Oct 30: 5 Investments that can help spur a startup's growth

When you’re just starting out as a brand new company, resources are limited and what you choose to spend money on in the early stages can be crucial to the success of your business.

It is smart to do a little thinking beforehand to set your company up with a solid foundation for success.

Hire an in-house Marketer

 


As a founder you are already spreading yourself thin working with developers on your product, manage cashflow and fundraising so you don’t run out of money, roping in other team members to join the team, building out processes your team will eventually be carrying out on your behalf, along with all of your other duties.

From our experience, in the early stages of your company at least, bringing an in-house marketing person onto the team is a more cost effective ROI positive decision than hiring a marketing agency.


Why are in-house marketers better than agencies for cash strapped startups? 

  • In-house people are immersed in your brand and product everyday. — It’s not just a brief understanding from a discovery call.
  • In-house team members don’t have another 6 clients to worry about dividing their attention among. — There only focus is your company and it’s success.
  • They cost less than an agency and in house team members typically will be able to be more productive too.

Many startups experience the same kind of things, where marketing agencies promise the world of results and growth to get you to become a customer.

They do a discovery call where they try to understand your business in a nutshell so they can start the job on their end.

The issue is that it requires more than a brief understanding to target the right customers.

More than a brief understanding of your product and customer to knock it out of the park when running paid advertisements, it takes almost the founder’s brain to really pinpoint the keywords that the business truly needs to rank for in a search engine ranking standpoint, and real traction driven by marketing efforts cannot be replicated by an agency alone if they are spreading themself thin among a myriad of clients.

But this isn’t to say that Agencies are ALWAYS bad for startups.. maybe just when they are resource limited and the agency overpromises.

Agencies are good, however, when you need subject matter guidance.

Say you hired a marketer in house but they aren’t super versed on paid ads; having an agency as a consultant can prove to be very beneficial to the team as long as your in-house marketer can execute and the agency’s consulting fees are reasonable.

To reiterate, it’s good to bring an in-house marketing team member to off-board more activities from the founder. Use an agency to guide the in-house marketer if they need to develop their skill set.

What can a marketer do in a startup company?

  • Social media profile management for businesses channels/community management
  • Running experiments on different mediums to bring in more website traffic and conversions
  • Converting prospects or incoming traffic to marketing qualified leads for your sales team
  • Building Assets like email lists, CRM data bases, select stats from Google Analytics to show investors, etc
  • Craft the image of your brand

SEO Tool AHREFS

 


Give your marketing hire the right tools for success

After being an avid user of the tool, I believe that AHREFS is a must-have for any startup company even if content isn’t your main acquisition channel.

Being able to understand the breakdown of your competitors organic traffic is crucial for the construction of your plan to capture marketshare and get customers.

Use Cases for Ahrefs include but aren’t limited to:

  • Competitive Monitoring of Paid Ad Copy in your Industry
  • Keyword Volume Statistics
  • In-depth keyword research for planning a content calendar
  • Keyword Ranking Monitoring of your site and competitors
  • Running SEO Audits of the company website
  • Content Idea Generation
  • See who is backlinking to certain pages (perfect for competitor blog posts to make a list of people to reach out too)
  • Find the most backlinked page on any URL

If you want your marketer to be able to make an impact early on, equipping them with a tool like AHREFS is going to help them carry out their day to day tasks and duties.

And yes, there are some free tools out there on the web that you can use to supplement your marketing efforts but it won’t leave your team with as much actionable data as a tool like AHREFS.

Typically once you try to use a free tool more than a few times they restrict access or limit features to force you to upgrade.

How much does AHREFS cost?

A basic subscription costs $99 a month and a standard subscription that has a few extra useful add ons which I recommend is $179 a month.

Why should I care about content strategy and building links?

  • It boosts your domain authority. Websites with higher domain authority have average Search Engine Ranking Positions (SERPs) and get more traffic to their pages from search queries.
  • Mentions from other websites in related industries generates an interest in your brand and website visits. All for free! Minus the time you put into writing the post and reaching out to the website editor.
  • The people who come from those websites linking to you are a possible customer if they make a purchase or become an MQL. Meaning that the more referral traffic coming from websites linking to you generates leads for your sales team to close on.
  • The more authoritative links you accrue, the bigger possibility other sites are willing to feature your stories, interview you, and promote your brand for free. Logic is pretty simple here, keep giving to the community and writing for people and more opportunities open up; which is all great and free marketing.
  • Solidifies the presence of your brand and when you decide prior on how you want your brand to be perceived, building links helps shape that customer perception! For Example: Want to be seen as trusted and secure? Build links from .gov and .edu websites. Get mentions from websites that are also highly trusted or considered academic by the public.

 Hire a VP of Sales 

Once your company has product market fit and have closed your seed round, it’s time to hire a VP of Sales.

The issue with the real rockstar salesperson is that they don’t want to come on for a low salary + equity.

Many of these VPs have a whole family to support and leaving their current job where they are making 6 figures is going to be not only risky, but just plain dumb if they take a significant pay cut for a company that doesn’t have a proven track record.

Which is why I’m reiterating that you should look to hire a VP of sales once you’ve closed your seed round.

Hiring the right person is going to take capital, you don’t need any junior person here.

This person should fire up your investors when you announce that they joined the team.

Also they should have years of experience selling a product just like this so when they join the team, selling should be as easy as phoning up their old clients and telling them to switch.

Criteria for hiring a VP of Sales

  • Has startup company experience
  • Years of experience in the same industry as you
  • Has experience scaling up sales teams quick (i.e. from 5–150 salespeople in a year)
  • Preferably has gone through 1 or 2 exits (shows that them scaling a sales team isn’t just a fluke)
  • Requires 6 figures to join the team (this shows they value their time and knows their worth)
  • Has a pipeline of previous clients they can convert to your product as they join the team

This isn’t really a position you can settle on. The adeptness of your VP of Sales is going to affect the livelihood of your company.

They need to be able to come on to your team and fine tune the sales process you’ve built as a base.

We’ve written in detail about how to start building the base of a sales process before, but the next investment also covers how you can prepare prior to bringing on your VP of Sales.

 

Hubspot Sales Pro 


What you can do as a founder prior to hiring a VP of Sales is to create the basic sales process with as much data as possible from your findings on customer conversations and current customers.

First off, get a CRM to manage your customer relationships. 

Hubspot and Salesforce seem to be industry standards but we like to recommend Hubspot for how easy it is to get started.

Second, set up your contact properties.

What properties should you include?

Well, I can’t really tell you that. This is something you’ll have to experiment with.

 You know your customer best, figure out what information is important to track among the new prospects and leads you find.

Third, configure the settings for your pipelines and deal stages

Sorry if this is getting a little Hubspot specific, but generally as a rule of thumb CRMs typically have something like this where you can manage a sales funnel.

The “pipeline” is just a separate channel, so each channel could be a sales team employee and then you’d have a place where you can easily sort all deals by team members.

As for what to title the deal stages, this also is based on your business but we typically set it up like this: Traffic → Lead → MQL →SQL →Closed Customer → Close Lost

It should look something like this in your deal section:

 

Join an accelerator 


Lastly, a big investment any startup can go for is to get admitted into an accelerator program.

Luckily for Canadians, The DMZ, the number 1 accelerator program in the world is based in the heart of Toronto.

While it can’t be certain that you’ll get into an accelerator program, the benefits of going through this are so substantial.

While it’s obvious not all accelerators will offer the same things, lets go over a few things accelerators can offer starups:

Office Space

For when the team gets to big to host crunch sessions out of your dingy basement apartment.

What happens when your startup grows to 10 people?

Crazy rent prices for office space that you have to furnish and equip with wifi and make the space conducive to work, that’s what.

Incubators and Accelerators like the DMZ are far more than just office space as you will see.

24 Hour access to amazing work spaces equipped with top notch wifi, meeting rooms, epic coffee machines, and other bright founder minds.

This can be a game changer for your startup.

Having a consistent space where you can take your important investor meetings or your all hands on deck product launch meetings fueled by endless coffees to make those all nighter work sprints is going to set you up for success.

Not to mention being able to bounce ideas off other founders who could be going through the same thing as you, they might have experience you don’t have so they can help you out or provide cautionary tales from their own experiences.

Exclusive events coordinated by the staff and even free or discounted tickets to expensive industry functions

The events incubators and accelerators host typically are to benefit the people hosted in the program.

Expect experts from all walks of business to come in and share their insights, take notes as it’s not in every office where you can consistently get these kind of events.

Along with the occasional tickets to sales and marketing conferences that are expensive, you can use those tickets to send your team members and develop their skill sets!

Access to mentors from ideation, tech, marketing, sales, fundraising, finance, from professionals with heavily decorated careers who often have had multiple exits.

This is by far the biggest value I see in accelerator programs.

Being able to book a one hour 1 on 1 with people of this magnitude will help spur the growth of your startup more than anything.

The guidance these experts offer you while you’re going through the moves and motions of building your company will help keep you on pace and on track to grow as you need too.

Need I say more? The trajectory that a program like this offers startup companies can prove to be invaluable.

Conclusion 

As a whole, the courage you need to have and risk you are taking going all in on building a company are very high.

The best thing you can do is to be smart and take advantage of the resources you have and make good ROI decisions at the right time.

A couple of ways to spur the growth of your startup company are:

  • Hire a dedicated marketing team member
  • Get AHREFS for that employee
  • Build a base sales process using Hubspot to scale for your seed round
  • Hire a VP of Sales after product market fit and closing your seed round
  • Join an Accelerator Program or Incubator