Marketing is everything these days. You can have the best technology, but if customers don’t know you exist or don’t know how your technology solves a real problem for them, your startup will fail. Yet I see many entrepreneurs that focus on the basics of marketing too little and too late.
They skimp on the design of their website, procrastinate on the rollout to make sure the product is perfect, and get so excited about technology features that they forget about creating value for customers. In fact, this article was driven by a startup press release I just saw today highlighting a startup’s “geo-fencing technology” as a new basis for discount coupons. How many customers will have any idea what this means to them?
On the marketing side of the equation, there are so many “marketing gurus” and “marketing resources” out there, the real challenge for most of us is to sort out the basic do’s and the don’ts that apply to startups. I found some help from marketing coach David Newman’s new book, Do It! Marketing, which provides some pragmatic marketing advice for all small businesses as follows:
- Don’t tell customers how great you are. Parroting a generic message that you have great service, great value and a great selection says you have nothing unique. You need to clearly convey what makes your startup the only choice for your customers. Give yourself the “So-what?” test and check for a compelling, value-based answer.
- Don’t fall into the marketing-speak trap. Don’t fall for the temptation to make big claims, empty promises and mind-boggling jargon. Learn to speak a new customer-specific dialect based on current research and homework. Go directly to the source—your actual customers. Identify their priorities, issues, pressures and challenges.
- Don’t waste your time networking with strangers. Start networking smarter and smaller. Invite key people for coffee or lunch one-on-one and get to know them and their business. Aim first and foremost to make them a friend, and the connections to others will come naturally. Working the circuit of big groups of strangers is minimally productive.
- Don’t waste your time following up. If you are focused exclusively on prospects who are actively seeking to solve the problem you are positioned to solve, you won’t need 5 or 6 attempts to get their attention. Craft a no-follow-up sales letter after you have positioned yourself as the right expert with powerful testimonials. They will call you back.
- Don’t dumb it down for social media. Many entrepreneurs fear giving away their very best insights, strategies or tools via social media—it might diminish the demand and the profit. In fact, when customers perceive real value in what you give away, they begin to imagine how much more they might get as a real customer.
- Don’t put all your faith in passion. Passion is necessary, but it is not sufficient alone to grow your startup. Be passionate about what you do, but develop a really strong plan and a strong plan B too. The more you think ahead of and beyond failure, the better your chances for success are.
Instead of asking themselves, “How and when will this generate sales?” entrepreneurs need to focus more on who they are marketing to and why. Then give them a compelling, specific and relevant reason to buy from you.
One of the best approaches is to sell the same way in which you buy. You look for value in a specific solution, or at least a conversation about your own problem, headache, heartache or challenge. You don’t buy based on cold calls, spam e-mail or phone calls that interrupt your dinner. Give your own customers the same consideration. Good marketing is not rocket science.
Thus marketing is the first thing you need to think about and act on in growing your business, as well as the last thing. The only actions that create results are those that make you stand out above the crowd, and the ones that attract, engage and win more customers than your competition. Have you reviewed your startup marketing actions recently for the right do’s and don’ts?