Nathan Speller

Design & code for people.

Inbound Marketing for Startups

Stating the Obvious

Nate, the product is built. It's mobile, it's real-time, and it scales to millions of users. I've spent two years building it and it's my friggin' masterpiece. Now how the hell do we market this? Just make a blog and tweet about it yeah?

It's 2013 and the most prevalent marketing strategy for first-time founders goes like this:

  1. Launch the product
  2. Create a blog and write a post or two (before giving up)
  3. Start sharing sorta-related-to-my-industry links on Twitter
  4. Wonder where all the customers are hiding

The Problem is Information Overload

If you google "marketing for startups" you'll find over 63M results. There's Facebook, Twitter, Google+, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, PR guides, SEO, keyword analysis, lead generation, newsletters, adwords, landing page optimization, guest posts, online forums... the list goes on.

Founders have no idea where to start. Trying to implement all of these marketing strategies will get you nowhere. This is like teaching yourself to code by copy-pasting snippets from the internet: you might get lucky, but you won't learn much.

Lets look at it from a different angle.

Getting Noticed

Imagine I placed you in a crowd of thousands of people and asked you to get my attention. You'd probably wave and shout in my direction. Fine.

Now what if I told you every person in this crowd was trying to get my attention. What would you do then? Everyone would be waving and shouting and you'd have to resort to some ridiculous stunt to get noticed. Streaking perhaps. Eventually others would copy you and you'd have to come up with something more creative.

Now imagine the goal wasn't just to get my attention, but to keep my attention over an extended period of time. (Pretty difficult when you're surrounded by thousands of naked screaming people). At this point, we can rest assured that every stunt will be copied and rendered useless. Earning this long-term attention is the challenge of marketing.

Suddenly the common marketing strategy looks ridiculous. You've got a spammy blog, and a bunch of social networking accounts because that's what every other business does. How can you earn the attention and respect of your customers when your strategy is based on just fitting in?

Marketing Purpose

It's common to think your primary marketing goal is to make sales. It's not. If that were your only goal then choosing a marketing channel isn't any easier. Every strategy may be profitable for someone, but not necessarily for you.

Instead, your marketing purpose is to provide unique and valuable content to your customer. To be an expert at solving their biggest problems because you want them to succeed. In return, you will earn their attention, their trust, and ultimately their money.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • If our job were to simply help our customers solve their biggest problems in any way possible, would our product change?
  • How much useful material do we have to share? A book's worth? A course's worth? A years’ worth?
  • Are our topics truly unique or are we just regurgitating common ideas?
  • Do we need to wait for our launch to start marketing? (No)
  • Finally, what channels are best for helping our customers?

The last question is where most startups begin: picking the tools before they really understand the task. Instead, become a champion of your customers' problems. Be their sidekick and let their pain guide your actions. Only then can you truly engage your audience and learn what resonates with them. You can start making sense of these marketing checklists, and potential traction verticals. Your marketing strategy will have a purpose that will guide all the decisions you make.