By nature, startups focus on product development rather than on marketing. As opposed to more established companies, however, it is the young companies that should invest their efforts in creating a business identity and awareness to their existence. Where should they start? How can they prepare and take proper action to raise capital, overcome the difficulties of an uncertain economic environment and get to market faster?
Who Are You? What Do You Do?
Startup marketing, Step 1: To create their business identity, startups must first define themselves and then design their very own ‘Versace suit’, which they will use to launch their operations and thereafter. A business identify includes the company’s name, its logo, a key message that transmits the technological edge in marketing speak, the capital required, expected income, etc. A professional presentation of the company including its products, target audience, and a branding product sheet describing its offering with benefits and features is also essential.
As a second step, it is necessary to expose the company and make the target markets aware of its activities. Even if it is blatantly clear that the product is unique and that it will take the market by storm, a buzz that piques the curiosity of potential customers is a must, and will help jump start the company. Good exposure will attract the attention of potential investors and strategic partners, and will extend the list of possibilities in terms of creating partnerships, establishing a network of distributors and mobilizing customers as early as possible.
Creating a startup marketing strategy is different from creating a strategy for a veteran company. The need to go the market as soon as possible with a limited marketing budget affects the marketing mix and demands creative inspiration. At first, it is better to use low-cost marketing tactics that arouse interest in both product and company, and only later invest in campaigns that help introduce the product into the market. Smart and creative marketing moves do not have to be expensive and can certainly serve the purpose of initial exposure:
- Establishing a reputation – many startups are managed by one or more renowned market experts. A presence on the web and in the market space in general will help leverage the company’s reputation, building loyalty, and turning it from an anonymous entity into a known enterprise that people talk about.
- Creating local heroes – even if the startup is targeting international markets, recognition must first be gained at home. People like local success stories and tend to ‘brag’ about them. Tell your personal friends about your company and product so that they can tell their friends, becoming ambassadors in transmitting the message by word of mouth. This doesn’t cost any money and provides you with leverage when you introduce the product into the market later.
- Writing blogs – yes, everybody has a blog these days; still, it is a very effective way to pass information around, especially about a new product. A company blog is usually more interesting because it reflects a wide spectrum of activities and represents the company, not just the thoughts of an individual or consultant. Assuming the renowned expert mentioned before will be the one writing the blog, it will arouse more interest and best serve the company’s organic marketing strategy.
- Making videos – videoclips are one of the hottest trends on the market today to attract viral attention. It can be a video that presents the company’s activities, that tells about its products and uses, that shares with viewers the idea behind them, that talks about the work team, that is made to recruit employees, or virtually anything else. Launching a videoclip on the web from time to time also helps organic marketing; when combined with humoristic videos, the impact is much faster.
- Joining startup forums – subscribing to sites and blogs that set a stage for startups helps increase awareness towards the company and increase web traffic. There are sites where anyone can register a startup (even someone that is not related to it), and which encourage the community to vote for it. Others advertise new applications and products, and some allow uploading content like posts and videos on behalf of the startup.
Leveraging the Momentum
One of the challenges of marketing in general and startup marketing in particular is maintaining the attention on in the company over time. Many startups ‘make noise’ over the waves when they launch a product only to disappear immediately after. When you manage to appeal with an application that becomes popular quickly, it is easy to presume that curiosity will be preserved and even grow over time. But this is rare, and therefore it is important to leverage the momentum gained with additional marketing activities over the long run. For example, when you launch a product, regardless of whether it is an alpha, beta or final version, publish a professional ad, announcement or article in any media. A month later, announce the upgrade of one of the product’s features – this helps maintain the buzz and arouses interest over and over again.
Leveraging interest in a product at minimum initial costs begins with a smart marketing strategy. Whether it is the company’s Marketing Manager or a provider of outsourced marketing services, a professional must work side by side with the startup every step of the way, paying attention to specific marketing considerations throughout the entire company lifecycle. This includes, among others:
- Negotiating with investors
- Building a pricing model based on target markets
- Establishing business partnerships and collaborations with leading technology companies and relevant thought leaders
- Initiating, managing and scheduling marketing programs in the digital and business spaces and in exposure channels
- Establishing and managing a network of distributors
Lack of theoretical and hands-on experience in startup marketing and the need to save money lead many startups to waste both time and resources. Just as research and development is undertaken by experienced technologists and engineers, so it is essential that a professional marketing expert prepares a creative marketing strategy that supports the unique needs of the startup in terms of R&D, business, marketing and sales. All this while maintaining a balanced cost-benefit ratio from establishment to proven business growth.