Julia Streets: How to not screw up marketing your startup

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Julia Streets is a tech and innovation evangelist and founder and CEO of Streets Consulting, the business development, marketing and communications specialists. In this article, she explores how companies can make sure their marketing efforts don’t suck.

I love mentoring early stage tech entrepreneurs. Some of the most brilliant tech brains in the country emerge blinking from long sessions, in often darkened rooms, building platforms, products, applications and frameworks, all of which are designed to change our lives.

My role is to help them talk about it. Not so much in a therapy sense, although it’s not unheard of, more in a marketing sense.

True to the left-brained inclination of the technologists, I’m often asked which tests and gauges can be applied to establish whether the message works. After 20-odd years in FinTech, I’ve only used one that works and it involves slouching, grunting and eye rolling. As I call it, the petulant teenager test. You may well be the leading provider selling me paradigm shifting next generation cutting edge technology solutions. But what do I care?

We spend so much time with our heads in tech, so do look up and look around. Look to the well-run, profitable companies with inspiring business leaders and proven business models. These companies shine because they resonate.

Growth is fed by customer engagement and to succeed you need to have resonance and relevance. With a keen eye on the cost of sales, successful firms get the joke that if your customers can connect with what you have to offer (conceptually at first, then technically) you’ll close a sale faster.

And it doesn’t end there. After-sales promises have to be delivered and helping your customers love being your customers, matters as much, if not more. If they leave, not only do you turn your sales funnel into a sales tube (customer in, customer out) but also increase your cost of sales in the process.

Eye rolling isn’t particularly constructive, so switching from my adolescent channel; I offer some more mature thoughts that might help if you’re taking aim at tackling your sales, marketing and branding.

1. Nobody likes a narcissist: Stop talking about yourself, your idea, or why the all the bells and whistles on your product make it the greatest thing since sliced bread. Instead focus on your customer. What are they worried about? What keeps them awake at night? How can your product ultimately help improve their lot, life and living? Revolve everything around your customer.

2. Sales take time and people: One person may make the final decision, but they rarely make it alone. Who’s the buyer, the decision maker, the influencer and the user? What do they need? For example, the budget holder may be the CFO and more than simply knowing the cost, they’ll want assurance you won’t be going bust only to create another risk headache. The influencer may be a peer group forum, journalist or an industry analyst. They all matter, and it’s a small world so convince them all of your value.

3. Constant clarity is critical: Don’t mix your message or your metaphors. There’s always a place for cute and even oblique marketing, but it can be risky if people don’t get you – unless you’re using puzzles as pre-qualification techniques, like MI5. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Brands must communicate promise, differentiate you from any competition, foster loyalty and ultimately be memorable.

4. Police your branding: Don’t let anyone mess around with your logo or branding. Like the message, inconsistency in your branding only serves to distort your message. Be rock solid in the use of fonts, colour, placement, typography, even tone. Not only does it make you instantly recognisable across all channels of communication, but also it instils confidence in your professionalism as a firm.

5. Align your sub-brands: Think about the road ahead. If you are a firm that will likely create many different products over time, can you plan logical groupings or naming structures? Even if you only have one or two products at the outset, can you calibrate them by brand, customer or corporate type? Giving this consideration from the outset will suggest alignment and set an expectation of growth and greatness.

6. Communicate internally: Everyone is an ambassador for the firm, the brand and its products. Does everyone understand the strategy, the message, the market and your customers or does it simply remain the preserve of the bosses and sales?

7. Manage the message or the market will manage it for you: Take control. Take it seriously, but don’t take too long. It doesn’t take much for word to spread and misperceptions to take hold. All too quickly you could become thepeoplewethinkdo somethingcompletelydifferent from whatyouactuallydo, because you haven’t properly told us.com.

8. Differentiate and demarcate: You haven’t gone into business to be like anyone else. If you have, why? Be better, be bold but always be honest, or it’ll be back to beat you.