Yesterday, in researching the list of The Europas’ (TechCrunch Europe Awards) nominees for my last post, it hit me – there are still a lot of start-ups with great products that just don’t understand basic marketing. Without calling anyone specific out on their mishaps, here are the top 5 basic marketing lessons you can learn from some of the The Europas’ nominees’ mistakes:
- You never get a second chance to make a first impression. If your site isn’t ready for prime time, don’t rush it. Claim your domain, and park it – ideally with a brief description of your forthcoming product and your contact details.
- Don’t assume that because someone lands on your website that they already know what your product does. I looked at dozens of The Europas’ nominee websites yesterday that failed to explain either what their product does or why anyone should use it and didn’t have an “about us” page. Create a marketing pitch (no longer than a few lines) that accurately and succinctly describes your product and gets people excited about it. The initial pitch should be a teaser that simultaneously describes the value you bring and excites readers to learn more. Post the pitch on your home page and on an “about us” page.
- Encourage virility of your product. Some of the The Europas’ nominees did this well, but a surprising number of nominees did not. Post links to your company’s (and executive team’s) social profiles, and encourage potential customers to engage in conversation. Suggest text for fans to share with their friends on social networks and give them a way to share it (i.e. via social plug-ins). Make it easy for people to cut and paste text from your website – especially text that describes your product so that they can share it with their friends via email or social networks. A substantial number of The Europas’ nominees were using image files to display the text descriptions of their companies (i.e. it wasn’t possible to cut and paste).
- Triple check spelling and grammar! You wouldn’t believe how many spelling and grammar mistakes I saw on The Europas’ nominees’ websites. Everyone makes spelling and grammar errors now and then, but they shouldn’t occur in marketing copy. Seeing spelling and grammar mistakes in marketing copy won’t encourage potential customers to purchase your product. In fact, it’ll do just the opposite. Use a spell checker, and ask a native speaker to review your website for grammar. No one expects someone’s second language to be as good as their first. If English is your second language and your website is in English, ask a native speaking friend for help or pay an editor to review your site. It shouldn’t cost you much.
- Don’t be afraid to hire a marketing consultant. There are plenty of great social media marketing and copy writing consultants who can help you with a marketing strategy, hone your pitch and/or review your marketing copy, if you don’t have marketing expertise in-house. If you’re worried about the costs of hiring a marketing consultant, step back and evaluate how much money you stand to lose by not investing in marketing. Hire a consultant that knows what they’re doing… Ask friends and your investors for recommendations, ask candidates for referrals, and carefully evaluate your prospective consultants and ask them difficult interview questions.
If you need advice about hiring a marketing consultant, feel free to ping me.