Marketing for early stage startups


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This was a three-hour lecture presented to participants in the BizTec technology entrepreneurship competition, held at the Haifa Technion in December 2010.

When participants were invited to the lecture, they were directed to a survey about their marketing knowledge, and what they hoped to gain from the lecture. This served as the market research that was analyzed throughout the lecture.

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  • if the product is only sold to you (and people 100% exactly like you) there will be a very small market.
  • 1928 – Otto Rohwedder There were objections from skeptic bakers that pre-sliced bread would quickly dry out. Objections from end-customers as well.
  • The better you can define this, the easier it will be to market your solutions
  • Competes – not going to get into detail – Mei Aden vs. Tami 4 – sometimes your competitor is not who you define it as
    Whale – there was a company called “SpearHead” which marketed “Air Gap” – in the beginning we focused almost exclusively on them & how they were “copying us.” well – they made all the same mistakes we did. They ended up disappearing.

    This is an iterative process – you’re not going to necessarily know all this on the first go.
  • Marketing for early stage startups

    1. 1. Rebecca Steinberg Herson 1 Marketing for Early Stage Start-ups Copyright © 2010 Rebecca Steinberg Herson
    2. 2. 2 A bit about me
    3. 3. So this is marketing… 3
    4. 4. Promotion – just one of the 4 Ps 4  TV ads  Magazine ads  Public Relations (“PR”)  Web sites  Catalogs  Telemarketing  Billboards  Point of purchase  Trade Shows
    5. 5. 5
    6. 6. 6 4Ps
    7. 7. 7 Product Price Place Promotion
    8. 8. Product 8  Yay! The part you know best, right?  This P is not about knowing the product. It’s about knowing your CUSTOMER  Your target customer is not YOU
    9. 9. The greatest thing since…. 9 Adapted from Seth Godin’s presentation at The Business of Software, 2008, “Why Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department”
    10. 10. 10 Adapted from Seth Godin’s presentation at The Business of Software, 2008, “Why Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department”
    11. 11. 11 Adapted from Seth Godin’s presentation at The Business of Software, 2008, “Why Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department”
    12. 12. What is the PAIN? 12 Customers don’t always speak “engineer-ese” – you may need to translate Adapted from MIT Sloane School Marketing Manaement Course Lecture Customer says: Engineer must translate into: Must clean my dishes well Surfactants, bubbles Need a quick response Number of rings, time on phone Should be easy to read Pixels, refresh rate, size
    13. 13. Who suffers from this pain? Build your marketing personas 13  Customer company size / end-user demographic  Vertical industry – finance, medical, retail, automotive, etc.  Geographic location  Who is my potential buyer? What is his/her job title?  Who are my influencers? What are their job titles?  What is the total addressable market?  Who competes in this market already?
    14. 14. Today’s Product: The Lecture Who is the Market? You  14
    15. 15. Knowledge of Marketing 15 Slightly more than half have zero to intro course level marketing
    16. 16. # Startups Involved In 16 The majority have been involved in at least 1 startup (24 vs. 13)
    17. 17. Student Status (not all answered) 17 •Evenly divided between undergrad/graduate •Surprisingly we have 4 humanities participants
    18. 18. Methods to Get to Know Customers 18
    19. 19. How to get to know your customer 19  Old days  Focus Groups  Phone surveys  Analyst Reports  Trade Shows  Today
    20. 20. Market Surveys 20  Use surveys to  test product ideas  confirm your instincts  refine your message  discover new potential customers  Google docs - its completely free  Can be edited collaboratively (whoever you allow)  Lots of available designs, or embed in your own web page or blog  LinkedIn Polls  Survey your own network for free  Survey specific demographics for a fee (~$1/response)  Other tools  Industry analysts – more costly  TechTarget (and similar)– pay per response, min. number of responses – this is great if they have your demographic
    21. 21. Learning @ LinkedIn 21
    22. 22. 22 Copyright (c) 2010 Rebecca Steinberg Herson
    23. 23. 23 Copyright (c) 2010 Rebecca Steinberg Herson
    24. 24. Our Survey Assessed Your Pain 24
    25. 25. Survey Says Your Pain Is… 25 In other words, everyone wants everything Ideal product: a lecture series, an e-book with multiple chapters
    26. 26. More customer pain 26  General idea of key issues  The basic approach - how to think and what to look for  What is effective marketing  Doing the right marketing  Management  How to build marketing strategy?  How to use minimum of marketing resources for a maximum effect  Techniques to maximize marketing results with a reasonable budget • How to understand potential customers. • How to design the product with customer in mind. • Tips of "good" and "bad“ • Case Studies/Examples • Practical tools • Learn from mistakes • Marketing ideas for my Startup • Get ideas for marketing in my current company • I want to learn who is a marketer? am I a non-marketer? • How to breathe marketing • The gold way to saxses (?????) Know the customer Tachlis Tachlis on a budget • New aspects regarding marketing • How to market through Facebook • Get more customers Philosophy
    27. 27. Get Business Social 27  Set up profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter in your real name, or something that makes sense  not “surferdude” unless you are selling surf equipment  Get a “real” email address – (Gmail has lots of add’l benefits besides email)  Clean up your act - untag incriminating Facebook photos, delete offensive wall posts, etc.  Set your privacy policy – no need for a potential customer to see anything you forgot to delete
    28. 28. Then jump in 28
    29. 29. Identify key people in your industry 29  Search Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook for relevant people, groups, comments, companies  Follow, read their tweets, check their blogs  Retweet relevant content – people appreciate it and it builds your credibility  Tweet your own thoughts – be authentic  Join relevant groups on LinkedIn, Facebook  “Lurk” for a while before you jump in – think cocktail party  Then, start discussions (LinkedIn)  Correspond with people who enter the discussion  DM influencers (Twitter)  Reach out to people – they are people, and most want to help Become part of the conversation
    30. 30. Trade Shows – a concentrated learning tool 30  If you attend, do your homework  Check on twitter what people are saying about the event, tweetups planned  Review all the exhibitors and speakers – who do you want to talk to? Do you want to meet the exhibitors or the attendees?  Most of the people in the booths are sales reps – is that who will be most useful for you? Some companies also send executives, but they don’t hang around waiting for visitors; you need to book an appointment  The Press are also there. Don’t bother with them unless you already have a customer they can talk to  Lots of analysts attend trade shows, too – they are looking for the big trends – try to get a meeting; the big ones won’t take you seriously until you have a customer, although the little ones may wish to be hired by you to write your first white paper  Look up the people you want to meet on LinkedIn and memorize what they look like – you just might run into them in a hotel lobby
    31. 31. Increasing Your Influence 31
    32. 32. Why you need a blog (or FB Page, or…) 32  It’s the second thing people will look at when they want to understand you and your company  (the first is your LinkedIn profile)  Great for SEO  It becomes your own media channel - who needs ComputerWorld anymore?  Gives you more credibility with the mainstream media – you can become a source for them  Gives you something to tweet, for people to retweet, and for them to comment on – gets you into the conversation  Of course, you need to have something to say
    33. 33. Start your blog (or FB page) 33  Blog can be your own personal blog, that is, if you have enough to say on your own  If you open a company blog, you will have more options for contributors  Facebook pages have lots of blog-ish options; main drawback: not searchable  Be authentic  Talk about issues in the industry  Comment on newsworthy items  Offer advice  Blog at least 6 months before you want to publicize it  This ensures you know what you’re getting into and can maintain it  You will have archived content from day 1
    34. 34. Industry Analysts 34  Identify which analysts cover your space  Paid services like Tekrati exist, or simply search on key analyst sites (Gartner, Forrester, IDC, etc.)  Read relevant reports  Many are available for free on covered company’s sites  Israel Export Institute has great discounted / joint subscriptions  Startups get significant discounts when going direct to the analyst firms (most have reps in Israel)  Sometimes you have to bite the bullet & just buy the research  Follow relevant analysts on Twitter, LinkedIn  Start briefing the analysts when you have something to say – ideally you will have a customer they can talk to  Use the briefing as much for listening as for telling  Brief them every 6 months moving forward  Update them on key customer wins or other important news
    35. 35. More on Industry Analysts 35  Some analysts will cover you if you subscribe (most don’t connect this however)  It’s a myth that people pay to get into Gartner’s Magic Quadrant  Some will write white papers for a (large) fee – if it’s exactly what will help tip your prospects into customers, then go for it  You don’t need to be a subscriber to brief the analysts  If you do subscribe, you can also have “inquiries” with them on subjects related to your industry
    36. 36. Getting the First Customers 36
    37. 37. Segmenting the market 37  Different segments will require different marketing strategies  May require slightly different product features  Try to limit yourself to the quickest acting segment at first – for first customers  Later, focus on the most profitable segment
    38. 38. The secret to getting the first customers 38  There is no secret  It’s all the hard work you did in getting to know your customers in the first section  You probably are already linked to them in LinkedIn  Or they are following you on Twitter  Or they are a colleague of a friend of your uncle’s sister. Seriously. Use all your personal connections.  Word of mouth and personal connections are usually key to landing your first accounts  Try to get an influencer and/or well-connected person onto your advisory board who can evangelize and make introductions
    39. 39. That first (second or third) customer 39  Revenue is important, but in the early stage these are even more important:  Feedback that can help improve the product  Testimonial - a customer approves a quote for your web site or other marketing materials  “This product is great because it solves such & such problem…”  Case study – customer goes on the record with before/ after data and quotes  Reference – customer agrees to talk to other potential customers, journalists or analysts about how great you are
    40. 40. Marketing Promotion 40
    41. 41. Promotion 41 MIT Sloane School Marketing Management Course Lecture
    42. 42. Value Proposition, Elevator Pitch 42  The unique value you offer to your customers  Boil it down into a very short, medium and long statement  Literally try saying it in the elevator – it’s hard  Test it out on others, especially outside your company  Polish this before you start officially promoting, to maintain consistency
    43. 43. Public Relations 43  Keep track of articles that cover your industry – these are most likely the journalists you will want to contact when the time comes  Journalists look for newsworthy stories:  Timely  Conflict  Unexpected  Meaningful  Craft your “pitch” based on what you’ve learned about the journalist – what kinds of stories does s/he write?  You should have at least one customer willing to talk before you ever talk to the press  Try for the less obvious publications – you may find coverage easier to achieve
    44. 44. Product Reviews 44  Once your product is stabilized, try for a formal review  Try for a standalone review for the first time  Pursue a “friendly” reviewer, a “friendly” publication  Over-prepare  Write a detailed reviewers guide, walking the reviewer through exactly what you expect them to do, and what they should see as a result  Stay in constant contact with the reviewer throughout the process
    45. 45. Trade Shows/ Conferences 45  You don’t necessarily have to exhibit (expensive!!) – try visiting the first time, and making appointments – great research tool  Apply for speaking engagements even if you don’t exhibit  If you do decide to exhibit, go minimalistic  Basics you will need:  “Backwall” type booth – summarizes how you solve the pain in big letters  Small amount of brochures (most people will prefer that you email them)  Short demo or presentation on laptop  Check with the organizers if they have any matching-type services to bring relevant people to you  Request the press list in advance and reach out to relevant journalists before you get there  Tweet that you’re going; update your LinkedIn profile; Facebook  Don’t expect the relevant leads to show up just because you are there. You need to bring them to your booth
    46. 46. Qualifying Show Visitors 46  Majority of visitors will be tire-kickers  Come up with 3 questions that immediately lets you know if the visitor is qualified  Track the answers with the visitor’s business card (badge scanner or staple the card to a lead sheet with the 3 questions pre-printed)  Send a follow up email to everyone who attended, highlighting your key positioning statements
    47. 47. 47
    48. 48. How to Know What’s Working (ROI) 48
    49. 49. How to Measure What’s Working? 49  SALES (of course)  Divide your pipeline into specific stages, and track opportunities throughout  For example:  1-Qualified suspect – meets our criteria  2-Initiated contact  3-Interest expressed – potential opportunity identified  …  9-Verbal commitment to purchase  Closed Won  Closed Lost  Stalled/Postponed
    50. 50. Sample Pipeline by Lead Source 50 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 Stage 6Stage 7Stage 8Stage 9 Sold Trade Show London Twitter Google Ads Webinar on Security Articles email ad - Computerworld
    51. 51. Interim Results, Prior to Sales 51 For each lead source calculate: adjusted revenue = ∑ (Expected deal size x % likelihood to close) Temporary ROI (until deal closes)= [(adj. revenue - cost)/cost]*100  For cost, include your time – if you spend 3 days at a trade show this adds to the cost of the show  Likelihood to close is (typically) based on sales stage – stage 6 = 60%; stage 7 = 70%, etc.  For us, a lead doesn’t even become an “opportunity” until it hits stage 4  You can start by tracking in a spreadsheet  Once you are dealing with over 20 opportunities simultaneously (at all stages) you will need a CRM system  Bear in mind that each account will probably have multiple contacts, further complicating your record keeping
    52. 52. How did you hear? 52 2.8%
    53. 53. Measuring Conversion Rate 53 ? 94 41 Unique page views Respondents Attendees 4700 Invitations Sent Invitations Opened 2% of invited 44% page conversion
    54. 54. Iterate, Iterate and Iterate Again 54  Build in feedback models  A-B testing  Track opens, clicks, event attendance, registrations, etc.  Do it better the next time  Adjust your message  Adjust your demo  Adjust your home page  Adjust your marketing channel  Try to improve the # of leads coming into the funnel  Track and improve your conversion rate at every step in the funnel
    55. 55. Typical Marketing Mistakes 55  Identifying your target market as YOU (and people just like you)  Not segmenting the market  Not including a measurable call to action  Not tracking “how did you hear” – on the Web this can often be done automatically (referrer URL)  Showing up at a trade show & expecting qualified visitors to show up at the booth without doing any prior outreach  Focusing too much on the competition, and not enough on the customer  Listening too much to the customer and getting confused, instead of leading  Believing your own hype
    56. 56. 56
    57. 57. Our Lecture “Product” 57  What next? Let’s take this on the road  Can gather feedback (another survey) for product improvements  Testimonials (part of feedback survey; request reactions on Facebook, recommendations on LinkedIn)  Gather attendees’ contact info to invite to the next lecture; invite to download an e-book, etc.  Why didn’t I collect email address on the first survey? too “valuable” to request up front – now you’ve had a taste of the “product” & in order to get the slides (something of value) you may be willing to give up your address  This is a way of filtering the “important” leads from the more ambivalent ones – you don’t necessarily want every single lead if they’re not qualified  Alternatively, I can rely on my distribution channel (i.e. BizTEC) to send out the feedback survey, the slides, etc. But I lose the direct access to the customer Note: this is all theoretical – I’m not taking this on the road 
    58. 58. What would I have done differently? 58  Drop the complicated grid question (I fell in love with the technical capability – it was overkill for what I needed), OR  Force people to choose ONE important item from the grid, rather than enabling multiple choices for “important” or “must have”  Indicate “First and Last name” for the name field (what happens if there are two Yakovs?)  For fun - set up separate URLs (or tracking parameters) for each email blast, Facebook & LinkedIn to track each marketing channel’s effectiveness
    59. 59. Useful Marketing Resources 59
    60. 60. Rebecca Steinberg Herson 60 Thank You!
    61. 61. Price 61  “Freemium” model? (AVG Antivirus)  Free trial? Pay for the full version?  Service model? (e.g. LiveU)
    62. 62. Place (aka distribution) 62  Channel strategy  Direct  What other pieces to this puzzle? Is there an ecosystem? (e.g. SAP Business One users; users, etc.)