This article was inspired by Peter Adams blog post about the The Venture Capital Pitch – Team Slides. Here are few Angel Insights that you could consider discussing during a “deep dive” or other discussions with the start up under consideration.
Angel Investor – Deeper Dive – Marketing
Having sat through hundreds of startup pitches, I find many areas lacking and presentations usually bad to worse in most all areas and especially marketing. Everybody thinks they know how to do marketing but real marketing professionals are often the first to acknowledge while it requires great knowledge and skill it is often great luck get your “video to go viral” or your product to be mentioned without payment to an Olympic gold medalist or movie star. In case you don’t get it yet, click on the graphic for the video archive of the webinar which explains then #1 reason why startups fail. Marketing is simply the means by which you communicate your benefit or solution to customers and through this process to the point of purchase, repeat purchases and ongoing use. Marketing can be as simple as the five Ps – product, place, promote, price and people (customers and includes employees as customers as every employee is a customer who can help gain-retain customers). In larger companies there are two division’s product marketing (product and price) and market communications (promotion, place and people). There are no hard and fast rules about where marketing fits so depending on the company, leadership and product there will be many different variations. For the startup investor, marketing might consume every penny of the investment or very little which is why we are here today to explore what you should know or do because while you can wonder or guess sometimes a few steps before you invest can certainly determine whether to invest or avoid it like the plague. The worst problem is that most startups think that because their idea is so great little or no marketing is needed. To keep this from being a book, we will explore just some of the marketing concept you should take a “deeper dive” with before you write that check.
Product marketing is the interface between engineering, programming and development. Product marketing is supposed to tell or provide specifications to engineering to build the product. Ideally, product managers really know what people want rather than just trying to market what engineers build. The angel insight might be to ask the startup how this process works to make sure the company does not end up selling an Edsel or other products that customers won’t buy, buy again and again or worse tell their friends that it sucks.
Marketing Communications (Marcom)
The remainder of this article will focus on the vast myriad of options in marcom. There are two major segments – inbound-pull and outbound-push and of course hybrid sometimes called omni-channel such as search online then buy shop instore. Inbound or pull marcom comes in the form print, radio, search engine ads, television, billboards, stadium ads and the like to get customers to call you or come inbound to you. Outbound or push marcom runs the gamut from websites, blog posts, push messaging, apps, social media, email, tradeshows, festivals, newsletter webinars, public relations (PR), “dummies” books and more. The concept behind outbound marketing is that you are create “thought leadership” or rather thoughtful content that engages with the customer in some form or fashion that they cannot live without your solution. One could also consider the concept of the customer advocate. Understanding everything from the customer’s perspective like “walking in their shoes” helps define your marcom strategy. There are many examples of companies that are totally customer focused and the customer experience like Starbucks, Whole Foods, Apple and others. If you can do that you can step out of the way of all the cash and become the next biggest thing since Facebook or other “must-have” solution. The angel insight might be to simply hold the mirror and say is this going to be something I “must-have” and would millions of others also want this as well. Even if it is not for you, great ideas are easy to understand and you can help your startup be the next Facebook.
Steps to Effective Marcom – Customer Persona
Most articles discuss marketing goals and planning. What I find meaningful is to have the management aligned as to what they are going to start with and then be agile enough to migrate to or from marcom that works or doesn’t. Marcom generally consists of two major concepts – media and message. For example, most of us have their favorite “media” format – movies, music, galleries, plays, sporting events, etc. The company you are involved with should have identified the customer type or persona (age, race, location, income, education, etc.) that would fit with their product. They should also have begun the more difficult process of getting inside the customer’s head. This is the “message inside” the media. For example, Move Minds, Not Matter, Intel Inside Coke is it, Just Do It, Finger-lickin good and so many other messages are the stories the brain hears and remembers. From the beginning of humankind stories are the ways we remember life and beliefs through messages called stories. Translating product ideas such as computer processing units into “Intel inside” took an incredible effort but a message anyone who has ever heard will always remember. Then taking the message into a compelling buyer action is the function of a CTA-call to action. The message moves the customer to buy now and depending on the product again and again. For example, why large fast food chains never stop marketing is that – you may love one place more than the rest but you don’t want to eat at that place every day and the days you want to eat somewhere else is why they want your business. The challenge is figuring out how to get the customer to come to your place and not another’s. The angel insight would try to be the ideal customer persona and ask yourself would the CTA the company it pitching appeal to you and everyone else who might be a customer.
Marcom Media Tools
Here are just a few of the key marcom tools out of the thousands to consider. Word of mouth, personal networking, business organizations and other human-to-human meetups are also very good ways to market you product/solution.
Websites – are an enigma and often like the famous enigma machine, often difficult to understand. Websites have moved from function to form and as a result there are just too many WordPress websites where there is just too much information that are simply too hard to navigate. As we have often said, if viewers think your website sucks, they think your products do to. There are three main visual communications tools – website, mobile website and smartphone app. Old school is website, cheap migration to mobilize website gets you the mobile user and the smartphone app is where things are not just going but as much as 90% of users access the web via smartphones. Just ask the 61 million people who bought iPhones in 1Q 2015 alone and my guess is that the majority do not want to find your website via the Safari browser on their iPhone, they want to see your “app for that.” The angel insight can be tough as you have your own preferences. However, if the customer profile “persona” is under 30 or even older, then the company presence in any of the forms mentioned is critical and making sure funds for building that website or app is as important as the product.
Call To Actions-CTA – is content communications for customer engagement. What are you doing to get the customer to get off their bottom to do something you want them to do? Getting to do what you want is a complex task. Exhibiting at tradeshows, sporting events, charity races and the like will get the company exposure but will the customer say “golly I must have that.” If you look at BOGO-buy one get one, gift cards, loyalty/rewards programs, free trips/vaca and more you will find the companies offering specific incentives are targeting customers like drone strikes to hit their target on specific customer personas. For example, during a recent pitch presentation, the company said, “we are in Whole Foods” to which I asked what are you doing to get customers to go to Whole Foods and buy the product. There was no reply. If you are old enough to remember IBM OS2, a colleague told IBM, “I can get it on the shelf but I cannot get customers to pull it off the shelf.” The angel insight is to ask the company, why would anyone buy you product once and what are you going to do get them to do it again and if they don’t understand ask them what version iPhone they have. If they have an iPhone3, then move on as Apple certainly done a great job in making us want the latest version of their products.
SEO-Search Engine Optimization and Marketing
Once there were yellow pages but search engines killed that business. There is really only one search engine so forget the rest. SEO is the complex task of getting your company listed on “page 1” of the search topic the customer is looking for. If you are a plumber, electrician or lawn/snow or others you need to be on page 1, otherwise you will be out of business. Ask if customers only find the product via Google or you only do SEO for the product. However, door flyers, local events, chamber events, and so many other ways are means to an end in lieu of search. The angel insight is before, during and ongoing your involvement in the company do a search your own search for the company you are considering to see how are they doing. If all you see is nothing or worse, competitive sites, then, if appropriate, remind the company to get “optimized.”
Social Media & Blogging
I was hoping that you didn’t ask about social media and blogging. If you have seen in PBS Grantchester Sydney finds himself in “murky waters” which is like many of us find ourselves find social media as a cesspool of endless blog posts of little value with everyone having an opinion on which social media platform is the one they think is most is important. Is it Facebook, Twitter, Linked, Instagram, Pinterest or whatever you like the most is the one most important. Angel insight – social media is just another marketing tool. Depending the on the product or solution it may not work but for certainty it will not work without a CTA traction-action plan.
Continuous Customer Engagement
As it has been said so many times “top of mind keeps you first in line” which is why everyone bombards you with so much information so often with so many offers you are overwhelmed as to what do to next. The angel insight is that look at the marketing plan and make sure there is enough funds for at least a year (my personal preference is three years) or more. There are very few “one shot” wonders that turns your product into a must-have so ongoing, persistent and larger (not fewer) expenditures to keep you first as there are so many competitors who see you as a target for their drone strikes.
An EDCAL is a visual communications tool for marcom. With one glance, the CEO and literally all others can see the marcom plan for the year, quarter, month or even day. If there is a product release, event/tradeshow, webinar or literally any other marcom activity it can be added, edited, moved and can be shared with all to make sure everyone is “on the same page.” The angel insight is an EDCAL gives you a great and simple view-tool to make sure everyone is onboard and involved, where the plan is going, when to change the tactics, when to step on the gas or make a hard left. Email me if you would like to know more about this great marketing tool or help with your presentations.
The marketing part of the pitch presentation would also include sample customer and channel partner presentation slides or available for the deep dive to show you what marketing message(s) they saying to customers and channel partners. Marketing in any and all its forms is a daunting task and often one thing works one time and not again next. The angel should realize is that competition is everywhere including the customer doing absolutely nothing. When they not buy or buy from someone else, your investment value drops. A comprehensive marketing plan and tracking that plan gives you the angel investor insights when one battle plan fails and the company needs to fall back and attack again in a different direction. As any U.S. history fan would know U.S. Grant did not win the Civil War with just superior forces but persistence and the ability to “flank to the left” again and again. In this case, my leader Mr. Adams wants to keep these blog posts shorter and very actionable so I am finished for now and hope these angel insights have been of help. Email if you have any specific questions or help getting your presentation “pitch perfect” (quick review gratis).
on Twitter @TECHtionary – Thomas B. Cross
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