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Legendary Silicon Valley venture capitalist Dave McClure, founder of seed accelerator 500 Startups, took to Twitter recently stating that “most startups and investors are bad at marketing.” If you’re building a startup, chances are the majority of your team is focused on engineering a great product – and rightly so. Perfecting your offering is the foundation of a solid business; you can’t sell something that has little value to the end user.
However all this design and construction may come at an expense that cannot be overlooked: marketing. Here are three reasons why startups can’t afford to forget marketing and branding when looking to scale their business.
1. Customer education
No matter how great your product is, it’s nearly impossible to scale if people don’t know exactly what it is you’re building. Companies like Facebook, Instagram, Amazon and Google did not have to rely on heavy marketing in their early stages because their business models are socially oriented. They offered a free service so the cost per customer was close to zero. There is a movement of going “lean” and crossing your fingers hoping that your web traffic and conversions will grow organically but more often than not, those conversions are not where you’d like them to be. Strategic marketing and branding strategies will address customer education and ensure your product is understood and valued.
2. Audience research
Conducting in-depth strategic marketing and branding research will allow you to know who your customers are. Without this knowledge, it is practically impossible to scale and a lack of traction can hinder future capital-raising rounds. As McClure tweeted, “Inability to scale customer acquisition is the single greatest factor in not getting Series A, and ultimately the cause of the ‘Series A Crunch’”. Venture capitalists and angel investors want hard evidence that what you’re building has value to the user that they are actually willing to pay money for. Knowing your audience enables a wide range of business development activities and shows investors you can give them what they want.
Branding and marketing can be thought of as telling a story – the story of your company and offerings. A strong brand identity will evoke certain emotions in a potential buyer just as a well-written tale can elicit laughter or tears. Good branding and marketing crosses barriers and speak to everyone consistently and persuasively. The notion of “if you build it, they will come” does not often hold true. It should really be “build a great product, determine who benefits from it, and then tell them about it.” Brands that tell great stories keep prospects listening and turn users into evangelists.
the valley skillset that should be in highest demand / greatest scarcity is neither engineering nor design, but rather internet marketing.
— Dave McClure (@davemcclure) July 1, 2013
So how do you start marketing and branding your startup to the world? We recommend beginning small and optimizing your website for search engines. Facebook and Twitter pages and accounts for your business provide additional channels for you to communicate directly with your audience in real time. Track your visitors through Google and Facebook Analytics to learn who they are, where they are coming from and what they are looking at. Lastly, to truly establish your brand identity don’t be afraid to bring in an expert. It is much better to have a consistent strategic approach than shooting from the hip and being reactive to trends.
Want to know where to begin your internet marketing and branding efforts? Check out our free ebook covering everything you need to know to get started.
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