You have a hot product or service you hope will be a hit in the marketplace. The big question is: how do you market it so it gets the attention it should? The answer, as always, is it depends.
In some ways, every category requires a different solution. Is this a consumer or enterprise-focused startup? Are you selling hardware, or is this software? Sometimes the best way to answer a question is with more questions. These ideas can help you identify the best path for your startup:
– Do you already have a product or service ready for customer adoption? If the answer is no, it may be too early to spend a lot of time focusing on marketing your product. There are two exceptions here: the first is if you need to build awareness of a new category. (Think about salesforce.com’s “No Software” mantra, which it launched in the beginning to educate the market about its unconventional offering.) The second exception is when there is a long lead time, but you need to build market awareness and generate excitement. (Case in point, the new line of Tesla automobiles).
– If you have a service ready for adoption, has it been tested with customers and received positive traction? If it has been tested and hasn’t received great traction, you may need to test further—or even more likely, rethink your product or service. The best marketing campaign in the world can’t absolve you of a product that no one currently wants.
– Speaking of testing, I like the idea of testing and iterating your product and service in one geography or category until you know you have it right. A good example is how Facebook restricted its growth to Ivy League schools and then only college kids until it could scale. On the other hand, if you have a business that is built on network effects (eBay, Open Table), gaining first-mover advantage is tantamount to success and isolating and limiting geographies could limit you.
– If it has positive traction, is usage growing virally? Viral growth, especially for consumer plays, is like manna from heaven, but then the biggest question is how long will you enjoy this blessing? Great marketing can help fuel additional awareness and growth in viral growth scenarios.
When it comes to the right recipe for marketing, there are myriad variations based on your product or service and customer adoption. But there is one full-proof formula for success: build a great product or service that people are clamoring for—and then work hard to keep your customers happy!