What one marketing channel should founders employ first?

  • Strategy
  • Marketing
Answering as:
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Bill Dhariwal
Lawcomm Solicitors

As a lawyer involved in the business and property world the first rule of marketing is to focus on existing client service. It is obvious but so often overlooked in professional services firms who are often chasing the next big marketing idea. Be of service and value to your clients and they will stick with you and recommend others.

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Charly Young
CEO & Co-founder
The Girls' Network

When I speak to new founders I always tell them their best marketing tool will be word of mouth. There’s nothing better than a genuine referral from an existing customer, whether it’s via a structured channel or, even better, offered up spontaneously in conversation. With my charity The Girls’ Network, we’ve worked to get people to connect with the cause on an emotional level, then delivered excellent and impactful work to match: people’s purchasing decisions are often driven by emotion first, so use that! After people, Twitter’s a great tool. Have purpose in identifying who the people you’re trying to reach are. Gain their trust on their terms, and they’ll listen to your story.

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Caitlin Jenkins
Mills & Reeve

You should use whatever marketing channel best suits you – your message, your business, your clients and your personality. And you need to give these 4 things some careful and honest thought first before you launch in. What would be the point of using twitter because you think that is where your client base will be active if twitter is not something you “get” and use? Equally why would you use facebook just because you like it if you don’t think your clients will be looking at it? Put yourself in your possible clients’ shoes and take a walk around – what are they looking for? What are you offering them? And how best to communicate with them? For most businesses, including family law, the answer is that various different channels suit different clients, so be prepared to be flexible. Finally and most importantly of all – don’t forget the marketing power of a satisfied client : do a good job for a client and they will be the best referrer of work you have ever had.

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Jenny Pool

I think Twitter is incredibly powerful, you have to appreciate with every tweet you are being allowed to share some of that persons day, their time, it is also great for others to see what you are doing in order to be able to recommend you to others.

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Ben Dickens
DVO Agency

Before you even start thinking about channels be very clear on defining your brand. Ensure every aspect of your business screams your personality and values.

Once you’ve done this, worked out who your audience are and where they are you’ll be able to pick the right channel to deliver your message to them in the most creative way you can.

My biggest piece of advice is don’t start with tactics like picking channels before you’ve done the hard thinking and research, it’s where most start-ups fail on marketing. My tip for the future -think about how you create value as it’ll be important post coronavirus, building an emotionally engaging brand is a great way to do this.

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Alex Pearmain
Onefifty Consultancy

The one which puts them in front of the most prospective buyers, at standardised cost-per person basis, with the prospects in the right mindset. It’s often overlooked in a rush to what competitors, media, conventional wisdom and more say. It sounds sensible, but few people break it down into a basic quantifiable framework, which would inform the highest probable ROI.

And if you don’t like maths, just play app roulette on your phone, and whichever service your thumb stops on.it’d still be more effective than some approaches!

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James Coughlan
Co-founder & COO

It really depends if the business is B2B or B2C & what timeframes they have to achieve results. As a HubSpot partner, we tend to create strategies which utilise multiple channels, but as a generic channel that should be utilised and trusted more is SEO. It is one of the best channels for return on investment & is usually dismissed due to clients wanting immediate results. If the budget is there, we usually suggest running a PPC campaign alongside the SEO campaign to generate more immediate results. With an SEO campaign, don’t try and conquer the world straight away either. Start locally in a couple of key locations, and then further your reach when you generate a return to increase your budget.

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Ruth Shearn

Media relations, PR, call it what you will. Why? It’s a highly effective way to push your message(s) to your target audience, no matter how broad or niche that may be. Want to reach florists? PR will reach them. Want to reach environmental consultants, it’ll reach them, too.

Media relations/PR has changed dramatically over the past decade and, in my humble opinion, should be the foundation upon which all other marketing activity is built.

Let’s look at a working example. An accountancy client wants to promote their expertise in helping SMEs reduce their tax bill. We’d kick off by speaking with the client and doing some desk research in order to find something interesting, unknown or quirky about the topic. Having identified our ‘news hook’, we’d draft and distribute a press release to publications and portals read by owners of SMEs. Press coverage would follow (ideally, with backlinks to the client website). Typically, a couple of publications would request a longer, by-lined, article, expanding on the topic. Happy days. More credible, thought leadership coverage. This could then be turned into a blog on the client website (yes, we’re talking content marketing here). Which could then be sent to their database of SME clients and prospects. Not forgetting, embedded in social media posts. The article could be included in the client newsletter or used as the basis of a direct marketing campaign (either digital or traditional print). Oh, and let’s not forget, most publications and portals will promote the article on their own social channels, too.

Whatever marketing channel you use, it all starts with the words. In short, a single piece of PR/media relations can be turned into many different pieces of marketing collateral/activity.

Did I mention infographics or white papers? In fact, you could say it’s the gift that keeps on giving!

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Melanie Kirk
Pulsar Healthcare

What a difficult question! I guess there is no one answer as it depends on your industry and most importantly your audience. Saying that I think content strategy is the most important thing to undertake. Whether the channel is video, PPC, social etc you need to know what your end game is and what you want to communicate.

Understand your strategy – what are your key messages and please no more than one or two per asset. Are you providing value, are you a thought leader and can you ensure differentiation? The channel will all come from understanding your audience.

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Jamie Ward
CEO & Co Founder
Hussle Official

Whatever channel the assumed target audience is most likely to engage with. Sounds obvious, but, work backward from a profile of your ideal customer. Think about what media they consume, how they consume it, where they are, where they work etc. You will inevitably end up with a few channels to choose from, at this point assess impact vs cost and start with the highest impact and lowest cost and work up from there.

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David Shiel
Explain Market Research

It’s 26 years since Explain was founded and its amazing how channels to market have changed. It’s no surprise that I would encourage any entrepreneur to research their market and nbd sectors first. Armed with a well thought through marketing strategy you have the tool to assess which channels on which to focus.

Perhaps surprisingly we would not head to social media first. Over 75% of new Explain business comes from tenders and procurement and without recognition and approval through sites such as Achilles and other portals we would not even come under consideration, never mind make a shortlisted pitch to a prospective client.

What size and type of clients do you want to serve and which channels best reach them. Get professional recognition as fast as you can and then make sure your digital marketing fits when clients come looking.

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Richard Wharton
Co Founder
Bullitt Group

My mother. If you want everyone to know everything yesterday and before you even know what you want them to know then it has to be my mother! Failing that …. word of mouth, which today is so much easier as it’s executable through a multitude of digital platforms. Know your audience, empathise, be honest and tell them why you are different. Even in the world of ADHD style digital media consumption we still want peer group endorsement to steer/endorse our decision……

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Robert Stoubos
Founder & CEO
Odyssey New Media

Given that Google is used by B2B/B2C consumers and has a around 90% share of global search then Search Marketing simply has to be a core marketing channel which founders should look to invest some time and money into first. Their website should be setup for search engines (SEO) as well as users. When implemented correctly a solid, fast, SEO and conversion friendly website will give new businesses the platform to both attract organic search traffic as well as the ability to get ROI on paid search traffic (AdWords) to their website.

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James Oakley
James Oakley Media

Valuable content generation first. You can then share this amongst specialist interest groups on all other channels (including free). Think LinkedIN Interest groups for B2B or Facebook groups for B2B and B2C. Relevant content will make any other marketing channel you employ in the future better – lower cost for website traffic, loyalty, conversion rates and so on. ROI is a must for any marketer.

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Robin Arnold

I was going to say the web, but I have changed my mind. If you are a start-up then money may well be tight. If this is the case then email marketing is the most effective way to reach a larger audience for very little cost. You want to make friends and provide value-added content as opposed to trying to sell. This channel will quickly allow you to see who is engaged with your content and who you should reach out to via a call.

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John Readman
Founder & CEO

I often think everyone over thinks their marketing as a new business. The best opportunities often are right in front of you with your closest contacts. So I think the best reminder is never to underestimate how happy your close contacts and friends will be happy to help you to promote your business. Try to great you very own ripple effect using your own network.

The money is often under your feet!

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Gareth Morgan
Founder & Managing Director
Liberty Marketing

Content marketing (a bit of a cheat answer as it covers SEO, PR and Social Media most of the time). I would advise founders to take time out each month to write up in-depth and personal articles, covering industry thought leadership and agency behind-the-scenes pieces. Then place these on your blog, post up on LinkedIn and reach out to bloggers and journalists to see if they are interested in promoting it or hosting similar. It can really set you apart from your rivals and will help your website attract traffic, will increase your social reach and make your brand better known.

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Trevor Palmer
Owner & Director

Their existing networks. These are the people that will get behind whatever you do on any other channels and make it count with their (hopefully) blind loyalty and support.

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Darren Clare
Stratton Craig

When starting out Founders should absolutely focus on their personal and business connections. These connections will want to help the founder in the early days of their business. It is however essential that the founder make sit very clear what help and support they need, coupled with unbridled enthusiasm and passion for their product or service. Energy and confidence is infectious and is the thing people initially buy into.

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Alex Baker
Co-founder & Director
Sent Into Space

When it comes to marketing, the first step is knowing your customers: what do they need and where are they looking for it? Wherever they are, that’s where you need to be. For B2B, your starting point is unquestionably LinkedIn, but trade fairs, industry publications and networking events all play their part. For B2C, it depends on your product and your audience – it might be Instagram, or it could be on the streets of your hometown.

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Chris Bentley
Notworking Networking

Get your propositional statement perfected, understand who you are targeting and then hammer then channel they spend most time on – its very much a situational question.

There would be no point pushing SaaS tech via TikTok just as all the relevant decision makers would be on LinkedIn!

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Daniele Fiandaca
Change Maker & Co-founder

I don’t think there is a single silver bullet. What has worked well for us has been speaking at key conferences (a great opportunity to show thought leadership), being a guest on interesting podcasts (a great opportunity to share stories) and establishing a newsletter which adds real value to your target audience. The newsletter will take time to deliver real value but also allows you to really focus on your key audience and what they are looking for.

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Victoria Usher
Founder & CEO

Avoid restricting yourself to a single marketing channel. Instead, focus on adding value to your target audience by considering the most appropriate channels to publish engaging and informative content. Taking a client-first approach will set you apart as a thought leader; the go-to expert in your field. Not to mention generating PR and social media engagement at the same time.

The tactics involved in positioning yourself as a thought leader can be varied, but the key ingredients are a strong online presence, tailored content, and targeted visibility. It’s important to contribute to online discussions and publish articles that share your expertise and entice audiences back to your platform. Above all, your content needs to add value and show your genuine knowledge of the topic if it’s to win audience trust and boost your image.

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Imran Ismail
Founder & CEO
Doozy Vape Co

The One Marketing Channel that is a no brainer in this day and age has to be Social Media in particular Instagram and Facebook. There are many others but these two are currently the main platforms to execute a well thought out marketing strategy. Facebook and Instagram are nationally and Internationally recognised so its a great place to start. You will only yield great returns if you understand what each platform delivers as all Social Media Platforms have a different demographic. You can’t market to all in the same way. If you figure this out you will be on your way to success. Doozy started off with the Domino effect from the end user to Stockists so create your own demand and the phone won’t stop ringing!

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Priti Padhy
Founder & CEO

Linkedin got to be the default channel for founders. It is the default go-to place for the entire business community from small startups to large enterprises. Customer, Partners, Investors all do check Linkedin and your website before even having the 1st meeting. If done well, it can really help your business grow

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David King
Artificial Labs

Talk to your customers in person wherever possible. Most target customers, even in senior positions will happily engage with you if you ask in the right way. Get an introduction or write them a message that is tailored and relevant to them. Show them that you’re willing to go the extra mile. If you have to do the engagement part on one platform however, that’s probably LinkedIn.

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Finn Lagun
Co-Founder & CMO
Pasta Evangelists

Refer a Friend & Word of Mouth.

The first customers you engage will be the best ones you ever acquire; with you from the beginning and genuinely interested in the product. As a marketer, it therefore makes sense to leverage these early-adopting ambassadors by giving them a compelling reason to refer others. Given these customers tend to be of high quality, it’s fair to assume the people they refer will be in turn, too.

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John Cardy
Garden Games

Before asking yourself which marketing channel to employ, think about what you really want to achieve. Marketing channels each have different benefits and vary dramatically. The key is understanding your market. Keep your eyes peeled, watch carefully, look for opportunities and act quickly. Once you’ve decided on a marketing channel based on your market and aim, don’t delay on getting stuck in. Give it your all and keep learning. Understand your client base and learn how to reach them. Only then can you decide which marketing channels work for you. Also, don’t be afraid to try more than one at the same time.

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Shawn Khorassani
Prestige Network

There is one easy and obviously answer – Online, but it needs to be backed up by other channels. It also depends on the product – Who is your target audience and how do they consume information? Do your target audience spend most of their time on Facebook, LinkedIn or not online at all? The marketing channel to be employed first is simply the one where your target audience spend most of their time.

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Campbell Ure
Business Owner
The Alternative Board

Surround yourself with good data to help you & your business. Then ensure you have a trusted group around you to help make the best decisions.

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Projjol Banerjea
Founder & Chief Product Officer

Founders looking to start marketing activities need to first ask themselves what they’re looking to achieve. Each channel is typically better-suited to deliver on one or two of a gamut of marketing objectives, ranging from top-of-the-funnel awareness to bottom-of-the-funnel conversions and everything in between. An optimal marketing mix is one that is rarely implemented right out of the gates but rather emerges over time from prudent experimentation. Our advice to founders: start small + try a variety of things + take a data-driven approach.

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Carina Birt
Sarum PR

Unquestionably for me I recommend LinkedIn as the marketing channel founders should emply from the outset.

Done well it can have HUGE returns.

It is the ‘honest’ version of your website in the eyes of buyers and a huge proportion of them go there to check you and your company before buying from you or indeed even engaging with you.

LinkedIn prioritises personal profiles and connections. Leveraging, communicating and engaging with those connections, and giving them a good reason to engage with you, will deliver widespread brand awareness. Don’t pay lip service to LinkedIn, go do a deep dive and make it work for you.

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Francesca Onidi
CEO & Founder
Pix Around

There is not only one marketing channel valid for Everyone. The founder should find the best marketing channel for her/his Company. In my case the luxury travel market and its related marketing channels are the best and am investing on them. Luxury travel fairs, luxury travel events and luxury travel advisors are the most important part of my marketing budget. Social Media can be good if the Company wants to reach the maximum number of possible prospects.

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Melanie Hamer
Wendy Hopkins

Founders should link with local media channels ( written, spoken and visual ) to promote and advertise their new business. A launch event with journalists and local influencers will also help raise awareness of and create new contacts for the new business.

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Daniel Preiskel
Preiskel & Co

As a founder of this leading Telecoms and Tech specialist law firm, I recommend focusing on what it takes to become and then noticed as an industry leader in a particular field. Make the time to leave your desk to speak at major conferences and meet people in person for that personal connection, leaving your mark as the face of the impressive company you founded.

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Claire Barker
Equity Release Solicitors Alliance

Firstly, determine your audience. Are you trying to attract B2B or B2C interest, or both? There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach, so you’ll need to work out what will give you the best return on your investment.

Every channel has its place – for the Equity Release Solicitors’ Alliance, we first went to market with a big industry presentation with major stakeholders, who were luckily sufficiently interested. Thereafter, we engaged on a B2B level with FS publications and B2C via national press, using a PR agency. However, the latter is very expensive.

For my own company, Equilaw, we deploy a B2B approach only and nothing beats building personal relationships first.

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Henry Lewington
Barracuda Digital

There is no ‘one’ channel for everyone. However, everyone should test one channel – Test, Analyze and Learn.

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Panos Skliamis
CEO & Founder
SPIN Analytics