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”...
“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...
Why Most Marketers Suck

Why Most Marketers Suck

Fred Wilson (whose blog I love) wrote a couple of posts last week about startup marketing. The first one ended by stating that “Marketing is for companies who have sucky products.”  The second clarified what he meant by marketing (paid customer acquisition more or less) and that he was only talking about the space where he invests (“big breakout companies in the consumer web”).  Whether or not I agree with him on that is NOT the subject of this post (I’ve never done marketing at a “big breakout company in the customer web” so I’ll assume Fred knows what he’s talking about there).  But something else he said in the second post got me thinking: …I’ll also say that I have seen “marketing professionals” do a lot of damage to our portfolio companies over the years. Most of the damage has come from outsourced marketing relationships with agencies who charge too much and help too little. But I will also say that marketing hires in our companies have had the lowest success rate of any hire and there are many so called experts who have turned out to be bad and expensive hires. I’m angry at the marketing profession for these transgressions over the years and it spilled out into my post. I’m not proud of that but it is what it is. In short – it’s not really marketing that’s the problem, it’s those lousy marketers. Ouch. My instant reaction to Fred’s post was “I know a lot of great marketers, why are Fred’s companies hiring the bad ones?” But then I got an email yesterday from a...

A Startup Marketing Framework (Version 2)

I’ve recently published a new version of this Framework – check out the Startup Marketing Framework V3. Back when I was running my consulting business I published a marketing framework that I used as a tool to explain to startups the types of things that I could help them with.  I thought it would be useful for startup marketing folks as a guide and I think it has been – it continues to be one of the most popular posts on this site. Since then, I’ve gotten a lot of smart feedback on the framework and I’m also back to working inside a company again so I thought it would be interesting to revisit the framework. Assumptions As I explained earlier, this framework doesn’t intend to cover Product Management (the Pragmatic Marketing Framework does a good job of that) but rather the intention was to look at it from a purely marketing point of view.  This Framework makes the assumption that you have a product in market, you feel fairly confident that you have a good fit between your market and your offering and you are ready to invest in lead generation. If you aren’t there yet, there is a lot here that you won’t need to (and more importantly, shouldn’t) worry about yet.   Lastly, my background is more Business to Business marketing so like everything else on this site, this has a B2B slant to it.  That said, I think most of it is very applicable to a B2C startup. Market Knowledge Segments – Based on your interaction with early customers, these are the segments that have the...

Why Your Startup Shouldn’t Hire a Marketer from Microsoft

I’ve heard tons of horror stories from startups that hired someone from a large company who was “very senior and qualified” but turned out to be horrible.  There are lots of talented marketers working at places like Mircosoft, IBM, and Apple.   The problem is that if that’s the ONLY place that person has ever worked, you might be in for big trouble.  Here’s why you shouldn’t hire a big company marketer for your startup: 1/ The big company marketing silo problem – Big company marketing groups are organized in a matrix. PR folks do PR, comms does comms, product marketing folks do product marketing.  Your startup needs someone that knows all of those things.  Sure, branding might be the big problem you have right now and a kick-ass person from a big company might be able to tackle that, but the minute you need them to work on lead generation you’re toast. Startup marketing folks have done it all – they write, do lead gen, talk to the press, do competitive intelligence and manage leadgen programs.  They might have no clue how to scale all of that to $100M in revenue but chances are your CEO doesn’t know how to run a $100M company either.  Hire the right person for the stage you are at right now and when (if!!) you make it to the next level you can figure out what do to then. 2/ They will never get over the fact that you have no budget – Big company marketing departments spend  huge amounts of energy fighting for budget.  In a more established market, the more...

Avoiding the Number 1 Startup Marketing Mistake

The past 2 days I’ve answered a bunch of marketing questions from entrepreneurs on Sprouter‘s new Answers forum for startups (more on that later).  There were a few themes that emerged but one really came into focus when I got this question: What is the number 1 startup marketing mistake? My answer?  They try to market to everyone. I understand how startups get there.  There is a sort of straightforward logic that says that the more people that are aware of your product, the more will check it out and ultimately pay you for it.  This would work if your product was suitable for everyone (it isn’t) and you had a marketing budget big enough to reach everybody (you don’t).  The trick to effective marketing is focus your efforts on the segments that are the best fit for your product.  Those segments have the strongest need for your product and the best understanding of the value you offer.  By marketing to everyone, you run the risk that the folks that are the most likely to buy from you either never hear about you or when they do, can’t recognize the great fit your product is for them because it appears to be built for “everyone”. Here are 4 reasons you should focus your marketing efforts on specific segments: Targeted Messaging and Offers are Always More Effective – If you are selling t-shirts for fashion conscious 20-something’s you will probably emphasize the styling.  If your business is selling t-shirts to kids sports teams you might emphasize the durability of the shirt or the low cost.  If you are selling t-shirts...
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