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One question, three experts: Marketing

January 11, 2013

In this new blog feature, we’ll address some of the challenges that startups face by asking three experts for their input on a different question each month—anything from marketing and financing guidance to advice on partnerships and mentors. Both the experts and question will change each month.

This month, we asked three marketing and branding specialists to weigh in on the following question:

“When starting a business, which marketing tactics should entrepreneurs employ in the first 90 days?”

Here are their answers.

Mary Jane Braide, Brand Strategist

For the early-stage startup, I like to keep marketing focused on RLR – Relevance, Leverage and Reach.

Relevance is first up, and always should be. After starting your business, finding investors and building your team, you need to define exactly who your audience is, how they behave and what problem your offer solves for them. Now is the time to work on this and to translate the learnings into marketing programs that promote a relevant value proposition.

Next is leverage. When you are tiny it’s almost impossible to get sustained presence on your own. So, get leverage by developing great partnerships, alliances, co-brandings and associations. Get endorsed, get bundled up with a more established brand, build a creative partnership with a not-for-profit, donate your service to a cause…  Use others’ momentum to build yours.

Third is reach. Probably the hardest in the early days, but with some creative thinking, you can build it, keeping in mind that it’s quality, not quantity that counts. Be selective. Don’t swarm social media. Pick the platform on which you can build the most relevant conversations for your product and communities of interest: Tumbler vs. Pinterest and Twitter vs. LinkedIn. Then, attach yourself to the ideas, trends, people and issues that will get your story out. Also, use the networks you’ve built during start-up to extend your reach early on – your investors, advisors, coaches and partners all have networks of their own that can give your startup that first blip of attention as you build to your tipping point of awareness.

Then, rigorously test everything you do for impact and build-or-kill based on what’s working. You don’t have the resources to fund underperforming campaigns, even if it’s just your time that is being expended.

Erin Bury, Managing Editor, BetaKit.com

Often entrepreneurs won’t have a full PR, marketing and social media team to help them get the word out at launch. So it’s up to the founders and other team members to create some buzz around their launch, and manage marketing efforts until they can outsource to a consultant or agency, or hire someone full-time.

When launching a company, the most important things to consider are getting your social media accounts ready; drumming up some early media buzz; and working with early beta testers and customers to get feedback and increase referrals.

When it comes to social media, claim all your online accounts, from your Twitter username to Facebook page, and build those profiles so they’re ready for launch (profile pictures, info sections, etc.). Then, get a company blog ready using a free blogging service like Tumblr or WordPress so you can announce the launch and create relevant content after launch.

In terms of public relations, write a press release or launch announcement, and work with a list of 10-20 targeted journalists prior to your launch to get to know them and send the launch announcement. And after launch day, work with early users to get their feedback, and incentivize them with discounted product or accounts or other perks to share the service with their friends and online networks.

Consider hiring a part-time intern to manage social media, PR and user engagement – even if you can’t afford to pay one, many students need to complete internships as part of their post-secondary schooling. While a marketing strategy should be more fleshed out after launch, this is a good place to start for founders looking to get some attention in the early days.

Brenda van Ginkel, Brand Marketing Consultant, The Narrative Build

Build a narrative for your brand to create emotional, invested connections. Identify what your company stands for and why it matters. Develop a presence that’s going to make people change their habits to not only adopt your product but become brand ambassadors for you. Create brand engagement by connecting with like-minded communities with shared values.

Connect the brand with the target market by using positioning that blends storytelling with marketing strategy. Building a narrative for the brand from the start makes it easier to position a product/service, opening up opportunities to grow the customer base, keep the team focused on the business goals and attract investors.

Then, create brand engagement on social media, using different platforms to check on which parts of the messaging are resonating the most as the narrative for the brand develops and to see who’s paying attention where. The narrative should have a big story that’s strategic, unique and compelling, with more specific messaging falling out of it to address the practical, benefit-driven interests of the identified stakeholder groups. Keep testing it and letting it evolve, checking that it’s still speaking to the narrative at the core of the brand.

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Kara Collins @ MaRS

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Kara is the Manager, Communications at MaRS. She helps get the MaRS word out in every (grammatically correct) way possible.

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