Startup Marketing: The first 4 steps

I have been lucky in getting opportunities to interact with quite a few startup founders in the vibrant startup ecosystem in the New York City area. Two questions I have typically heard from them are:

  1. How can I generate demand or more simply put, create awareness and ultimately revenue?
  2. Who is the right audience and how do I get my message in front of them?

This is my first attempt at sharing a framework to address these questions.

Who is this post for: The passionate innovator who has just built a prototype for his/her company. You are all set to launch your beta, and are thinking of how your customers or potential investors can discover you.

The post shares the first 4 steps I would take to generate demand for my (fictitious) Startup.

Step 1: Positioning

In their book “Positioning — The Battle for your mind”, Al Ries and Jack Trout state that “Positioning is NOT what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect. That is you position the product in the mind of the customer”. When communicating product advantages, things should be turned inside-out; look for the solution inside the prospect’s mind (concentrate on perceptions of prospect and not realities of the product).

An eCornell framework should help you come up with a positioning statement. It goes as follows:

For [Target Market], [name of product]will [point of difference]. [Name of product] is [reasons to believe]. Our[frame of reference] promises to [brand promise].

Target Market — who do you want to buy your product?

Point of difference — how your brand benefits customers in ways that set you apart from your competitors?

Frame of reference — the segment or category in which your product competes

Brand promise — what do you promise to people who buy your product?

Al Ries and Jack Trout recommend to “Always think of what your customer is really buying from you?” A good example to illustrate what it means:

McDonald’s isn’t just selling burgers and fries. It sells fast food that tastes the same, no matter when or where it’s ordered, in an environment that’s clean and friendly to families.

Step 2: Name your startup

You’ve probably already done this, however, thinking of the name after you have thought of positioning will help you to think of your audience, what category you are operating in. You could then come up with something that would intrigue your audience or help you tell a story.

  • GrubHub is a great example of how the name clearly points out what the app is in relation too.
  • Then you have UberCab — that’s what Uber was initially named. The Oxford Dictionary defines Uber as: “denoting an outstanding or supreme example of a particular kind of person or thing.” Essentially an outstanding cab! How easy is that to remember to what they were offering!

Step 3: Who are your ideal customers and where are they most likely to learn about you?

This is basically about putting yourself in the shoe of your ideal customer and thinking what will make you download the app or visit the landing page?

Let’s say you have an idea for a peer to peer (P2P) payment platform example Venmo. You have identified that the ideal beta customers are college students. Why? They tend to spend a lot of time together and end up spending money as groups at restaurants and coffee shops. They are also usually low on cash so would like to settle bills quickly.

I would place post cards at local restaurants that students frequent. Offer the first 50 customers an additional $10 in their wallet i.e. covering 1 meal. Get some initial downloads and given them an additional incentive to share the app with their friend.

Breaking down what happened in the above approach:

1. What is the problem you solve? An intuitive app which quickly enables transfer of money between individuals

2. Who is your target audience? Thinking of the early adopters: the college students

a. What do they want? Money that someone owes them!

b. When do they want it? NOW!

3. What is the most likely scenario where they will encounter a challenge? When they are together at restaurants and bars (if they are seniors of-course)

4. Make them an offer they can’t refuse. College students would sign up for free money i.e. $10 for first 50 signs ups

5. How are they most likely to spread the message? Either directly share the app, through word of mouth or by sharing it to their social media platform

While the above was fictional to help with an easily understandable example, read how Venmo actually went about their initial marketing efforts. As it turns out their early adopters were in fact 18–24 year olds!

Step 4: Set up your landing page/App store download page

Every person you tell your startup’s story to, is going to search for you or ask you for your website — so plan for how they can discover you. A landing page is an easy way to be discovered and also to influence them to take an action that would be of value to them.

There are 4 key things that your initial landing page should contain:

  1. Prominently mention your name.
  2. Share the positioning statement.
  3. What’s in it for them? For example you could list 3 key benefits for the target audience.
  4. A clear call out to what they should do next. Examples of these could be a link to the app store where they can download the app, or the option to sign up for a beta.

Here is a great example of how 5 Ways Uber Uses Landing Pages to Dominate the Market. You can also refer to the 16 of the Best Landing Page Design Examples You Need to See according to HubSpot.

The key takeaways for you:

  1. Get yourself detached from what you are trying to sell for a while, and put yourself in the shoes of your prospects and go through a day in life from their perspective
  2. Determine who is your target audience and think of the right channel to get your message in front of this audience — get as creative as you did with the development of your idea!
  3. Think of moments where you can thrill your customer with your solution

I hope you found my first attempt at sharing thoughts on demand generation valuable. Over time I hope to share easily actionable approaches. Feel free to share your thoughts — I would like to know how I can add more value! As Jerry Maguire would urge:

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Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn if you would like to exchange ideas!

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