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Many factors can determine whether or not a startup succeeds. In particular, decisions about when to invest in marketing, how much and in which channels can signficantly impact startup growth and success.
In this article, we offer some answers to the question: “When should new companies invest in marketing?” To find out more about our EIS pipeline and other opportunities, visit our portfolio page here. For enquiries regarding our latest projects and funding, you can reach us via:
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When should new companies invest in marketing?
Startups should consider investing in marketing from the very outset. Marketing, at its core, is about promoting and selling your startup’s products and services. If your startup is hiding in a corner, nowhere to be seen, then how will it expand?
It is easy for new business owners to focus their time, effort and money on developing their product, fitting out their shop (or restaurant or online platform) and creating a fresh website and branding. All the while, little thought goes into how to get the word out about your business.
Without customers, a startup will fail. Therefore, a robust plan is needed to identify where the ideal buyer is in the marketplace, how to reach them and how to turn them from an interested prospect into someone who makes one or more purchases.
How much should startups invest in marketing?
A good starting point is to assume that at least 10% of startup revenues will be spent on marketing. Founders can calculate their gross revenues by adding up their past sales, projecting how much these will increase each coming year and multiplying by 0.10 to get a benchmark.
If a startup has no revenues yet, then the founder(s) will need to come up with realistic estimations of how much they expect the business to earn in sales over Years 1, 2 and beyond.
For instance, if the founder(s) expect to earn £100,000 in the first year, then £10,000 might be earmarked for marketing campaigns.
Of course, the exact amount that should be allocated to marketing will vary depending on the goals, circumstances and strategy of the business.
A startup might need to be more cautious or aggressive with their marketing spending, for instance, depending on which marketing channels they intend to use. Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) might involve a bigger budget than, say, a marketing plan focusing on SEO (search engine optimisation) and email marketing.
Which marketing channels should a startup invest in?
In 2023, there is a plethora of potential marketing channels for startups to choose from. Indeed, one of the risks to consider is spreading yourself too thin by including too many channels in your marketing strategy.
It is better to focus on a handful of channels and use them really well, than try to manage 10+ channels and fail to use them properly.
Be careful to have realistic expectations about each marketing channel before committing to it. Some founders may be overly optimistic or negative about the revenue-generating potential of a particular channel, causing them to make costly mistakes or miss out on opportunities.
It can help startup owners to approach marketing specialists in their niche and pick their brains about the potential offered by various channels.
For example, a fintech startup might benefit from talking to a financial marketing agency about the viability of PPC, SEO, email marketing and other tools for their business goals.
A lot of time, effort and often money can go into getting a particular marketing channel up and running. So it pays to conduct thorough market research to minimise the chances that you will need to pivot your marketing in 3-6 months.
Let’s take the example of fintech again. Suppose a fintech company is intending to target specific decision-makers at large financial institutions (e.g. fund managers).
Here, the target market is likely to be quite small. Maybe only a few hundred or a few thousand people. If so, would channels like SEO and PPC be viable?
Quite possibly, the total monthly online searches made by this target demographic will be low. Even if the startup could position itself at the top of Google search for all of its target keywords, therefore, it still may not result in much website traffic or revenue.
So, how can this startup reach its institutional audience? Perhaps better marketing channels to consider might include LinkedIn, using email marketing or getting adverts and guest articles into industry publications that the audience is likely to read.
Having realistic, measurable goals will be important to help a startup track its marketing progress once the plan is in action. If you intend to use digital channels like PPC and SEO, for instance, how much traffic and how many “conversions” will you aim for?
Once data starts coming in from your campaigns, founders can then start to make adjustments in light of consumer behaviour. This can help result in better “bang for marketing buck” going forwards – encouraging further growth.
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