Creating a successful tech startup is inarguably a huge challenge. According to research, 60% close up shop within their first three years.
This makes sense: the market is crowded with a multiplicity of well-executed products, and finding a niche is difficult. Indeed, 42% fail apparently because their core product offering was simply not strong enough to attract customers. This maps closely onto my experience in the industry; the most successful companies simply have the most interesting, effective products.
A large amount of foldings, 29%, can also be put down to a lack of finance, which hampers firms with good leadership and products from gaining a market foothold. But let’s not forget the challenges that founders face when it comes to the more ‘human’ side of business; the ability of firms to win the interest of customers and convert that interest into a sale.
What can tech startups do, then, to avoid marketing practices that might contribute to their downfall?
Firstly, it’s worth appreciating that marketing is rarely a one-off event that can be tackled over a few months and then left aside. Overseeing a strategy requires patience and many months or years of work to successfully build up customer loyalty.
Of course, an initial launch period with additional spending is often par for the course, but many customers will only be convinced by long-term players that have some momentum and consistency.
Further, don’t be disheartened if your start-up isn’t an immediate Social Media Success. Whilst these kinds of metrics are useful, they don’t necessarily translate directly into marketing impact. By approaching marketing as a holistic, long-term endeavour, you’ll be much more likely to see the genuine fruits of your labour further down the line.
Consider your target audience
In my experience, founders in the tech sector have an exceptional grasp of their product and its technical underpinnings. Whilst it’s impossible to speak about tech startups generally, when it comes to marketing, this can lead to assumptions about what an audience will find appealing. That’s not to say that founders don’t understand their market. But rather, their specialism can lead to a slight lack of focus on a product’s customer benefits.
Thankfully, there are various ways this can be remedied. Most obviously, founders should actively pursue alternative views and conduct extensive market research, thereby exposing themselves to what customers desire, rather than what they want to sell.
Further to this, by creating a continuous dialogue — perhaps via social media or on your website — you can make potential customers feel like they’re a part of your journey, building significant loyalty to your project. This will make it easier when it comes to convincing potential customers of your purpose, story and product.
After you have captured your primary demographic, considering other groups can help tech firms further expand their market. A recent survey conducted by Studio Graphene found 60% of tech employees think the sector is insufficiently diverse. Of course, your marketing efforts will be more effective when your team is composed of a diverse field of talent who can input into how to grow your appeal, so consider recruiting if necessary.
Choosing the right channels and metrics
Every marketing strategy needs to be geared towards reaching your audience, once it is clear who that is, and there are various means of communicating your message. However, different firms and products will likely require emphasis and spending on different channels. For example, a B2C, consumer brand will be likely to have a major focus on Instagram and other social platforms.
However, this wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate for all startups. Indeed, a product that is technical — for example, B2B software — might be better suited to other channels. Spending time and money building a huge presence on social media might be an unnecessary (and potentially wasted) cost.
Similarly, many startups will focus too much on social media metrics, such as followers, likes and reach, that do little to add to their bottom line. While some might have a good reason for doing so, such as the prospect of securing brand partnerships down the line, I would generally encourage founders not to get sucked in by such vanity metrics. Reducing one’s focus on these kinds of extraneous details, that often don’t produce a return, can only be a good thing.
Broadly speaking, though, startups should focus as much as possible on addressing genuine customer needs, and pragmatic channels, when devising a marketing strategy. Whilst these points are an important starting point, only that will enable founders to approach their customers with originality and confidence.
Christine is the Head of Digital Marketing at Studio Graphene – a firm that specialises in developing amazing blank canvas tech products. Working with many startups alongside innovation teams in more established companies, the London-based agency plans, designs and builds astounding tech products for its clients. What’s more, Ritam and the team also use their experience and expertise to help leaders grow their business from ideation, to launch and beyond.
Source: Christine Brewis – Graphene