I have worked with over 150 start-ups in the last eight years. After almost 25 years in Marketing with a career history that spans Fortune 100 businesses, premiere charities and entertainment properties, I have spent the last 8 years working exclusively with small businesses and Start-ups in various stages of launch. In that time, I have observed a few things that easily separate successful start-ups from those that are doomed to fail before they even open their virtual doors.
Here are my top five pieces of advice.
1. There are 4 Ps that Have Equal Weight in the Future Success of Your Product or Service
So many times companies come to me with the same marketing problem. They have just produced a wonderful product, and are eager to get it out into the marketplace. Usually, this is the open scenario. They do some simple Facebook ads, open an Adwords account and are eager to start doing Public Relations.
My advice is that if you are going to test your marketing strategy; make sure you test all the (Ps), not just the “promotion”.
They often open our conversation with, “if Ijust had better marketing; I am sure it would sell.”
Now, I make my living at consulting with companies on their marketing, so I agree all marketing results always have room for improvement which is another reason why I am such a believer in analytics. However, there are four P’s for a reason and each have equal footing to be evaluated for their own merit, or lack of merit when you are evaluating the overall sales of your product, or service.
Probably on the first day of marketing class, I was introduced to the 4 Ps of marketing.
This is a critical element. What I have found is that most clients will base their pricing on other “similar” products or services in the industry, and then set their short term sales goals accordingly to break even and have an ROI as soon as possible. There is a simple check any company can do to determine the “demand” of their product. Just search google trends for the amount of times that product is searched. If your product is completely new, assume that you will have to have a longer go to market strategy, because the consumer needs to be aware of your product prior to having a desire to purchase it. Awareness is always a heavier advertising requirement, so companies should plan accordingly.
The good news is that if you are producing a product with a Unique Selling Position that has the opportunity to elevate your product/brand; then price it accordingly. It is always easier to discount later than to raise prices later. Think about Starbucks making national news every time they raise their coffee prices and the negative feedback they get every time.
If your product doesn’t have a sales history, then, you can’t really rule this out as the source of low sales. Companies always need to be critical of themselves in the product development phase. And by “themselves”, I mean their product or service. Proof of concept is a step that many companies just don’t take. This is a critical error as when you hire someone for a marketing role, you are already emotionally invested in your product and most likely cannot be critical of what upgrades, additional features could be added to increase sales, or even if you have a good product to go to market with.
If you don’t believe me on this point, then, believe Harvard Business Review and their “Flaw 5” –which marries the pricing and product question.
Flaw 5: The product is revolutionary, but there’s no market for it.
The Lesson: Don’t gloss over the basic questions “Who will buy this and at what price?”
The biggest mistake I see in this area is that companies will often come to me after they have spent most of their start-up money on development and are now ready to make their big marketplace debut, but with an inadequate budget for marketing.
Very rarely, will a product or service – sell itself or breakeven in 60-90 days. Yes, Facebook was an overnight success, and they will always point to Kickstarter stars, but those are the exceptions not the rules.
Marketing a new product will always be expensive. The reason for this is that on day “one”, you have no marketplace awareness, brand equity or even a user base to leverage. In order to get these valuable attributes, you either need to have a revolutionary product, with a great story, founder backstory, or hook that will go viral and become a darling of the press, or you need to spend money to get that much needed awareness.
Then, and this is KEY…if you want to spend less to get that traffic and awareness in the future, you also need to be working on your organic content, so at some point, you don’t have to spend so much money to bring paid traffic and can capitalize on the ever sought after Search Engine organic traffic.
Whatever budget you think will be enough. It won’t. There are always exceptions to this rule, (clients often again cite Facebook and other anomalies in business history), but planning your marketing spend based on being the next Facebook is like having a retirement strategy that includes winning the lottery. You might get lucky, but plan on a Plan B., just in case.
I understand bootstrapping and growth hacking and all the unique ways of marketing in this new digital age with new tools and platforms entering the marketplace daily. Testing and analyzing the actual data points will always be my preferred way of creating a winning strategy. All companies are different, so although I have a lot of data points to prove company A strategy worked for them, it may be different for you. Conversely, don’t assume that you know how to market your product either.
This “P” is mitigated because of the ability to track online using Google Analytics, Goals, Conversions and other third party platforms that will ensure any “placement” can be isolated and A/B tested against others. Offline strategies are always going to be harder to prove, but digital marketing tools are abundant, cheap and there is no reason every company should not be taking advantage of them.
2. Google Adwords is not for Beginners.
I get it. Google Adwords is intimidating and also because Google Search is still 80% of the market… a powerful tool for your new product or service. People want sales fast, so they often DIY their Google advertising campaigns. For this reason, many companies “dabble” in Google Adwords and then declare in our first meeting “it doesn’t work for their business”. I have had a few clients that legitimately have mastered Google Adwords, but most of the time when I take a look at their accounts, there are a few negative keywords or no negative keywords and only a few Ads and /or ad Groups and all their ads have a medium ranking and their CPC is high for their category.
Google Adwords takes HOURS to set up correctly, so if you are spending less than ten hours putting together multiple ads and ad groups, ensuring that google analytics is tied to your Google Adwords account as well as ensuring you are tracking each campaign separately and setting up goals and conversions tied to keywords, you are likely be wasting your money. All of these tools Google provides for free, but they are time consuming to set up. However, it will increase your likelihood of optimizing the CPC.=
“I promise, you will be rewarded for putting in the time;
because most of your competitors won’t.”
3. Bring in A CMO Earlier Than You Think
Even in the famous Airbnb example of Growth Hacking, that story is more of a story about an innovative and determined developer who also happened to have an engineering degree and be the Co-Founder of the start-up. On this, I too believe that developers and marketers should be working more closely together. Hey, bring your CMO in when the product development and overall product is being worked on. Look what brainstorming marketing with the developer mindset did for Airbnb.
4. Define Your Unique Selling Position During the Product Development Phase.
Another challenge I see with early start-ups is that they will often develop a product or service and not define their Unique Selling Position until the product is already developed. They will come to me and ask for branding advice and to determine what that is for them. This should be an exercise that is done when you develop your product or service.
That way, all the branding elements; vision, mission, unique selling point, brand narrative, brand pillars are baked into your product or service from the beginning and you are not doing catch-up when you come to the CMO for help defining it when there is not opportunity to pivot the product or service features and benefits.
5.Don’t Expect Journalists to Advertise Your Product.
Press is earned, not purchased, and for that reason, companies need a “great story” to tell the press in order to get published. In other words, Press Releases are a “release of information to the press”. A client recently sent me a press release someone else had written and it was an “announcement” to the press was about their new website, but the rest of the release had nothing to do with the actual website, it was just general marketing copy and sales information about <the company>. I am not saying their website pitch would not have worked, I am just illustrating a common mistake that early stage companies make in that they determine they have news they want to share, but do not evaluate it based on whether it is really “newsworthy”.
Public Relations professionals can always couch some of this information into the release if it supports the headline and “release of information”, but PR professionals have to be careful about writing a glowing piece of marketing copy to journalists. The journalist will likely either not respond at all, or send them straight to the advertising department to purchase advertising.
This is a VERY common issue of companies that are just starting to talk to the press. Another common issue is that they want to do “one” press release to the journalists and leave it at that. They figure if the press isn’t interested in that first release, they tried and will leave it at that. Press should be a long term strategy, not a short term “Hail Mary” pass.
The art to a press strategy and creating content journalists will want to write about is to couch a story that announces something the journalist will be interested in writing about; that “oh by the way” showcases <Your Company> in the starring role. The story is what will get press, not the public relations person. Not to diminish my role, but in today’s atmosphere where most journalists don’t answer their phone and prefer to cull through email pitches, it is more important than ever to make sure you have a good story. A recent statement by a prominent tech blog illustrates this;
“a poorly written press release with a good story will always get placed 100% of the time before a beautifully written press release that has no substance”.
- Posted by cathleenlewis
- On October 25, 2017
- 0 Comments