Marketing A Website For Startup Founders
With first time founders, there's a temptation to rush ahead and capture the low hanging fruit. They read articles and watch interviews about tactics and strategy that works for others. So they rush ahead to imitate those actions. More often than not, underlying principles that are key to a strategy's success are skipped, leading to less than satisfactory results.
For example, take "press releases" or "email bloggers". On the surface it seems like one should pay for PR Web or simply email the Scobalizer ( a blogger ). Have a good pitch is the most common advice. Easy enough right? Nope.
In reality, having a good pitch means prep work.
In reality, having a good pitch means prep work. What happens after the blogger or reporter Googles your name or product? Will they find a good back story? Are bios, head shots, and screen shots easily available? Do you look like you have traction, a fan base, twitter followers, any kind of momentum? Do those things improve your odds of being picked up in a story... absolutely. Reporters and bloggers want to see momentum and hop on board.
It's not all gloom and doom. The point is not to rush ahead and accept the fact that there is a formula and steps should be taken in the right order. Especially if its a founders first rodeo. One must set a pace and grind through the necessary tasks. Its not glamorous, thats why the magazine interviews leave it out.
Knowing the formula is the trick.
Knowing the formula is the trick. It saves time and keeps one focused to execute to a steady cohesive strategy. First time founders, when learning from mistakes, are actually discovering the formula and burning the idea. Seasoned founders know the formula, thats why they launch and sell startups like PEZ dispensers. A track record and connections help too, but thats a different article.
In a nutshell the formula for getting the word out is the process of building an echo chamber from your website outwards. Setting up a larger and larger online footprint that reinforces and multiplies marketing efforts as they get more advanced. For example, before pitching TechCrunch, have a CrunchBase profile, before that have a social media following, before that have a shareable site, before that have the right message, before that have the right branding, etc... There are many paths and variants on the theme but the idea is to build up, not jump ahead.
Waaaaaaaayyyyyyyy oversimplified formula:
Phase I - Button Up Your Website
Phase II - Positioning And Branding
Phase III - Messaging
Phase IV - Create Credibility
Phase V - Serious Online Presence
Phase VI - A Few General Press Releases
Phase VII - Get Listed As An Expert
Phase VIII - Hit The Press Directly
Phase IX - Paid Advertising
Phase X - Pitch For Funding
Keep in mind that the list above is meant to occur in tandem with the development of a product and is iterative. Founders are meant to learn from the process ( not learn the process ). As founders complete phases, they will go back and tweak prior phases. Those adjustments are a product of learning from the customer base and achieving minimal viable product. If on the right path, the founding team will make fewer and fewer adjustments further back. The trick is to complete each phase as fully as possible and learn as much as possible before beginning the next. This is second nature to seasoned founders.
Every product and founder is slightly different.
No doubt there will be debate about the order or necessity of some of the phases. Every product and founder is slightly different. This approach has helped get me from zero users to 16K signups and sustainability in a few months. Of course partnerships and connections were a huge part of my success, but the phases above helped me get those. If you are a first time founder go through all the phases and learn.
I have written an essay on this topic because I am the founder of AwareLabs and a subject matter expert on this. All of the phases above are broken down into individual tasks within the AwareLabs Marketing Task Guide
AwareLabs started as an excel spreadsheet, I'm glad to share it as a product. For the first time founders out there I hope the guide is as helpful to you as it has been to me.
Published June 6, 2012