Middle School Marketing: Strategies for Web Startups

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During this week's MSM meeting, we honed in on developing marketing and promotion strategies for web startups. We demoed and discussed Viget's very own SpeakerRate to bring focus to the conversation. Great feedback and application-specific insights boiled, but some points are useful to any web startup looking to make its way in the flood of such ventures. Here are some key takeaways:

  1. Clarity. Make your value proposition clear. With so many web products that have fun bells and whistles, are you clearly communicating real and unique value to the user?
  2. Integration. When building your application, look at options for how to integrate well-known social media applications such as Facebook or Twitter. You don't want to overload on integration, however, and take the focus off your core services. But keep in mind that the more connected your application is to popular tools, the more connected your application will be to the people who use those tools.
  3. Scalability. Sure, you want to go from 5,000 users to 100,000 users. Thus, it's always important to keep in mind what features will scale well. Ask yourself if the feature in question will be useful for a user base of 5,000 and if it will remain usable and maintainable at 100,000. This will help you prioritize and plan the best time to release such elements or decide if they're even worth pursuing.
  4. Timing. What's the best time to get in front of people to encourage them to use your service? In promoting SpeakerRate, for example, when is the best time to talk to event organizers about using the service to find speakers for their event? After some research, it seems that organizers might begin looking for speakers several months before the event date. We want to get in front of them before they start that process. Without proper timing, our promotion could fall on "deaf" ears.
  5. Connect. Some of the best promotion happens outside of your direct control. Growing a user base includes banking on your users to grow it for you. The better you connect and stay in touch with early adopters and product evangelists, the more your users talk about you.
  6. Focus. Finding your target market is key, and even more essential is narrowly defining different focuses. For example, you might first focus on small to medium size business with your application and then use that clout to begin marketing to bigger businesses. Each narrow focus you have your eyes set on will help lead you to slightly different markets.

As I work this summer on SpeakerRate, it's clear that any early-stage web product would be amiss to lose sight of these six items. Keep it clear, integrated, scalable, timed, connected, and focused.

 

Zach is a senior digital strategist, combining client-focused business acumen with creative digital ideas. He helps bring on new clients and ensures their success, including Discovery Channel, ESPN, Dick's Sporting Goods, and POLITICO.

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