You’ve got a great idea and you’ve built an even better product. Now that the hard part’s over and your product is ticking along nicely, what’s next? It’s time to let people know about what you’ve done. The fact remains that if nobody’s using your product, it’s going to be pretty hard to move forward.
But how do you do it? Blogs? Presenting at a conference? Throwing out press releases? The short answer is yes. To all of these. The longer answer? We’ll cover that here with 10 actionable steps that you can take toward marketing yourself better.
Be What You Are
You’ve built a business that is only applicable to corn famers in Northern California? That’s great. Focus on that and be the very best NorCal corn resource out there. So many businesses don’t see themselves for what they really are or they want to be everything to everyone. But understand that how you see yourself is not necessarily how others see you.
Just as it’s very difficult to get your users to change their behavior (and it’s well-known that you should avoid trying), it’s probably even more difficult to get them to think about you differently. Do some homework, find out what people think about you and then make sure that you’re marketing yourself to that topic. Anything else is going to border on a waste of effort.
Make It Pretty
This is something that’s so easy to overlook and people forget about it, losing themselves in the product versus the presentation. Whether you’re building an app, a website or even designing your business cards, take the time and invest the necessary money to make them look good.
I can’t begin to tell you how many times we’ve seen interesting ideas come through here at TNW, only to pass them by because they were ugly or too difficult to use. If Google has learned its lessons, then it’s high time you do too.
Know Your Customer
Often times, as businesses evolve (not pivot, evolve), we find out that our base of customers expands or even changes completely. I was recently talking to a CEO who had that exact problem. The product could be used as a white-label offering and it made the CEO realize that the customer wasn’t only the end user, but also the businesses who bought the white-label option.
When you’re building your product, make sure that you’re spending ample time to think up the scenarios that might not be immediately obvious. At the same time, make sure that you’re not catering to the fringe cases, but please do make sure you’re paying attention to them.
Find Your Audience
I’ve talked about this in my interview on Mixergy, but I’ll go over this again here. There should be no shame in making sure that you’re sending things to the right people. For instance, if you send me a pitch on a location-based service, it’s probably going to get passed over. Send it to Martin Bryant, however, and you’re likely to get a more open mind.
Likewise, it would be foolish to send a story on the inner workings of your bookkeeping app’s technology to Cosmopolitan, even though they might be very interested in how the app could make someone’s life easier. That is to say, often times, there are 3 or 4 different stories all surrounding the same product. Make sure you find them.
Craft Your Media Pitch
There are common mistakes that we see so often and they all make it more difficult to get media coverage for your startup. The number one mistake is that people view a press release as a pitch. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Your press release is the supporting information of your pitch. It should contain all of the things that we need to write the story, but the pitch is the hook that will make us want to write it in the first place.
Are you in a private beta? Let us know. Can we get access for 100 or so people? We need to know how. Have assets such as videos, social media profiles and the like? Make sure to include them. Are there big changes coming up soon? That’s important to the story. Put it all together, include it in your release and please be available to answer questions.
Avoid Cliches Like The Plague
It can be argued that cliches are cliches for a reason – they’re often little nuggets of truth that have stood the test of time. But when it comes to marketing, they’re near certain death. You’ve heard them all before, usually in local radio and TV commercials. Those claims of “free parking” and “conveniently located” have been repeated so often that they’re meaningless.
If you want to stand out, you need to do so by saying (and being) something different than what everyone else is beating to death. Pivot, ground-breaking, magical, synergy…these are words that make me delete a press release on-sight and you would be best-served by avoiding them entirely. Even if you are have pivoted into a ground-breaking photo-sharing application that uses synergistic analytics to seem magical, you should find another way to say it.
No More “Me Too”
When Skype announced a partnership with Facebook, we got a flood of pitches that were all directed at “we do this too”. While it might be natural to want to be included into a flood of news about something with which your company is related, it’s very easy to get lost in the shuffle.
You can bet that there’s something about your business that’s unique to you, instead of being just another version of something else. If that’s not the case, then you might want to stop reading this now and start over with a new idea. Your idea’s already been done. If you do find it to be true, make sure that you’re providing us with what sets you apart instead of what makes you the same.
It’s Monday and you want your story to go out on Wednesday. If you have a definitive reason (new code push, updated application, etc.) for why you need to wait until Wednesday, then that’s great. But if you’re just deciding to make everyone sit on the same story for no particular reason then you can bet that your embargo will be broken by someone anyway. You might as well not use it.
On that note, nobody wants to play second fiddle. That is to say that every media outlet should have the go-ahead to publish the information at the same time. If you tell someone “just wait until The Next Web has published, please” then they’re likely to tell you to get bent.
Go Where Your Customers Are
While trade shows, media coverage and the rest might be important, nothing beats customer interaction. If you’re using social media and your customers are too, make sure you’re doing it right. Just blasting out information with no interaction is useless. Nothing will build loyalty quite like someone feeling like they’re talking to a real person.
Monitor for mentions of your name using every tool you can. Be that through Google alerts, a social media dashboard or something as simple as a Twitter search. When conversations are going on, walk up (virtually) and introduce yourself. We’re in an age where people don’t always buy products, they buy a feeling. Make sure you’re there to give it to them.
Return To Mom and Pop
There was a time when you walked into a corner store to buy something from someone you knew. You did that because they were appreciative of your business. As the big box era came on, the focus shifted to being all about saving dollars, appreciation be damned.
These days, the Internet is the corner store and everybody can talk to anyone regardless of location. You have to bear that in mind and start providing that same warmth that the old stores used to or else face the consequences of Internet wrath.
So there you have it. 10 tips to help relieve the mystery of marketing your startup. In reality, these could go for just about any business, but they’re especially true for startups. Often times we’ll see people who are geniuses at building products, but they have no idea how to get the word out about them. So takes some time, follow some steps and find your success.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.