Talking to startups and clients, I sometimes get the impression they believe for their marketing it would be sufficient to get some influencers to give a shout out or to get a handful of bloggers to write some coverage.
Dream on: That’s neither enough nor is it likely to happen!
The hard truth is: It is part of your job as an entrepreneur to market your business, and if you do not get this job done, you are likely to fail. And the influencers and bloggers have their own interests in mind, it is not their job to do your marketing.
Don’t get me wrong: Of course, there is help to be had and you should go for every help that you can get (or afford): Talk to people who have done it. Get someone to advise you on how to get started and how to optimize your marketing processes. But it is not the job of influencers, bloggers or friends and family to give you persistent exposure. And that is what you are looking for if you really want to make your venture a success.
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The hard truth is:
One article on TechCrunch, Mashable or GigaOM will give you traffic for a day or two, if you are lucky a few hundred of signups – most of which are going to forget about you tomorrow. (How I know? Been there, done that.)
A shout out from an influencer (hopefully from your area of interest) on Facebook or Twitter might give you some attention – or it might not even do that. Those visitors are very unlikely to turn instantly into customers.
And why do you think a blogger should do your marketing by covering your new service? You might be lucky and convince a blogger to write about your cool service – congratulations. Your chances are higher if you target the influencers well. Just blasting out to everyone with a large Twitter following will not get you anywhere. However, this can be great for bringing your products before an already attentive audience – but keep in mind that this is not your audience. Tomorrow these people will again listen to the same blogger writing about other products and services. And you will still have to figure out how to market your product.
Marketing is about building brand recognition and trust
You need persistence and constant exposure for this. To manage this with bloggers or influencers when your startup is still small and yet has to proof it is going to grow and last, is more than hard. One shout out or one big blog writing about you is not going to make your marketing. You would need an ongoing stream of TechCrunch articles, influencer shout outs and blog articles – the only way to achieve that is with marketing.
While the route of marketing to influencers and bloggers as a marketing strategy might be possible, it still is a lot of work. Instead of marketing to your audience, you are then in for marketing to bloggers and influencers.
Nothing wrong with this you think? Well, bloggers and influencers can be a fickle crowd. You need to talk to them, get into conversations on Twitter or Facebook, share their stuff, write articles responding to their own articles, comment their posts and updates – make them notice you. THEN they might listen to you for the moment. (Can you imagine how many people are trying to do this? How tired influencers get of tweets like: Our new product xxx, please retweet? Do you have a plan to stand out from the crowd?)
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And when you fail to come up with great NEW stories and some impressive big numbers all the time, they will forget you and turn to some new interesting product or story. And where are you then? Still at almost zero, because you did not build much except maybe for a vague recognition by a handful of influencers.
We have been there with our startup. We thought we just needed some coverage in a major tech outlet. We made it – and guess what happened? Tons of traffic on one day, a few hundred signups – and the same old problems with lacking a consistent marketing strategy as before.
Then, we did what we should have done in the first place: We learned marketing, decided on a strategy and some initial activities to pursue. We measured success, learned what worked and scaled that, learned what did not work and dumped that, came up with new ideas and tried, measured and learned again. (See Jonathan’s post on Lean Marketing). And we built a following and an audience for ourselves. We did it once for exploreB2B and we are doing it right now again for The Social Ms – let me tell you a secret: It works!
Every young company needs marketing
Marketing is not a problem for any startup or young company that is somehow going to dissolve into thin air by getting on the radar of some bloggers or influencers. Rather, doing good marketing is going to put your new business in front of influencers and bloggers eventually. And even if these bloggers and influencers won’t do what you want them to? What then? Well, by then you have your own crowd to grow your business with. And people will start to ask you to give them a shout out.
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