The most important thing an early-stage startup should know about marketing is that sales is more important than marketing. Sales and marketing are two ends of a stick. At the sales end your outreach is narrow and deep. At the marketing end it is wide and shallow. New startups need to be narrow and deep. This means to get personal with your customers. In developing and then implementing a marketing plan you should be talking to a small number of users who are seriously interested in buying your service or product and not a wide audience who are only window shopping.

Successful startups almost always start narrow and deep. Apple started with a computer Steve Wozniak made to impress his friends at the Homebrew Computer Club. There weren’t a lot of them, but they were really interested. Starbucks started with one store in Seattle’s Pikes Place Market. Nothing special at first, but the customers loved the social coffee bar concept. Facebook started out just for Harvard University students. Again, not a lot of potential users, but they really wanted it. Successful startups start narrow and deep. The owners get to know their clientele and then service their needs. Too often we have big ideas and write up a big marketing plan thinking we are going to be selling to the whole world.  That’s the wide and shallow approach. Rather, in the beginning when you don’t have the resources or knowledge to reach a big audience, focus on those who show an interest in your business.

Starting narrow gives you time – time to make mistakes, time to refine and improve your business. Those early adapters should be invited into the conversation of shaping and building your business. Get to know them, their names and interests.  Go deep with those who care, care in the form of letting go of their hard-earned dollars to purchase your product.

Ronnie was one of the first customers of USA Pizza in Malaysia. When he returned for a second visit, James the manager sat down with him and got to know him. Ronnie told Jim he was thrilled that there was now a pizza shop close to his home. When Jim asked if Ronnie had any ideas for improvement Ronnie offered his personal recipe for tomato sauce. Rather than be offended, James took the recipe, tried it, and discovered his customers liked it better!

A wide focus will garner little feedback from your true customers. Too many times I’ve seen a B4Ter start-up offer a mediocre product, announce it to the world, only to find that there aren’t any customers. People who love what you offer, give input and listen to their ideas which are necessary for improving the product.

If you make an excellent product or offer an excellent service go deep with a few customers. Zero in on personal sales, the narrow and deep end of the sales/marketing spectrum as the most effective way to build your business.

PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.

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