• John Bell

Agile Marketing for Startups and Small Business

Updated: Dec 22, 2020


Startup entrepreneurs are like many small businesspeople. They must wear many hats, and there’s far too many things to get done. They need a simpler way to draft their marketing strategy and do it in a format that is as close and ready to be executed as possible.


I have been mentoring and coaching startups with CNM Ingenuity’s accelerator program, AccelerateNM. Previously, I worked with Insurtech startups via Travelers and many marketing new business ventures with WPP while at Ogilvy. Working with a diverse group of entrepreneurs, I have learned a lot.


Most need help forming a strong POV on the marketing and sales of their products or services as early as possible. Once exposed, they quickly see how the customer insights that come with even the simplest marketing program can influence how a product or service is designed – better to start thinking about that early. Many entrepreneurs lack a background in marketing. They see it as a step that comes later after they have filled in their Business Model Canvas (hint: marketing does appear in the Canvas but is reduced to channels and a list of customers) or Lean Canvas (hint: marketing peaks in here via the “unfair advantage”) .




The NextNow Digital (NND) Agile Marketing Canvas distills the essentials of a strong marketing and sales foundation for most business types into four, simplified tools.


Brand Print - What are the qualities of your brand that differentiate and clearly communicate the value? This foundation used repetitively and consistently will build stronger awareness and consideration.


Marketing Strategy - How will you engage your customers and win their business? Given customer and market insights, how can your business gain a competitive advantage via marketing and sales?


Marketing Roadmap - How does your marketing and sales plan align to the customer journey and what are the “jobs-to-be-done?” For startups, knowing what to prioritize and act on today is critical.


Marketing & Sales Dashboard - What are the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that tell you if you are winning or losing? In short, knowing what marketing and sales activity is paying off is essential.

Each tool features a template(s) and a checklist/questionnaire. The goal is to keep planning as simple as possible to save energy for the type of iterative execution needed in today’s agile marketing.


Few entrepreneurs will completely outsource their marketing strategy. This approach lets them take as big a role as they can afford. Their collaboration on the Canvas imbues that plan with their closely-held passion and understanding. The Canvas guides them to quickly and establish a marketing and sales plan that is digital-first while avoiding the usual pitfalls of more traditional approaches.

Next up: NND Agile Marketing Canvas: The Brand Print