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MartechAdvisor, Jan 17, 2017

Ron Dick, Cedato’s CEO shares some tips to establish growth in startups

New marketing technology companies seem to be born everyday, and no wonder. The marketing industry is ripe for innovation, as digital advertising is expected to finally overtake television as the top destination for brand spending. With more and more inventory flooding the market daily, there is room for adtech startups to find ways to better serve and display this inventory.

It’s in this ecosystem that my startup Cedato has flourished. After a year and a half in business we’ve learned that the presence of opportunity is not enough to spell success for a newborn company. In this competitive environment, you need to get it right from the moment you launch. Starting out with a winning combination of entrepreneurial experience, domain expertise and top notch talent is what helps attract the initial paying customers needed to get the company off the ground.

Beyond early customer acquisition, we’ve found there are five key factors to actually establish growth within your startup:

1. Solve a really hard problem: It’s not enough to be just another service provider today. Look beyond improving what other companies are already doing and instead set yourself up to solve a problem that’s so hard others won’t touch it with a ten foot pole. By tackling a problem viewed by the industry to be unsolvable, chances are you’ll find customers looking for a solution so desperately that they’ll be willing to pay for and trust your product, even in the early stages.

2. Focus on getting paying customers before funding: I’ve met far too many founders who seem to be wrapped up  in wooing investors, at the detriment of actually building their business. As a startup, the most critical resource you have is time and attention. Fundraising is extremely demanding on both, and will distract you from your core functions – shipping product and customer development. By neglecting these aspects of your company in favor of building relations with VCs, you’re actually shooting yourself in the foot, by becoming less attractive to investors. Focus fanatically on customer development and scale, and the funding will follow.

3. Surround yourself with great (not just good) people: Don’t settle for employees that can just do the job in front of them. In a lean startup, every person on staff needs to be contributing every skill they have. Surround yourself with people who share the same entrepreneurial spirit, or even have entrepreneurial experience themselves. Ideally, every member of your team should be extremely hands on with the ability to think big and grow operations quickly.

4. Bring in domain expertise: You and your team need to be masters of your domain, both in the market itself, and also in your specific profession. This means ensuring everyone is well versed not just in your specific product, but the adtech industry at large. The team should be able to answer to the pain points being faced across verticals, even beyond your immediate wheelhouse. Additionally, each team member should be holistic in their professional approach. You don’t need just a email marketing expert – you need a marketing pro who is a master of everything from paid social advertising to media relations.

5. Invest in marketing from the get go: The biggest mistake I see startups making is approaching marketing as a nice-to-have versus a must-have. Marketing your startup goes beyond lead generation. Ideally, your marketing team is shaping the company’s public profile, the messaging behind what you do and where you’re headed, targeting ideal customers and raising industry awareness of the unique solution your company offers. The right marketing should make your company top of mind for influencers while elevating your status as thought leaders of your own domain. While the cost of marketing typically exists beyond immediately quantifiable ROI, it will separate you from the competition and help the startup cut through the noise.

Ultimately, the growth of every startup will follow a unique pattern, but by keeping these five learnings top of mind, you can set yourself up for success above and beyond the rate of your competitors no matter what the industry it.