Charlene DeCesareMany people start new businesses with preconceived definitions of “marketing” and “sales.” Mentally, they draw a well-known line between the two strategies and the resources needed to execute on them.

The startup reality is that there is no line. Everyone is doing everything and figuring out how to grow along the way.

In working with founders of fast-growing startups, I often focus on this intersection of sales and marketing. It’s about what we can do out of the gate that will help build mindshare, bring in leads, and create the best possible chance of making real money.

Here are some ‘rules of the road’ that will increase your chances for sustainable success:

Speak to your target, not about yourself. Everyone wants to talk about who they are and what they do. Instead, focus on who you serve and the problem you solve. Aim your messaging and sales approach towards your ideal demographic, geographic, and psychographic. Take the time to define your ‘bullseye.’ Having a clear target doesn’t necessarily mean turning down opportunities in outer rings. It just gives you a place to shoot.

Focus is your friend. Building on the last point, a key barrier to startup success is often lack of clarity. Entrepreneurship and the spirit of innovation have a way of unleashing ‘shiny object’ syndrome. Smart, passionate, energized leaders can have too many ideas, want to serve too many people and solve too many problems. Don’t become a victim of your own brilliance. Capture all your ideas, but only chase one at a time.

Emotion rules. Even with specs, science, and logic in hand, a buyer needs things to “feel right” to take action. Facts without feelings won’t drive leads or sales, even if your product or buyer is inherently technical. Does your messaging or imagery have an emotional ‘hook’? Do you ask the right questions during sales conversations to dig deeper and build an effective connection? Reach for both the heart and the head.

Make introductions and referrals easy. Most likely, you know centers of influence who are in a position to help you and your business. The first step is to ask. This ask should be accompanied by a very specific description of your ideal connection and the value proposition for them. Again, focus on the problem your target is likely to have, not the solution you want to sell them.

Always get the next meeting. No matter how in love you are with your business, it’s not enough to make people talk to you and stay engaged. Every marketing message should have a call to action that drives whatever ‘next step’ you want your targets to take. Every email should make the next connecting point clear and easy. Every meeting should end with setting the next meeting.

Invest in consistency. Create a plan that nurtures business growth as a daily habit. Make a couple of phone calls per day, schedule some well-crafted social media posts, and send a handful of very effective email messages. When you’re ready for full-on campaigns, do that too. But don’t wait. Small things done are better than great things planned.