7 Steps to Better Startup Value Propositions

Marketing messages and value propositions are notoriously difficult to create for startups. Startup founders have a tendency to focus too much on features and not enough on the value those features deliver. They also often spend too much time talking about features that don’t really differentiate them from their competitors or are simply irrelevant for their target markets. When working on marketing messaging for startups, it’s often harder to get agreement on what NOT to say than it is to decide what should get talked about. Here’s a method for getting to a simple set of value propositions that has worked for us: 1. List your target market segments. The more detail you can get around this the better – for example “Small Businesses” is not a segment, “Mid-sized law offices in North America” is. The segment should be well-defined with a clear need your solution addresses. For early-stage startups, you will generally only have 1 or at most 2 target segments. If you have more than that, you likely don’t have the resources to really go after them. 2. For each segment identify the primary buyer. For complex deals there will be multiple folks that influence a sale but for a simple value proposition exercise, it helps to start with the most important decision maker (you can come back and worry about messages for other buyers later). Again, this person should be well-defined which means you will likely have more than just general demographic data (i.e. people in their 20’s versus University students in Canada that spend more than $100 a year on games). 3. For each segment list...
A Startup Content Marketing Cheatsheet

A Startup Content Marketing Cheatsheet

In the past year we’ve seen a shift in the way startups are thinking about content marketing. Two years ago most of the content marketing conversations I had with startups started out as discussions about SEO, ranking and keywords. Content quality from a prospect point of view was largely an afterthought. A lot of that thinking has changed both because of apparent changes to the Google algorithm, as well as changes in the way buyers behave online where they are increasingly bombarded with not just too much content, but too much crappy, irrelevant and downright useless marketing content.  Getting found by prospects on the internet is (finally) becoming less a matter of sneaky tricks to game Google and more a battle to provide informative, useful content that prospects seek out, enjoy and gleefully share among their peers. But many startups don’t know where to start. In my experience the best way for a startup to begin building a content library is to put themselves in the minds of their prospects and think about what content is needed at different stages of the buying process. Understanding the Buyer’s Journey One of the most common mistakes I see startups make with their content is that they create too much content that focuses only on one particular stage of the buyer’s journey. For a startup selling to businesses, typically a buyer will move through a set of stages on the way to making a purchase. This is increasingly not a linear journey as a buyer may move back and forth between actively researching solutions, building a short list of possible vendors and actively evaluating a...
What is Startup Marketing?

What is Startup Marketing?

Many startup founders don’t fully understand what a startup marketer does or should be doing. When I talk to founders I find they often have a very narrow definition of what startup marketing is and only after they have found a great senior person to run their team do they really understand what a broad role it is. I put together a presentation that I thought might be useful both for founders that are looking to understand the startup marketing role better as well as marketers that are struggling to explain to the other folks on the team what’s on their plate. What is Startup Marketing? from April Dunford Here’s what startup marketing is NOT: The Cure for a Lousy Product – There are a lot of things that marketers can do but if you have built something that nobody actually wants to buy or something so difficult to use that buyers give up on the product in disgust, well, marketing can’t really help you all that much. Magic – Related to the previous point, we might be good at many things but I don’t believe the tooth fairy leaves money under your pillow and neither should you. Convincing people to part with their hard earned money is difficult to do and there is no simple magic wand that works when we need it to. Like everything else in your startup, it’s hard work. Common Sense –  Just because you are on the receiving end of thousands of marketing messages a day and have an opinion about those, does not mean you understand what goes on behind the curtain. So what is...

5 Things Startup Marketers Can Teach Big Companies

I did a keynote talk last week at Communitech’s Tech Leadership Conference. The audience for this talk was a mix of big company marketers and startup marketers. My goal was to show the folks at the larger companies how small, agile, high-growth startups are managing their marketing operations. At the same time, when I think about the startups that I hang out with not all of them are doing everything that I talk about in this deck. I decided to post this deck over here to get some feedback from you folks. If you are a startup marketer – does your group operate in the way I’m describing in this deck? If you are at a larger company do you see these types of things being adopted? How do you think this will evolve over time? 5 things startup marketers can teach big companies from April...
Addressing the 3 Root Causes of Bad Marketing

Addressing the 3 Root Causes of Bad Marketing

I did a workshop at Communitech (where I’m currently serving as an EIR a day or two a week) on startup marketing and in particular how you would design a marketing plan and programs in a more strategic and less tactical way to address the 3 root causes of bad marketing. If you have been following my presentations over the past year you will recognize some of the content here but are some new additions and refinements from previous decks.   Startup Marketing: A Systems Approach from...
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