The success of a tech startup is highly dependent on its approach on marketing, simply because there are two fundamental principles: first, no matter how great your product or service is, it won’t be enough if nobody is aware of it. Second, if your product is shitty, no matter how much time or money you spent on marketing it, it won’t succeed.
So, you will need the balance between the two: a great product/service and a great marketing plan. This guide will help you assess the key fundamentals of tech startup marketing plan, and what you will need to do to succeed.
Let us begin with the first one.
1. Optimize Your Product To Market Itself
“Great products don’t need marketing.”
This is an age-old statement that has become an ideology for some, but is it true? To some extent, it is. Say the cure for cancer or AIDS is suddenly available, we can be sure it won’t need any marketing at all and simply explode.
While you can plan countless tactics and strategies in your tech startup marketing plan, the first and main mindset you should have is that your product or service should be able to market itself.
Dropbox, Eventbrite, and Snapchat are just a few examples of tech startups that achieved success without any advertising at the beginning, simply by making their products so well they went viral.
The basic idea here is simple: if your product (or service) is so good, each of your users will recommend it to another user(s), and so you achieve growth. We call this the viral coefficient . A viral coefficient of 1 means each user will generate one new user, where you achieve a linear growth. Our aim is to get at least 1.1 viral coefficient and above, where we achieve exponential growth with just our product or service.
So how can we do this? Every tech startup is a unique entity with a unique product, and so there can be countless tactics and strategies.Yet, there are two main principles to help achieve this:
- Develop A Product Worth Recommending
This is, obviously, easier said than done, but the idea is to invest more money on your product development instead of advertising. To check whether your product is already worth recommending, you can use Net Promoter Score . Also, consider giving incentives to customers that recommend your products (referral marketing).
- Understand Your Ideal Customers
Your product should, obviously, answer your ideal customers’ needs and demands. However, you should also understand how they learn about new products and how they shop, and market your product through that channel(s). For example, if you are a smart doorbell manufacturer, your ideal customers might learn about new products from CNET, Wirecutter, or other tech review sites. So, if you are marketing your product through Facebook, you are using the wrong channel.
2. Target Your Early Adopters
Before we begin discussing this phase, we should get familiar with the Diffusion of Innovation theory. http://www.ou.edu/deptcomm/dodjcc/groups/99A2/theories.htm
One of the most common mistakes of many startups is targeting the majority too soon. While the majority (early and late) consists of 68% of the total market share according to the theory (see graph above), the majority of people are always resistant to change. This is why it is important to first target the early adopters and innovators, since they will be the ones that recommend your product to the majority.
Innovators are risk-takers, a small number of people that will try a new product before anyone else does. They are generally wealthy, and are familiar with the scientific discipline connected to the product.
Early adopters are social leaders, commonly with high social status and education level, and can influence their followers.
So, first identify the innovators and early adopters in your industry, and position your brand in a strategic manner to appeal to them.
Many tech startups fail to succeed simply because they can’t get enough attention from the innovators and early adopters. Avoid this mistake at all costs. This guide by Etienne Garbugli at Medium might help you.
3. Building Online Presence
In this maturing digital age, relying on just your website to build an online presence is simply no longer enough. Here are the key areas you should focus on:
A proper web design up to today’s standard is a must. Customers are getting smarter (and pickier) by the day, and they will simply leave an obsolete-looking site. Also, mobile-responsive design is a must, as well as optimized loading speed.
Your contents are the frontline of your online presence,as well as your digital marketing. Develop a solid content marketing plan (link to content marketing guide) and execute it well. Also, how you promote your contents are as important as the development. (link to content promotion guide)
- Social Media
Obviously we can’t neglect the importance of social media as one of the most important branding tool. The key here is focusing on the right social media platform(s) depending on your niche. Also, build a sound social media marketing plan to engage your key audiences.
SEO is downplayed by many digital marketers , but it is still one of the main pillars of digital marketing. Check out our previous guides on SEO here. (link)
- Online Advertising
We can’t neglect the fact that organic traffic is really hard to build nowadays, and sooner or later you will need to spend on advertising, especially Google AdWords and social media ads. Yet, if you are not careful, online advertising can break the bank so fast. There are many guides available that can help you, this one by KissMetrics can be a good place to start.
4. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)
There’s SEO, and there’s CRO. Conversion Rate Optimization is in essence, optimizing the chance in turning your website visitors and into real customers, especially by understanding their behaviors, the actions they take, and what’s stopping them from converting.
There are three keys to CRO success: knowing your target audience (who), what to optimize on your site, and which part on your site you should optimize (where). So, it’s all about gathering data. There are two main ways to do this:
- Quantitative Data Analysis
Here, you use the available web analytics tool, like the handy Google Analytics to track conversions. You can get quite a lot of information using this method, such as:
- Which part of your site they visit first
- What devices and browsers they use
- Your customers’ demographics
- What brought them in (advertising, social media post, etc.)
- What did they do on your site
- Where they abandon the conversion process (during which activity they leave your site)
- Social Engineering Method
While the analytics method above is useful to get the ‘how’, the social engineering method will help you look into the ‘why’. You can use user-tests and surveys to gather data.
- A/B Testing
With A/B tests, you can compare two versions of a web page (or parts of a web page) to see which one performs better. As you can see, this is extremely important if you are aiming for more conversion. This guide by VWO will help you plan and execute A/B tests.
5. Competitive Analysis and Differentiation
There are over 4 million advertisers on Facebook, and on average, we see more than 1,000 online advertisements each day. A lot of companies are increasingly active on SEO, and we won’t need to mention anything about how saturated social media is nowadays.
So, how can you compete in such a saturated environment?
Some define strategy as doing things differently compared to your competitors, and that is precisely what you should do. But before you can do something different, you should first know what your competitors are doing, and this is where competitive analysis comes to play. (link to competitive analysis guide)
How are your competitors doing with their content marketing? What keywords are they focusing on? Are their advertising effective? Find gaps where you can do it better, or differently, and that’s where you can attack.
The initial marketing for a tech startup might make or break the business, especially considering most of the startups have a limited budget in this stage. Again, you should remember that for a marketing plan to succeed, you will need a great product, a great marketing, and a great synergy between the two.
The five key areas we have discussed above are essential in planning a tech startup marketing plan. If you can execute all five, you will significantly increase the chance of success in your initial stage.