What Are Your (Customer) Priorities?

Remember back in high school, when you got in trouble and they sent you to chat with your guidance counselor?  One of the first questions was always, “What are your priorities?”  It’s still a very valid question when applied to the world of start-ups.

Priorities are important because without them, everything is a “priority.” From my perspective, there are three clear priorities that can be applied to marketing for start-ups:

  • Customer experience
  • Customer acquisition
  • Revenue development

At first pass there would seem to be a natural progression here, but even I agree there’s some room for debate and discussion.  In my opinion, your first step should be to think about how customers will interact with and use your product.  Customer experience is key because of many reasons, ease of use and the ability to encourage more use being key among them.  The stickier the interface and the simpler it is to use, the more likely you are to be successful at creating interactions over time.  User interface changes over time, but you have to be thinking about it constantly.



Once you know how your customers will use your products or services, then you move to thinking about how to acquire those customers. Some customer acquisition methods cost a lot of money, while others are very inexpensive.  The roadmap you create should detail what tactics you’re going to test, what the key metrics will be for judging success, and some hypotheses over how long it will take from introduction to close a customer. 

That sales cycle is important because it will help you determine the period for evaluating each tactic.  Search is a self-selecting tactic, so the cycle through search is shorter than what it may be for display, but display can be priced on a cost-per-action basis, which affords you more leeway.  Each tactic has differing criteria for being judged, which you need to think through. You also need to consider the attribution weight that arises from having multiple tactics in market at the same time, and how each one weighs on the next. 

Once you know the motivations and tactics that will get customers using your product, then you move to thinking about how to properly monetize it.  The order of thinking about pricing after you plan customer acquisition tactics may seem funny, but you need proof of concept to determine if your product can acquire customers in the first place.  In addition, the pricing for your product needs to take into account what it costs to acquire a customer, plus some margin for profitability.  If you don’t have competitors through which you can gain insight into pricing, then pricing is somewhat dictated by the market.  In my experience, its helpful to start with a cost and then adjust over time, either up or down, based on what your business plan can tolerate, coupled with what the marketplace will allow.  Pricing and packaging are no small exercises, and these typically fall under a product marketing umbrella, with finance, sales and executive functions involved.

I know there are a hundred examples of how successful companies have juxtaposed these priorities, but my point is, you have to have a combination of all three when evaluating a company.  I still see too many companies that delay thinking through revenue development and monetization.  I also see lots of companies who overlook the complexity of customer acquisition or customer experience, simply preferring to think, “If we build it, they will come.” In today’s hyper-competitive environment, that is a failure-driving perspective.  There is no success in prioritizing no priorities.  (Ahhh, my guidance counselor would be so proud.)

Don’t you agree?

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