"Consistency in marketing is the main tool that can increase its effectiveness. The more consistent it is, the greater will be the effect."

Interview with the founder of a Product Marketing Agency
CherryOnTop Alexandra Mitroshkina
The founders often wonder: When it comes to marketing, what is the right time to start product promotion? How can one know that the product is ready for a promotion? What are the most affordable ways to attract new customers, especially when the resources are limited, while marketing always requires serious investment?

To answer these and some other questions, we have invited an experienced marketer and the founder of the product marketing agency CherryOnTop Alexandra Mitroshkina.
— Hi, Alexandra. Let's start from the general questions. Could you please tell us, is marketing always necessary for a startup? If not, when can a company do without it?
— From my practical experience, I'd say that startups always need marketing, both at the stage of the idea generation and at the pre-seed/seed stage. Marketing tools can differ significantly depending on the stage.

For example, before you start creating a prototype, at the stage of the idea generation, it is necessary to explore the market, your potential buyers and their problems with the help of the customer discovery procedure.

Previously, this kind of research was conducted by product managers, but now the functions of product and marketing managers are united, which gives rise to a new category of specialists – product marketers. For a start-up, the synergy of the product and marketing is one of the keys to success.
Marketing activities are usually affordable in the early stages of startup development, whereas their
effect is significant.
For example, by confirming or refuting the hypothesis using customer discovery, you can determine the functions of your prototype before the development takes place, which, in the long run, saves your resources. A marketer can also create the company's website – this does not always require a development team or a big budget, access to Tilda or a theme for WordPress is often enough for your website to be ready within a month.

Marketing is useless for those startups that have not defined their goals (primary business, as well as marketing and communication ones).
— In this case, how can a startup know that the product is ready for a promotion?
— On a bigger scale, you can promote the idea of the product. This means that you don't need a developed prototype or a finished product to start the promotion. If your product solves the problems of your target audience or has a kill feature and a unique selling proposition, it is time to enter the market.
— But here's one serious issue: marketing is expensive. Where can a startup get money for it? Can investors help with promotion?
Marketing can be quite expensive and still bring no results, or almost free of charge, but extremely effective.
Marketing can be quite expensive and still bring no results, or almost free of charge, but extremely effective. Right now (in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic), many companies have reduced their promotion budgets by 90%. This frustrates many people whose main concern is how to buy good traffic for $1,000 per month. Meanwhile, we, at CherryOnTop, did our best to develop free promotion channels for our customers in the first place - SEO. Even if you have a niche product for IT professionals, be sure they still Google it, and it's vital for your company to be at the top of SERP based on the key words characteristic of your niche.

I prefer not to involve investors in promotion; we try to put more emphasis on the development of the leader's personal brand.
— If the resources are limited, how can a company attract its first customers? Are there any affordable but effective techniques?
—To tell you the truth, there a lot of techniques, and here're several of them:
1
Test your promotion channels on small budgets. Choose the channel where your audience makes purchasing decisions, set goals for a test (for example, five leads, and one sale), and launch a short advertising campaign. Typically, the budget for such a test is not more than 10% of your total marketing budget. If the channel you have selected for a test brings the leads you've expected, you can increase the budget for this particular channel. This way, you will attract as many customers as possible without wasting your budget.
2
Use your contact network. Perhaps your friends are ready to buy your product. Make sincere posts on social networks with a call to buy and share feedback about your product - this way, you will both get your first customers and your first feedback. Do not forget to add reviews to your website - social proof is your social capital, especially for a startup.
3
Invest in SEO from the very beginning of your startup's existence. The reputation of your website will grow gradually, and after six months of patient work with SEO, you will see the results in the form of leads from organic traffic, there will be people extremely interested in making a purchase because they will come to you on their own and will be ready to become your loyal customers.
—How to start marketing and build a competent strategy?
—As I've said above, first you need to define your business, marketing, and communication goals. They outline what not to do rather than what to do. This approach will save your resources and help to determine where to apply them to get the greatest effect from the promotion.
Business goals might include your positioning at the market, sales level, or profit. For example, profit and sales growth for 20% or becoming No. 1 in your particular segment.е.
Marketing goals might involve attracting customers, changing user habits or the user base itself, and increasing product loyalty. For example, your goal might run as follows - attract a new audience to brand consumption or increase the frequency of product consumption.
As for the communication goals, they include the formation of attitude to the product, stimulating demand for the product, increasing product and brand recognition. For example, strengthening the image characteristics of your product or every fifth representative of the target audience should think about buying your product after seeing your ad.
— Aleksandra, have you ever been involved in promoting startups? If yes, could you please tell us more about these startups?
We have been successfully cooperating for several months and used the best practices mentioned in this article to help them.
— At CherryOnTop, we work with organizations of different sizes that are at different stages of their development. Mainly these are IT or Fintech companies. We also work with unique projects, regardless of their focus.

For instance, the Storytelling Revolution – this project is not the client of our main profile, but we were very interested in the concept of their product and mission, which is to transform business presentations using storytelling. We have been successfully cooperating for several months and used the best practices mentioned in this article to help them.
— Could you please tell us about the latest start-up you've been cooperating with - what did you begin with? Have you worked as a part of the staff or as an outsourcing company? How big was your team?
— Storytelling Revolution is a good example of a startup. The bigger part of their work right now is a website development and its content. We cooperate with the development team; we are responsible for social media and small advertising campaigns – we test hypotheses and make changes to the product based on these data. A total of 5 people are working on the project.
— Please, describe the process of product promotion in stages. What difficulties did you come across? How did you cope with them? What were your achievements? And what was the secret of your success?
—We have been using the advertising tools offered by Facebook, and LinkedIn, we also run ads in search engines and contact influencers for promotion.
Our real goal is to attract as much traffic as possible. This traffic can be further converted
into clients of the training
course on storytelling.
— At each stage of these mini-campaigns, we achieve goals faster than planned; then we put campaigns on hold until we test the hypothesis for the next stage.

We always go through the process of building communication with the client and the team. Since each client and project is unique, there is always time after the start of work when we focus on communication processes (at the same time working on the project).

Usually, this process does not take much time, and communication efforts are always worth it. At some stage, we need no words to understand the result that our client wants to get - this is what we get if the communication building process went right.
A proactive approach always helps to achieve great success, not only in advertising campaigns.
— Technically, there always might be some difficulties with Google and Facebook advertising offices - if you are launching a campaign for the first time, your ad may be rejected, or your account might even be blocked. To avoid this, we follow the rules for advertising networks. If you think that you haven't violated any of these, but they still blocked your account, call for support, and talk to them. A proactive approach always helps to achieve great success, not only in advertising campaigns.
— How much money did you spend on the launch (if you can share this kind of information)?
The website is still under development, so I can't say how much money exactly was spent on launching. We spent 30,000 rubles for a month of promotion (this is the total amount across all channels).
—Based on your experience, can you tell us what is the "never do it" list for a founder when it comes to launching marketing?
— You should not expect miracles or instant sales if you haven't done your "homework assignment," and by it, I mean customer discovery. Besides, your product should solve at least one problem of your audience at the prototype stage.
—Do you have any other thoughts on how to improve marketing performance?
—Only consistency can increase the effectiveness of marketing. The more consistent your marketing campaigns are, the greater is the effect you will get.
—What should founders do if they don't know anything about promotion? Does one need to have a team as a part of the staff, or is it better to contact a freelancer/agency?
—It all depends on your goals: some of them can be achieved on your own without hiring anyone, while the accomplishment of others is possible only through the involvement of third-party agencies.
—Can you please give an example of an affordable but effective advertising campaign one can launch today?
—It is a common belief that before making a purchase, a buyer goes through three stages of the decision making process:
1
Awareness/TopOfTheFunnel
When a person realizes the problem and is looking for its confirmation.
2
Consideration/MiddleOfTheFunnel
When a person already knows that there is a problem and is actively looking for a solution.
3
Decision/BottomOfTheFunnel
When a person chooses the most suitable product that solves the problem best.
The goal of an ideal advertising campaign is to lead a person through all three stages and complete the deal. To guide a potential buyer through all the stages of the decision-making process, we often use the "A dollar A day" campaign.
—What is the essence of this advertising campaign?
—Nine videos, three for each stage of the decision-making process, each answers one of the possible questions of a consumer. For each of the stages, you need to select the most appropriate content – three different videos or articles for each of the stages.
— Usually, we make video content, as it is most efficiently consumed on Facebook + you can directly track interest in the content: if a user watched the video at the Awareness stage for 15 seconds, then this person will definitely be interested in watching the video at Stage No.2 (Consideration). This is more troublesome with articles.
—Could you give some example ?
—No problem. Suppose your startup is solving the problem of face masks: the ones that are currently at the market are misting-up, besides it is difficult to breathe in them. Suppose you have created a cool mask that solves these problems.
Awareness stage
  1. What types of masks are available now and how to choose the best one?
  2. How to make a protective mask on your own and keep your glasses from misting-up?
  3. Why are glasses misting-up when you wear a mask?
Consideration stage
  1. Comparing different types of masks with yours, innovative one
  2. A discussion on masks with statistics
  3. Customer reviews recorded on video
Decision этап
  1. Demonstration of your mask in action (product demo)
  2. Competitor mask vs. your mask
  3. Case studies with a client
Let me remind you that we are talking about a budget advertising campaign - you will not spend more than $ 9 per day (9 video*1) while leading your client through the decision making funnel to a deal (in an ideal scenario). Traditionally, this campaign is conducted on Facebook/Instagram.

As for the guideline for campaigns, you can find them here. When evaluating the results of the campaign weekly, update the content for each stage to get a perfect video combination for your business.
—Alexandra, thank you very much for such a productive interview.
— You are welcome. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. My contact information:
Email: aleksandra@cherryontop.ru
Facebook profile: https://www.facebook.com/alexandra.mitroshkina
Test the hypothesis?