Startup product marketing: When and where should you start?

December 18, 2014
by Guest

Guest blog by Eric Sullivan, chief product officer of StringCan Interactive, president of Baked & Branded

I spend the majority of my time working with startup entrepreneurs. As a serial entrepreneur myself, it’s easy for me to put myself in my clients’ shoes to understand the specific product and marketing challenges they face. It is certainly not easy to bring a product to market, and there are a lot of variables to juggle. Here is the advice I most often give clients as we work together through this process:

Step 1: Focus on getting customers to test and use your product. Before you even think about marketing, you should have at least one beta client and a concrete delivery timeline. The product does not need to be perfect in the testing phase, but you should have a good idea of how it is being received by users and a clear vision of how your product will impact the market. The information gathered during this phase will create the foundation for your marketing program.

Step 2: Create buzz. Before introducing your product to the world, there are some marketing and PR strategies and tactics that can help you build momentum for when the time comes to launch your product. For example, you can have preliminary briefings with industry analysts to give them a sneak peek at what you are working on and begin introducing yourself and your company to the media to discuss the market need you plan to solve. This will lay the ground work and help create key relationships for when you unveil your product.

Step 3: Be authentic and accept feedback. While you are in stealth phase, you will feel protective of your product and your company. You are probably consumed with bringing your idea to fruition, and it can be hard to show vulnerability or not be offended when someone offers constructive criticism. As part of the product-building process, your team will make mistakes and identify areas that need improvement. Accepting that this is inevitable and learning from it will only make your end results better.

Step 4: Test, measure and analyze your marketing efforts often. You probably have a tight marketing budget, so spend it wisely. If you are working with a PR or marketing firm, agree on your measurement expectations and standards up front. Make sure you have the data you need to pivot messaging and tactics when necessary. But don’t get too caught up in the numbers. In the early stages of your marketing efforts, quality should be valued over quantity. For example, one awesome piece of coverage in a publication that your target audience highly regards can generate more leads than five pieces of coverage in low-tier publications.

Step 5: Prep your marketing efforts well in advance of the product launch. You only get to launch once, so make sure you do it right. Carefully select the timing based on industry events, holiday schedules and your availability. You want to make sure that when you launch, the right people are around to see the news and that you are available to provide commentary and address issues at a moment’s notice. Also, make sure all marketing assets and collateral – such as the website, press release, data sheet, customer testimonials and case studies – are finalized and approved by all necessary parties in advance of launch day. If you want to capture the most attention and leads on your big day, make sure influencers and potential customers can easily access the information they need.

The biggest thing to remember is that you don’t have to do everything yourself. If you focus on what you are best at and hire a team that can fill in the gaps where needed, you will be successful.


Want to learn how other companies launched their products? Check out these startup PR and marketing case studies.

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