“A ‘startup’ is a company that is confused about –

  • What its product is.
  • Who its customers are.
  • How to make money.”

– Dave McClure

Starting a business is exhilarating. The fundamental truth about the startup is, having a unique product is not enough to keep a business going. You have to sell the product and to do that you have to show the potential buyer the value of what you are selling. Without marketing, no one will know your business exists –and if customers don’t know you’re there, you won’t make any sales.

Simply put, startup marketing is a unique challenge often times because of the limited resources, whether it’s time, money or talent. Sometimes the best strategies are the simplest. Marketing your startup in today’s competitive business economy is undoubtedly difficult, but there are steps you can take to make sure your startup gets a fighting chance at success. Successful startup marketing requires that you have both a great product and great marketing.

Every startup is unique, so we won’t discuss tactical methods in great detail. The strategy we recommend is to simply build a product worth recommending. If every single user recommends two new users, you have exponential growth.

Focus on Target Customer

It’s easy for startup founders to believe the whole world will love their products. After all, founders eat, sleep and breathe their products. The reality is that only a small portion of the population is interested in your product. If you try to market your startup to everyone, you waste both time and money. The key is to identify a niche target market and go after market share aggressively.

Staying focused will help you reach your target customer more efficiently, and it is a better use of your limited resources.

Leverage Social Media

There is an incredible burden on startups to maximize marketing budget without compromising quality.

Social media is great and necessary. Social media is an inexpensive, far-reaching way to attract attention. Signing up for most platforms is free and easy. And once you’re online, you can reach millions of people on the Internet with your message. This provides you with almost unlimited possibilities — something you won’t find anywhere else in the marketing realm.

The reason it’s so effective is that it is where people spend most of their time now. It allows you to get in front of peoples faces in a much more effective way as credible sources of information. People trust things that are shared among friends. It allows you interaction with your customers.

Incentivize People to Share

Most people will not go out of their way to give you a “like”. Give people in your target market incentives to connect with you socially online, and they will.

If you want people to talk about your product or service, there’s nothing quite like giving them an incentive to do so, but how do you motivate your consumer? To get your actual consumers to follow you online, you need to give them good reason. Offer an immediate discount for tweeting about your product or service, or ask them to post about it on Facebook. Or, in exchange for “liking” your company — maybe they could receive some additional perk.  Generally speaking, the better your offer, the more takers you’ll get.

Match your incentive with your ask. Ideally, your prize can also work to market your products, service or business image.

Use Trial and Error

“Enlightened trial and error” is the mantra of renowned design firm IDEO, and embodies the idea of not being afraid to fail often in order to succeed sooner.

When coming up with marketing strategies, embrace the process of trial and error. Carefully watch the results of the initiative, and if it works, don’t be complacent. It’s easy and more tempting to not improve when something is working. To discover a more efficient and innovative approach along the way, you have to be willing to fine tune your current strategy.

If it doesn’t work, tweak it, try again, and drop it if it ultimately doesn’t work. Mistakes are inevitable in business. It’s these mistakes that allow you to tweak your marketing to be more effective in the future. Keep in mind that what works for one business may not work for yours (and vice versa).

The most important asset for any startups is to be told what needs improving, and have an agile system for making those improvements. For early-stage startups, feedback is more important than customers. The faster you can resolve customer objections, and the more scope you have to improve the product to match market demand.

“What do you need to start a business? Three simple things: know your product better than anyone. Know your customer, and have a burning desire to succeed.” – Dave Thomas