Your startup is failing because it’s forgettable

March 1, 2016

Recently, a friend pitched me a startup idea. It was awful. Not because he wasn’t dedicated to the idea or hadn’t thought it through, but because at its core, the concept had already been done.

The problem with being the Uber of your industry is that you aren’t Uber. You can’t break into the market with a message and value proposition that customers have already heard.

But, many startups continue to frame their branding as “the Uber of X” because people like familiarity. They like engaging with brands they already trust, and supporting others with messages they can understand. Our days are filled with evidence of this mindset, from grocery stores that stock the same products nationwide to the same five chain restaurants that clutter your landscape during every road trip.

So, to make a lasting impression on your audience, you need to stand out – while meeting your customers on familiar ground. How can you achieve this balancing act?

Go where people don’t expect you to be.
What publications and websites do you read every day? Which news sources do you trust? Ask these questions of your customers, partners and social community. If you’re targeting only trade publications or “safe” outlets with your media relations, refresh your priorities. Make your next goal an appearance on your own favorite podcast, or for LinkedIn Pulse to feature and distribute your upcoming blog.

Solve a problem when others have ceased trying.
Another question for your network: What’s the worst part about your job? If your target industry has long accepted a specific pain point as its fate, and you can offer a solution that doesn’t just work around the issue, your customers will be intrigued – and next time the headache strikes, they’ll keep you in mind.

Be daring with your message.
In a sea of marketing fluff, genuine opinions stand out. Tweet: When a reporter interviews your CEO or your colleague writes a blog about news in your space, they should be honest and straightforward about their thoughts. Obviously, they should aim to do so without alienating or offending the audience, but any team can be its own most valuable resource if its members speak their minds, use expertise to shine light on relevant issues, and offer commentary that sticks with readers.

Every day, markets get more crowded, new startups launch and unicorns become more ubiquitous. Your company isn’t alone in its attempt to differentiate and be memorable. Jay Acunzo, vice president of NextView Ventures, recently addressed the issue created by the sea of similar messaging present in the startup investment world: “Too often, we look for ‘best practices’ in our industry, but we don’t realize that when the name of the game is standing out and being remembered, that’s dangerous.”

When it comes to startup success, throw out the pattern everyone else is following. Instead, give your audience a reason to remember your company above others in your space.


Want more tips for turning your terrible startup idea into a viable one? Begin with Startup PR 101.

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