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Whole-Brain Branding

June 14, 2011

Tom returns to the vlogosphere with a message about the importance of using both sides of your brain when it comes to marketing for startups.  Marrying the emotional with the logical; that’s whole-brain branding.

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More “New Terms in Startup Marketing”

June 10, 2011

As a follow up to last week’s post, we thought we’d share 4 more new terms shaping startup marketing…

Gang of Four according to Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and other Silicon Valley leaders at the D9 Conference last week, there are now four giants who are the platform players (others creating value on top of them) dominating the tech landscape:  Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook.  Combined value of the gang of four:  half a trillion dollars.

Napkin entrepreneur according to Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur, Stanford professor and Silicon Valley personality, the low cost of developing and funding an Internet app company is today’s equivalent of sketching a new product on the back of napkin.  Instead of having just a piece of paper that explains your idea, entrepreneurs can end up with a website, an app and maybe even users willing to pay for your product.

Lean startup the idea is to get to market as quickly as possible with the “minimum viable product” and plan to iterate as often as is necessary to get traction and growth in customer acquisition numbers.  This model was created and advocated by author, startup advisor, former entrepreneur and venture capitalist Eric Ries.  You can read his blog called Startuplessons or read his book coming this fall.

Pivot – when a lean startup gets stuck and its business model or other fundamental guiding concept needs to evolve, it’s time to make a significant change.  That’s a pivot.  According to The Startup Genome project, released at TechCrunch New York at the end of May, successful startups pivot more often than unsuccessful ones.  Indeed, Startups that pivot once or twice times raise 2.5x more money, have 3.6x better user growth, and are 52% less likely to scale prematurely than startups that pivot more than 2 times or not at all.

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Startup Marketing: Building a Simpler Website

June 7, 2011

Crowded Ocean’s rip-off of Blaise Pascal’s famous quote:

“If I’d had more time, I would have built a simpler website.”

There’s nothing more memorable than a simple, clarified message framed on an uncluttered, productive page.  And yet too many websites turn out to be dense, text-heavy, confusing or overloaded with images.  Why?  “Project creep.”

While you might not be familiar with the term, you’re probably familiar with the phenomenon—as well-intentioned efforts to produce an elegant, clean website give way to multiple participants wanting to make sure that their message gets across.

We believe if you take the time to have a solid plan, you’ll end up building a better website that also costs less.  For a handy example of a better website, check out the new website we built for our client EndPlay.

A strong website depends upon a crystallized message (among other things).  To achieve your goal of a simple, powerful message in a website that is clear, focused, uncluttered and productive for your target prospect, we recommend planning early and following these steps:

  1. Clearly describe your goals by focusing on the needs of your audiences, the actions you want them to take and the takeaways you want to deliver to each.
  2. Be deliberate about what content you will give away and what content you will put behind a lead capture form.
  3. Ensure that there are multiple short paths to and from every page and every piece of content.
  4. Before you start, combine your site map and your content plans into a single picture.  Socialize your consolidated plan with key stakeholders.
  5. Allow time for your plans to gel and for feedback on your plan to come back to you to be incorporated.
  6. Before you task your content creators, be sure you have an SEO plan.

Take the time to build a solid plan and your plan will be your best weapon against project creep.

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Four New Terms Shaping Startup Marketing

May 31, 2011

Words matter.

In the business of startup marketing, we begin with positioning.  And in a very fundamental way, positioning takes definition in the words we choose to describe the mission of your company and the value of your product.

That’s why we pay attention to words.

Here are four new ones that are jumping out at us:

Stealthy– Two weeks ago, U.S. military officials described the specially modified, radar-evading helicopters used in the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound as stealthy.  Yes, said helicopters had many stealth features.  But the helicopters themselves were, well, stealthy.  Maybe there’s a new stealthy startup out there in need of some marketing assistance.

Care-abouts–  This new term is the label for the key motivators that will compel a prospect to buy (or to move to the next stage in the buying cycle.)  For example, a CIO’s care-abouts for new system software might be scalability, interoperability and security.  The next time you’re reading an e-newsletter, see if the sender ticked off your care-abouts.

Content farms- Demand Media is the poster child for companies that crank out volumes of low-quality content, sometimes using offshore writers, in order to game the search engines into ensuring that their sites rank high in organic search.

Word vomit–  Demand Media has been hammered in the press over their content farms that regularly project volumes of words (hence the analogy) that are low quality.  Thankfully, Google recently tuned their algorithm to punish content farms and that nasty word vomit.  Thank you, Google.

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Just Say No: Crowdsourcing Content

May 25, 2011

Crowdsourcing sounds like a great idea for naming, brand marks and even presentation design at companies such as 99designs or crowdSPRING.  Harness the power of a distributed creative “braintrust” to surface new ideas at low cost.  And fast.  We get it.

But now we’re hearing about taking crowdsourcing to a whole new level.  There’s fundraising for startups through crowdsourcing firm Profounder, and there’s crowdsourcing content through CrowdedText.

Profounder calls it “crowdfunding”.  Given the small amounts of monies that online communities are willing to give, crowdfunding can represent an alternative source of angel or incubator funds, but hardly a source of serious, six- or seven-figure funding required to build a tech startup.

The Wall Street Journal did a fine job of commenting on the crowdfunding trend just a few weeks ago.

The interesting trend that is a bit of a head-scratch to us is the notion that tech startup clients can successfully crowdsource content, such as a white papers or technical document.  Frankly, we’ve never seen it.  To build page views, website traffic, lead flow, and ultimately, authority, requires quality content.  And quality content takes time, talent and subject matter expertise.

We work with a stable of writers who have honed their craft over many years and many clients.  They know how to create and structure useful content for startups that provides meaningful information in accessible formats that are good enough to last and get re-purposed.

Don’t get seduced into thinking that quality content comes easy.  One of the reasons that so many blogs are unsuccessful is that delivering quality content is hard.  It’s that simple.  Crowdsourcing content really is too good to be true.

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Should You Name Your Competition?

May 19, 2011

In highly competitive technology markets (and political campaigns, for that matter) there is often a debate about whether a startup should name their competition when they are pitching their value.

Does naming the competition give them undue credit?  Does naming the competition encourage a would-be customer to take a closer look and to do more comparison shopping?

Take a look at the naming/branding firm A Hundred Monkeys to see their approach.  They are so confident in their capabilities that they have named their competition on their own website.  And it’s not a short list.  It takes real chutzpah to say “we’re good; you should hire us.”  But they also say, check out our competition and you decide.  For that we say, bravo!  What’s your take?

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Startup Marketing: Do You Have the Right Team?

May 16, 2011

Outside of their core technology, we find that our startup clients love to talk about data—specifically marketing metrics and analytics. It’s a positive development to see our clients consulting data—and not just their ‘gut feel’ to make important early decisions about market penetration, customer profiling and marketing investments.

But two questions persist: are they using the right data, and do they have the right people working with it?

Many of our startup clients are struggling with the basics of marketing; clarifying their goals, among other things. That means they need to create a plan, and that plan requires having the right positioning, message, and programs. But more than anything else, it means having the right people in the right jobs who know what they don’t know. And they know how to ask for help.

When startups are busy building their marketing plan, we tell them don’t forget to look at your team. In fact, start with your team. Here are four questions to help evaluate your team:

  1. Do they understand your customers’ core needs and can they give the company pitch?
  2. Do they know what success looks like to someone at the company above where they are now?
  3. Can they toggle between thinking big at the white board and actually doing the work themselves?
  4. Imagine that the job they are in is vacant. Would you hire them to fill the job?

No audit or design of the marketing program mix and spend is complete until you examine the caliber and track record of your team, and their ability to meet the goals of your startup. If you discover that you need to make a change to your marketing team, you probably already know what we’re going to say: do it sooner rather than later.

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