Startups and marketing: getting noticed

Continuing my ‘Startups and...’ series, I’m looking at the 5 most effective ways to get a new business noticed.

1. Market the problem you solve


I first used TransferWise in September 2016 and since then, I’ve saved a total of £537.04. Not bad. In fact, I now feel less guilty about buying a new road bike.

I came across their ads on the London Underground and it struck a chord with me as they were addressing a problem I was about to encounter when I relocated to Amsterdam. The banks had previously run riot with overseas charging fees, and here was a startup that could save me money on monthly rent.

Their David & Goliath fight against the banks with clear messaging around ‘Money without boarders’ and a ‘clever new way to beat the banks’ has helped them expand operations to Singapore and turn a profit after 6 years.

“I built this company because banks were screwing me without telling me,” Taavet Hinrikus, TransferWise Co-Founder

Consumers will always look for better, faster and smarter ways to accomplish everyday tasks. If your startup directly addresses people’s problems, that is what needs to be marketed — and people will listen.

2. Evoke emotion


If people feel nothing when they engage with your company, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be forgotten —and fast.

Nike (hardly a startup, but bear with me) has been around since 1964 and they are still the masters of evoking emotion. Their emotional campaigns portray the classic story of the struggle to overcome and the will to persevere. Their quest for a sub 2-hour marathon is a good example of this. Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge failed in his most recent attempt in Italy, missing out by just 25 seconds.

#breaking2 credit
“The attempt was beautiful to watch, and a thrilling achievement in itself.”

Nike’s brand strategy takes the emotional marketing story of the hero and turns it inward. You are the hero, and your lazy side is the villain. Hint, buy Nike products to become a hero. ✔️

3. Combine the digital & physical worlds


Though it may not be financially viable to have a bricks ‘n mortar shop as a startup, there are plenty of pop-up options to get your product physically in front of consumers.

Appear Here, who recently raised $12M to expand internationally, offer temporary retail space in desirable city locations. The whole idea is to lower the barrier of entry for startups wanting to have a short-term presence.

This is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. While digital marketing — with Google AdWords, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email marketing and CRM — may make up the lions share of the mix, demonstrating a product in real-time, shaking hands with people, offering an early sign-up gift and getting feedback (both positive and negative), is invaluable.

“We’re looking forward to opening up new locations for our growing community to take their ideas to the next level.” Ross Bailey, CEO, Appear Here

4. Right Content, Right Channel, Right Time

Delivering the right content, through the right channel, at the right time and to the right person is as much an art as it is a science. But it doesn’t need to be overly complicated or daunting, as there are plenty of tools and resources to help.

Getting the right mix comes down to three main things: planning, testing and iterating. From the get-go, it’s key that your content is valuable, relevant and consistent to give your business a chance of breaking through the noise.

Planning tools: Sounds obvious, but you need a content calendar. Make sure it’s online and collaborative. CoSchedule and Brandpoint are good places to start. Think about seasonality. Ask if the content is something that excites you personally. Can you get people to generate interesting content for you with a competition, for example? The collaborative aspect of content creation means it doesn’t have to be boring and it won’t have to burden one person.

Think about the form of your content. Will users respond best to stories, infographics or short videos? What about interactive content? There are plenty of options to consider.


Testing tools: It’s getting much easier to understand which content and formats chime best with users. One simple way to tell what works is to A/B test. Back in 2008, the Obama campaign used A/B testing of CTA (call to action) buttons and images on their donations page to raise $60m dollars they might have missed out on. They ran different versions of the page to segments of users to see, over time, which one performed the best.

Here’ the winning version. credit

Simple content testing can drastically change online user behaviour and platforms such as Optimizely (for websites), Unbounce (for landing pages), MailChimp (for email and CRM) and Appboy (for mobile marketing) all have free options with easy-to-use testing tools, most of which are suitable for small startups.

Iterating: Taking test data and combining it with customer survey results is a great way to understand what’s working and what’s not. Free online tools like SurveyMonkey or Typeform can help with this. In the digital world, landing pages, propositions, user journeys and marketing emails all need to be continually optimised. This evolution will help hone your marketing message in the long-term, and ensure more users convert to sales.

5. Don’t neglect your own network


I’m always surprised when I talk about new ideas or businesses to friends and family. They’ve either been using them for months or their cousin’s ex-boyfriend’s uncle “is definitely worth chatting to!”

Talk to your network. Tell them what you’re up to. Don’t neglect them. You might just be surprised how far their advice, support and words of goodwill to others can take you.