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7 Marketing Lessons for Startups

March 12, 2012 6 comments

Some of the most interesting, fun, frustrating and rewarding clients to work with from a marketing perspective are startups. Startups are agile, nimble, passionate and innovative and if the idea is adopted by the masses; extremely financially rewarding. Whether you’re in real estate or are launching the next big social media idea or mobile application, you need to create awareness, in order to generate adoption and ultimately sales of your product or service. How do you create awareness? A good first step is to build a brand and marketing strategy to outline the framework of how your brand should be communicated and how it should be perceived by your customers and the market. Keep these important marketing lessons in mind when building a marketing strategy for your startup:

1. You don’t need to do anything in mass.
Mass media includes TV, Print and Radio. It’s extremely expensive for startups and has a very short shelf life. It might make you feel good to see your commercial running on a local TV network, but is it reaching the right audience? Likely not. It’s difficult to measure and very difficult to precisely reach your target audience. Offline activity drives online activity, but if you’re a startup, forget mass media until you have it in your budget, and even then, only consider ad placement in these medium if you can measure your success and that it truly makes sense for your business.

2. You don’t need to hire a PR firm.
The press LOVE to publish newsworthy stories. It’s their job. The best news stories though are the ones that are awesome and are easily spread by word of mouth and social media. If you’re a startup, you don’t need to pay someone for this. Most good PR firms will charge you upwards of $5,000/month to develop a few stories and seed them across their publication channels for anyone that will run them. Focus on making your product awesome, focus on creating customer evangelists and you’ll create your own news.

3. You don’t need swag.
Unless your startup company is in the swag business, you don’t need it. Your customers don’t care to have another pen with your logo on it, and why are you focused on creating company golf shirts when that money could be better spent investing in your product?! Usually, the companies who think it’s a good idea to have logo’d coffee mugs and golf balls are the same companies who will question you about the ROI of Social Media.

4. Focus on building a strong, engaged community.
For god sakes you’re a startup! Why are you even thinking about doing anything BUT leveraging the free social media tools out there (Facebook, twitter, linkedIn, Youtube, blog)? If you’re bootstrapped (which most startups are), use social media to help you establish your brand. Reach out to your customers, chat with them, engage them, write blog articles that build your credibility and establish you as an industry thought leader. It’s not about the number of followers or likes you have on Facebook, though. Use these channels to help you market test your products and messaging and see what happens when you reward your best customers for helping you spread the word!

5. Make sure your product is an MVP.
You think you’ve got a great idea, you’ve done a little bit of research on google to see who the competitors are and the factors that affect your market. Now, you want to tell the world about it! This ambition is great, but make sure that you’ve measured twice before you cut. Actually, you should measure a whole bunch of times before you cut. Once you launch, that’s it – it’s out there and while it’s hard to establish brand perception, it’s even harder to try and change it once you’ve put something in market.

You do need to get it to MVP (Minimum Viable Product), but make sure that MVP actually solves a market need, that the benefit can be easily articulated by your customers to others and that the market/users/clients/customers are regularly using your product because they think it’s an awesome idea. Survey your base. Listen to what they say. If they think your product stinks, they’ll tell you. If your app sucks, they’ll tell you. Don’t focus on implementing every piece of feedback, but do focus on making something cool. Give them a reason to tell their friends about why they need your product in their lives and how they can’t live without it.

6. Bring your development in house.
I see this too frequently with new tech startups and entrepreneurs who perhaps aren’t the most skilled of developers – they hire a 3rd party development company to help them build their website or mobile app. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, however, if your business idea is 100% a new social media platform, mobile application or web-based service, you are at the mercy of the development company where your project may not be a priority. Want to change the font color on one of your pages? File and pay for a change request. Want to add a page to your site? File and pay for a change request. Want to integrate your blog or social media into your site? Well, you get the idea.

If you’re a startup company whose business idea relies solely on the success of your web or mobile platform, you should hire a developer, and more importantly, a UI/UX specialist. Your great idea will be lost if the look and feel of your site does not match what you’re communicating. Also, since this interface is how people will actually use your product, it’s important that it’s intuitive and visually appealing to the user. No one will recommend a product that is clunky, or one that they don’t know how to use to your friends.

Finally, on the issue of brining your development in house – do this. Talk to people, developers, find the good ones and hire them. You will be able to make changes 1,000x quicker, be more agile to customer requests and implement your changes more quickly with someone on staff that is 100% dedicated to your product and your product only.

7. Advertising will kill a bad product fast.
The easiest way to kill a bad product is to start advertising it in mass and attracting customers. They’ll find out pretty quick that your product doesn’t stack up to what you’re telling the market and guess what? They’ll tell a lot of people about it. They tell people on Facebook. They’ll tweet it. They’ll write blog posts about it. They’ll leave negative and sometimes nasty reviews on the application stores where your product is featured. But most of all, they’ll tell their friends to stay away.  As a startup, the #1 thing that you can do from a marketing perspective is make a cool product. No matter what your startup budget is, nearly all of it should be invested in the product.

I recently asked a bootstrapped startup entrepreneur how he heard about Pinterest. Did you hear about it on the radio? Did you see a print ad for it? Did you see a TV ad? No. Someone you know shared a link – shared something cool and it spread.

Focus on making a cool product, focus on building a strong and engaged community and make your idea easily shareable through social channels. With a proper brand and marketing strategy in place, the rest will take care of itself.

Six Cool Trends I Think 2012 Will Bring Us

December 28, 2011 21 comments

2011 is coming to a close but before it does, I wanted to write down my thoughts on some cool trends I think 2012 will bring us from a marketing, mobile and technology perspective. Here they are in no particular order:

1. Near-Field Communication Becomes Mainstream

The biggest issue with NFC right now is the fact that we’re calling it NFC. This technology (RFID) has been around for years in fact, you likely already use it a few times a day to gain access to your condo, your office and even pay at the pump using your MasterCard Paypass. The introduction of Google Wallet in North America means that Google is helping to educate the mass market about NFC, but I think, as marketers, we need to simplify the message. Paying for everyday items is as easy as tapping your phone. Checking into foursquare will be as easy as tapping your phone. Sending someone your business card will be as easy as tapping your phones together. Accessing brand & product information, downloading music, videos, apps – will be as easy as tapping your phone. Just Tap It. Tap It. Simple.

The phones are here and the API & other applications are coming. Sales of NFC-enabled phones is set to hit 80Million globally in 2012. It’s a huge trend. Your wallet, loyalty cards, ID and gift cards could potentially live on your phone and this is going to really take flight this year. While this could be a scary concept for some, would you rather lose your wallet & have to replace all of your cards, or lose your phone and simply wipe it remotely and be able to restore all of your cards quickly and easily?

2. Diffusion of Engagement.
A marketing buzz word in 2011, companies everywhere were searching for ways to connect and create ‘engagement’ with their influential customers. The idea being that using services like Klout, Kred & others can help you reach the people who can ‘influence’ the purchase decisions of people within their respective networks. In 2012, customers will become increasingly savvy to this. We don’t like telemarketers interrupting us and we know what’s fake. We’ll sniff out that blogger that is only promoting a new brand or smartphone because they got a sample or got one for free. We’ll start to turn off the companies that are using social media like a megaphone to push their message out to people instead of truly connecting with and rewarding their loyal customers. At the end of the day, word of mouth needs to travel through trusted sources. People are more likely to buy something that one of their FRIENDS have recommended; not Justin Bieber.

3. A Mobile Advertising Platform for BlackBerry
If you are currently developing applications for iOS, Android or BlackBerry you know that iOS and Android come with many PAID methods of helping you gain distribution and promote your application to generate downloads an stimulate usage. ADMOB (Owned by Google) is likely the most efficient. It’s a Pay-per-click advertising platform for iOS and Android that allows you to target potential users through its mobile advertising platform (in-application) based on several user demographics. You can target on country, gender, age, even device & carrier network, set a daily budget and get a comprehensive report on how many impressions your ad generated as well as the number of click-thrus and downloads. If you’re familiar with Adwords, it works in much the same way but for mobile.

This is something that is really missing for BlackBerry. With over 75Million BlackBerry users worldwide; a mobile advertising platform whether in AppWorld or through free BlackBerry apps is important, relevant and realistic for two reasons. (1) It could be a potential source of mobile advertising revenue for RIM. (2) It presents a channel for the makers of the over 50,000 applications available in BlackBerry AppWorld to target and communicate to their base of users, gain feedback and offer increased value. Some find ads annoying, but for smaller application development companies – it’s a cost-effective way to reach potential users and is a great channel to gain and share information.

4. RIM’s Market share in the United States will climb aggressively.
This may seem like a #BeBold statement and is not intended to align with their current Bold campaign. I am still a firm believer in Research In Motion despite their 2011 blunders for a number of reasons:
1. They have over 75 Million subscribers world wide.
2. They are growing in other important markets (Asia)
3. They realized over $5B in Revenue last quarter
4. They are in a market that is only 3510% penetrated globally. We’re still in the early stages of mobile adoption.
5. They make a good product. The Playbook is a strong tablet & the Bold 9900 is the best device I’ve ever owned.
6. They have made a number of strategic acquisitions (TAT, Tungle, Gist, JayCut) that I feel will drive home the user experience and pull them back into the smartphone race.

Look, I get it. RIM has had some serious issues with leadership and execution. They have lost a few key people in key positions from downsizing and from attrition and I know the microscope is on them. They’re not going to zero, and in my opinion are not in a death spiral as the mainstream media would have you believe. Their developer channel is solid, they have great patents and IP, they make a great product and are growing in other international markets. As a PlayBook owner, I have a lot of confidence in the move to the QNX operating system. I think it will pave the way for some cool functionality and a reinvention of Blackberry as we know it.

5. Everything’s a game.
Gamification. Game Mechanics. Call it what you like, everything you touch in 2012 will have some sort of game component to it. Whether it’s checking in and earning points using Foursquare, or rewarding users for watching TV shows and shopping at certain retail stores – People will go crazier than ever before trying to outdo their friends and family by collecting rewards/badges/trophies and points for completing certain tasks and actions. Do we need another digital farm? Definitely not, but we’ve only just scratched the surface with respect to how the user experience can be integrated, ‘fun-ified’, changed and improved using competitive elements. Bigger trend – you’ll see many companies introducing rewards system for real world stuff. Points will become a form of virtual currency that you’ll be able to redeem for coupons, discounts and even purchase retail items. It’s not new (air miles/Petro points, Avion points), but it’s set to explode this year.

6. Experiential Marketing Comes to Retail
I recently purchased a pair of sunglasses from a sunglass retailer with over 2,000 stores around the world. This was a new location and it had been a while since I had been in this chain. I was surprised by the mediocre experience. Though the staff were helpful enough, the experience felt cheap. Glasses secured in closed display cases with the logos of brands scattered about, prices hand-written on tags attached to the glasses in blue pen. I had to write my name on a piece of paper to activate the warranty. Really? How does this get information get entered into their system? After begrudgingly shelling out nearly $300 for my new shades, the associate happily smiled and put my purchase in a little shopping bag. A cheap experience for an expensive purchase.

A good retail experience reduces buyer’s remorse. You feel valued. You feel special and you want to return to that store with your friends and family. It elevates and establishes your perception of that brand in your mind. I think starbucks does a phenomenal job of creating a great user experience. Being inside of a starbucks (The decor, the way the baristas speak to you, the ambiance) all makes me feel comfortable about shelling out $5 for a latte. It feels like a treat. They make you feel special even though at the end of the day, you’re just buying a coffee. I think 2012 will be the year that we see this happen at more stores – a greater focus on retail marketing. Companies will be further integrating their digital and social activities with retail locations. We’ll start to see individual stores reaching out to their customers to connect with them on a more personal level. Experiences will improve. We’ll see more integration with technology, more retail mobile payments and more linkages between the brand across retail, mobile and smartphones (Think Foursquare, NFC, Facebook like, Twitter, QR codes, SMS). The retail experience will be improved in 2012. At least, I hope so.

QR Codes on Buck n’ Doe T-shirts

They’re sometimes called Buck n’ Does, Jack n’ Jills, Stag n’ Does… but if you’re not familiar with them, they’re basically just a big engagement party put on by the wedding party and close family. Typically, a hall is rented, bartenders are hired, booze is served, games are played – all in an effort to raise funds for the bride and groom for their upcoming wedding. My brother’s was this past weekend.

To separate the wedding party from the rest of the guests, often t-shirts are made that also identifies that person’s role in the wedding (Groomsman, Best Man, Bridesmaids, Bride, Maid of Honour, Groom, etc.). If you’ve read a few of the other posts on my blog, you know that I am a big fan of using QR Codes in interesting ways. What better than to add a layer of interactivity to the standard buck & doe shirts?!

QR Code T-Shirt

What does this QR Code link to you ask? Well, we ended up capturing some embarrassing video of my brother from my wedding last August, so I decided to create a QR code with the video embedded behind it so that whomever scanned it would be able to watch the video on their smartphone.

QR code

There some great analytics built into the code as well. I can track where it was opened, when it was opened, browser that opened it and what device. Not that it has much demographic relevance for this particular activity, but you get the point. Integrating QR codes into an existing campaign activity is a great way to increase interactivity of your platform be it print, billboard, retail, POS, brochures, etc., etc.

My brother and his fiancee? Our friends and family were very generous and we had some great prizes donated that helped them raise a good chunk of change to put towards their wedding. And, well, sure – he was a little red in the face but it’s all in good fun. Fun we can continue to enjoy for the life of the t-shirts and beyond.

Why Mobile Marketing needs to be a part of your mix – Now.

If it’s not currently a part of your company’s marketing mix, start now. Start thinking about how you will stay ahead of your competitors by reaching the increasing number of smartphones & tablets being carried by your target audience. Is your website optimized for mobile? How about your blog? Is there a customized application you could develop that would provide additional value? How can mobile marketing be integrated into your existing marketing mix?

“Consumers are 25% more likely to respond to advertising, (print, billboards, bus shelters, etc) if they are able to do so via a mobile response” ~ BusinessWorld

“Based on 74 campaigns during Q4 2009, and with a huge 69,854 respondents, the research revealed that on average, 22% were aware of a mobile advert — leading to a purchase intent rate of 5.4%” ~ Brandchannel

Together, these two data points indicate that consumers are not only responding favourably to mobile advertising from an awareness standpoint, but that this technology is translating into genuine purchase intent and sales. It comes down to making it easy for your customers to buy your product/service. Each step in between your customer and that customer purchasing your product decreases the likelihood that they will buy from you.

So, what can you do now to improve your mobile marketing efforts and increase your conversion rates in print and traditional advertising? Try playing to a person’s curiosity by adding a QR code to your ad. Link it to a customized mobile landing page. Provide them with a means of discovering what makes your product or services, awesome. QR Codes are very robust and can be used to store links to websites, videos, audio files, images and even SMS messages, so think about how you could integrate these into your existing advertisements.

Recently, we ran a small, local promotion designed to raise awareness for QR codes, local businesses and most importantly, to have some fun with mobile marketing & communications! Over the course of 5 days, we hid prize baskets at 5 different businesses across the city. Using social media (Twitter, facebook and a customized blog), we shared a QR Code clue as to where the prize basket was hiding that day. The first person to arrive at the secret location, claimed the prize. We also installed ‘digital ballot boxes’ at each location in order to reward subsequent visitors for playing along. This ballot entered them into a draw to win some amazing grand prizes including, VISA gift cards and a Blu-Ray player.

After the promotion, we analyzed the data and developed a report that outlined the success of the mobile campaign and how similar campaigns could work in the future. Here are the results of the case study:

QR code

QR Code Project

We learned that not only is awareness for QR codes high, integrating them into existing marketing and advertising activities is an excellent way to add a layer of interactivity on top of your ads.

Adoption of smartphones will increase exponentially in the next few years so you need to begin allocating resources to mobile marketing. Email me: matt@oryxadvertising.com to chat about how we can work together to develop a successful mobile marketing strategy for your business. For starters:

  • K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple, SIMPLE. It’s not just about making a QR code link to your Web page or your Facebook page. Even if those pages are optimized for mobile, chances are the content isn’t. Mobile content needs to be easy to access, to appreciate and to easy to share. If it fails the user on any one of those counts, it won’t create the reaction you’re hoping for.
  • See. Scan. See you later. I’m a big fan of integrating QR Codes into existing activities because taking a picture is faster and easier than looking up a twitter handle or keying in a URL into your mobile browser. Other technologies will arrive making things even easier (See NFC), but right now, QR Codes are king as they’re readily available & easy to use.
  • Let context dictate content. Make sure your mobile content is useful to consumers in the same location you expect them to experience it in. Don’t offer them videos in a location where they won’t be able to watch them right away.
  • We’re still early in the cycle. People won’t buy anything or fill out long-winded forms via your mobile site. It’s just another touch point in a series of consumer touch points designed to keep your message consistent. Great mobile sites serve up awesome content and create a means for your customers to connect with your brand through their desired platform – later if they wish. Your mobile site is a powerful medium for you to wow your audience, raise awareness and keep your brand top of mind for when your customers are ready to buy.

Content from list derived from “How to blend mobile marketing with Social Media” article. Credit: Jesse Stanchak, June 15, 2011

QR Code Egg Hunt – Location Four: WeSellIt

April 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Congratulations to all of those in KW who used their QR code scanner on Thursday to find the fourth secret location, WeSellIt in Waterloo! Krista, Will and Barry at WeSellIt offered up some cool prizes in addition to the hidden Easter basket. For finding the secret location, several people were rewarded with an electric weed wacker! Perfect since gardening season is just around the corner!

Congratulations to Caryn who was the first to find WeSellIt’s store location in North Waterloo by using her QR Code reader to scan the secret clue:

QR Code Easter Egg Hunt

Secret Location

Here’s a picture of Caryn with her prize:

QR Code Easter Egg Hunt
There were also three others who found the secret location and walked away with special gifts from WeSellIt:

The final KWeggHunt location will be revealed on Friday! There are chances to win a Blu-ray player, $25 Visa card from ORYX Advertising, or a signed jersey from the Kitchener Rangers! Happy hunting!

QR Code Egg Hunt – Location Three: The MUSEUM

April 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Congratulations to all of those in KW who used their QR code scanner to find the third secret location, The MUSEUM in Kitchener! Included in the gift basket was a Nike Golf umbrella from BlackBerry, which proved to be a great prize as it has been raining quite heavily in KW over the past week. The clue was shared at 11:15 AM and was swiftly found and claimed by Jason less than 15 minutes later!

Here is what the clue looked like:

QR code egg hunt

QR Code Clue

Here’s a picture of Jason with his prize:
QR Code Egg Hunt

Jason with his KWeggHunt prize

Here’s a look at all of the goodies inside of the basket:

QR Code Egg Hunt

Easter Basket

Also, Jason had this to say about The QR Code Egg Hunt:

Jason's Status

QR Code Egg Hunt

Response to the promotion has been excellent and people around Waterloo Region are definitely tech savvy, having no trouble finding the secret location using QR code readers on their smartphones.

Friday marks the last day that a #KWeggHunt basket will be found & the secret location will hold a draw where someone will win a Kitchener Rangers Jersey, Blu-Ray player or $25 Gift Card from ORYX Advertising!

Why Twitter is Awesome

April 27, 2011 1 comment

“I know them from Twitter.”

I’m finding myself saying this more and more often these days. Twitter for me has become much more than just a source of information on the topics I’m most interested in. It has become a tool for creating new & meaningful relationships with people who have similar interests as me – especially locally. I now think of it as a steroid-infused-hyper-networking tool.

Let me tell you a story of virtual hitch-hiking or electronic carpooling complete with digital thumbs. One where otherwise complete strangers collaborate to schedule a carpool together to attend a marketing conference in a far away city.

To anyone not on twitter, this concept sounds completely ridiculous and unbelievable. Some may even be intimidated by it. You’re very likely to hear, “You’re doing what?” and  “What do you mean you haven’t met these people?” from your close friends and family.

Today, I was lucky enough to take part in just such an activity. Besides being an incredible Insurance and Technology hub and a great incubator of up and coming business and engineering minds, Waterloo Region boasts an extremely robust and well connected community that leverages each other’s strengths both online and offline.

Twitter helps to accelerate this.

I learned of a Marketing event called, “Marketing Exposed” that featured Scott Stratten from Unmarketing and Corey Vidal – a YouTube superstar, through Julia Rosien. Besides being very well connected in the KW community, Julia is very much in the know when it comes to SEO strategies and Social Media events. Scott Stratten is a sought after speaker and evangelist for social media (talking) and I’ve been looking forward to having a chance to hear him speak for some time now. After registering for the event, I thanked Julia for sharing the link and she mentioned there were a few others from KW attending and that we should carpool. So we did. Meet @ladycarni and @DanPolischuk.*

And so, these complete strangers who had no prior relationship other than being connected to one another on twitter, met bright & early and carpooled together to Oakville for the morning. As a result, my perception of carpooling with people I’ve never met in my life went from this:

Scary hitch hiker!

Scary hitch hiker!

To This:

No Hipsters were harmed in the making of this blog post.

Happy Carpooling

The point is that Twitter is a great source for information. What makes it awesome is the conversations you have with people within your network and the relationships that develop as a result of these connections and conversations.

*Due to an alarm clock malfunction, I ended up missing the morning departure time and location. In spite of this, I was able to connect with them in person during the speaker intermissions and breaks at the conference. 

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