Startup Marketing Best Practices | Modern Marketing Partners

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What does it take to market a startup? As you make the move to entrepreneurship, certain parts of marketing may go overlooked. We will walk you through all of the things that your startup needs to improve marketing results.

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Startup Marketing Best Practices | Modern Marketing Partners

  1. 1. ModernMarketingPartners.com STARTUP MARKETING PRACTICES GUIDE
  2. 2. Modern Marketing Partners Startup Marketing Next Practices Guide 1 Startup Marketing Best Practices INTRODUCTION Today’s tech startup space is a busy and crowded one with statistics showing that a new tech startup is launched every 48 hours in Chicago alone1 . Extrapolate that statistic nationwide and there is a lot of competition for both customers and investors! The unfortunate truth is that the majority of startups will fail. In fact, it is estimated that more than 90% of tech startups fail2 . Which factors determine whether your startup will succeed or fail? Clearly, a new brand or innovative new business model will encounter, and must overcome, a variety of obstacles. As every entrepreneur learns, there are no silver bullets for success. The early stages of a startup will most likely be dominated by product or service definition and development, recruiting and managing staff, and possibly funding. However, evidence shows that you need more than just a great product or service to succeed. More often than not, startups fail because of marketing, or lack thereof. To be sure, most startups are too strapped for cash to afford all the marketing services available to more established businesses, yet this is often who you’re up against when trying to enter a new market. Therefore, we have identified 4 marketing disciplines that startups should focus on to achieve highly effective marketing, while realizing cost efficiencies that won’t break the bank. Startup marketing disciplines include competitive analysis, branding, digital marketing, and ongoing communications.
  3. 3. Modern Marketing Partners Startup Marketing Next Practices Guide 2 Start With Competitive Analysis As with any marketing initiative, before you begin executing tactics, take some time to identify and evaluate competitor’s marketing. First, who are primary and secondary competitors? What are their brand names, products and services? What audiences do they target? Certainly, lavish time and effort on competitor websites. Identify site content or sitemap of each, along with strengths and weaknesses of competitors’ websites. Try to ascertain what marketing programs or initiatives competitors are implementing now, and if possible, implemented in the past. For internet-based businesses, this includes organic and paid search, along with blogging and social media. Also determine publicity, advertising, and event marketing. If applicable, identify whether channel programs are used, and if so, in what way. Know that implementing copy-cat programs against an established competitor will likely fail. As will not differentiating from a competitor. Don’t get discouraged! Even mega-brands like Facebook and Google faced major competition from MySpace and Yahoo, before eventually surpassing them. Sample Perceptual Map, music merchandise category
  4. 4. Modern Marketing Partners Startup Marketing Next Practices Guide 3 Excel at Branding With competitive insight in hand, the foundation of your startup’s marketing program should be branding, which includes company or product naming, all visual identities, and all customer communications or touch points.Your brand is the sum of all perceptions customers have, including their experience with your product or company. Brand positioning should be unique and differentiated from competitors identified in your analysis. Following are more details on key branding elements. NAMING: YOUR MOST IMPORTANT MARKETING DECISION Naming your company or product/service is surely one of the most important decisions a startup will make. A great brand name can generate publicity itself, while a bad brand name can kill an otherwise excellent business model. Yet too often, brand names are not created via a disciplined process, or with the assistance of experts. Nor tested for effectiveness. Branding agency IDeas BIG (brand identity group) employs a 10-Step brand name development process, complete with a name-scoring tool to add objectivity to an often subjective process. The IDeas BIG blog describes this process, along with multiple case studies, including tech startups. Regardless of the source of brand name candidates (ideally you generate 50-100 brand name candidates), use a scoring tool to identify a shortlist of approximately 10 names. Ask the following questions to winnow that shortlist to 3-5 candidates for testing. Next, test brand name candidates that pass above questions with friends and family, key or prospective customers, investors and more! Ask each to vote on their favorite, or describe why they don’t like a particular candidate. Final brand name selection should be based on trademark and domain availability, as well as feedback from testing. 1. Is the trademark available? 2. Is the website domain or a variation available? 3. Does it resemble a competitor? 4. Are there multiple and relevant meanings behind it? 5. Does the meaning change if translated into another language? IDeasBIG Branding Book
  5. 5. Modern Marketing Partners Startup Marketing Next Practices Guide 4 CREATING A VISUAL IDENTITY Your visual identity is comprised of several elements including: logo, color, graphic elements, website design, business cards, Powerpoint templates and more. As mentioned, begin by identifying and evaluating competitor’s visual identities to ensure uniqueness, and frankly, superiority. For example, if your two top competitors use blue colors, steer away from blue, perhaps differentiating with a hot color like red or yellow. Most often, brands begin the visual identity process with a logo. Ideally, the logo has a visual reference or reinforcement to the brand name. Logos can be a typeface (logotype), and/or a mark (logomark), along with a descriptor or tagline. Like brand names, explore a range of logo options, beginning with black/white or grayscale versions, before exploring color. Also like brand names, winnow down logo options to a shortlist, and test logo finalists with key audiences. If your tech startup is web-based, it might help to design website homepages with logo finalists to judge the logo in its native habitat. Once the logo is selected, other visual marketing applications can be created including letterhead and business cards, Powerpoint templates, signage, brochure and advertising templates, and of course the website and related digital assets (to be described next). With key marketing applications created, we recommend developing a visual identity standards guide to ensure consistent use of the logo and other visual identity elements. Need logo inspiration? 99designs offers some examples and tips for creating a fresh, unique tech logo3 . As tempting as it may be to copy other popular tech logos, be sure to stay away from designs that look generic or cliché. Sample brand identity guidelines for MMP client Iconic Concepts
  6. 6. Modern Marketing Partners Startup Marketing Next Practices Guide 5 Digital Marketing Mastery As a tech startup, it is likely that the Internet will be relevant to your product or service, or to your customers. Therefore, mastering the many aspects of digital or Internet marketing will be important. From a marketing perspective, we define digital or Internet marketing as first and foremost, your website, along with search engine optimization or SEO, social media marketing and content. No question, your website is perhaps the first impression a prospective customer, job candidate or investor will experience. As described, excellent branding impacts early and ongoing impressions. Beyond design aesthetic, your website content and user experience will also make or break this impression. User experience or UX, is often the function of website navigation, simplicity, and related factors like messaging, and site speed. One last consideration for websites is the installation and use of analytics, or related website statistics packages available from web host providers. We prefer Google Analytics, as Google is by far the most important search engine, and the reports are extensive, user-friendly, and integrate nicely with paid search (Google Adwords), and social media. Before a prospect, job candidate or investor can experience your website, they have to find it, which is most often the result of using a search engine. Search engine optimization (SEO), is the meta-coding and SEO features that support the organic or natural rank of a search result on a search engine results page (SERP). Studies show that only the top search results (e.g. 1-5) have significant click-through rates (CTR). Want to know more? Check out our whitepaper on SEO Best Practices. Related to the topic of organic search and SEO, is paid search or pay-per-click (PPC). This is a complex subject by itself. Our philosophy is to achieve search organically, and to use paid search for extremely competitive keywords, or temporarily until organic search can gain traction. Competition is certainly a consideration when evaluating organic and paid search. Diagnostic tools including SEOmoz, SpyFu and Google Webmaster can help you with such analysis. Example of Google Analytics report
  7. 7. Modern Marketing Partners Startup Marketing Next Practices Guide 6 LEVERAGING SOCIAL MEDIA Once an experiment for consumer and Internet brands, social media is now a proven and critical marketing component for most startups. Why? Like many startups, social media is Internet-based. Key to startups, social media is extremely cost efficient, while delivering excellent search authority. Do we have your attention? Depending on your business model, product or services, social media can be a primary driver of website traffic, lead generation, or even sales. How? First create social profiles and networks for at least the Big 4: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+; and if a business-to-business (B2B) startup, lavish efforts on LinkedIn including your profile, company page, and groups. If business-to-consumer (B2C), Pinterest, Instagram, Foursquare and other social networks can be important. If Ecommerce, social media can deliver website traffic, and sales. Check out a whitepaper entitled Social Commerce, from the Ecommerce Marketing Institute. Next, display these social profiles and networks in a primary position on your website, with hyperlinks to the respective profiles. This is a great user experience (UX), and search engines give authority to proper social media implementation. Another tip is to use social share tool bars on key website pages, and certainly blogs. Surely, mountains of information and tips exist regarding social media implementation, or network-specific how-to’s. For more information, check out the content and resources of a leading social media marketing agency, Hot Potato. Modern Marketing Partners Startup Marketing Best Practices Guide 6
  8. 8. Modern Marketing Partners Startup Marketing Next Practices Guide 7 Content is King No question, content is the fuel of digital marketing mastery. Great websites have great content. Effective social media is dependent on interesting content. Thought leadership content can position a brand (or tech startup), as a subject matter expert (SME). So what should tech startups know about content, and how to implement it? Think in terms of educating your customer or prospect. If you can do this effectively, prospects will likely buy from you vs. a competitor that falls short of being the expert. What’s more, educational content is a search engine magnet. Content topics are often keyword search phrases or strings. Finally, great content can be used for lead generation. That is, require the prospect register or provide some information before receiving the content. A 2014 content study by the Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs identifies 27 types of content most frequently used. Following are the top 10: A discussion about content would not be complete without referencing blogs or blogging. A blog is typically, and ideally, integrated with the company or brand website, and if executed properly, attributes search authority to that website. Still the blog can be distinct from the website with blog posts on a variety subjects, along with corresponding meta code, and the above mentioned social share tools. The content in blogs is a natural for distributing to corresponding social networks. What’s more, blog analytics can be integrated with website analytics to report and understand traffic and other metrics. While blogging takes a lot of effort, we feel the benefits far outweigh the costs. 1. Social media (except blogs) 2. Articles on your website or other websites 3. eNewsletters 4. Blogs 5. In-person/live events 6. Case studies 7. Videos 8. Whitepapers 9. Online presentations 10. Webcast/virtual meetings
  9. 9. Modern Marketing Partners Startup Marketing Next Practices Guide 8 Ongoing Communications Effective startup marketing is much more than a great website, SEO, social media or content. Marketing must plan and implement ongoing communications with a variety of audiences including prospects and customers, channel partners, editors, possibly analysts, and if applicable, investors. No question the types of communications vary for these widely different targets. First and foremost, startups must communicate with prospects, with the goal of converting them to customers. Prospect communications might include: Customer communications can often share many prospect communications, but should also include such basics as email order confirmations, shipping notifications, recognition, and related. Certain categories employ channel partners that work with end user customers, often on a local level. Communications to such partners is often training-related, including providing marketing tools and resources, cooperative or co-op programs, and market development funds (MDF). Free publicity is critical to startup success. Analyst relations can be important to certain tech startup scenarios. Sharing company news releases, and writing/ pitching articles are typical communications to such targets. Last but not least, investor communications is certainly important to startups seeking capital. Such communications may include solicitations, investor presentations, and more. • Training webcasts or product demonstrations • Email campaigns (newsletters, promotions, list procurement, etc.) • Blogging • Promoting new content, e.g., case studies, whitepapers, guides, videos, blogs, infographics • Telemarketing qualification • Invites to live events or trade shows • Direct mail
  10. 10. Modern Marketing Partners Startup Marketing Next Practices Guide 9 Marketing or Bust Startups are unique in the fact that brilliant business models more often fail than succeed, and the major reason for failure is ineffective marketing. Why? Because the skills and expertise of startups are most often related to business model or technology, and not advanced marketing. This guide attempts to identify the critical marketing disciplines, and sub-disciplines required to succeed including competitive analysis, branding, digital marketing, and ongoing communications. Digital marketing encompasses key sub-disciplines of web design, search engine optimization, social media, and content. Successful startups are relentless in their marketing, including ongoing communications to a variety of targets, from prospects, to editors, and more. Typically, startups cannot afford marketing staff, let alone a complete department. Fortunately, marketing can be outsourced to qualified marketing agencies that should have both functional marketing skills, and expertise in your business category. ABOUT THE AUTHORS Neil Brown is CMO and partner at Modern Marketing Partners. A serial- entrepreneur, Neil has launched over 30 startups, while providing marketing counsel to hundreds more. Brown is author of two books on marketing and branding, and is published in Advertising Age, Marketing News, BtoB Marketing, Adweek, and more. He holds a BS Marketing, and MBA from Northern Illinois University. Amelia Salter is Account Director and partner at Modern Marketing Partners. She has worked with startups in the U.S., India, and Australia, and serves up extensive experience in publicity, content creation, and digital strategy. Amelia earned a BA in Communication from the University of Illinois Urbana- Champaign, where she worked at the Office of Technology Management, along with the EnterpriseWorks Startup Incubator. ADDITIONAL RESOURCES 1 Built in Chicago 2 Allmand Law 3 99designs IDEAS BIG blog Hot Potato Social Media Ecommerce Marketing Institute Content Marketing Institute Modern Marketing Partners is an award-winning, full-service marketing and communications agency with a Startup Marketing Practice. For more information, visit our website www.ModernMarketingPartners.com, or follow us: MMP Blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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