Long gone are the days where a good idea was all it took to jumpstart a startup’s success (or were there ever really days like that?) Our economy has never seen as many startups as it does today, and while this is energizing and even inspiring, it also makes the role of an early stage startup leader much tougher. Not only are you responsible for leading product development strategy, hiring an all-star team, and managing company finances, but now you have to be a marketer, too.
So how do you know what to do? Below are a few rules of thumb. To know where you fit in, pull out your pen (okay, stylus) and fill out the Startup Marketing MadLibs:
While I hope you went through the effort of printing out and writing down your answers old-school style, it’s time to understand what this all means:
Know How Many Customers You Need in the next 6 Months: Depending on your business model and pricing strategy, you might be able to generate your first set of customers from networking and personal relationships. In that case, the focus should be on attending in-person events and having a strong verbal story to tell your target market. If, on the other hand, you need a dozen (or far more) customers to sustain your business, you need to think about how to find and engage them in a more scalable and systematic way. Marketing tactics such as email marketing and Google advertising can get you off the ground.
Build your Ideal Customer Profile: It sounds obvious, but to find your customers, you need to be able to identify who they are—by company type, by job title, and (ideally) by behavioral characteristics. For your first few customers, you don’t need to boil the ocean; you just need to warm the teapot. Understanding who your early adopters are will help you catch their attention.
Have a Professional and Compelling Website: Your website is your face to the world, and it needs to immediately do two things: 1) catch the attention of your target customers and 2) make it very clear what you do and the value it provides—to them. Your homepage doesn’t need to be able to sell your solution on the spot, but it does need to look professional and be written in a language that will resonate with your audience.
Be Where Your Customers Are: Make sure your marketing tactics match the behaviors of your target market. For example, if you’re targeting technophobic business executives, you probably shouldn’t invest in social media. Similarly, if your potential customers are Gen X sales reps, you probably shouldn’t advertise in trade publications. Knowing where your customers go for information will help you prioritize the right channels to reach them effectively.
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