How to build a successful marketing strategy on a limited budget
We recently sat down with Alana Levine, a founding member of Fintel Connect, the leading growth marketing solution built for the financial industry.
We had the chance to dive into the million-dollar question with her: How can fintechs with a limited budget build successful marketing strategies?
What Marketing Roadblocks are Startups Facing?
One of the biggest roadblocks that startups are facing when it comes to developing marketing strategies is pretty simple: they’re not marketers. “I think people often associate marketing with brand, but really, in the very early stages of your business, it’s an extension of your sales,” Alana explains.
When you’re working with a brand-new concept that people may not be familiar with, marketing is a non-negotiable element to start building trust with your audience– and even figuring out who the audience is to begin with.
Building Your Marketing Strategy
Figuring Out Where to Start
The beginning of your marketing strategy is a crucial time. Your marketing strategy needs to deliver real bottom line impact on a lean budget and lean resources: proving out your audience, the messaging that works, identifying your positioning in the market, and educating people on a new technology. That’s a tall order!
Alana cautions against unfocused spending. She recommends that startups ask themselves two questions:
- What skill sets do you have available at the moment?
- What is in your direct control that can be influenced now?
Start by focusing on 3-5 things that are fully within your control. Leverage waitlists to help with early customer education and to create a feeling of exclusivity. Early customers become sources of valuable testimonials and referrals. Look to your networks and relationships for connections to journalists or publications to start building a story around your brand. “Leverage what you’ve got, basically.”
But most importantly, don’t do anything without a clear goal (use SMART goals*). Understanding what success and failure look like before you reach either of them is crucial.
*SMART Goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
Understanding Your Budget
Another crucial step in building your marketing strategy is to understand what your budget is. But Alana cautions that an effective marketing budget goes beyond the cost of running ads. . Startups should be looking at as much data as you can to get a deeper understanding of important budgeting metrics like potential projected lifetime value and cost of acquisition to understand if the channel cost can be justified.
How do you do this in the early days when you don’t have a lot of data to work with? “Look at industry benchmarks. Ask your investors. Ask your other fellow founders. There’s a ton of resources to find out what your benchmarks are for expected potential projected lifetime revenue. I mean, you guys exist for a reason!” says Alana. Sector specific incubators like the IFH Lab are great resources to help you get a lay of the land.
Identifying Your Audience
Your marketing is all about your audience, so it’s important to understand them and find out where they spend their time. By really honing in on your core audience, you can discover what they really care about, and build your messaging on this foundation.
Alana reminds us, “You’ve got to start somewhere.” You’ve got to get the ball rolling by testing hypotheses, messaging, and storytelling to see where they resonate most. As you begin these tests and start to collect data, it’s important to be open minded and see what the data says, rather than maintaining a tunnel vision towards your own initial assumptions.
She recommends getting a sense of your early adopters, having conversations, and even initiating focus groups once you reach 500-1000 users. Even this general data and anecdotal information will help you keep moving in the right direction and testing new ideas based on the initial response.
Affiliate partnerships and influencers can not only be great for building credibility, but will have a strong grasp on what kinds of content appeals to which segments of their audience. They’ll be able to help you tailor your message based on feedback directly from the market.
When it comes to building partnerships with influencers, Alana recommends starting quickly, to get results down the line.
“I often suggest looking at this channel as similar to organic search, it’s not going to deliver you anything in the very beginning, but it’s something that you have to start right away, so that it can take time to build.”
CRO, Fintel Connect
Affiliates can build great credibility, but it’s also important to remember that an end customer needs to see your brand at least 10 times before converting. Building other touchpoints on other channels, in addition to affiliate or partnerships, is necessary for a successful strategy.
What Channels to Use and When?
Thinking about the individual customer journey highlights that effective marketing needs to take place across multiple channels. Different marketing channels are effective at different points along that customer journey “funnel.” You can think of the stages as:
- Awareness: Do they know you exist?
- Recognition of need: Does it solve a real need that they have?
- Urgency: Something encourages them to take action
- Consideration/benchmarking: They’re comparing options
- Conversion: They accept the terms of sale: the need, urgency and comparative work overcome any barriers to actually sign up for your product.
Different channels are effective at different stages of this funnel. For example, display and social channels may be effective in the upper stages of the funnel. Email campaigns, organic and paid search can be highly effective for the education stages of recognition of need and urgency. While Affiliate marketing shines at the consideration/benchmarking stage. Finally, the last leg of the funnel, conversion, really comes down to how easy it is to actually sign up for your product and the user experience of onboarding.
Timing & Consistency
When you’re starting out, consistency is more important than frequency when it comes to content marketing. Developing a cadence right off the bat, no matter how much content you’re going to create, is critical to building awareness and gaining traction. an important piece that will help get your timing right. Alana recommends being very realistic with your goals to start (likeone or two length posts a month), and then ramping up from there. And if you have trouble sustaining the cadence you want, remember that you can always work with the help of freelancers and or guest creators. And with generative AI in the mix.
What Metrics Should Startups Be Tracking?
For B2C businesses, some of the top metrics to consider on a regular basis are:
- Clicks to application
- Approval rate
- Cost of acquisition
For B2B businesses, priorities can differ slightly, and it’s important to consider and track the quality of leads and opportunities that come in from different sources of marketing and sales.
To conclude our conversation, Alana gave us an enthusiastic reminder that the most important thing is to drop your fear of failure!
“If you just set up the reality that you’re probably going to fail at some things, that’s okay because it’s the only way you’re going to learn. But have controls in place so that you’re safely experimenting.”
About The IFH Lab
The IFH Lab is a four-month, equity-free program for startups designing real solutions to the most pressing financial health challenges Canadians face today. Applications are now open until June 12th, and we’re inviting Canadian fintech founders to learn more in our upcoming info-session on May 29th.