Marketing strategies for startups from Forbes 30 under 30’s Wiktoria Wójcik

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Marketing can sometimes feel like an afterthought. If you have a great product, it’ll speak for itself, right? But as Apple’s ads show, you’re never too big to market.

If you’re short on Steve Jobs-style bucks or time, don’t despair. We sat down with Wiktoria Wójcik, one of the co-founders of the marketing startup inStreamly. They help connect huge brands with gaming audiences via small and mid-size streamers. Who better to ask how you can get to grips with startup marketing without breaking the bank?

What you’ll learn from reading:

  1. How to hire for your marketing department
  2. How to market when you’re short on budget
  3. How to target gamers with your marketing

When should you start to recruit people for your marketing department?

At the beginning, one of the founders should understand at least the basics of marketing. At the very least, they should be willing to master them and promote the company. After all, somebody has to define the vision and idea. Someone has to talk to the customers and respond to their questions and sell your product or service.

The next step of recruiting someone to work in marketing should happen at a specific point. Namely, when the founder is spending lots of time on repetitive tasks they don’t need a lot of expertise for. These jobs should be assigned to a new person. This then frees up the founder to use their more nuanced knowledge to do non-urgent but important tasks which move the company forward.

What should I be looking for?

There's a thing I call ‘marketing sense’. This is the ability to empathize and being able to phrase the value for the consumer in a compelling way. The second part of ‘marketing sense’ is playful curiosity. What you’re looking for are people who really have fun when inventing new things. You want to find people who enjoy experimenting, searching for new ideas and inspiration. They should also always be open to learning. 

It’s hard because, yes, on one hand you need people who are playful and curious. But you also need people who, when the time comes to get things done, are capable of being methodical.

Moving on to the financial side of things: What percentage of revenue should I assign to marketing?

Usually the average is between 7-10% of revenue, if you have revenue. But if you don't yet have revenue and need marketing to get it then you just have to calculate within your P&L what sounds viable. 

Another approach is if your marketing works amazingly and it always delivers returns, why just stay at 10% of revenue? After all, if you can bump it up another couple of percent, why not do so? This said, I'd recommend starting with an amount that doesn’t feel uncomfortable for the company. At first, especially at the beginning, marketing will not work wonders. That's my experience anyway — but bear in mind we’re a B2B solution and things can be more straightforward with a B2C product.

What if I were working for an early stage startup which didn't have much money. How would I market effectively on very little funds?

By doing it yourself! I think the best marketing is either free or nearly for free. Then you can amplify it by paying for additional reach. For example: articles. If you write or do something so interesting that a journalist wants to write about it, that’s for free. Plus, the journalist’s interest is a good sign — it suggests other people will want to read about it, too. Conversely, if you just wrote an article and paid for it to be promoted, you wouldn't ever know. I am not saying this is easy — only about one out of every 10 pitches I send even receives a response, so you just have to be consistent. 

Similarly, it’s very hard to pay people to form a community around your brand. But if you run a community effectively, post interesting content on social media, truly engage people and they rally round your brand, that’s priceless. This can all be for free if you’ve got enough time and real passion people can feel.   

How should early stage startups use influencers for marketing purposes now?

The key is finding the right opinion leader. They do not have to be the most popular but they need to be sincere when talking about your brand.

The moment you stop thinking about influencers as people posting photos on Instagram and think about influencers as people who are highly esteemed in their field, influencer marketing starts being very important. You need those people to talk about your product because they’re considered reliable. 

What trends have you seen dominating marketing this year?

A growing awareness of privacy and a decrease in people trusting marketers. Plus, we're getting less and less from ads and performance. We're getting more from building brand trust, brand awareness, people remembering the brand. We also see that the brands that invest the most in building this recognizability, being a bit different (Starbucks, Apple, Tesla) are the ones which occupy the strongest position in the market or at least in people’s minds. The one trend I see on a larger scale will be the rise of brand marketing, either personalities, influencers, everything that feels a bit more human.

The second thing we'll see associated with this is that people no longer trust search engines. If you go on Google and type something, you'll get sponsored blog posts reviewing the product and you will learn nothing. Back in the day, you'd type "blog" after your search query, whereas now people type their question and add “Reddit" at the end to get more real answers. Gen Z are searching for things on TikTok over Google. So there's this loss of trust. It also means that searches are becoming more about finding real answers from real people. People are not trusting what they see on the internet. 

How can companies best market to Gen Z?

If Gen Z are on TikTok watching personalities, people creating videos on their own instead of big productions, you should try and be a part of it and not be someone who interrupts their experiences. If you want to reach gamers, you should be part of gaming community in a way that's just as fun as the games are, or you could be inside streams or videos and work with the streamers because people watch them for their personalities and not just for the gameplay. 

Gen Z grew up with the internet, which means that we are really good at spotting if something is an ad. The best ads I get when I scroll TikTok are the ones where it takes me 3-4 seconds (it usually takes me less than half a second) to realise it's an ad and it takes me by surprise. This is very rare. Anything you can do that doesn't interrupt, that supports the communities there, really really works. 

Is there a good way to market to gamers specifically?

Of course, by inStreamly! But besides this, the first step is thinking about the question: which gamers, exactly, do you want to target? Ask yourself: what sort of gamers am I targeting, what sort of games do they play, which platform do they play on, and what is the reason they are playing? If this is very clear and you're able to stick to it, whatever you want to do in gaming, as long as it's aligned with that, will work. 

Any further tips for marketing success before you get on with your day?

Measure as much as you can, even if you only get ballpark figures, data that’s only 70% accurate is better than none. Start measuring everything and analyzing the results because this is the only way you can figure out the right strategies. As a rule of thumb, if something doesn't feel like it's working, it probably isn't working. Then you should get rid of it as soon as possible and stop wasting your time. We tend to start doing something and do it because we always have done it. For something to change, something has to change. And you need to make that happen. 

Want more great tips? inStreamly have created a gaming marketing course (why gaming matters, tactics and tools to reach gamers) that is entirely FREE to access. Click here to try it for yourself. 

Or check out our previous discussion with Wiktoria on how influencers will use the Metaverse.

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