How to Market Your Startup by Jenna Abdou


The first time I heard Steve Blank’s advice to get out of the building I was genuinely curious about where he wanted me to go. Fortunately, when I started working full time our founders taught me the importance of getting feedback on your product, even in an idea’s infancy, at each stage of the process (I know, I have the coolest job ever). 

Just like delicious deserts (check out these banana cashew butter muffins - you won’t regret it), successful business models are shared, tweaked, and completely changed thousands of times for a brand to consistently deliver the best product possible. 

Since the fear of rejection makes early stage marketing feel daunting (You aren’t the only one who’s afraid of hearing no), we dedicated this week’s post in How to Launch Your Startup to Brittany, Matt, Kellee, and Rameet’s first year marketing strategies. 

Here’s how they got out of the building to make ZinePak, AWAKEChocolate, Loverly, and Fueled household names.


   

Brittany HodakCo-Founder of ZinePak 
Word of mouth has been huge for us. As a startup, it’s critically important to tell as many people as you can about your product or service. We probably got 30 “nos” for every “yes” in the first year. But, we ended every “no” conversation by politely asking people to refer us to anyone that might be a better fit. Some of those prospects made referrals almost instantly, while others followed up six or seven months later to connect us with someone. By nature, most people like helping others--especially startups. Don’t be afraid to say to someone, “Please keep my business top of mind in case any of your colleagues or friends might find us useful in the future.” It’s that simple! Any time someone makes an introduction for you, be sure to follow up with a handwritten thank-you note.


Matt Schnarr
, Co-Founder of AWAKE Chocolate 
The marketing strategy depends on the target market and consumer shopping patterns. Being an AWAKE caffeinated chocolate bar, our bulls-eye target consumer is university aged and chocolate makes it largely an impulse purchase. The most important strategy that we employed was differentiated packaging. It is the foundation that the brand is built on and it needs to work for us even when other marketing strategies (ie advertising and promotion) are not present. For example:
  • AWAKE name in bold on package tells what product is like "Vitamin Water"
  • Brown packaging looks like it would taste good
  • Owl mascot differentiates it from other chocolate bars and gives it a friendly and safe appearance 
  • Hand drawn font and matte finish adds an artisanal feel 

Kellee KhalilFounder of Loverly 
Content. We’ve seen huge growth in traffic and on-site engagement due to our aggressive content creation strategy. Putting a voice to our brand has been monumental in getting our name out there.


Rameet ChawlaFounder of Fueled 
Personal branding. Building up a personal brand has connected me, as an individual, to mobile. I have worked to become a thought leader in the mobile space by publishing articles and speaking at conferences. This has generated the greatest ROI. 





Further Reading
  • How MeUndies Made Merchandising Their Competitive Advantage — When MeUndies thinks about their underwear subscription service they compare themselves to Netflix. What the streaming pioneer did for TV, the Los Angeles startup wants to do to your underwear drawer. The goal is to provide monthly subscribers with the staples they love while delivering elements of surprise - Think briefs with donuts and dinosaurs - right to your doorstep.
  • Seedling Relies on Childhood Curiosity to Inspire a Creative Team — On a recent flight home, I spent over an hour browsing a children’s play website, completely enamored by sets like Design Your Own Superhero Cape and Invent Your Own Insects. After sharing Seedling with everyone I know, despite few of my friends having children, I wondered why the brand struck a such a meaningful chord with me.
  • eero Designs Wi-Fi for the Smart Home Era — Nikhil Basu Trivedi, Principal at Shasta Ventures, recently distinguished exceptional founders by their ability to prioritize. “It all comes back to prioritization, speed, paranoia, and knowing that if you don’t iterate, even after finding product market fit, you can be disrupted by the next product,” he says.


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