Great startup marketers generally make excellent resource allocation decisions. We are all faced with the temptation to gravitate toward marketing tactics that have worked in previous companies. Unfortunately, an old marketing mix is almost never a perfect fit for a new marketing situation. For example, when I ran marketing at Uproar.com we relied heavily on banner advertising, even running the most viewed banner on the entire Internet for a period of time. We also had a large affiliate program with over 30,000 partners. Leveraging these key elements of the marketing mix we achieved the lowest registered user acquisition cost of any publicly traded company for a free online service.
Naturally I tried to replicate these marketing tactics at my next early stage company. Unfortunately they didn’t deliver the desired results. Though I still used a very online centric marketing approach, the marketing mix contained very different elements. For example, banners made up less than 10% of our marketing spend (compared to 90%+ at Uproar) and we didn’t even have an affiliate program.
So what is the key to discovering the right mix of marketing tactics for your particular situation? It helps to have a relentless drive to try lots of programs until you find some that are successful. But assembling an effective marketing mix goes beyond simply effort. Before even considering the marketing mix, you need to have a handle on some marketing basics like a proven value proposition. You also need the tools and processes in place to determine the effectiveness of each tested marketing program. The rest is really an art of knowing what to test and combining effective tactics in an optimal marketing mix. Like any other art form, creativity is a key advantage in building winning marketing programs.