This past spring I was a judge at Babson College’s B.E.T.A Challenge competition and worked with my peers in analyzing interesting student startups to decide which were worthy of moving on the finals to move their companies forward. I was moved by the energy exuding from the founders as well as their dual dedication to creating their respective companies and their studies. But what set the winners apart? What does it really take for a startup to win and how do they translate this into marketing? Below are evaluation criteria for becoming a successful startup and 5 ways to win at startup marketing:
1. Value proposition:
A startup must communicate a value proposition for the customer that is clear and credible. The message should focus on the “why” and not the “how.” I would say this is very difficult for many founders because they live and breathe their products and sometimes don’t have the ability to take a step back and put value and differentiation on what it is they are predicting to the market and how it may transform the way their target market will be doing something in the future. Figure out your value, your first, best, only, why you’re different, and package that message to move your startup forward.
2. Significant milestones:
A startup must demonstrate clear action steps towards completed milestones are clearly articulated and credible. The milestones should be relevant and critical to growth of business. But how can they translate this into marketing? Leaders are not born overnight but communicate momentum into the marketplace and startups can learn from this by communicating via press releases, blogs, and social media or in press coverage their milestones – partnerships, customer wins, awards won, new management, etc.
A startup must have vision of how to move forward and a future timeline that is clearly articulated and credible. I have found that from the hundreds of companies I have worked with over the past 20+ years, the founders that are most visionary on what their products will be able to do and can communicate this clearly have been the most successful and have become thought leaders for their respective industries. Get out there and create a proactive thought leadership campaign to make sure the industry knows who you are and about your vision for the market.
4. Management team:
The founder and key management should have skills and experience appropriate to the opportunity and relevant advisors and directors are in place, or planned. This is one of the key factors to getting your company funded and successfully growing your business. Take the time to establish each person as an expert in a particular area and ensure prospects know about the wealth of knowledge these people bring to creating your products or bringing forth services to meet their needs.
5. Overall potential of opportunity:
The venture must show that they solve a real problem. They should have a target customer base, talked to potential customers, opportunity to gain new customers, significant growth potential, can offer new services/products, and be self-sustainable in current market and generate revenues. I can’t stress enough the importance of taking the time to detail your buyer persona and ensure your offerings and messages are on target with the pains they are experiencing. Do your research and pick relevant statistics and metrics you will use to demonstrate growth.
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