How to Do Good Startup Marketing and Get Yourself a Perfect Cappuccino
According to my experience with several hundred startup companies, marketing is not a top quality function in most of them. Marketing is either totally neglected over engineering, R&D, funding, sales and pitching competitions, or marketing is executed by somebody who thinks Marketing101 fully qualifies for full scale market control and world domination. Sometimes this works, most of the time, not.
Startup marketing is very, very different from traditional corporate marketing.
Startup marketing is very, very different from traditional corporate marketing. Less money, less resources, less rules, less restrictions, less control, less room for failure. Less everything. You can win only by being both analytical and creative at the same time. You need to know what you want from whom, and how you intend to achieve it.
If you don’t know what your startup is doing, refer to some business planning framework for startups. Petri Model Canvas, evolved from the Lean Canvas, by Petri Lehmuskoski is a good model that is fairly quick to do and get started with.
The reality is that startups do not often have any major budget for marketing. This means they have to be more creative and unorthodox with what they do. As a coach and advisor with specialty in marketing, branding, communications, social media and what have you, I am often asked to tell what the “TOP 10 Marketing Stunts for Startups” are. I rather not do that, since marketing is not a machine that you buy from a store and push the play button.
Marketing is like a good cappuccino.
– Janne Saarikko
Marketing is like a good cappuccino. You can get a machine that will prepare a capsule-automated thing – quick execution, standard investment and you can consume 10 cups every day. But the reality is that your coffee is not quite as good you want it to be, and it will start tasting worse day by day. If you happen to offer that coffee to someone that knows what good coffee tastes like, they will not take a second cup. If you want a good cappuccino, you either invest in understanding what it takes to prepare one yourself or go to a good cafe and get your favourite barista to prepare a one to your liking.
Understanding how to make a good coffee takes time, commitment and an ability to know when something tastes good. You can get someone to to teach you to get to the end result faster, but in the end you need to know how to do your best coffee for yourself. With the cafe and barista option you will get to the end result better, but you need to find a barista that understands your taste buds and yes, it will be expensive in long term.
Startup needs to be the one who will brew their own marketing, froth their own communications and pour the latte art of branding for their very best startup cappuccino.
The purpose of this article is not to teach anyone to prepare their very best startup marketing. If you want that, let’s talk and see how I can help you. Or alternatively, start following the stuff my colleagues and me publish here and elsewhere. We hack the startup business and make people baristas.
This article will give you a generic idea on what methods of marketing are often useful for a startup. You can call it a checklist of things that might work for your startup if executed correctly. If you do the stupid thing and do not invest resources in marketing, do at least this.
If you do the stupid thing and do not invest resources in marketing, do at least this.
Have a website
Everyone needs to have a website. The role of the website should be considered properly. If your startup is selling online services, then you should make your website best in the world – a service center, product delivery and customer service platform.
If you only need awareness, there are better places for getting that. Then only use your website for basic information database – contact info, company info, product descriptions and links to places where to find you.
If you are not building your service on your website, just have someone to do a site based on wordpress.org -technology. It’s by far the best way to start.
Remember, there are over 1 billion websites – why on earth would someone come and spend time on your site?
What do you do when you want more information on anything? You go to a search engine, most likely Google, and search for the item with the words that you think are the right ones.
You need to get on the first or second page of the search results on Google. Otherwise you don’t exist. The best way to do that is to create content that will have your company, your products and your issues mentioned in natural text. So do create content on multiple locations, with you, your company and the topics mentioned.
There are other places people go to find you as well than Google. YouTube is the second largest search engine and Slideshare is a popular place for professional presentations.
Google+ helps you to get better search result positions, and in some areas can also create a good community to engage with.
Just be careful with people offering SEO (search engine optimisation) as a highway to heaven. Someone offering 1000% improvement on sales may have had one or few successes but are likely to have had many more failures.
Create content and be a media
Spend resources on creating content related to your company and ecosystem it belongs to. This can be a blog on your own website, but it can also be a place on social platforms such as LinkedIn, YouTube and Slideshare. In a big picture, you and your company needs to be a media with it’s own created, original content. When you publish it consistently and in right places, you become a media that will have a community around it. Being an aggregator for 3rd party content is not bad, but it’s not enough either.
Be active on social media
Modern marketing is not about broadcasting, it’s about participation. You need to active on most major platforms (depends on your business, but FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube are the most common ones) with your own accounts, but you also need to have your people active.
A basic rule to social media is to participate, always create real value and engage in discussions. In long term your efforts will be appreciated and all this starts to turn inbound for you.
Make yourself available online
You need to be available to potential customers and whoever wants to reach out to you for any reason.
This may be your contact information, online chat, employees on social media platforms or your customer service. The big questions here are: How people find us if they don’t know about us? How people get in touch with us and how do they get to know about it?
Make yourself available offline
Event though much of the marketing can be done online. You need to create some sort of offline presence as well. Getting a booth in an exhibition is normally waste of time and money, unless you have a huge diesel engine or an exoskeleton to show off in a very targeted show.
Probably the best thing to do is to start attending events as a participant, speaker and a contributor. Also, all types of smaller meetups may be really valuable since you will get much more attention in a smaller group.
If you don’t have events to attend, start arranging them yourself, maybe even together with your competitor. Just do not arrange a sales event, because people will not attend such things unless they are willing to buy. It that case you should serve them directly.
Hack your sales
I am one of the believers of marketing having a control over sales. This means that marketing should be all over the sales process, analysing and understanding how it really works, and improving the sales process with marketing understanding. Marketers must look deep in different stages and keep improving everything.
A good marketing hacker aims to transfer the happy customer all the way from ignorance to continuous customer relationship and also make the sales organisation useless.
In reality this means that the marketer must hover between sales and customers and trying to find things that could be improved. Ideally there are no rules, no boundaries, no organisational borders. Anything is ok, just us long as no laws are broken.
Be systematic and agile
You should plan what you are doing. Have an overall marketing plan that stretches over to some 6 to 9 months with more detailed outlook for the next 4 to 6 weeks.
You still need to be agile. If something doesn’t make sense now, do change it even if it is in the marketing plan.
The most important thing is to go towards your long term target. Plan, but do not fall in love with your plan.
Measure and analyse
Everything you do should be done because it has an objective and it has a number target that you are targeting.
Be careful with how you measure. Marketing metrics should be from a right distance from the activities.
For example, if you arrange an event, set the target relevant for the event. Number of visitors is probably too close target and created sales too far away – if you attend the event because you want more sales, the target should be something like “agreed and documented next steps with visitors” or “documented requests for offer”.
Whatever you do, you should always try to get a different twist to it. If you do “the standard”, you will not be recognised.
The creativity should be focused on delivering real value to your customers. Always ask yourself “What’s in it for the customer? How does s/he benefit or amuse for this?”
Exercise trial and error
There are no absolutely right or wrong ways to do marketing. Do trial and if it doesn’t work, learn from it. Analytics helps you to understand whether something works or not.
In most cases advertising is just too expensive in traditional print media. Do not advertise unless you are certain you do have a media space that is absolutely reaching your special target group. Circulation and readership mean nothing, you want a confirmation that the people REALLY read that publication and your ad.
Digital advertising is growing, but you should be very much aware of where you put your money there too. If you decide to buy advertising, buy targeted advertising with clear conversion to something. Or use retargeting.
Sometimes it may be a good idea to buy commercial space from a social network to support you presence there. It may help to boost your own organic content around a specific topic and make your own content more visible.
Press releases are not for startups (and not for most of the other companies either). Sending out a press release about the greatest thing since sliced bread is not likely to get coverage. Journalists receive hundreds of press releases daily, and the chances of your message getting through is very slim.
PR can be very valuable for you, but you need to be very creative when doing it. Use good PR agencies, get to know journalists and offer them stories and angles that make them look good and provide interesting news and stories to their readers.
Just be careful what you need the PR and publicity for. Having the startup scene to recognise you may be good when you are hiring or raising money, but if you are selling to elderly citizens or municipal health care, you need to get totally different type of visibility and with a different kind of media coverage.
About direct marketing
Do not do traditional direct marketing with mass-marketing methods. Do direct marketing for small target lists in a customised way.
Always do opt-in, meaning that ask a permission to send the direct messaging. Do not send messages too often and be sure that they provide real value-add to the recipients.
Mostly direct marketing is considered as spam by the recipients.
An exception to this is a hyper-targeted campaign where your direct marketing is highly specialised. I once did a campaign targeted to the CEOs of 10 listed companies. They all received a personalised tool with personalised message and a promise to get a personal call from the CEO to agree a meeting. The hit rate was 100%. For this type of success you need to be very special, very personalised are very unorthodox.
Quick’n’dirty startup marketing checklist
Consider if you need these and why you need them. Most of them are likely to help your marketing go ahead.
- Facebook page
- Twitter account
- Digital advertising
- Events or something else to meet potential people offline
- System for collecting leads from the web
- System and resource for creating content
- System for being active and in dialogue in social media
- Clear rules for employee behaviour on company issues
- Someone who has responsibility and authority to do any marketing decisions independently
- A marketing calendar with content plan included
- A list of cool creative marketing opportunities that may do magic
- Simple analytics for the most important targets
- Quantified targets for marketing
- Person responsible for hacking the sales
This is just a scratch to get you thinking and going. You also need to understand better what you are doing and why, and also each of the topics here needs digging deeper.
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