Marketing a startup is very tricky. Chances are you have very little money and no marketing team. It's like you're Gordon Bombay and trying to lead a bunch of rag-tag kids to the District 5 PeeWee Hockey Championship. The good news is that wasn't impossible for The Mighty Ducks in 1992 and marketing a startup isn't impossible for you today. After all, every business was a 'startup' at one point or other. Here are the 3 things you need to know about when marketing your startup.
1) Do The Opposite Of What Everyone Else Does - You probably don't have a lot of time, since every sales or marketing task comes to you, or a lot of money since all of that is spent on making whatever product you are promoting. So don't pretend you can market the way McDonalds does or use traditional marketing tactics. You'll waste whatever money you have and probably get thrown out by your founders. Instead, do the opposite. Reach out to customers directly, one-on-one and reach out often. Forget about cold-emails. If you have a phone # then call them. If you have an address, and it's drivable, show up, make an appointment (in person) and wait...all day if you have to. Make sure that this person knows i) why your product helps solve their problems and ii) they've seen how it does.
2) Straddle The Online and Offline World - Digital marketing is great. You definitely need to blog, have a website and clear explanations about what your product does and what problems it solves. There is also no easier way to promote that messaging than the online world. Plus, if you're into ecommerce, there is no easier or cheaper way to sell and make money than online. However, this shouldn't be the only thing you do. There is a good chance there are people in your community or people you already know that could help you with product ideas or get you in front of potential customers. Sitting down with someone, even if it's just one person, and explaining your product/solution to them is valuable because it helps you clearly explain your product to someone who may not know anything about it. Or, may know how to help you with your various problems in promoting it.
3) Focus On Specific Targets - If everyone is your customer then nobody is your customer. Remember, you don't have the budget to market to everyone. I realize your product is 'revolutionary' and anyone can use it, but you can't effectively reach all of those people yet. Instead, pick a target market or demographic that is the best fit for your product. Then, promote it to a small segment of users extremely well in that area. As that small sample gets used to it, and serve as your guinea pigs, you can spread your wings to a bigger piece of that target. Then, once that market is cornered, you can spread your wings to additional targets/segments. Look no further than Facebook for an example. Facebook started off as a social network for just Harvard students, then other schools in the area, then all US colleges and eventually the entire world. McDonalds served burgers, fries, drinks and pies when the started. Not 100+ items like they do now. You've got to learn to crawl before you learn to walk.
Marketing a startup takes a fair amount of time and effort. You need to pick your battles wisely and make sure you allocate whatever time and money you have properly. What are you waiting for? Here are the key elements of a startup marketing plan to help you get started.
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