Where Tech Start-ups come up short in marketing

Far too many start-ups in the technology sector launch a great product with distinct advantages over competitors but fail to gain a solid footing in their marketplace. One of the major reasons is lack of adequate investment from the beginning in what I would call a solid marketing infrastructure.

Establishing a solid marketing infrastructure gives the start-up technology software or hardware firm the foundation from which to grow and expand. Without that foundation, it’s easy to become distracted in a scramble to ramp up sales, dispersing your resources and energy.

What does it take to build a solid marketing foundation? Here are some basic suggestions.

Positioning – First and foremost is positioning. A start-up or early growth technology company has to stake a claim, define its positioning, and express it in an elevator pitch—the two or three sentence description that captures the who, what, where and most of all why your new company exists. What most start-ups don’t realize is that when you position yourself, you’ve got re-position everyone else, i.e. your competition.  So there has to be a strong element of conflict in your positioning and maybe even a bit of controversy.  Playing it safe just doesn’t cut it.

Content – Content is king today as evidenced by the flood of buzz around “content marketing.” For technology start-ups and early growth companies, developing, organizing and sharing content is critical to grabbing and keeping anyone’s attention for long.  There’s a reason that Google has recently urged companies to rely less on link building and more on building quality content.

Design – How many people know that the now famous TED conference was founded by a designer?  In fact, how many people know that TED stands for Technology, Education and Design? I doubt there is a component of marketing infrastructure that’s less understood or undervalued. Without the creative genius of design, your content lacks drama and impact.

Web Presence – While anyone can put up a web site these days, that’s the problem for many startups.  Their web sites look arbitrary and boring.  They lack the content and design that define any brand personality which could set them apart from their competition. In other words, their web presence fails to fulfill the promise of their positioning.  It’s a huge and costly disconnect for many start-ups.

Public Relations – I lump in the analyst and professional social media community into the public relations category.  Your positioning has to be communicated and fleshed out through a coordinated public relations effort that leverages all types of media.  That means your positioning has to wear a lot of different outfits depending on which audience it’s trying to attract.  Find your spokesperson who can play off your core value proposition with variety and variation using by-lined articles, blog posts, tweets and video interviews.

Customer Community – This is obviously the toughest nut for start-ups to crack.  If you had customers you wouldn’t be a start-up.  Your initial customers are really your partners and should be treated as such. Promote them as much as your product and you’ll plant the seeds of a growing customer community that will yield results for years to come.

John Ortbal