A Startup Marketing Framework (version 3)

Years ago when I was consulting for startups, I created something I called “A Startup Marketing Framework“. I used it mainly as a tool to describe the kinds of things that I could help folks with. Startups found it useful and it is still a popular piece of content on this site. Last week I had a startup pull out a printed version of the framework (from 2011 no less!) and I decided there were a couple of changes I wanted to make to it. Below is the new and improved version 3. Framework Assumptions As with previous versions, the framework does not attempt to cover things that I would consider to be more “Product Management” focused (like product roadmap for example). I’m taking a purely marketing point of view here.  The Framework also assumes 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 are things here you won’t need to (and more importantly, shouldn’t) worry about yet.   Lastly, my background is B2B marketing so like most content on this site, this has a B2B slant to it.  That said, I think most of it applies to a B2C startup. Market Knowledge Market Category and Segments – Based on your interaction with early customers, these are the segments that have the most affinity for your offering and are the target of your marketing efforts.  These need to be well-defined and very specific.  I’ve had folks ask me where buyer/influencer personas fit and I include those here as part...

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 Value Proposition Worksheet

A Value Proposition Worksheet

Creating a great value proposition is a critical step in building good marketing messages but writing effective value propositions isn’t easy. Marketing schools still teach the standard for creating value propositions from Crossing the Chasm that looks like this: For (bulls-eye customer), Who (purchase motivation), Our product is a (customer language), That (benefit), Unlike (competitors), Ours (differentiators), At a price (vs. competitors). I wrote a post on this style of value proposition a while back and another on how you might craft a set of simple value statements. Lately however I’ve been thinking that there’s a step missing from the way we traditionally create these, namely the step that shows how you got to the value proposition in the first place. Why a Value Proposition Worksheet? Your value propositions will be based on a set of facts and assumptions. The assumptions will shift or become facts as you run experiments and execute on marketing programs. The facts will change too, as you evolve who your ideal target customers are, as new competitors enter the market, and as your own product changes with additional releases. I’ve been using variations on the template (I sometimes refer to this an “offering template”) for a while and I think it works:   What Do You Do? – this is the simple statement that describes what you offering does. This isn’t the value you provide (that comes later) but rather the starting point of how you would frame what you do for someone you have never pitched before. Competitive Alternatives – this is what a prospect would see as an alternative to using your offering. It could be “do nothing” or “hire someone” or...

6 Secrets to Better Marketing Messages for Startups

Good startup marketing starts with good messaging.  You can have the greatest product in the world but if you can’t clearly communicate the value you deliver to your customers, nobody will ever be able to figure that out.  Here are 6 ways to build better messages for your startup that will lead to better marketing: Reduce the number of words you use – People have short attention spans and they won’t read a page of text just to figure out what you do.  Take your one page description that describes your key differentiated points of value for your market.  Then pare it down to a paragraph.  Then whittle it down to 2 sentences. Now tell me in 8 words or less.  You need to be able to communicate what you do, why people care, and who the people are that should care in as simple a way as possible.  Simple value statements work better. Lose your pointless tagline – Why do so many startups I come across have pointless taglines? Some even have great one line descriptions of what they do and then add a completely non-differentiating tagline that not only fails to add to anyone’s understanding of the offering but distracts from the decent description they do have. Follow, forget, fail.  If it can’t stand alone than just don’t do it.  Write a solid one-line description of what you do and leave it at that. Get rid of not just buzzwords but also jargon or overly technical terms – Startups in particular often fall into the trap of using terms that are very familiar inside the company but...

Buzzwords and Why We Can’t Stop Using Them

Buzzwords exist for a reason.  They are a shorthand way of expressing a complicated concept.  Words like “next-generation” and “advanced” are ways of saying that your product is better.  Not just a little bit better, a whole lot better.  It’s like a generational gap, it’s so much better.  It’s no wonder we want to use them.  Saying “next-generation” is a whole lot easier, not to mention briefer, than trying to describe how your database returns queries much faster because the underlying architecture is fundamentally different than your competitors, or how your deployment and ongoing maintenance costs are much lower than other solutions in your space because of your deployment model. Unfortunately when you use those generic terms, you force customers to interpret what you mean when you say them.  Does “next generation” mean faster, slower, cheaper, more expensive, easier to use, harder to use, contains more features or contains fewer features?  Your customers might interpret that in any of those ways and make a purchase decision based on that.  If your product really is next generation, you probably have some great reasons for customers to buy.  There are no good buzzword shortcuts to creating great value propositions – you simply have to do the work. If you think your prospects know exactly what you’re talking about when you say your products are “innovative”, you’d better test that assumption. Subscribe to this blog or follow me on Twitter or...
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