Startup Launch Marketing

I think there is a lot of confusion over what the word “launch” means and what marketing things a startup should be doing when they launch. I don’t believe that demoing at an event like TechCrunch Disrupt is equivalent to a launch. Nor do I believe that a launch ends the moment your product/service is generally available to the public. I’ve done a bunch of launches (5 at startups and 2 new businesses inside a larger company) and I’ve seen a lot of things that worked and didn’t work. In my opinion a launch is a multi-phase event that has distinct phases and there are different things you do at each phase. I was chatting with a startup founder about this last week and sketched this out. Here’s the picture I came up with: Note that every stage is inclusive of the previous stage – you continue to do what you were doing pre-release, after you have released, you just add a set of new tactics. The same happens when you move from release to post-release. Some notes on this: The idea here was to capture the purely marketing tactics that are executed at different phases of a launch. That doesn’t mean that these are the only things marketing is working on. For example, I would expect marketing to be involved in product development and definition (particularly pre-launch), pricing, channel strategy, etc. That said, I’m sure I’m missing tons of thing that should be on this graphic so please add them in the comments. I have some big catch-all categories in the graphic such as “outbound lead generation”, and “retention programs”...
Why You Can’t Market like Apple (or Why Marketing is Hard)

Why You Can’t Market like Apple (or Why Marketing is Hard)

The reason marketing is equally interesting and frustrating is because you are never exactly sure what will work until you try it (this is particularly true in startup marketing). Contrary to the belief of armchair marketing critics, we can’t simply copy what marketers at Apple or Facebook or Groupon are doing and expect it to work. Heck, we can’t even always repeat OUR OWN successful tactics and be guaranteed good results. This concept frustrates the hell out of the engineers that I’ve worked with in particular. They want there to be a formula or a textbook that simply tells us what to do and how to do it. Hey, I’m an engineer myself so I understand the desire for a formula but the reason it doesn’t exist is because there are too many variables that impact what works and what doesn’t and many of those are constantly shifting. Some examples: Markets – Mature vs. new, expanding vs. contracting or consolidating, geographically constrained vs. global, heavily regulated or government subsidized vs. open, big vs. small – markets come in all types. What works when you are selling to banks probably makes absolutely no sense when selling to grandparents, or families or law offices or insurance companies. Except occasionally it does. Offerings – Marketing tactics for high value items are different for low value deals – smaller deals close faster, are often non-competitive, often only involve a single purchaser, etc. The economics of customer acquisition are obviously different (you can spend $100K closing a multi-million dollar deal. selling a $5 a month subscription, not so much).  The type of product matters too, even...
Customer Retention: 7 Ideas for Marketers

Customer Retention: 7 Ideas for Marketers

As marketers we are often so focused on new customer acquisition that we sometime forget to pay attention to the customers that we already have. That would be a massive mistake. It costs 6-7 times more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. You are 4 times more likely to close business with an existing customer than you are with a new prospect. I recently brainstormed with a CEO about programs for their current customers both to improve customer retention as well as to drive new business – here are some of the ideas we came up with: 1/ Give your Newsletter a Kick in the Pants – We all get too much email. Your newsletter is going to have to kick ass just to get folks to open it, let alone take action. What could you give customers that would be so interesting, awesome or remarkable that they’ll say, “Yippie, the newsletter arrived today!” What works for you will depend on your market but I’ve seen good results with sample code, a customer spotlight feature, sharing industry data your customers don’t have access to, interviews with industry experts and video snippets of product managers or support folks sharing their favorite tips and tricks. I’m sure you could come up with a hundred other ideas. If your newsletter doesn’t feel like hard work to create, you could probably do better. 2/ Campaign to your Lost Customers – You are twice as likely to close business with a lost customer than you are with a new prospect. With close rates like that, you should...
“My Friends” is not a Market Segment

“My Friends” is not a Market Segment

Here’s the scenario. You have a startup that offers a cool new online service. You release it and put the word out to all of your friends. “Hey, do me a favor and please sign up for my new service!” Loads of them do. “Amazing,” you think to yourself, “I’ve got traction!!” Not so fast bub. What happens next? You’ve targeted all of the friends you have. Who do you target next? You have no clue because you haven’t focused on a market segment, just a (somewhat) random group of people. Traction Needs to be Traction in a Market Not all traction is created equal. In fact, I would argue that you need to have traction in a market segment (or segments) in order for it to be meaningful. And by meaningful I mean the kind of traction that gives you an indication that you can scale and a path to doing that. What is a Market Segment? A market segment has 2 key attributes: Identifiable – I can describe the segment in such a way that it can be specifically targeted. This can be demographics (new mothers under the age of 30 in New York) or role driven (IT managers working at companies with less than 500 employees) or company-oriented (Canadian retail banks with branch offices in different provinces) or even environment driven (companies with large Oracle data warehouses in North America). The more specific this is the easier it is to identify the folks and target them. Common set of needs – This is the need or problem that your solution solves. Examples would be: a need to...
Your Puny Marketing Budget is a Weapon

Your Puny Marketing Budget is a Weapon

Did you ever wonder why big companies have such boring marketing? I’ve heard lots of theories about this – they don’t like to take risks, they make decisions by committee and the good ideas get watered down or they do boring marketing because they have always done boring marketing. Having worked in a few big companies I can say I’ve seen all of the above but that isn’t the real reason. Big companies have boring marketing because their budgets are too big to inspire them to be more creative. More Isn’t Always More I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with having a big budget and you’d like yours right now thank you very much.  But my experience has been that I’ve done much, much better marketing with almost no budget than I have when I’ve had a massive budget. Have you ever gotten a big bonus? You’ve seen this happen. For weeks you eat lunch at restaurants and get your coffee at Starbucks. You park in the expensive lot that’s close to work because it’s convenient and buy your friends beer on Friday night. And then slowly your bank balance dwindles down until you’re on your last 200 bucks and suddenly everything changes. You learn how to make a mean pasta salad! You convince your boss there should be free coffee in the office! You notice the two free parking spots on the side street you use for free if you show up at exactly 8:15AM! You discover the dive bar around the corner with the best happy hour in town! You’re...