Marketing Your Startup

Investors seem to love to ask this one question, “How are you going to market your startup?” By now, I have a ready answer that I shoot right away. The concept is a little vague and difficult to get, but I will try to make that clear. The answer to life, the universe, and everything is:

If my product is really damn good, it will market itself. If it is not, I shouldn’t bother marketing it.

It sounds a little bit like ‘Build it and they will come‘ but it is NOT. Let me tell you why.

First let’s have a look at Coca Cola’s marketing strategy. Their drink is a product significantly different than your new, innovative (hopefully) idea for startup. Coke is an old product that we all know. It’s been around for years and there is nothing so cool about it. The ads you see around have one purpose – to make you drink Coke when you don’t really care what you drink. This is the type of thing in which you constantly need to be bombarded with messages that will layer up in your subconsciousness and will finally make you drink Coke. For that purpose, ads are targeted to everybody, all the time, and everywhere (even SecondLife! blah). Marketing of Coca Cola looks probably somewhat like that:

Coca Cola marketing type

That is perfect and in time covers millions and billions of people. However, it only works if your budget is $2.5billion+. If you are like me, you probably don’t even have billionth of that.

So what can we do? Something smaller, like Google AdWords? Nah. AdWords is pretty much the Coke strategy on a much smaller scale:

Online Marketing ONLY

What is happening there is targeting single users according to their searches. True, more efficient than other online advertising services, but still equivalent to buying your new users. You want better than that – you want them to not only join for free but cajole friends to join for free too!

At this point you should have already realized that you are just not able to spread the idea on your own. You want USERS to do it for you. The ominous word of mouth. This is the only way it could work, and since it is the only way, that should get you thinking, “How do I get my users to do that?” The answer is: You get them to work for you by creating the most amazing, best-out-there product, so that when people recommend it to their friends they feel proud of themselves. That is, it must be just really good – easy, cool, useful etc. In that case, the scenario of marketing will look like that:

Word Of Mouth Power

Now this is a different story. All you did was sent an email to your best friends and relatives [red line], that might be interested in it, and the rest was done by them [blue dotted line] because by recommending that amazing ‘grade A’ product will make them look knowledgeable, generous, and cool (oh that coolness factor!)

If you really really want to spend money, here is where online advertising makes sense. At this point, when you have crowd working for you, you want to give them many initiation points at random places with random groups of people, in which case your marketing power can be multiplied many times:

Online Advertising + Word of Mouth

If you can’t make other people talk of you, you got the wrong idea. Get a new one, improve your current concept, or just give up — you are wasting your time.

Do you agree with me now?
If my product is really damn good, it will market itself. If it is not, I shouldn’t bother marketing it.”

6 Replies to “Marketing Your Startup”

  1. Alek,

    Definitely. But it better be really, really cool for your users to tell their friends about it instead of the other awesome stuff that is new and innovative.

    I think a better way to say it – Users benefit by telling other people about the product.

  2. I agree. But the problem is how many good products are out there.

    Even You tube needed venture money to get the viral effect going. And You tube was a great idea.

    So, yes. It is better to focus on an innovative product but is this easy. But that’s why success is rare.

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