The success of a startup will often depend on its approach to marketing. Unfortunately the vast majority of startup founders have little to no experience or marketing or managing a marketing budget. How do you deal with this dangerous contradiction? Well it's in the planning! Make sure that you’ve got your marketing strategy in line by applying this product launch framework.
There are a million articles out there on brand development, launch marketing, PR, viral videos and more. Reading them all would be a start – or you can check our tried and tested approach below!
The framework described below is typically rolled out step by step over 18 months. We hope it helps.
'In this world of intangibles and endless competition branding is everything.'
Phase 1 - Strategic Positioning, Brand and Web Presence
1. Strategic positioning (ad Early Adopter target market definition)
The first step in a successful brand/product launch program is a strategic positioning exercise, including the early adopter target market simulation. Correct positioning is as critical as aiming your guns in the right direction at the start of an assault.
Start by defining the ‘category’ that your product/service exists within and then map it to its key product benefits, the core value proposition and competitor benchmarking - right down to core messages and launch strategies, plans and objectives – at least for the first 12-24 months.
Keep asking: 'who exactly is my customer and why exactly should they buy from me?'
2. Brand development
In this world of intangibles and endless competition, branding is everything. Your name, logo and URL need to stand out from the crowd and really ‘mean something’.
You should run a quality yet rapid program for developing the best-fit brand name, iconography and/or logo – and start with URLs that are available. Get creative. Don’t put it off. You’ll only regret it later.
Strap lines need to be created as well where necessary. If you already have the right name and URLs then give it the right look and feel – create an arresting logo that lures employees, customers and partners from day one.
3. Web Presence
In the age of social media and digital marketing your web presence is both more important and more complicated than ever. It no longer requires just a functional site, you need a sophisticated website that performs multiple roles. Think of your website as a customer ‘application’ rather than just for information.
You’ll also need a rich blog site, a dynamic Facebook Fan page and the right Twitter page at a minimum. Some also need Web apps, Facebook apps, iPhone apps and more.
Get your Web presence right before launch! It’s all in the design, but content and structure is critical – embedded with the most relevant keywords, SEO tags and visual elements. Of course, with the continuing onslaught of mobile internet access and ecommerce, you need to ensure your website is fully responsive to all users’ devices, be they desktop, laptop, mobile, or tablet.
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No business can get by without a successful blog. From 2009 to 2012, the percentage of respondents with a company blog grew from 48% to 62% – don’t be left behind. It’s the core of a modern, ‘social’ marketing and communications strategy.
'To support and drive the company’s web presence and social media marketing activities a digital PR and partnering program needs to be kicked off.'
It should enhance the company’s strategic positioning, promote its product/service category, define credentials, messages, and benefits as well as drive a successful thought leadership and ‘challenger’ framework.
The blog is your marketing front foot – make sure it strikes out for you. Blog sites should be set up properly, designed professionally and managed tightly. Editorial strategies need to be developed, writers appointed, guest programs implemented and content carefully planned and produced.
5. Digital PR and partnering
To support and drive the company’s web presence and social media marketing activities a digital PR and partnering program needs to be kicked off, not just to drive communications, traffic, networking and partnering but also to monitor conversations, word of mouth (WOM) and online reputation.
Twitter is your main tool, but an effective digital PR and partnering program should be tightly linked to your key, numeric business goals and help drive revenues and clients/users.
Advanced digital PR techniques such as viral, crowdsourcing, community and WOM should be mastered to enhance day-to-day digital PR and partnering mechanisms. In the digital domain PR should include customer and business development communications as well as the standard blogger and media outreach.
6. Viral videos and guerrilla marketing
Viral video and guerrilla marketing programs (both for B2B and B2C environments) done in the right way can help amplify and spike awareness and WOM. They should be carefully produced and executed as done in the wrong way or too fast they can backfire.
Viral videos/games and guerrilla activities are all about great, original ideas, content and production. Some of the most viral videos cost next to nothing to produce. Just get creative – and remember real humor nearly always works.
A great example of a low cost, inventive viral video is First Kiss, from Wren Studios, which only cost $1300 to produce and at the time of writing has racked up over 91m views.
7. SEO and link-building
Semantic as well as algorithmic SEO initiatives must be applied to ensure that your Web presence, blog, digital PR and social media marketing activities have a solid technical underpinning and get effectively amplified with the network dynamics that the Internet can deliver.
A link-spreading and link-baiting strategy should be tightly co-ordinated with the digital PR and social media marketing program. Keywords are important – research them, develop them, extend them and have them drive your content.
'Now that you know a great deal more about your brand, product/service, market, prospects, users, clients and partners post launch, you are in a better position to develop an effective advertising program.'
Phase 3 - Advertising
8. Online Advertising
Phase 1 and Phase 2 put in place a firm and cost effective launch program with basic viral ingredients. Once adopted and effectively running it should be further extended and enhanced. This is what Phase 3 is about – kicking off with online advertising program.
Now that you know a great deal more about your brand, product/service, market, prospects, users, clients and partners post launch, you are in a better position to develop effective advertising program.
A Google AdWords program is the best place to start as it is cost effective, flexible, results oriented and highly scalable. Following this Yahoo/Bing, Facebook ads and banner campaigns can be considered and developed.
9. Strategic PR
Digital PR activities form the bread and butter of PR today. To really stand out, it needs a few toppings.
PR initiatives to strategically drive events, or research driven, high profile awareness campaigns with big media and high impact events can be developed once your brand and product/service are established. This way you’re most likely to get the response and recognition necessary.
This is rifle shot to high readership, relevant media, to critical conferences and later radio and TV. Aimed squarely to target ‘big impact’ events. This kind of PR is the topping not the cake.
10. Crowdsourcing campaigns
Crowdsourced campaigns have become another key arrow in the Social marketing quiver. Large brands and SME’s are tapping into the power of the Crowd for contest based campaign ideas as well as viral content development and marketing.
Crowdsourcing can also be used for cost effective business development, market research, opinion gathering, customer service support and more.
11. Speaking and Briefing
Once your reputation and awareness has been developed a highly targeted speaking and analyst/media briefing program should be developed to ensure that your brand remains top of mind and relevant.
By now you should be developing content and initiatives that drive your thought leadership position in the market. Time to take the lead – take it on the road.
Launch your Innovation
Following this plan when launching a marketing program for your startup will help ensure you have the best possible chance for success.
For more tips and information on how to launch a startup, check out Innovate™, the world’s leading online startup program used by thousands of creatives, entrepreneurs and innovation experts worldwide.
It’s all a part of the wider blur philosophy of embracing progress and truly making the most of your opportunities. Adapting to the changing world, and using technology to drive innovation. Doing business better.
Thanks to Andrew Laughlan for sharing his advice and opinions in this post. Andrew Laughlan is Head of Global Strategic Partnerships at blur Group.
blur Group is an international e-commerce company providing a better way for business to buy or sell services. To date 50,000 businesses have used blur to buy or sell services online, including companies like Amazon, eBay, Regus, Caterpillar, Argos, Danone and GE submitting over $300m of services requirements to blur's platform. You can connect with Andrew via LinkedIn.
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