Nowadays it seems like everyone and their college roommate has a billion dollar tech startup idea. But the question is, will it attract the attention needed to become the next unicorn? Ingenuity and hard work are only going to get tech startups so far before they hit a brick wall. If the end game is to become a viable target for acquisition, then most firms are going to need marketing expertise to grease the wheels.
The value of marketing
The percentage of a company’s value that comes from “intangible assets” has increased in recent years to become the single most important sub-set of value. By some calculations, intangible assets now make up 80% of a company’s value. If this seems strange, apply this to Silicon Valley thinking. What’s the value of being a “hot” company that everyone is reading about? It’s a lot. It will mean more customers, more revenue, more partnership opportunities, more interest from VCs and acquirers. If acquisition is your planned route, then you’d better think seriously about how you can become a hot company.
Get your story straight
With so many apps, niche services and hardware startups flooding the market everyday, it is important to differentiate your product or service from what’s already available and what will be available tomorrow. While coding may be the bread and butter for those in tech startups, telling a cohesive story is usually not. Although Silicon Valley is just a (great) TV show, pitches about “Making the world a better place… through scalable fault-tolerant distributable databases with ACID transactions” are funny because they are so close to many off-kilter early tech startup pitches.
This is where an experienced tech marketing and PR agency can do the most good. The best PR firms will take the time to learn your business inside and out. By taking the time to become intimately familiar with the startup, they are able to take even the most complex story and make it easily accessible to customers and possible buyers. This is storytelling. It may seem like a dark art, mischievousness or spin if you’re not used to it. But it’s real. There is a reason ancient cultures were able to pass on wisdom from one generation to the next. They told stories. And people remember stories.
Blogging… someone has to do it
Content marketing is a hot subject for good reason. You’ll die a quick death without it. The internet can become a black hole for a company that isn’t producing consistent, thoughtful content. It is important especially early on to be drafting blog posts that communicate who you are as a firm, clearly and consistently. Volume isn’t the only goal here, but also the ability to be searchable, and the higher you are on a search result, the better. Your blog gives you the opportunity to showcase expertise to become a thought leader. Some startup founders find the time to blog, many do not. If you don’t have time to sit down to write a blog every few days, then you’d better find someone that can do it for you.
Influencing the influencers
Sometimes even the best novels are never read because the cover is dull and just doesn’t catch your eye. The same can be said for a tech firm that has an amazing story to tell but no delivery system. If you’re lucky and your CEO is the next Steve Jobs then you have nothing to worry about, but this is rarely the case. Talented tech start-up founders who are also natural marketing mavericks are few and far between.
This is another time that outsourced marketing expertise and experience is vital. With the right agency on board, they can find you opportunities to spread the word via the media. And the agency can coach you about how to handle the media to give them what they want, which in turn generates greater awareness and better business results for you. At some point in a tech startup’s life you’ll think “Hey, we should get TechCrunch to write about what we’re doing!” That’s fine, but everyone else is thinking the same and it’s not exactly a strategy yet. Those great articles you see in the media about other companies don’t just spring out of thin air. Most of the time, they are the result of hard-working, intelligent PR people who have found a persuasive angle to pitch their client. Amateur pitching rarely gets good results.
And now you know
As with most things in life, there is a balancing act to pull off. If hiring a PR agency means you need a massive return in two and a half months or you’ll run out of money, then please don’t approach tech PR agencies yet. You’re not ready. It will be an anxious and frustrating experience for you and the agency and it likely won’t bear fruit. But when you can commit to six months or more to PR without breaking the bank, then getting in outside expertise could be the best thing you ever did.
When you have the right marketing expertise on board, by tapping into the talent of an experienced PR agency, you can be a step closer to achieving the dream of exiting early and lounging on a beach…or doing it all over again.