
Why should startups pay attention to marketing?
Olga has been a leading voice in the growth of startups Taraxa and Thallo. Taraxa is an innovative public ledger platform purpose-built for audit logging of informal transactions, and Thallo is the first blockchain-based carbon credit exchange. She is aiming to bring the Taraxa to the forefront of the web3 infrastructure space.
Meanwhile, Thallo is operating in the SDG sector, helping to offset carbon emissions and give broader access to the voluntary carbon market.
In her role, Olga is helping push forward these brands, bringing them to leadership positions through more visibility and awareness.
“I work closely with the founders on strategy from day one, to make sure we’re on the same page and implement the best techniques possible. I am in charge of creating all marketing and PR assets, benchmarking against past performance and setting realistic KPIs to hit. I can be pretty relentless, looking for new partners and media opportunities, and always on the lookout for the right fit.”
What is the benefit of a strong marketing strategy?
Marketing strategy is essential to build brand awareness – and that is what makes it so important to startups. Just because something exists, doesn’t mean people know about it and marketing is the key to bridging that gap. Olga reiterates that:
This involves talking to the CEO, Product Owners, and BD people to benchmark the development process and KPIs to make sure they are in line with the product KPIs.. This communication never stops, actually: I keep talking to those teams on a regular basis, especially when presenting the performance reports, to make sure we’re on the same page. Also useful for content generation, because no content lives in a vacuum.”
How to set up that strategy?
Once the ‘marketing audit’ is done and the groundwork all laid out, the hard bit comes- actually setting and executing the strategy. Olga shared her views on this ‘nitty gritty work’ of setting up marketing and business communication channels, arguing they need to have all the core audiences covered.
“This is not limited to customers and users: we want to cater to prospective partners and investors as well. Then, of course, hiring the team to execute on these goals. In my early days, I was doing all these mundane tasks mostly on my own, which helped greatly when determining the team’s structure and roles. The ability to assess copywriting and design portfolios is crucial, and I don’t think it comes to you overnight. People skills are of course very important as well: communicating the tasks, supervising, and interfering as needed. I don’t like to micro-manage, rather watching the work and spotting problematic areas/issues as they arise. “
What about sector-specific startups?
While marketing strategy is imperative to all sectors, there’s no doubt that some industries have specific challenges and obstacles to overcome. Coming from the world of crypto and Web3, Olga was able to share her tips and tricks.
“Crypto has its own unwritten rules and specific techniques, of course. The core mindset here is that you don’t limit your customer to users only: everyone who’s participating in the ecosystem – users, developers, investors, etc. – are your prospective customer. And you want to make sure they are actual participants of all your marketing and BD efforts. This actually helps a lot, because it solves the ‘cold start’ problem from day one: people are incentivized by tokens, i.e. have financial motivation to participate. Token airdrops and staking, for example,incentivize the user to join, and boost the retention rates by repeatedly rewarding desired behavior. And, of course, there are memes that are basically high-resonating images
Another thing about crypto is that it’s a highly technical field, and you simply can’t make it if you don’t understand the core concepts, so I’ve spent a lot of time reading and doing my own research. You have to be in the loop of everything that’s happening every day and see how this affects your product positioning. Overall, I think an adequate marketing / PR strategy is essential to communicate your brand message and keep the company visibility on a saturated blockchain market. New layer-ones and DeFi projects keep popping up every other week, so the question I always ask is ‘how are we different?’”
What about budget constraints?
Now, for the big question. Startups are notoriously resource-stricken, strapped for cash, time and resources. So, just how can you pull off a good marketing strategy on a tight budget?
Olga says that “a good mix of being relentless and creative works pretty well, and honestly, with the modern social media and blogging tools, that’s never been easier. Plus, if your product is trending, organic pitches work very well, especially in such an open/friendly industry as crypto. “