What I’m Learning #1
Over the past couple of weeks, my Entrepreneurial Marketing class has had the opportunity to hear from a number of inspiring professionals in Seattle who are either running startups or executing marketing plans for startups. These include Conrad Saam of Atticus Marketing, Liz Pearce of LiquidPlanner, Nathan Kaiser of 2bar, Dani Cone of Fuel Coffee, John Sechrest of Seattle Angel Conference and Lean Start Up advocate, Brian Rauschenbach of Add3 and SIC, Michele Mehl of BuzzBuilder, and Chris Goddard from Odd Dog Media. That’s a lot of people, each with a wealth of information, so I thought I’d share a few soundbites from them to inspire, inform, and delight. I’ve added my own commentary/thinking points after each.
There are no shortcuts on thinking through the target market and your product offering. - Deb Hagen-Lukens, Entre 455 Lecturer
- Once you’ve done this, think about how you will find your target customers. Can you reach them easily? How easily? Will they care? How do you make them care? What conversations can you naturally participate in to get your name out without sounding sales-pitchy and gross?
The single largest influence on the buying decision comes from your positioning. - Deb
- So make sure the messages you’re sending are consistent with how you’ve decided to position yourself! It’s easy to confuse potential customers in the early stages because there is no history behind your brand/product/company or relationship with them. Confused customers won’t stimulate brand loyalty, nor will they help your bank account come out of the red.
Fail fast. Fail often. The point of Lean Start Up is to figure out who the customer is and if they will buy. - John Sechrest
- I love this. We cannot be afraid of failure. We learn too much through failure to be afraid of it. Certainly it’s never our goal to fail, but when she pays us a visit we’d better have a paper and pen handy.
- This also reminds me of pivoting, the sexiest term in startup life right now. And boy do I love pivoting. It’s the idea of taking what we’ve learned from failures and altering our market offering to reflect what we’ve learned. That could mean a change in the target market, a change in the product, or building almost from scratch a new product. Essentially, you keep what works and improve upon what does not.
Your brand is always a work in process. - Liz Pearce
- We can’t get lazy with branding. In this digital world people are always talking about us, our competitors, or about something that could affect us so we must remain ready to adapt. Similar to pivoting, we need to be listening to what works and what doesn’t so we know where to prune and where to fertilize to keep our brand relevant.
Customers are buying the WHY from you. - Nathan Kaiser
It’s how you do what you do and why that matters. -Dani Cone
- These two entrepreneurs nailed it, and it’s not surprising given that they are both in the craft beverage industry (which is more or less a “community” industry). In order to attract customers, we need to speak in terms of benefits that are relevant to their needs. They don’t care if you say you provide the best cereal spoon in the world until you explain why that matters to them. Does the shape of the spoon allow for the best cereal-to-milk ratio that’s ever met their tastebuds? Great! That’s step one. Now do you want to know what will really sell that spoon? Having a company mission (how you do what you do) that aligns with simple, relatable human truths that your customers care about. Perhaps you strongly believe in properly nourishing kids through both food and the family bonds created at the breakfast table. That’s WHY you’ve created the best cereal spoon in the world— it’s to foster this nourishment. Moms will love you!
Content. - Conrad Saam
Content is king. - Michele Mehl
- It’s pretty simple: your company needs to be creating content for customers and potential customers to interact with. And this content needs to be meaningful so that people actually want to read it. Not only that, but it needs to send the right message (see positioning above) which leads to Michele’s bolded, all caps PR lesson of the day- BE CONSISTENT. Consistent with what you say, how you say it, and why you say it. Plus, be consistent with your press contacts. You want to build authentic trust with journalists so that they actually want to help you and your company. Speaking of trust, build it with your customers too!
I knew when I was failing. I realized I didn’t have a passion for it. - Brain Rauschenbach
- This is good advice. When the passion is gone and it’s not coming back, you’ve reached your end. Admit it and move on.
There’s a lot of BS in social media and many people don’t know what they’re doing. The marketing fundamentals didn’t change, just the delivery. -Chris Goddard
- Stop talking all about yourself! When was the last time you followed up with someone who only talked about him or herself at a networking event? Never? Oh, is that supposed to be a surprise? Now thing about that as your approach to social media.
We’ll end with this: I asked a panel consisting of three of these guests how they handle the moments of self-doubt that creep up on them as they run their startups. Liz responded with-
I ask myself what’s the worst that can happen? I could lose my income and so could my employees. This will affect their lives and their families. Okay, I’m certain we can all find jobs within two weeks, we are all skilled enough. So next I prioritize the top three problems that I need to fix to keep us going.
- I like this advice. Boiling issues down to their core and working from there is a sure-fire approach. Always. So when the stresses rise, just remember to break it down into the integral parts and work from there. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. (But please don’t eat elephants, they’re my favorite animal.)