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Startup Marketing

Startup Marketing—forget marketing!

Internalize the following six concepts and set out your stall to incorporate them all in your startup marketing:stall

  1. Grab the audience’s imagination;
  2. Be abundantly clear and consistent;
  3. Remain concise in all your communication;
  4. Be bold enough to make a difference;
  5. Ensure your big idea is well supported;
  6. Call for an action from the audience.

Build community, not empire.

Marketing is not an activity, it is a company’s way of being.

Incidentally, I use Haiku Deck a lot: their vision is to make it 10x faster and easier to create presentations that are 10x more compelling. Presentation creation best practices are: 1 idea per slide, 1 powerful image that reinforces the idea, consistent formatting, and simple charts and graphs. There are two consequences of using Haiku Deck: (a) stunning presentations and (b) a way to really hone your story. It’s a way of ‘reverse engineering’ your marketing. And, the good thing is that Haiku Deck uses a freemium business model, so you can start for free, and/or migrate to the ‘pro’ version.

New Marketing Mix

When I started in business in the 1960s, everyone talked about the ‘marketing mix’ and the 4 P’s. They were Product, Place, Price and Promotion. This classical notion has been rethought by three authors writing in the Harvard Business Review fifty years later. They suggest that we would be better thinking about the nemonic SAVE: Solution, Access, Value and Education, in place of the 4 P’s.

Instead of talking about the product and its features, they encourage us to think about what needs the product meet–in other words, thinking about the value proposition. Given that products can now be delivered through so many different channels, the concept of a fixed location where the product can be purchased, is outdated. Access brings the focus to the customer, away from the supplier.

Price is much less of a determinant of the purchasing decision than it once was. Consider how people want to purchase organic products, notwithstanding the additional cost, so value becomes much more critical in customer behavior. Promotion suggest that all the marketer has to do it present the product in the right way, buy the right means. Times have changed. Just consider the shopper checking out alternatives on the smart phone, while cruising the aisles of stores. Rather than promotion, pay more attention to education.

Make Meaning

Telling stories is about the most effective means of persuasion. They grab the listener’s emotions and you can build from there. I have published an ebook called Telling StartUp Stories: Keep the End in Mind. 

This book about storytelling will help give your business pitches a boost. If you have been thwarted by your best efforts to get your business off the ground, with presentations that fall flat, business plans that are ignored, sales visits without orders, then this ebook is for you.

This book about storytelling will help give your business pitches a boost. If you have been thwarted by your best efforts to get your business off the ground, with presentations that fall flat, business plans that are ignored, sales visits without orders, then this ebook is for you.

The business has to make sense and have a purpose if your startup marketing is going to be effective. If you plan a me-too business, you will still need clear differentiators; a straight copy will not do. Sense and purpose make meaning and, as author of The Art of the Start, Guy Kawasaki says, you need to “create a product or service that makes the world a better place.”

The authors of Making Meaning: How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences explain that we have moved on from solely demanding the functional and economic benefits of product, through the emotional and status benefits of brand to the meaning benefits of a focus on experience of what we buy.

They identify fifteen meanings: accomplishment, beauty, community, creation, duty, enlightenment, freedom, harmony, justice, oneness, redemption, security, truth, validation and wonder. Take time to work through the nature of your own product or service and figure out the extent to which it makes one or more of these meanings.

Take advantage of using the Meaning Match Grid to test your own business, product or service in terms of its meaning. It will make your marketing an easier task.

Remember, marketing is not what the the marketing function does alone. It is what the whole company does in every function. If the accounting function behaves in ways that are inconsistent with the claimed character of the company, the corporate voice will sound jangled. Each function can add weight to the message that the voice carries or can scupper the best intentions of the marketing people.

One great way of showing the meaning you make is to use animated film. An excellent way to get that done is to use Simlifilm.

Simplifilm’s process takes about 8 weeks from start to finish. The main information they need from clients is the goal for the video and any insight about the target audience. The average project costs around $10k for a 75 second video. They’ve worked with a number of startups: JumpCloud, Breather, and Bionic Labs for example. They love working with startups and helping to introduce new ideas into the world.

Their writers and animators all have their own unique approaches and styles, and they typically match them up after getting a feel for the client. At the beginning of the process clients fill out a creative brief, followed by a Kickoff call. Thereby, they have a good understanding of who will be a good fit for the project. They promote the work as part of their portfolio (tweeting it, posting on our Facebook, etc.), and they offer a launch service where they promote the video through their network. This is a good example of a video they promoted.

Naming and Brand Building

Naming the business and branding the products is where your startup marketing begins, but before I start, if you want more help with branding for your startup, contact my associate, Phil Davis, of Tungsten Branding. He has special fee rates for people like you. Tell him I sent you. He has a super easy ‘Get Started‘ form that you can complete without obligation. If you use it, be sure to say ‘Will, the Startup Owl, referred me to you’. Tungsten Branding works on international, regional or national branding and product naming work and specializes in working for entrepreneurs and internet startups.

Naming the business or product is a task that is going to be close to your heart. Like your own name, you are going to have to live with it for a while. You will want the name to:

  • be memorable and distinctive;
  • be visually striking and sound good;
  • convey a sense of what you do;
  • convey meaning to your community.

Do some namestorming—what might otherwise be called name brainstorming.

Use friends and colleagues to participate. Build a shortlist. Test for domain name availability; remember if your choice is already registered, and provided that the registrant is not in your business, you can find a way round the problem. Add an article, a hyphen, a suffix, change the word order, but go for a .com domain (and then buy the .net, .info or others that might be bagged by a cyber squatter and offered for sale to you later). Check your State Secretary for registered business names (use the National Association of Secretaries of State, NASS Contact Roster to find yours) or the USPTO for trademarks and you could use CSC to check for you, even worldwide.

The next step is not so much a step, rather a continuous process. It’s branding.

The average American mentions a brand name 56 times a week (according to word-of-mouth marketing firm Keller Fay! It’s not just a matter of giving your products or services a brand to identify them, but engendering understanding of the philosophy behind what you’re offering.

You want to position your business clearly so it can be identified with specific qualities of the company and its products or services. The branding has to be embodied in everything that you do, not just what it says on the label.

ducksinrowThere is a popular buzzword in management these days: ‘alignment’, otherwise known as getting your ducks in line. If you would like to read more, try The Power of Alignment: How Great Companies Stay Centered and Accomplish Extraordinary Things by my friend and business colleague, Victor Rosansky. Make sure that everything is both aligned and repeated.

A brand’s attributes need to:

  • be delivered clearly,
  • reinforce credibility,
  • connect emotionally,
  • stimulate action, and
  • reconfirm the connection.

in your startup marketing, pay special attention to your website and using it both to create, enhance, and reinforce your brand. It should form a central role in your marketing strategy and the site can do much more than a simple logo and tie-line, since it can demonstrate how the brand lives. The site can go into issues that will support the brand through

  • explanation,
  • affiliation,
  • association,
  • illustration.

There are four elements to brand building

  1. image–what it looks and sounds like,
  2. experience–what it feels like to the user,
  3. recognition–how widely it is known,
  4. equity–how valuable it is.

Each of these four elements are not universal except for global brands like Coke or Google–perhaps the top 50. They will vary in significance by country or sector and in specialist fields or individual cultures. What the entrepreneur has to decide is how much effort will be put in to the brand and whether that effort should go into the corporate brand, the product brand, or even the boss’s brand.

Be wary though, brand strength can be a disadvantage, where a misfortune occurs: think oil spills–in 2010, BP was the strongest global petroleum brand, thus making the Gulf of Mexico tragedy even more expensive for the company which lost some $20 billion is share value and spent over $7 million a day on cleaning up. Have you ever heard of Transocean? They are the rig’s operator.

A way to keep posted about branding is to follow Propelling Brand Strategy Daily.

Engagement with Customers

In this age of interconnectivity and relationship, it has become vital to engage authentically with the communities and individuals with whom you do business. Without authenticity, your startup marketing will flop. Working with customers has become a two-way street. They have a lot to tell you as well as you wanting to attract their attention. You have to listen, really listen. They have many means of telling you.

Canadian singer Dave Caroll had his guitar damaged on a United Airlines flight and customer services stonewalled for over a year, so he wrote a song United Breaks Guitars and posted it on YouTube. Between July 6 and August 2 it had 4.5 million views and over 20 thousand comments. The song aired on BBC. Songs 2 and 3 are in the works. Now there are nearly 12 million Google search listings. You cannot hide behind stone or any other walls. Countless press stories ensued and there is now even a Harvard Case Study on the story; Carroll was on the map and United’s response: donate $3,000 to a nonprofit on Dave’s behalf.

Does anything more need saying about engagement? Or in this case, disengagement.

Customers can and will tell you what products to offer and how. The myriad web routes remind me that they live next door. Not just collectively, but individually. You should take a look at a very helpful book, if you do not believe me: The Age of Engage: Reinventing Marketing for Today’s Connected, Collaborative, and Hyperinteractive Culture. It’s by Denise Shipman who says says that Marketing 1.0 does not have customers listening, however hard we try. She adds in what she calls Marketing 2.0 that it offers, “a compelling new paradigm for how to implement interactive and engaging marketing that simultaneously targets individuals and the mass market.”

A critical way to engage your customers and all with whom you come in contact is your website: a key to building relationships online. But don’t overlook social websites–a type of website with pages that anyone can edit and contribute to, including text, photos, videos, polls, and more. Nor should you shun social marketing: of course you have heard of Wikis, Twitter and Facebook, but derivatives flourish. In the field of startup for instance, Sprouter enables collaboration and networking between entrepreneurs globally.

Keep Watching the Radar

You don’t always have to be first to market and startup marketing seldom involves being a first mover, much as you may think you are a great innovator or disruptor. But don’t get left behind in the rush. A fast follower can often learn from the early fallers in the race.

Radar-Doppler_windsDo you have a way of knowing about customer buying behavior? How good are you at understanding customer buying motivations in your marketplace? Avoid anyone or anything slipping under your radar (the meteorological weather scan on the left is from Environment Canada).

One of the simplest ways to keep track of what’s going on is to use Google Alerts to monitor a developing news story, watch for comments of your brand or company, keeping current on competitors, getting the latest lowdown on your industry sector or keeping tabs on people whose opinions you value.

There is no excuse for not undertaking customer surveys these days, They can be done for free or very little money—on line. But beware, they will only give you impressions and should not be used as hard evidence, but rather as a way to track trends or reinforce much harder data.

There are a number of other ways to keep your feelers twitching. For instance, rather than chuck all your promotion budget at one medium, go for smaller marketing tests and see which ones prospects respond to. It’s what I call incremental marketing. Also among the new media, there are new advertising opportunities popping up all the time. One that recently opened up is LinkedIn DirectAds, which enables small business to target professionals.

With the Internet, you have many tools to scan horizons near and far. If you search ‘trends’ you will find trends by sector, by geography, from ‘good’ sources like McKinsey Quarterly or Business Week. There are several trend watching newsletters worth exploring, like Trendwatching or Springwise and its network of 8,000 spotters who scan the globe for smart new business ideas, delivering instant inspiration to entrepreneurial minds. Some of the trends that are captured by these kinds of sites can be really critical to business. An example that strikes me is that Smartphone-toting consumers are embracing a world in which they can find out about (if not buy) almost anything they encounter out in the real world, anytime.This is what Trendwatching calls Point-Know-Buy.

Then there’s the newsletter from Worldchanging, a non-profit media organization with a global network of independent journalists, designers and thinkers covering the world’s most intelligent solutions to today’s problems. If you are in the field of LOHAS (an acronym for Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability, a market segment focused on health and fitness, the environment, personal development, sustainable living, and social justice.), you can get their weekly newsletter.

Convergence and Disruption

While you may not be in the sectors referred to below, be in no doubt that you will need to keep your eye on convergence and disruption in your own sector.

Convergence of technologies is where separate functions can be combined in one technology. It is most apparent in the broad field of electronics, particularly with the rapidly increasing power of computers. On the other hand, sometimes a totally new technology emerges and disrupts existing markets. A disruptive technology can succeed or fail. Successes tend to be from multiple factors converging, rather than a single breakthrough.

The convergence of Pathology, Radiology, and IT, for example is one of the advances in healthcare that is transforming diagnostics, imaging, and informatics to create more precise diagnostic tools. Take a look at what Biomagene and Omnyx are doing.

An example of disruption is LG and Netflix’s development of a set-top box for consumers to stream movies and other programming such as YouTube from the Internet to HDTVs – bypassing the need to use a personal computer. Another potential disrupter is Wizzit, a secure and efficient cell phone-based payment system (essentially a savings account and ATM card) for the unbanked and underbanked people of South Africa.

Marketing Strategy

here for good

here for good

Marketing theory will tell you that marketing should be built around the four ‘Ps’: Product, Place, Price and Promotion, but startup marketing may lead you to set other priorities. Focus on the message and its meaning. Find a mantra that tells the whole story. Standard Chartered Bank’s new mantra or brand promise  is “Here for Good”. For them it means being here for people, progress and the long run and the mantra is reflected in relationships with all their stakeholders.

Don’t confuse marketing with sales—that’s what you do with the results of marketing. It is easier said than done and happily that is why there will always be room for the entrepreneur to do better than others in the market.

You can simply rely upon flair and there are many businesses that have been built that way. or you can take a more disciplined approach and work through the four ‘P’s systematically. A helpful tool for you is the Marketing Strategy Grid.

This exercise is going to take you through clear thinking about issues from product positioning to distribution channels. You will have sorted out your business model. By asking the questions in the grid you can test the robustness of your model.

The numbers that need to concern you are the product revenue goals (and the pricing of course) and the budget that you are going to devote to the implementation of the strategy. Focus on the customer’s eye view to ensure you pay attention to the value proposition.

As you answer the questions posed in the grid, it will become apparent that the marketing plan naturally forms a part of a business plan. For a startup though, what’s vital is that the document is usable.

The marketing texts will ask you to think a lot about and measure your competition. Competitors are there, of course, and it’s as well to know who they are, but don’t get too hung up on them. I had a bank branch manager in France who had never heard the name of the worldwide bank from which I was getting two full percentage points more interest than on his deposit account. His credibility with me was never high, but at that point I stopped even thinking about asking his advice.

However, it is more important, especially at startup, to focus on creativity, rather than market share or stealing sales from the competition. Create your own marketspace. The world is an abundant place, not one of scarcity. If you are entering a cut-throat market, you better be ruthless yourself!,

Blue Ocean Strategy

Blue Ocean Strategy

“There are treasures beyond compare in the ocean. If you seek safety, stay ashore.” (a Sufi saying) Look at Blue Ocean Strategy: ‘blue ocean’ is unoccupied, unlike the crowded ‘red ocean’. Build your business from the ground up first—then think about the competition. If you build it on the basis of what’s already out there, you may give up for fear of not matching up. If you work up your product based on the strengths and weaknesses of the competition’s offerings, then you’ll confine yourself to the parameters they’ve set, rather than setting the boundaries for yourself.

Avoid overextending your product range. You’ll hear a lot about ‘meeting and exceeding customer needs’. While I recommend that you give more in use value than cash value, if you fall over backwards to offer complexity in the hope of ‘customizing’ your product for every taste, you may build in too much cost and defeat your own object.

‘Mass-customisation’ was the marketing cry a while back—in other words, offer to build individual products for individual needs. However, too many choices can bewilder the customer enough not to buy.

I had a favorite Parisian eating place called L’Entrecôte Bordelaise—they only did steak with a perfect bordelaise sauce. You could choose how you wanted the steak cooked. Period. There was a choice of salads, wines and mouth watering deserts. That was it, plus top quality beef of known origin, impeccable service, comfortable decor and a great welcome. It was always packed—with only one main dish on the menu.

Tactical Marketing To-dos

There are better places than Venture Founders to go for help on detailed marketing tactics, but there are some essentials:

  • Keep repeatedly in touch with all your contacts and clients. I suggest that starting and running a newsletter or magazine is an excellent way to go. If you are already ready to start an email newsletter, then go for it! The best way by far is to use Constant Contact. Just click the button and you get straight there. My own newsletter is done using Constant Contact.
  • Carry a marketing element into every manifestation of the business—my piece on incremental marketing will help here;
  • Make sure everyone in the business understands the imperative of delighting the customer in a deep way and delivering it in all their dealings with prospects, customers and the community at large;
  • Focus on mindshare through every marketing tactic: finding space in the attention economy is like being heard over the cacophony of a busy Manhattan street.
  • Create dialog. One-way communication does not cut it anymore. We all have too much to say and can always find another way. Try active listening.
  • Build communities. Remember that they can be close (local) or far (website) and your marketing will be based in many of them. It’s about engendering the sense and experience of community rather than specific structures or locations.
  • What can you offer for free? In the interest of community building (and selling) you have lots of stuff you can give away. Sometimes it does involve the family jewels, but think of the family bonds that result.

PLEASE NOTE: There is tons of useful stuff on Startup Owl, a site that’s been going for a dozen years. So keep browsing, but know that the founder, Will, now devotes most of his time and energy to his new website that you should definitely visit:

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