What’s the hardest part of launching a cloud services startup? Developing new technology is challenging, but it’s a process you can control. Securing investment capital takes hard work and perseverance, but there are plenty of investors ready to fund a promising business. Without a doubt, the hardest part of building and scaling a technology startup is customer acquisition. It’s also the most critical success factor your new business will face during its first few years of growth. For a good read on this subject check out this article in Forbes authored by one of their contributing entrepreneurs.
Customer acquisition is a marketing challenge. It requires entrepreneurs to think strategically about building their brand and tactically about creating a process for efficient customer acquisition and partner recruitment. Formulating the right go-to-market plan is crucial to the success of a young company.
The problem with many startups is they often miss the mark on marketing – thinking that with a punchy website, a savvy sales team and a few customers on board they have covered all the bases and are positioned for growth. Not necessarily true.
If you want to turn your technology vision into high valuation, then you must execute a marketing plan that delivers three different, yet overlapping business outcomes:
(1) Create buzz by building an authoritative brand
(2) Drive new customer acquisition cost-effectively
(3) Recruit best-fit channel partners to cover the market
This is what you want from marketing. This is what you need from marketing. And this is what you should expect from marketing. If your marketing plan successfully delivers these three outcomes, then your startup will have a fighting chance of escaping the 75% failure rate among high tech startups.
Here’s a core strategy many successful startups have employed. Fully leverage your online presence to build your brand, attract new customers and recruit qualified partners. Don’t waste money on expensive and ineffective marketing based on advertising, trade shows and non-stop telemarketing at this early stage. Instead invest in content… authoritative, targeted, relevant and compelling content that provides your prospective buyers with exactly the information they want and when they want it.
Call it content marketing, inbound marketing, digital marketing, online marketing or as one vendor calls it, automated marketing for revenue performance management. They are all fancy labels for the same basic concept – providing quality content that satisfies the information needs of your target buyers at key points in their decision-making process. Here is a look inside an inbound marketing engine.
I really like the term inbound marketing. It provides a nice contrast to the traditional world of outbound marketing. Noted marketing guru David Meerman Scott recommends that marketers “earn their way in” (via publishing helpful information on a blog) in contrast to outbound marketing where they “buy, beg, or bug their way in” (via paid advertisements, unsolicited mail or using commissioned salespeople to make outbound prospecting calls).
Inbound marketing is a new model for marketing that is content-centric and data-driven. It is a more predictable and accountable form of marketing that measures the value of campaigns with performance metrics and guides you through continuous improvement of content creation and delivery – all to build your brand, drive customer acquisition and recruit best-fit channel partners. Inbound marketing puts you in complete control of your message and your medium. It delivers far better results for a fraction of the cost of traditional outbound marketing methods.
Build your brand
There is no better vehicle to establish your role as a thought-leader in your niche than by blogging. It’s a powerful podium from which to set an agenda and frame a conversation around the pain points you address and the business value of the solutions you provide. Your blog is the source for all fresh, dynamic content that builds an identity for your company. It can be promoted aggressively via social media and improve your ranking with the major search engines. Inbound marketing becomes your voice to the marketplace and the most effective way to build a differentiated and authoritative brand. Just be sure that you fully align your marketing messages – your value prop must resonate with the pain points of your target buyer – before you spend a ton of time creating content.
Drive customer acquisition
Building your brand not only establishes your identity, it creates buzz. In the world of inbound marketing, this is the critical first step: get found. The more you get found by targeted traffic, the more visitors you can convert to qualified buyers. Conversion is the science of using your website to turn interest into action with content offers and calls-to-action (CTAs) that produce a lead database to be nurtured (i.e., qualified) into buyers. This is the fundamental difference with inbound vs. outbound marketing – buyers find you instead of the reverse.
Recruit best-fit channel partners
You can use the same inbound marketing principles for channel partner recruitment. What is your value proposition to partners? Why is your technology pivotal to their success? How can you help them to win more deals, acquire more customers and make more money? Answer these questions with online content and your online channel recruitment campaign will consistently produce more ideal partner candidates.
If you want to learn more about what it takes to build a successful inbound marketing engine, then take this simple, check-the-box, inbound marketing assessment. Then send me the results and I will show you how to turn your website into an efficient customer acquisition engine or improve the inbound marketing engine you already have.