Sure, marketing takes money away from other activities and requires some unique talents, but can your startup afford to ignore or shortchange marketing?
Inc says 2 related factors explain why some startups fail while others survive — both are related to marketing:
- Building products people will love and
- Finding people to love those products
In an article for Inc. written by the guy behind Hubspot’s success, Dharmesh Shah, he shares insights on why and when marketing your startup should be on your radar:
Many startups ignore marketing. After all, they’re committed to building a killer product people will love.
Still: Without marketing, who will ever know your killer product exists? Great marketing helps you find people to love what you do…If you don’t plan to invest in marketing, you shouldn’t invest in building a product.
Ideally, you should write your first line of content the same day you write your first line of code. Ideally, you should write your first line of content the same day you brainstorm your first prototype.
And, that goes for other aspects of marketing — start when you start thinking about a product, if not before.
Marketing your startup: The Idea
Remember, one of the keys to a successful startup is building products people will love.
Well, where do you find these ideas?
Did AirBnB suddenly decide they could broker unused rooms in people’s houses?
Did Facebook suddenly create a social platform that would transform the world?
Of course not. They discovered a consumer problem then found a way to solve it.
If you didn’t know that, then you don’t really understand marketing. It’s a whole lot more than advertising and sales. It’s delivering value to customers. Period.
Startups don’t build successful business by sitting in a dark room and thinking about what they could create, then keeping it a secret so no one else could steal their incredible idea.
No. Startups that create value for themselves and investors do that by creating value for consumers first.
They see what needs to be done, ask people whether they’d like what they came up with, iterate, and finally come up with a product that consumers clamor for.
Marketing your startup: Building the product
People think of product design and user experience as factors for the engineers. That’s not true. Marketing should drive the product train — that’s why the 4 Ps of marketing include product (pricing, promotion, and place or distribution).
Developing products that create value for consumers doesn’t stop with the idea — something Steve Jobs knew very well. The design of the product, its ease of use, and it’s fit with consumer habits goes a long way in determining how fast and far new product will be adopted.
Building a product and iterating its design based on customer feedback is an integral part of marketing your startup.
Marketing your startup: Pitching to investors
Investors aren’t very sophisticated in determining which startups will succeed and which will fail. It’s not their fault; no one has a crystal ball when it comes to predicting success. That’s why they use customer validation as a major factor in deciding where to invest their capital.
In a lunch meeting yesterday at Fish and Richardson, Dan Gordon from Valhalla Partners shared some pretty concrete numbers on what your startup is worth to VCs and it’s not a pretty picture. If you wanna learn more about how VCs make investment decisions, here’s a great resource.
Getting investors without giving up too much equity relies heavily on how much traction you get with consumers.
Marketing your startup: Growing your company
Companies grow through selling product to customers, which, in turn, relies on creating products that create value for consumers. There’s only so much you can grow through financial wrangling and each financial transaction decreases your equity or creates a liability for the company. Only sales create a win-win situation for the company and it’s founders.
Marketing your startup with limited resources
How do you do an effective job of marketing your startup with limited resources?
That’s the conundrum.
Leverage what you have
- Use employees to help ideate, validate, and promote your startup. Get them all listening and talking on social media.
- Use networking events as a sounding board to get feedback on your ideas.
- Enlist advisors to help you reach other markets and get feedback.
Take on a marketing co-founder
Rather than raise funds to hire an agency, bring on a marketing co-founder who has the marketing chops to manage the diverse marketing challenges facing a startup. Also, look for someone:
- passionate about your idea and willing to commit to help you
- who has connections with diverse groups for research and later marketing your product
- with skills across a diverse set of marketing tactics
- the balance to manage long-term strategy and daily tasks
- high-energy, ethical, who works well with others, willing to fight for the product …
You’ve probably heard of crowdfunding, now think about crowdmarketing — enlisting regular consumers willing to advocate for your product.
Crowdmarketing works because consumers are jaded when it comes to brand messages — they don’t like them, they don’t believe them, and they don’t wanna hear them. In contrast, consumers love talking to their friends and acquaintances — they love recommending or bashing products they use. If you can harness influencers and just plain consumers to share your message, you’ve got thousands of regular folks spreading your message to consumers who believe them.
You can’t do crowdmarketing by paying influencers — their followers quickly learn they’re being paid and they lose their power. The only way to crowdmarket is to create content consumers want to share and want to join.
Think outside the box
You won’t get much bang for your marketing buck by being a copycat. When marketing your startup, your resources are really limited, so you need to be creative.
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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of Hausman Marketing Letter, is a full service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media.