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...

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”...
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...
Does Your Startup Need a Rockstar Marketer or a B Player?

Does Your Startup Need a Rockstar Marketer or a B Player?

I read an interesting blog post last week called “The Curve of Talent” by Eric Paley. While I disagree with some parts of this post (his description of “big companies” doesn’t line up with my experiences), I believe his assessment of the gap between what startup folks think they are looking for and what the makeup of their team actually is (or indeed should be) is spot on. He defines a “A” player this way: …folks who can “write the book and not just read it.” These are an incredibly rare breed of people who not only have a clear idea how to competently accomplish their functional objectives, but actually lead the organization to innovate and be world class within their functional area. B players by contrast are the folks that can “execute well on what they are asked to do.” C players look at a lot like B’s but need coaching to get really get the job done well. The majority of folks are C’s. B’s are rare and A’s are super-rare. Given that, startups trying to hire only A players are probably kidding themselves. He says: Those who suggest that startups should only hire A players are grade inflators.  They’re calling B players A players.  The actual A players are too rare for this to be a practical hiring plan. I will go a step further and say that there is a time and place for an A player in a certain role but sometimes what you really want is a B.  Most startups like to think they always need rockstars (I translate this to A). If I had a dollar...