In this installment of the startup marketing series, we’re going to delve into what marketers for Series A startups need to do on the road to Series B. At this point, these companies have successfully sold investors on their business use case and product market fit. Now it’s time to show market scalability.
Receiving this injection of series A cash — usually $2 to $15 million — is when startups can expand their headcount across all teams, and it’s especially useful for the marketing department.
With the startup on the path to profitability, marketing efforts matter more. The marketing team’s initiatives are key in helping to build a product with brand longevity and customer loyalty. Here are four areas Series A startups should invest in to achieve that goal.
1. Launch a real website
During the seed-stage, you could get by with a splash page. Now, you need to create a website that optimizes for discovery, customer acquisition, and brand loyalty.
This can come to life in a myriad of ways. Hallmarks of great post-Series A startup websites include a product explainer video, a customer service chat bot, social proof in the form of press articles and customer testimonials, and lead-generation conversion forms.
“When you’ve passed the Series A milestone, you’ve acquired your first set of formative customers,” said Randy Brasche, a startup marketing veteran who is currently VP of marketing at Zignal Labs. “As part of this process, you’ve tested your use cases, ironed out the bugs, and demonstrated a quantifiable ROI. As a result, your website can now reflect a lot of these important customer testimonial qualities and tangible product marketing benefits.
“At Zignal, we want to feature our customers, so we created a customer testimonial video reel. These videos are hard to create, as quickly videotaping customers in one sitting is challenging. So, at our customer summit, we took advantage of the venue to create short vignettes. The resulting three-minute videos are incredibly powerful to validate Zignal’s brand within the enterprise market, while helping advocate for our product’s value proposition.
“We’re in our Series C funding round now, and we’ve focused on the customer and bringing their story to life since day 1. This strategy has been beneficial to our customer growth and investor relationships.”
Having a data-driven mindset is a large part of website design and implementation. By including proper tracking tools, you can understand your target audience’s user behavior to iterate and capture market-share.
Brasche notes, “We leverage tools such as SEMrush to understand which search terms are trending; Google Analytics to identify traffic patterns and the buyer’s journey throughout the website; and ABM (account-based marketing) tools such as Engagio to understand buyer signals on the website.”
2. Create and execute your content strategy
As Bill Gates so famously stated, “Content is king.” This is especially true for startups looking to engage customers and scale their user base. By understanding your buyer persona and target audience, you can craft fun, educational content to distribute across relevant channels.
It’s no surprise that people love consuming content. Each day, there are over 8 billion video views on Facebook, 500 million Tweets, 5 billion videos watched on YouTube, 95 million Instagram photos uploaded, and 10 billion average daily Snapchat video views. With these 118.5 billion other pieces of content competing with your blog or ebook (at least!), you really have to produce something stellar.
In Series A, it’s time to let your brand voice be heard and connect with customers through your content. This can be accomplished through long-form articles, videos, social media posts, case studies—the list goes on. As content consumption is generally a top of the funnel activity, it will take time to see conversions. But if created and measured correctly, your content will become a valuable part of your business strategy.
Kasey Fleisher Hickey, head of content marketing at BetterUp, explains how their content strategy during their Series A stage played a major role in raising brand awareness, propelling them to their Series B funding: “Our company is taking a very different approach to leadership development, making it possible for organizations to offer personalized, expert coaching to employees at all levels. We combine rigorous scientific research with technology and the world’s best coaches. So when it came time to creating a content strategy, we focused on sharing high-impact, long-form content that brings together the latest research with our own unique point of view.
“One example of this is the piece I worked on with our CEO on the importance of inner work, which we followed with a data-driven piece we published in collaboration with our in-house research team. Both pieces really speak to the value of what we’re doing as a company: taking a human-oriented approach to leadership development that’s also strongly grounded in behavioral science and positive psychology, and delivered seamlessly to our customers and individual members. Together, these posts have received thousands of social shares, and have become a cornerstone of our own company culture that we hope spreads to others.”
In addition to brand awareness, content is a valuable contributor to your website ranking and search results. Brasche explains how Zignal has been able to strengthen their SEO efforts over time: “We built our content around key search terms, such as a specific business problem (crisis communications), our buyer (chief communications officer), and our software category (media intelligence). As a result, we’ve been able to generate organic leads and save on digital advertising spend.”
3. Form key partnerships
Partnership opportunities are vital to expanding to other markets and audiences. You’re able to tap into a network that would be nearly difficult to leverage otherwise, and in doing so, align your brand with trusted, credible brands.
“As you move from a Series A to Series B company, you need to grow fast and scale. In Zignal’s case, quickly expanding our footprint across large enterprise customers required channel partnerships with strategic agencies that deliver PR and other communications services,” Brasche explained. “Through these win-win partnerships, the agency can deliver a value-added service to its clients while Zignal gains a new book of business without the extensive time and cost of a typical direct sales engagement.”
“Other partnerships are essential to quickly market and connect with our core buyers. We’ve leveraged media partnerships to create compelling marketing programs that engage our buyer persona. For example, working with PRWeek, we’ve executed many successful webcasts, events, and campaigns that have generated solid leads for Zignal — while delivering compelling thought leadership to their readers.”
4. Expand your advertising efforts
Up to this point, Series A startups’ advertising efforts were mainly used to test brand messaging and find product-market fit. With new capital to invest for user acquisition, expanding your advertising efforts can truly impact the bottom line. It’s important to be strategic in the channels that you pour your marketing spend into and measure every single campaign. This way you can fully maximize your budget and understand the cost per lead or install.
“Every software startup is competing for awareness and mindshare in a noisy marketplace. I’ve seen many early-stage Series A companies waste their money on digital programs without really knowing their buyer persona or setting up an effective account development team to nurture leads,” Brasche said.
“To build Zignal’s pipeline post-Series A, we leveraged Precision Ads through LinkedIn by targeting specific groups or personas. We conducted a lot of A/B tests through paid search to determine which content aligned with core business problems facing our primary audience. Here again, we leveraged our partnership with PRWeek to reach this audience through paid advertising.”
Gearing up for Series B
In the post-Series A stage, you may be tempted to jump on other marketing tactics, so it’s important to stay the course and focus on your website, content strategy, key partnerships, and advertising strategy. If you invest your time and budget into these four foundational marketing tactics, you’ll be well on your way to Series B funding.