by Jeff Shuford
If you hope to avoid the fate of failed entrepreneurs who have gone before you, it’s time you heard a few hard truths about startup marketing. While thousands of entrepreneurs around the globe are using the same fruitless marketing methods, street-smart entrepreneurs are pursuing lucrative customer-acquisition methods the wannabes fear to try. You can get a growth hacker to tell you that you ought to be on Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, and Hacker News, but they won’t tell you the actual cost of all your wasted outreach efforts. If you want to know what it takes to build a company that survives (and maybe even flourishes), you need to wake up to the realities of growth marketing. Buckle up, baby; you’re in for a bumpy ride.
1. Startup marketing isn’t glamorous
Getting on the front page of YCombinator’s Hacker News or Reddit’s r/startups won’t add a whole lot of paying customers to your client roster. Sure, your site visit numbers will spike for a day or two, but the majority of those visitors are tire-kickers and not your target market. It would be best if you were where your customers are and feed them valuable information over an extended period. Business blogging takes time, and SEO is a long-term endeavor, but the results speak for themselves. Convincing customers of your company’s value won’t happen in a Snapchat post or a cool picture on Instagram; prepare yourself for the long haul if you hope to succeed.2.
2. No One Cares About How Much Money You’ve Raised
Customers don’t care one iota how much funding you have raised from investors. Seriously. Stop promoting your latest seed raise or flaunting your funding on TechCrunch. The only people who care about your seed/Series A funding are your investors (which gives them something to brag about on Twitter), your competitors, and your mama.
3. You Don’t Need Another Intern
If you’ve accepted investor cash and your runway is shrinking by the minute, skimping on marketing is akin to taking your startup behind the barn and shooting it while it’s still moving. That marketing intern you’re thinking of hiring isn’t invested in the success of your company. Your marketing-wannabe cousin isn’t going to send droves of paying customers your way. Without a clear understanding of your preferred customer and their online/offline hangout preferences, your marketing efforts are all likely going to be for naught. If you do only one thing to improve the viability of your startup, dive into the data on your target customer. Don’t have detailed data? Oops. It would be best if you had thought about customer analysis before you launched your startup.
4. You Need More Than Press and Mentions
All the time you are spending on securing tech press mentions for your startup could be better spent writing your blog posts for trade publications. As previously mentioned, most of your customers don’t care that your startup has been mentioned on TechCrunch, ReCode, or Mashable. They would much instead read about your product or services in their industry’s trade magazine or online publication. A simple Google search is all it takes to find relevant trade publications for your market sector (i.e.: type niche + “trade publication”). Do you want long-term customers who will pay for your product/service for years, or do you want startup enthusiasts? The choice is yours.
5. Success is Outside of Your Comfort Zone
Hanging out at your local meet-up for entrepreneurs might be useful for your ego, but it isn’t doing your fledgling business any good. Unless your niche is providing services to entrepreneurs, your time is better spent at meetings where your target customers hang out. Put down the beer, step away from the hipster hangouts, and get your butt to events where you stand a chance of encountering real, paying clients.
Successfully marketing your startup isn’t easy. Your chances of becoming startup roadkill greatly outweigh your odds of success. The sooner you get serious about long-term marketing efforts, the sooner you’ll see your client roster begin to grow. Stop trying to win the attention of the startup paparazzi and get to work on earning the loyalty of paying clients. The fate of your business depends on your willingness to do the necessary work.