Jade Thomas
Jade Thomas 30 April 2019

From Coding to Storytelling: Marketing a Tech Start-up

When establishing a tech start-up, entrepreneurs often start out with two ultimate goals in mind. The first is to become a disruptive presence in the marketplace. The second, and arguably more important, is to reach unicorn status. To achieve this, a start-up must establish credibility, and as a result, marketing teams are under more pressure to deliver than ever before.

This is no small feat – the UK’s current start-up landscape is incredibly vibrant, and whilst this is undoubtedly good news to the ears of the Chancellor, it can be difficult to separate yourself from competitors. Luckily, the solution to this is good marketing. So, here are some top tips on building trust and reputation, and keeping up in a fast-paced, ever-changing world.

Focus on what your customers ask for, not what your business tells you

I should start by making it clear that I am not a techie. I am not a developer, I am not a software engineer, I am not a data scientist. However, by working in the tech sector, it’s been possible for a wordsmith like myself to become familiar with some very techie concepts.

Developing your product knowledge allows you to become a more effective marketer – after all, if you don’t understand what you’re selling, how can you convince anyone else to buy? In tech however, this can be a double-edged sword. It’s awfully easy to find yourself speaking in tech lingo to an audience who might not know their Azure from their elbow, and this will do nothing to help your bottom line.

Don’t lose sight of why you are there. You’re marketing for a tech start-up, not programming for one, so save the abbreviations and tech-centric jargon for internal discussions. Try to avoid bombarding your customers with a language that they do not speak, listen to your customers and develop your message accordingly.

Go deep to drive influence, not wide    

We are living in the social media age. We’ve witnessed the rise of the first ‘social’ billionaire, and arguably the first ‘social’ president. The effects of social media haven’t been lost on marketing either. One of the hottest things in marketing at present is Word-of-Mouth marketing. I’ll have what their having or FOMO: Fear of Missing Out culture is now bigger than ever, and the growth of social media has acted as a catalyst for its greater prominence.

There are benefits to word-of-mouth marketing, most notably that it builds trust for your organisation, and that it’s a comparatively low-cost form of marketing. These benefits hold when we switch to a B2B context too, where the same social proof technique applies. But, you should make sure that you don’t ignore other avenues – there are alternative, and more effective approaches to social shouting.

Why not consider hosting a roundtable. These can help with the creation of business communities, strengthen relationships with key stakeholders and build your reputation in the industry – all incredibly valuable outcomes. Getting to know your audience is imperative, and once you’ve made an impact, it will create a wide-reaching ripple effect.

It’s not just about the product, it’s about the people

When people ask me what marketing does, I always answer with the same thing – it builds awareness. Awareness is one of the most important measurements of success, and what is one of the most powerful ways to build it? – PR. PR provides you with a presence in the media, and this is one of the most effective ways to build your profile.

Our PR strategy is simple – be human. This might sound like an obvious piece of advice, but it is something which often goes ignored. Be sure to fill your communications material with the personality of its author, as this will give you the best chance of cutting through. After all, if you’re faced with a faceless corporation, or a human voice – who are you more likely to connect with?

You likely will already have a number of experts within your company, and they will all have a great story to tell! So, be sure to listen carefully to what they want to be known for when building their brand. Don’t look to stifle their creativity, as the outcome will come of as feeling bland and impersonal.

Don’t believe the hype

Far too many times you will hear, ‘we need to be at this event; it’s the biggest one in the industry’. Sure, this may be the case for the tech giants - who have a healthy, established budget - but for a startup, this is a become costly, and it’s easy to become lost within the crowd.

Find what works for your audience. You may find that attending a niche conference, or hosting a workshop and technology demonstration will work better for your start-up. This allows you to understand your target audience on a personal level, grow your network and build trust.

There is more to marketing than you think. It isn’t just about the product that you’re selling, it’s about the relationships you build along the way. While it is important to ‘fill the funnel’ for the growth of your business, your customers are the reason that you’ve gotten to where you are, so be sure to bring them along on your marketing journey.

shirley whyte
shirley whyte

Totally on point. Perhaps one other hype that should be noted with caution is when successful startups claim that they have built their brand without investing in marketing/advertising. Sets false expectations & in my view sets back many a startup

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