Startup Storytelling and Media Coverage

Startup Storytelling and Media Coverage

Mark Suster had a great post recently on whether or not a startup should announce their funding that was really more about what are considered “newsworthy” stories for modern blogs and media outlets. Mark makes a good point that it used to be that funding was not really a story in its own right and today it is. This week I also had a related set of conversations with startups that went like this: “We know media coverage works for us because when we first announced we got a bunch of media coverage resulting in a slew of new signups. Now we have nothing to talk about. What should we do?” The solution to this problem is in changing the way you think about what is a newsworthy story versus what isn’t. Audience First, Story Second The first step is to list the blogs/media outlets that your target prospects read and pay attention to. Next you can categorize them into the types of stories they cover. For example you might have a small business payments solution and your media list includes sites that cover startup news, sites that cover news related to small businesses in general and others that cover e-commerce related things. The stories for these sites may have some overlap but there are probably big differences too. For example the startup site might be interested in a story about how you assembled an advisory board for your startup and your lessons learned from that. The Small Business site might like a story about what your customer data tells you about how different small businesses are doing payments. The...

My New Role as EIR at Communitech

In the past couple of years I’ve been trying to do my part to give back to the startup communities I’m part of. This blog has been part of that, I’m an active mentor for a couple of startup accelerators including the excellent FounderFuel in Montreal and InCubes here in Toronto, I give talks and probably do about a dozen calls or meetings a week with startups looking for an hour of advice and/or therapy from a senior marketer. As of this week I will also take on a part-time role as an Entrepreneur In Residence at Communitech. Communitech has so much going on right now it is almost difficult to describe it. It began in 1997 as a non-profit regional hub for the commercialization of innovative technologies and an a support organization for the other 1000 technology companies in that region. In 2010 the Communitech Hub opened its doors and today is 44,000 square feet housing over 120 companies mixing startups with innovative larger companies like Google and expansion-stage companies like Desire to Learn. Last year Communitech launched HYPERDRIVE, a 30M+, 24 month Accelerator program designed to take startups from seed to Series A. In addition, Communitech runs over 50 programs and events per year, has established North America’s largest peer network, and has coached over 1000 companies through its Venture Services Group. Communitech also has a group of EIR’s that work with Startups offering advice and mentoring and as of this week I will be one of them. My role and my goal is to spread around my marketing knowledge as broadly in the Communitech community as...

Startup Branding and Selling to Martians

This week I read a couple of blog posts on the topic of Branding for startups that bothered me. Both posts tried to make the same 2 points about startup marketing: Branding is THE most important facet of startup marketing Branding is about how your offering resonates EMOTIONALLY with the buyer NOT the benefit you provide. The example used was home cleaning products where the benefit was “cleaning the house” where the “branding” focus should have been “creating more family time”. This a classic example of advice that would be very good for a company in an established market but disastrous for a startup. Positioning in an established market is very different from positioning in one that isn’t. Startup prospects are starting at a different spot on the purchase path. If you are selling soap, you don’t have to worry about defining what soap is, what it does or why you might want to buy some. The biggest worry the soap seller has is differentiating themselves from the other soaps out there. Since soap is all pretty much the same it’s going to be hard to do on technical merits (although there are loads consumer products that attempt to do just that such as dishwasher soap with “breakthrough multi-chamber technology” and  toilet paper that doesn’t leave little bits behind) so getting to the intangible stuff right away might be your only hope. Most startups don’t operate in established markets – they are either breaking ground in new markets, operating at the intersection of markets, or trying to re-define a market. Selling in markets like these is a bit like...

Startup Marketing Workshop

I’m an advisor to a startup in Toronto called HackerYou that provides hands-on project based learning for folks in the startup community. They asked me if I wanted to run a Startup Marketing workshop and I happily jumped at the opportunity. It’s happening in Toronto on Saturday and there are still spots available. The cost is basically free (OK, it’s $50 but we do have costs to cover and for 6 hours of crunchy marketing goodness it doesn’t get cheaper than that). Here’s what I’m planning on covering in the workshop: How to get started in building the basic structure of a marketing plan and why planning is important How to asses your who your best target customers are and what you need to know about them to effectively market to them How to develop a value proposition and messaging around your offering How to assess your customer’s buying process in order to optimize it How to choose a starting set of marketing tactics to build and fill your marketing funnel How to measure the results of your marketing activities so you can analyze and improve your programs I’m going to use a set of templates that we will work through together so come prepared to work on your plan for your business. This is going to be a highly interactive session so I also expect you to bring your thorniest marketing problems and we will set aside time for group discussion and working through specific examples.  I’m NOT planning on doing a deep dive on how to blog/do content marketing/market on Facebook/run advertising/do web events or any other...

Growth Hacking and B2B Startups

The first time I heard the term “Growth Hacker” I got a little excited. I have often said we need a new term for marketing – one that separates the good metrics-driven marketers from the bad “spray and pray” ones.  So suddenly there’s a new term that describes me perfectly: a person that has a technology background (me: Systems Design Engineer, check), a person that deeply believes in testing, iteration, and data as the basis for good marketing (see point about being an engineer, yup), and sees marketing as something that reaches from product to marketing to sales (you might call that product marketing and hey, that’s me too). For a while it looked like I could be a growth hacker. But then I kept reading and it became clear that growth hackers weren’t worrying about the same things I was worrying about. Discussion around the premise for first creating the term is what first started to make me question it. Growth hackers keep saying that they are differnt from “traditional marketers”, where “tradition” means – “measures nothing.” The TechCrunch series on growth hacking for example describes traditional marketers as being allergic to data and overly focused on PR/promotions without closing the loop back to growth. I’ve seen marketers like that for sure, but I wouldn’t say they were “traditional”, just lousy at their jobs. Certainly there’s no “tradition” of startup marketers that look like that – at least not at any of the startups I’ve been with. We tended to get rid of those folks pretty quickly. I could get into my opinions about how marketing operates at...
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