For Startups, Marketing Should Always Be at the Top Table

31/05/2012 14:45 BST | Updated 31/07/2012 10:12 BST

Adding a marketing plan as an afterthought can be one of the biggest mistakes that a new business can make, but it's a mistake that I see all too often in UK digital startups.

Those who lead digital businesses are often skilled in engineering, product development or finance. They start with a good idea for a product that they think people will want, and then spend months perfecting it without ever looking to potential customers for feedback.

This is a huge error, and one that can lead businesses into massive difficulty in the long run. To thrive, every startup needs to ensure that marketing is brought forward in the cycle - not just as an add-on to help boost sales, but to help to facilitate the business idea itself.

You just have to look at a global success story such as Apple to see the role that a strong marketing strategy plays in creating and maintaining its position as the world's most valuable business.

Closer to home, the asset that marks out successful UK tech startups such as Moshi Monsters and Songkick - aside from a smart idea, excellent technology, and brilliant execution - is the fact that these businesses have embraced the building of strong and sustainable brand propositions.

With the abundant opportunities now to market effectively through social media and viral channels there is no need to have a huge budget. It's a misconception that an effective marketing plan requires a great deal of extra capital or investment.

Both Moshi Monsters and Songkick have demonstrated the use of cost effective tools to build brand visibility, and they have both been very successful in raising venture capital as a result.

In your marketing plan, it is customers who should become your best advisors. It may seem obvious, but your company won't survive if you don't have a market that wants to buy your product and services, so businesses need to make it as easy as possible for customers to engage with them. You just can't afford to just build a business with the mentality that customers will come to you.

Early stage businesses must get customer feedback very early in the process if they want to improve their chances of succeeding. Markets and customers move very quickly, and if you wait to create your marketing strategy even six months down the line, it could be too late, and your business could by then be irrelevant.

It may also not be the natural inclination of many startups to look at building up a PR plan if their firm is still in the beta stage, but it is something that needs to be established. Your business needs to get out there and shout about the things that make it a unique and desirable proposition for customers.

So to all startups looking to build up their firm, ignore communications and marketing at your peril. Ensure marketing is at the top table from the outset to keep your offer both relevant and visible to prospective customers.