Living Entrepreneurship Blog / Babson Entrepreneurs

How 2 Use Digital Marketing for Your Startup

Entrepreneurs in 2020 have access to a growing range of increasingly powerful marketing tools. But amidst all of the other responsibilities that come with growing a venture, how much marketing do founders need to do, and which tools are the best use of their time and resources? The Blank Center kicked off this semester’s series of How 2 Tuesdays with How 2 Use Digital Marketing for Your Startup, led by Vanessa Theoharis ‘10. Vanessa spent eight years as part of Babson College’s marketing department, eventually leading the College’s digital marketing efforts. She is now the Director of Digital Marketing at OHO Interactive, where she consults for companies in the healthcare and higher education spaces looking to improve their digital strategies. Here are Vanessa’s digital marketing tips for startups!

Vanessa Theoharis ’10 shared her digital marketing advice for startups at 2020’s first How2Tuesday!

Who are your “marketing crushes?” Vanessa asked our audience of entrepreneurs to think about their “marketing crushes,” brands which have compelled them with creative and effective marketing. Beats Headphones, Warby Parker eyewear, and even click-bait news articles were all named as audience “marketing crushes.” In Vanessa’s experience, the underlying “it” factor behind marketing crush brands is that they “don’t try to be everything to everyone,” instead honing in on their value proposition and owning it. For startups with limited marketing resources, speaking with potential customers and finding the segment that “crushes” on their offering should be a priority!

The 5 Pillars of Effective Digital Marketing

No matter what your startup offers or how much marketing you have time for, there are universal factors which predicate startups’ marketing success. Vanessa offered her 5 pillars for effective digital marketing:

  1. Audience Insights: As our How 2 Tuesday experts have all agreed, you need to spend time listening to your customer! For Vanessa, observing the customer’s interaction with products through free user testing has unearthed valuable insights.
  2. Marketing Strategy: Based on audience insights, Vanessa challenged us to think creatively about how and where we can engage with our customer. 

    Did you know that the Blank Center has a relationship with CRM platform HubSpot? Contact Cindy Klein-Marmer to learn more about how your Babson startup can use HubSpot.

  3. Execution and Infrastructure: Vanessa encourages startup founders to investigate how they could leverage automation and technology in their marketing efforts. Creating the infrastructure to support seamless marketing workflow goes a long way for founders!
  4. Measurements: Before their startups invest time and resources into new marketing channels, Vanessa advises founders to decide the performance metrics that will guide the strategy.
  5. Process and People: Vanessa stresses the importance of brand standards and style guides for startups, which set clear expectations for how team members will promote the brand while also laying the groundwork for future marketing hires and consultants.

The 5 Must-Haves for Any New Business

The last segment of Vanessa’s presentation focused on the tools entrepreneurs need for digital marketing success. She showed us an awe-inspiring slide featuring microscopic logos for over 5,000 marketing technologies on the market today. With so many flashy new tools available, it’s easy to lose sight of the fundamentals, and Vanessa emphasized that the following 5 tools are must-haves for startup marketing.

Babson entrepreneurs: applications for the 2020 B.E.T.A. Challenge are due by Friday, February 14th! Learn more and apply at this link.

  1. A website: This is homebase for your business’s online presence. For a successful website, Vanessa suggests optimizing for mobile devices and creating compelling calls to action.
  2. An organic search strategy: In Vanessa’s view, Google is increasingly becoming consumers’ gateway to ecommerce. Considering how new customers would search for their offering, startups can improve SEO through keywords and content creation.
  3. One brand presence: Whether it’s curating a blog, creating video, or staying active on a social media platform, Vanessa suggests that startups choose to focus on one main online presence which is a fit for their brand and will reach their customers.
  4. A CRM: Vanessa’s advice for making best use of CRM software is to collect customer data all the time and as soon as possible, starting with names and emails. 
  5. An email platform: Although email is a saturated space, Vanessa believes startups can use email to stay engaged with customers by creating personalized messages and providing them with valuable information.

We hope you enjoyed these digital marketing insights from Vanessa’s session, and that you join us for more of the Blank Center’s How 2 Tuesday events throughout the semester! On Wednesday, February 11 at 5 p.m., we’ll be welcoming Babson Professor Angelo Santinelli for How 2 Read a Term Sheet. Register for the event at this link. For the latest news and events from the Blank Center, follow Babson Entrepreneurs on Facebook and @babsoneship on Instagram.