First and foremost, I should start this by saying every startup is going to require a different toolkit for their marketing efforts. For some startups, they will be able to leverage press to drive meaningful sign ups while others will only be able to acquire customers through SEO and word of mouth.
Over the last few years, I’ve worked with a handful of Startups on their marketing initiatives and it’s not rare that I see a technology duo struggle with communications. Gary Vaynerchuk said it best in this video…
Hate it or love it… Gary Vaynerchuk lays down a point on one of the trends I’ve noticed time and time again. Now, I’m not going to say every developer and designer struggles at sales. In fact, I’ve seen many programmers who are actual beasts in the boardroom and can hold their own with any customer, investor or partner. What I am suggesting is that more tech founders need to recognize that sales & marketing is not their strength and that it’s okay to look for some help.
It’s the same way non-technical founders need to recognize that code or design isn’t their strength. I’m a non technical co-founder and while I know enough about the back end to be dangerous; and can take advantage of tools like AI script generation, I’m by no means a wizard who could lay code like a boss. That said, I know this. I embrace this. I know my limitations and
In fact, if you’re reading this post – You’ve come to the right place. Because I’m here to help you by passing along five articles that will have revolutionized marketing for Startups over the last few years. I strongly recommend you grab a cup of coffee, put your feet up and enjoy…
Title #1: Do Things That Don’t Scale – Paul Graham
Early Customer Acquisition –
“The most common unscalable thing founders have to do at the start is to recruit users manually. Nearly all startups have to. You can’t wait for users to come to you. You have to go out and get them.”
On Vulnerability –
“Almost all startups are fragile initially. And that’s one of the biggest things inexperienced founders and investors (and reporters and know-it-alls on forums) get wrong about them…..They’re like someone looking at a newborn baby and concluding “there’s no way this tiny creature could ever accomplish anything.”
On Customer Happiness –
“I have never once seen a startup lured down a blind alley by trying too hard to make their initial users happy.”
Title #2: How To Gather 100,000 Emails
When I came across this post on Tim Ferris’ blog a few years ago, I knew it was an approach I’d have to try at some point in my life. Over the last few months, I’ve been working on my new startup; Hustle & Grind which is a lifestyle subscription company that delivers coffee and a variety of hustle inspired products to entrepreneurs every month.
Similar to Harry’s – the user interface of the campaign was relatively simple—a two-page microsite and a blog. Our results were far from the success that the Harry’s brand had with our pre launch but we did generate more than 500 sign ups. Here are some of the key insights that you can take from this article:
On Making People Feel Special –
“We saw prelaunch as a way to make people feel special. And the first people in the world to find out about our brand were really special to us. We wanted our first customers to feel like they were getting insider access.”
On Exclusivity –
“For the call to action on the button, we chose the words STEP INSIDE. Above the field was a small drawing of a key. We wanted to reinforce for our early customers that they were getting insider access.”
On Friends Support –
“While we love the press (and they have been generous to us at Harry’s), for this campaign we deliberately decided that we would focus on our friends and let the groundswell build organically.”
Title #3: Create A Customer Acquisition Plan
On Tactics vs. Process –
Tactics aren’t sustainable, their effects will always tail off. A process is sustainable and continuous – as long as you are committed to it.
On Knowing Your Audience –
Everything starts with identifying your ideal customer profile. From finding who they are and how to reach them, to how to talk and sell to them.
On Metrics –
Figuring out your key business metrics is core to the plan…. Without knowing your key metrics, you might know “I need to increase traffic” but you aren’t sure what levels you need to get to.
Growth Focus –
Play to your strengths to get the ball rolling. If you know you can create great content, focus on that to start. It takes time to learn the ropes on a new channel (let alone be effective), so get the quick wins first before trying channels you have little to no experience in.
Title #4: Startup = Growth – Paul Graham
Some people waste time debating what the difference is between a startup and a small business and Paul Graham hits the nail on the head in this article. It’s from 2012 but it still holds weight whether you’re reading this in 2015 or 2030. The concepts here are solid and the description of what it means to be a startup should be ingrained in every startup founder and employees brain.
On What You’re Building –
To grow rapidly, you need to make something you can sell to a big market. That’s the difference between Google and a barbershop. A barbershop doesn’t scale.
On Problem Solving –
What’s different about successful founders is that they can see different problems. It’s a particularly good combination both to be good at technology and to face problems that can be solved by it, because technology changes so rapidly that formerly bad ideas often become good without anyone noticing. Steve Wozniak’s problem was that he wanted his own computer. That was an unusual problem to have in 1975. But technological change was about to make it a much more common one. Because he not only wanted a computer but knew how to build them, Wozniak was able to make himself one.
Phases Of Growth In A Startup –
The growth of a successful startup usually has three phases:
There’s an initial period of slow or no growth while the startup tries to figure out what it’s doing.
As the startup figures out how to make something lots of people want and how to reach those people, there’s a period of rapid growth.
Eventually a successful startup will grow into a big company. Growth will slow, partly due to internal limits and partly because the company is starting to bump up against the limits of the markets it serves.
On Media Relations –
Don’t underestimate the power of traditional media when you launch. It must be your primary concern, starting months beforehand and continuing for weeks afterward. Pull the strings you have. Work closely with your PR firm to find your hook. It can be personalities on your team, impressive customers you already have in the bag, prestigious investors, etc. But don’t leave it to two weeks beforehand and throw something together.
On Your Beta Launch –
Whatever you call your beta, however you announce and operate it, it’s a crucial phase in your product’s development. Wring every bit of feedback that you can from it.
On Customer Feedback –
“Sometimes you will get feedback that is contrary to your vision,” Butterfield says. “You may be trying to drive in a particular direction that people don’t necessarily understand at first. In our case, we knew the users we had in mind for this product. So in the early days, we looked at our customers, really just testers at that point, and we paid extra attention to the teams we knew should be using Slack successfully.”
These five articles have been bookmarked in my browser for the last few months and I’ve gone back to them time and time again. The insights above are some of the most important ideas I took from these articles but there are so many more that aren’t included in this post. I suggest you checking them out for yourself and using these insights to help guide your own success!