Working in a high-tech startup marketing is exciting and hard work.
Coming out of the best incubators and startup environments in Silicon Valley and Boulder, Colorado, we’ve worked with some of the most successful startups.
It was in 2002 when Matrix Marketing Group was formed. That was 21 years ago. In that time, we have gone through three major pivots.
90% of startups fail. That’s a scary fact. If you are a startup owner, it should make you worry. Nobody wants to be a part of that majority, but making yourself the minority is incredibly difficult.
The 10% that succeed have the resources to grow. And sales revenue takes care of many management issues if done right. Startup marketing is not like small business or enterprise marketing. You must be able to grow, hack and get leads with limited resources.
Running your tech startup is a lot like scaling new heights. From the beginning, the odds are against you – 95% of businesses fail to reach $1 million in revenue; only .001% make it to $5 million. As owners, we face adversity and the unknown.
It can be a lonely climb, and determination is just the beginning. Moreover, all too often, we’re wearing many hats. You can’t do it all alone.
There has been a lot of study on what sets that 5% out of all the rest.
So why are so many startups on their second, sometimes third- CMO by the time these companies go to market and get serious about the selling process?
But too many marketers aren’t delivering.
We see a wide gap between the importance of strategic marketing activities, such as gathering customer and market insights, and how well companies believe they are executing them.
Our clients have three clear needs:
- A deeper understanding of their customers (and their customers’ customers)
- Reliable market intelligence to identify where to compete, particularly across digital channels with lots of growth.
- Methods for defining a product’s value and credibly communicating that to customers.
Read on for some key tips.
10 Things You Need to Make Your Tech Startup Work
Here are 10 tips every high-tech business startup needs to do to have a shot at succeeding.
1. Be a problem solver in your high-tech startup.
Don’t follow the adage, “give a man a fish …” When it comes to their technology, businesses do not want to be ‘taught to fish.’ They have a lot on their plate as it is.
What they want from your tech company is to be given a fish, so they don’t have to worry about it themselves.
Think like engineers and customers. While “user-centered design” has become an increasingly popular term, a startup lives and breathes it in a way senior executives elsewhere can’t imagine.
Startup companies at all levels of the business, from the CEO to software coders to cross-functional teams, are hard-wired to look at problems from the user’s perspective to figure out what sets of processes would create the richest experience.
They obsess about the customer; everyone is expected to solve customer and user problems whenever and wherever they find them.
In an article for Entrepreneur, Ben Rosenberg points out that very thing. To make it in the high-tech industry, your product needs to solve problems, not give your customers the tools to solve their own.
“They want solutions, not technologies,” Ben states.
2. Make something people want.
If you want to be a success, you need to make something businesses want. Seemingly obvious, but a recent survey indicates that 42% of polled failed startups cited a lack of market need as the main cause for going under.
You shouldn’t have to convince your audience they need your product or service.
The approach outlined in this post can ensure success for any company with decent (i.e., not necessarily exceptional) product offerings in a relevant product or service category (i.e., not necessarily a recognized hot category).
Furthermore, I will make the following assertion: Unless your company is a bona fide leader in an established, growing product taxonomy, every time you lead with your product (as most software vendors still do), I can assure you that you are likely to fail in today’s market. Learn more…
3. Create a name for yourself and your high-tech startup.
Create a brand for your business and the people in it. Networking is always important. Businesses tend to gravitate toward names they know. To get their attention, you need to make a name for yourself.
- Go to local networking events and immerse yourself in your community.
- Have booths at industry conferences. And if a booth isn’t in the budget, send a salesperson to the event and pre-schedule their meetings. Find a partner to share the cost.
- Network on social media. Build relationships with those in your industry, including thought leaders, prospects, and customers. If someone likes or follows you, send a personal note to engage with them.
4. Have a strong business model.
Strategy is always the key to success. If you want to succeed, you need to plan to succeed. But that will only take you so far. There are tons of marketing strategies, but few can make it happen.
Execution is the key here. Creating a strong business model helps you with this. Some inexpensive online tools can help, like Strategyzer, which guides you through building your plan.
5. Market like a pro with GTM strategies that work.
You have to market your product or service. But can you do it with a shoestring budget and limited resources?
The answer is yes, and this blog post talks about how you can implement the fundamentals to start growing your business.
And when you’re strapped for bandwidth, don’t forget you can outsource some or all strategy and execution. Here are some pointers for the marketing leader:
- One element is steeped in the product to the point that the CMO is welcomed in engineering and product management discussions and actively shapes the product roadmap.
- The second element is strong in traditional product marketing — steeped in customer needs, technology, trends, and issues, and able to drill down on specific use cases or applications to help translate customer needs to product management/engineering.
- And the third element is strong in both traditional “corporate marketing” and its derivative, “digital marketing,” with its proliferation of tools, channels, content marketing, and metrics.
If a candidate is equally proficient in all three areas, get them — or they’re well on their way to being a CEO.
6. Stand out from the competition.
I read a great book called “Getting to Why” by Simon Sinek a few years ago.
This is a must-read for any leader of a startup or marketer. So many companies compete with you in the high-tech industry that you can get lost in the pack.
So, figure out what makes you different and embrace it. Define your business’s personality and capitalize on the strengths of your collective team. Then tell your target market. Include differences in your value prop, messaging, and content.
7. Focus on the customer experience.
How you engage with current and potential customers will determine your success. Your customers have a lot going on, so when they have questions, they need answers. If you want to get their business, you have to be able to reach them throughout the buyer’s journey.
And the buyer’s journey never ends. Rosenberg’s Entrepreneur article says that one happy client can be worth 100 paid ads. When you have happy customers, you have advocates selling your product.
8. Don’t underestimate the importance of teamwork.
When starting, you cannot fully segregate job roles. The marketing leader cannot stick to marketing, and finance cannot stick to finances, etc.
In the real business world, job functions overlap. Teamwork becomes vital because of this.
You have to be able to see the full picture, and if you only focus on your role, you will not be able to get that in-depth look.
Learning to function cross-departmentally will go a long way toward success.
9. Be prepared for setbacks.
In business, as in life, the unexpected happens. You must deal with those setbacks, respond appropriately, and pivot if needed.
Knowing how to recover from setbacks will allow you to keep going even when things get hard.
Successful startups are not the ones who have no problems. They are the ones who had a problem, dealt with it, and kept going.
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10. Your startup team is critical in a high-tech startup.
Strong leadership to enable true collaboration.
Tech startup leaders who are shaking things up combine a focused vision with tenacity and the ability to build an organization that attracts other top thinkers and people who can execute. They have a single-minded determination to make their vision happen.
Yet while that kind of leadership is crucial, it’s the ability to tap the collective minds of the organization that drives the business.
“Collaboration” has been in vogue for years, but the best startups make it happen by investing in an environment that fosters collaboration.
It’s more than open office plans and Friday beer parties — a culture where teams self-organize; people from various functions come together to work on specific projects by habit, not by exception; and good ideas gain momentum by attracting talent from around the business.
As projects advance, new teams form to gather the skills and priorities needed. Managers act more as enablers and connectors, providing regular feedback and tracking progress.
Working towards success for the tech startup
There is a lot to consider when you’re first starting. If you need more help, check out companies specializing in High Tech Business Startups, like Matrix Marketing Group.
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Have something to say about your thoughts on high-tech startups?
What is a high-tech startup?
What is a SaaS startup?
Software as a service (SaaS) is a software licensing and delivery model in which software is licensed on a subscription basis and is centrally hosted. The SaaS platform has been incorporated into the strategy of nearly all leading enterprise software companies.
Which industry is best for a startup?
Do most startups fail?
According to the Startup Genome Project, up to 70% of startups scale up too early. They even go as far as saying it can explain up to 90% of failed startups. Premature scaling means too much, too soon. The main goal of a startup is not to be a startup anymore. High-tech marketing examples