How Do I Build a Marketing Program from Ground Zero?

build out marketing program

Give me some direction, Brian. I want to build a marketing program that rocks.

  1. Product/Market Fit
  2. 4 month runway without ROI, or 4 months of past data
  3. Time and resources to dedicate strictly for marketing: reporting, implementation, creative, strategy
  4. Sweat & grit

This isn’t about tactics–it’s actually more about the intangibles. This is about the hard things that make a digital marketing department a success or a failure.

Let’s dig in.

Product/Market Fit

Product/market fit is not binary. You should never stop the search. Most successful companies struggle with identity all along the way–there are way fewer visionaries than the internet would have you believe. Some of my best clients are companies that constantly second-guess who they are and who they serve–companies that have served thousands of customers. Keep searching.

Don’t assume you know your customers. Assume you don’t. Click To Tweet

Our biggest mistakes come from our hubris–the idea that we know everything about our customers already–or the fear that we will look stupid if we ask them questions and don’t get the right answers. The only way to truly develop an understanding of what they’re hiring you for is to ask them in as many ways as you can without driving them away.

In-person, surveys, on-site behavior. A great marketing program combines all of these methods to learn more about who they serve.

The eureka moment doesn’t come before you change a few features. It comes after you spent weeks talking to your customers and making countless changes. You probably won’t even have hard data on what the catalyst was. Maybe there wasn’t one.

Although it’s better to be lucky than good, that’s not a good reason to stop learning to the people who pay you. And remember, luck seems to occur more often with people who do the hard work.

Great programs either have product/market fit or are drastically changing on their way to… Click To Tweet

The 4 Month Runway

4 month is code for: You need time to test things before you give up.

It’s common to see poor results with both PPC and SEO as you launch.

What?! Sounds like a poor carpenter blames his tools.

Even though PPC campaigns have low barriers to entry, finding the right mixture of audience & offer can take some time.

  • Do you have the customer list to use Lookalike audiences?
  • Do you have the budget to open up targeting?
  • What customer data do you have already that will allow us to narrow down our audience?
  • How effective are your landing pages right now?

You don’t know the answers to these questions until you’ve run a program for a few months. As an early-stage company, you’re probably handling this in-house. The learnings will come a bit slower but they’ll be worth it.

My best advice? Have a plan for when to determine if things don’t work. Don’t give in to confirmation bias. Try and find council in other experts, even if you have to pay them a high hourly rate.

Know that very few companies hit their marketing program out of the park in the first few months. A great product helps!

Dedicated Time & Resources for Marketing

You can’t change anything unless you dedicate time & resources to change it. Some marketing does have the opportunity to scale quickly with low involvement, but the likelihood that your “growth hack” becomes a featured case study is not exactly a smart risk for most companies. Prove me wrong!

The reality: internet marketing is a big lie. It’s all risky and most of it takes a substantial time investment. You can turn your marketing into a competitive advantage though. The more systematic you are, the more likely you will get wins, both big and small.

Taking a systematic approach to your marketing time and resources means making your marketing a process. If you’re tackling content, spend 10 hours per week on the process. Spend time planning the topics. Make sure your writer is happy. Do proper on-site optimization every time you post. Work on building the right partnerships through outreach.

Do it for 10 hours every week. Don’t let other things take priority. That’s how you build a marketing program that grows. Ironically, the best way to grow is by doing things that don’t scale right away.

Vital Need for a Great Digital Marketing Program: Guts, Sweat & Grit

You can’t get there with a weak stomach or a weak heart. It takes the trio of guts, sweat, & grit to make your marketing work.

You’ll read blog posts and listen to podcasts and talk to advisors that make you want to shift gears…stick with your plan (unless it’s bad). Take in that information and use it to help you on your current path. Once you’ve decided that you need to course-correct because of new information, do it.

The most successful marketers (the ones that successfully build a marketing program everywhere they go) I know are the ones that are willing to bang their head against the wall longer than anyone else. You’ll write blog posts that don’t gain traction. You’ll create videos that 14 people will watch.

That’s ok. Your little failures won’t matter once you achieve your big wins. The digital marketing programs that become a success are the ones that take wins and losses in stride. Building a successful marketing program from ground zero isn’t a race you finish, it’s a process you continue to perfect over time.

Brian Swanick

Hey I'm Brian! I fix broken marketing programs for growing companies and crush tacos of all sizes. Whether you're launching a new product or building out a new marketing team, I hope you find the info on this site useful.

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