Startup Marketing: Does the Competition Matter?

Startup Marketing: Does the Competition Matter?

I have heard people make the argument that startups shouldn’t think about their competitors. I agree that many spend too much time worrying about how their feature set stacks up against another offering’s feature set. On the other hand, prospects are evaluating your solution against alternatives (which may not be products) and communicating how you are better than those alternatives is a key part of great startup marketing. Simply put – you should care about competitive alternatives if your prospects do. Startups are not Big Companies I very rarely see useful competitive analysis done by startup marketers, mainly because they are trying to do it like big companies do it. The big companies I’ve worked for have had departments dedicated to creating large detailed check mark matrices that showed how our feature set compared to competitive offerings. These matrices almost never included any feedback from customers. Needless to say, the products and their markets were very mature. This approach completely falls apart within the context of a startup. Your competitors, from a customer point of view are almost never so easily defined. For startups, your offering is often competing with “do nothing”, “hire someone to do it”, use spreadsheets/documents/paper, or some other solution that might be completely unsuited to the task but is free/easy/what has always been used. Comparing features of one of these alternatives to your startup’s offering to makes absolutely no sense in this context. A More Customer-Centric Approach In the context of a startup the only competitive analysis that makes sense is the one that is happening in side the heads of your prospects. The more you...
Infographics – The Lindsay Lohan of Content?

Infographics – The Lindsay Lohan of Content?

I’m sick of infographics. I’m sad about it too because I used to love them. I was excited about the potential for infographics to help us get more visual in the way we communicated messages and told stories. Sadly this isn’t the way it played out. We got beautiful graphics alright. Lovely ones. But somewhere along the way Infographics became all about the look and the story was forgotten. They’ve become the web version of shouting “Hey look a rainbow!!” and we look, even though we know most of the time it’s a trick and there isn’t a rainbow there at all. I’m worried that Infographics are becoming the Lindsay Lohan of content – People still click on the links to see the sordid photos but they stopped paying to see her movies a long time ago. Let’s look at an example. Last week I came across this one – The Best and Worst of Marketing (if you built this, I’m sorry for picking on you but this post needs an example and unfortunately, you’re it) Infographic by Marketing Degree   Does it look great? Sure it does. Now what’s it trying to tell us? It lists the “best undergraduate marketing colleges.” In terms of what, you might wonder? Most difficult to get into? Most CMO graduates? We’ll never know because in teeny font at the bottom we see the list of sources which include such specific references as www.businessinsider.com and the website for the University of Pennsylvania. I supposes that’s how they made #1. Moving along we see a list of best and worst paying marketing jobs. The best ones are...

The Twitter Butterfly Effect

Over the past year I’ve had 2 interesting experiences where I’ve tweeted something that seemed insignificant at the time and those tweets went on to have a life of their own to the point where almost a year later they continue to pop up in the strangest places like evidence of some sort of bizarre Twitter Butterfly Effect. Here are 2 examples: #1: The One Where I Land on BusinessWeek’s list of Top 15 Notable Twitterers with Kanye West, John Cusack, and Larry King The most recent example of this was my inclusion on BusinessWeek’s “Notable Twitterers of 2010”.  When I first saw the list I was amazed – there are only 15 people listed including Kanye West,  Sarah Palin, Jonathan Schwartz, Bow Wow and ……me?  Seriously? My “tweet of note” gave me a clue of how I landed there.  It’s a cheeky comment I made about Umair Haque’s interview with Twitter founder Evan Williams at South by Southwest Interactive back in March.  There had been rumours that Twitter was going to make a big announcement at the show so expectations were high for the session. While there was an announcement, the details were thin and the format of the session (think fireside chat more than keynote talk) was pretty low on energy given it was hosted in front of a huge audience.  People complained over Twitter (because that’s what audiences do these days, particularly at SxSW) including me with what BusinessWeek calls my “Tweet of Note”: “I’ve seen more energy at a lawn bowling tournament” The irony of someone using Twitter to criticize a session featuring the founder...

CEO’s and Social Media: Opportunity or Threat?

Last week I did an interview with Canadian Business on the subject of social media and CEO’s. The reporter asked me this question (I’m paraphrasing): “But shouldn’t you be worried that your CEO might say something that has a negative effect on the company? What if he/she does something offensive in public?” I can understand why people would worry about things like that but frankly it’s a doomsday scenario that just hasn’t played out even though social media continues it’s march into the mainstream. Can you name me a single example of a CEO that has gotten into serious trouble because of their use of social media? Not that I don’t think it’s ever going to happen.  I can give you dozens of examples where a CEO has put his/her foot in their mouth in traditional media so why would social media be any different?  We don’t question that our CEO’s should engage with traditional media (even though there are risks), because we understand the benefits.   While I don’ t believe that every CEO should have their own blog or Twitter account, I do believe that every company should have a social media presence of some sort and that the CEO should occasionally use that forum to share their views with the world.  Like traditional media, the benefits far outweigh the risks in my opinion. The full text of the article is here. What do you think? If you enjoyed that, you should subscribe!  You can sign up for email updates, subscribe via RSS or follow me on Twitter....

Marketing is Dead (long live product marketing)

I gave the keynote presentation at ProductCamp Amsterdam over the weekend.  It was an amazing trip.  The intelligent and charming organizers (shown in the photo left to right Xavier, Vladimir, Mark,  Jelmer, and Kevin) not only shuttled me around and fed me good food but they also put me up in by far the largest hotel room I have ever stayed in (below is a shot I took from the loft. Yes, it had a loft).  The venue (kindly donated by the folks at Backbase) was fantastic and the crowd was full of smart startup folks that asked really good questions. The talk I gave was one that I’ve wanted to do for a while.  It was on the changing nature of marketing in a world where buyers are much more in control and traditional marketing tactics are not only ineffective, but down right annoying. The talk is called Marketing is Dead (long live Product Marketing). I want to thank the organizers again for inviting me and for being such good hosts.  And if there are any other European conference organizers out there reading this I’d like to say that in addition to Amsterdam I like London, Paris and Berlin very much…. Here are the slides: Marketing is Dead (long live product marketing) View more presentations from April Dunford. If you enjoyed that, you should subscribe!  You can sign up for email updates, subscribe via RSS or follow me...

The Dangers of Outsourcing Content Creation

You want to create some whitepapers, an e-book or maybe a brochure but none of your great product people are great writers.  No problem, you think to yourself, we can just hire some outside folks to write them for us.  You can, but it won’t be as easy as you think. Your Writing Probably Sucks (not that there’s anything wrong with that) Not everyone is a great writer even if they write a lot.  My writing is a perfect example of what a typical product marketer’s writing looks like.  People tell me my writing is “fine” but I know my grammar is lousy and I’m prone to using sentence structure that could politely be described as “creative” (hey, I’m an engineer by training and that English class I took in grade 12 is only going to take me so far).  I know this because I’ve had professional writers edit my work.  if you’ve never had a professional edit yours you might be shocked at how bad your “fine” writing is. But my lack of writing skill hasn’t stopped me from writing dozens of whitepapers, brochures and articles and literally hundreds of pages of web content (not to mention 156 blog posts).  Most of the time good enough is good enough, particularly if you’re a cash-strapped startup. But sometimes you will have some content that you know you are going to use like crazy in various forms and you don’t have the skills in-house.  Here are some tips on what to be careful about: Decide Why before Who – You might be launching a new product and need someone to...
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