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Launching Your Product

There are only so many innovations that have been completely untouched by your fellow entrepreneurs. That means there can be multiple iterations and variations of similar products or services. The deciding factor in how customers choose is based on how companies market them.

So what sets your product apart from the others? What makes your solutions the best in class when business giants with deep-pocketed investors have the money to hire research and marketing teams dedicated to finding every way to give their business the edge? Marketing your startup in today’s economy is challenging, but here are steps to help your company stand up for the daily battles.

1. Find the right positioning. Correct positioning is critical to marketing your business. It’s the equivalent of aiming your gun in the right direction at the start of the battle. Begin with defining the "category" your product or service exists within and map out its key benefits, core value proposition, and competitor benchmarking. Get even more basic and think about your company’s core messaging and consult your business plan to develop goals and objectives.

2. Know your audience. When you first start marketing, you'll probably want to reach out to everyone at once. It’s important to focus on customers who will assist you in establishing and growing your business. Target those who will help you reach your short-term goals. Ask yourself this: “Who is my target audience, and why should they buy from me?” Once you can retain your loyal customer base, you can focus on gaining new customers.

3. Develop your brand. How does your name, logo, and URL stand out in a crowded market? A meaningful branding strategy can help people understand why you matter and why they should care. In a competitive dog-eat-dog world, emotion and personalization are the secret ingredients of the world’s most successful brands. After all, your products and services are out to win both the hearts and minds of your customers.

This is a prime opportunity to show off your company’s personality, values, and ability to keep the customers at the forefront of everything that you do. Branded content is a great way to align your company with themes that are relevant to your industry and exercise your knowledge of current events. In developing branded content, it’s important to stay relevant and provide useful and unique information. Make sure you share stories that reflect on issues in your industry and provide thoughtful commentary and analysis.

4. Build your websiteWhen customers land on your website, it's probably the first impression they'll have of your business. For that reason, it’s important to build out a website with content that is dynamic and user friendly. You need a website that is fully responsive to all users’ devices, whether desktop, laptop, mobile, or tablet. A well developed website provides rich content that encourages users to pass along your resources.  It should be shareable via email and across all the major social media platforms.

5. Understand the metrics. Tools like Google Analytics help you get metrics on what’s gaining your business traction, conversions, and shares. But you have to know what those metrics mean. Marco Greenberg, president of Thunder11, a branding, public relations, and social media boutique firm in New York City, says Google Analytics can tell you a lot about your site visits, but it can’t measure whether the language of your About Us page distinguishes your product and services from the pack. The same goes for retweets, likes, and posts. It’s important to understand what metrics say and don’t say and know how they can guide and inform your marketing decisions.

6. Leverage social mediaThere are right and wrong ways of using social media in marketing. You want to make sure you’re posting consistently and engaging customers. But you don’t want your Twitter and Facebook platforms to just talk about promotional information about your company. Your content should also offer valuable information to users.

Always consider what platform makes the most sense for your startup. If you care about getting the best visuals, step up your photography game on Instagram and Pinterest. If you believe your service or product is better explained by sharing information, create a Twitter and Facebook account. Thank people who mention your business in articles, tweets, or shares. Take advantage of opportunities to interact with competitors from time to time and understand their angle.  This can very well help you keep up with the trends, make you aware of what ideas are out in the marketplace, and foster relationships in the industry.

7. Reach out to journalists. How does your company gain exposure from the media? What will get your business publicized, and how should you approach public relations and media people? First of all, realize that members of the media get pitches all the time. And while they sort through what’s newsworthy or not, they are stretched thin and forced to pump out a lot of content at once. When you’re preparing your pitch, ask yourself the question the reporter is asking herself or himself: “Why should someone write about this company?”

“Start with the subject line in an email or a pithy tweet and then don’t be afraid to pick up the phone,” Greenburg says. “Be brief; show you know your stuff but their stuff, too. They are human and want the props that you actually read their articles and posts, know what they write about. Give them material that is fresh, lose the hyperbole and drop the clichés. First, it’s not a sales pitch and all about you. Instead, play up what is contrarian about your concept in the context of the larger category. Insert some tension that’s easy for startups to muster and use numbers and locale to give added relevance and specifics to your story. And, yes, while modesty has its place even in business, be the colorful character you are and put the face of the founder upfront.”

8. Create a press kitA media advisory should include all the major points that are important to the product, the company, and its success. It should include how the product is changing the world and why it’s important. What is the driving force behind the company, and how have its beliefs shaped its success? The pitch should be included in the headline and the first paragraph of the release. Include brief background information on the company and its founders. Offer quick stats at the end that gives a quick snapshot of the company.

Offer the option of providing visuals to accompany the story. Include logos and relevant screenshots of the product and anything else that offers a better picture of the features and capabilities of your product or services, but don’t overdo it. Include quotes from the company founder and CEO and other relevant sources who are industry experts who can speak about your company. Provide a brief biography of each founder and include his or her photo.

9. Capture emails. Collect emails from users through email submits, newsletter subscriptions, and blog subscriptions. Email submits can come from eBook downloads or other offers. Newsletter and blog subscriptions can come from people who are interested in reading regular updates and content from your startup. Tools like MailChimp best manage email submits and newsletter subscriptions. They let you send well-designed custom emails to leads. Tools like Feedburner best manage blog subscriptions. They also allows you automatically notify leads when you’ve published new blog content.

10. Take advantage of advertising technology. In a noisy environment where ads try to divert the attention of consumers left and right, it’s difficult for smaller companies to get noticed. That’s why leveraging ad technology efficiently can help startups and other smaller companies punch above their weight. When it’s done properly, advertising technology creates a significant upside for advertisers seeking to drive more sales. It also helps consumers, who benefit from a better browsing experience. Understanding how ad tech has changed and still is evolving can help businesses ensure a better return on investments.

Advertising is divided into two spheres: branding and performance. Branding is raising awareness about a product or service. Performance or direct-response advertising is about generating immediate result in terms of sales and conversions. Everyone in the market is connected to the digital world in some way, shape, or form via a computer or mobile device. Smart advertisers will seize the opportunity to make digital performance advertising a priority.

It’s a challenging task for advertising technology to interrupt a consumer who is browsing the web. The end goal of an ad is usually to prompt consumers to click on the ad and visit an ecommerce site to buy something. But it could also encourage consumers to sign a petition or take a survey. Performance advertising requires high technology to be effective.

A huge component of performance advertising in ad tech is capturing the shopping intent. For example, let’s say a customer visits a retail website and checks out a cool pair of sunglasses, but decides not to buy anything. Later on, she may see a targeted ad for a similar pair of shades. This time, the customer recalls that she was interested in buying sunglasses, so the ad was a reminder to go back to that retail site. And the ad makes it simple: Just one click. That’s performance advertising.

These programmatic ads are created and delivered in a fraction of a second based on algorithms. That takes account of hundreds of dimensions, including purchase history, context and additional shopping patterns. It creates a smooth, enjoyable, browsing experience for consumers and match consumers will products they truly like.

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