For some entrepreneurs, marketing consists of a series of dubious activities they have to carry out if their product doesn’t “sell itself”: buying advertisements, sending unsolicited emails, making “cold calls”…
However, we now know that most startups do not fail because of a lack of ideas or technologies, but because of customers. And the very first principle of marketing states that the best way to sell a product is Make products that customers buy.
Marketing is a strategic activity aimed at marketing products that customers need and want. And for that, marketing in a startup is first of all a process of organizational learning and risk management, the key of which is this identify the most important risks for our business and dispose of them as cheaply and quickly as possible.
Most often, these overriding risks can be expressed in the form of the following questions:
How common/widespread is it and how important and urgent is it for those affected? With innovative offers, yes the vision of a market opportunity is nothing but a hallucination. If the problem is important and widespread, it is normal that potential users are currently solving it in some way … and if they are not, we must find the reason immediately.
You need to find out if customers would be willing to pay for the solution; even if you agree that our solution idea/product concept represents a solution. We must avoid falling into optimism and, as much as “my friends and I” have a particular problem/need, recognize that this “segment” generally does not represent a market.
Do I have a “really good” product?
This is a basic but very difficult question to answer. Although it seems obvious, it should be remembered that it’s not us, but the market (preferably “vote with the wallet”) that decides whether a product is good or bad. But if our offer is innovative, the what makes a good product has to do with it who and with him if.
Essentially, early in the product life cycle – when the product is immature and market viability is not obvious – the only ones who will take a step forward will be those innovative and visionary customers who will settle for the minimum version or “bare” des product and that they will help us to develop it. Later, when it comes to selling to the majority of more pragmatic or conservative users, it is important to offer a more complete and stable version.
Is my product a “vitamin” or an “aspirin”?
A “vitamin product” offers optional enhancements, while an “aspirin product” effectively relieves serious pain/problems. The difference is important because the size of the market does not depend so much on the number of potential customers or the “accessible market” but on the intensity of the pain we want to alleviate and the effectiveness of the drug.
Who would be the best buyers of my product?
Predictably, the best customers for my product early in its life will not be the same as when the product is already on the market. In the beginning it is necessary to identify and focus on a certain segment of enthusiastic and engaged users who are willing to excuse the immaturity of the product and improve it with their help return message, support us with your payments and help us communicate and spread it. Steve calls this type of first-time customer Blank “former evangelist”.
Is my offer “easy to adopt”?
Entrepreneurs tend to be “visionaries” and optimists and we believe that customers will immediately see the benefits of our product and will embrace it without hesitation. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth: every new product brings changes and risks (financial, operational, personal) and customers are generally reluctant to take them. Even in a case as non-disruptive as a free-to-use web application, the customer can have good reasons not to use it.
It is necessary that the product “inherently” adds value to its users, is functionally effective, emotionally meaningful, easy to use, excels at a specific task, and reduces the cost of implementation.
Have I figured out what the buyer’s journey is?
Do I understand how customers buy, from the situation where they are not even aware of the problem to the purchase decision and the subsequent phases of retention and recommendation?
We need to identify the profiles involved in a typical buying process, but also the uncertainties and information needs of each profile at each moment. And most importantly, how they use the new social media to seek, consume and share information and the incentives that help them move forward in their process.
In this sense, bring in new ideas – preferably with one provocative approach– that offer a unique insight into the buyer’s business can be crucial.
Do I have an online and offline presence that drives customers to my business and sparks conversations?
Have I achieved visibility and reputation in the “deserved” media and channels (social conversations, natural results in search engines…) as well as in my own and paid channels? It’s not enough to publish content that is informative and tells a story: this content must be relevant, memorable and inviting to share online, and so must we disseminate and actively promote in the media.
The goal is to build a set of online assets that strengthen our presence and appeal to our customers and whose value (unlike payment methods) does not immediately disappear once we stop spending on them.
Can I build a vending machine?
Are my marketing and sales processes reliable and scalable? To do this, the “lifetime” value of a customer must far exceed the cost of acquiring (and maintaining/developing) a new customer. One factor to consider is whether my business processes are labor intensive (e.g. field workers) making them exponentially more expensive.
Can I change if something doesn’t work?
Can I redefine the segments, value propositions, etc.? my offer? It is no longer enough to measure conversion rates and optimize landing pages. The markets move too fast and are too unpredictable for traders Business and Marketing Plans make sense in the long run. The idea of agile marketing, based on measurement, optimization and flexibility, is beginning to gain ground.
And that’s what Peter Drucker said many years ago: “The goal of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service suits them and sells itself.”
About the author, Antonio Matarranz
He has held professional, management and leadership positions in various companies and organizations in technology industries. He is currently commercial director of Daedalus and founders and partners of conversiona specialized consulting firm High Tech Marketingas well as advisors to several tarnishing.
He studied Marketing at the Kellogg School of Management, Business Administration at the IE (Instituto de Empresa) Business School and Telecommunications Engineering at the Polytechnic University of Madrid.
He is the author of the blogMarketing & Innovation“.