Archive for August 1st, 2011

10 Marketing Tips for Every Startup

You’ve got a great idea and you’ve built an even better product. Now that the hard part’s over and your product is ticking along nicely, what’s next? It’s time to let people know about what you’ve done. The fact remains that if nobody’s using your product, it’s going to be pretty hard to move forward.

But how do you do it? Blogs? Presenting at a conference? Throwing out press releases? The short answer is yes. To all of these. The longer answer? We’ll cover that here with 10 actionable steps that you can take toward marketing yourself better.

Be What You Are

You’ve built a business that is only applicable to corn famers in Northern California? That’s great. Focus on that and be the very best NorCal corn resource out there. So many businesses don’t see themselves for what they really are or they want to be everything to everyone. But understand that how you see yourself is not necessarily how others see you.

Just as it’s very difficult to get your users to change their behavior (and it’s well-known that you should avoid trying), it’s probably even more difficult to get them to think about you differently. Do some homework, find out what people think about you and then make sure that you’re marketing yourself to that topic. Anything else is going to border on a waste of effort.

Make It Pretty

This is something that’s so easy to overlook and people forget about it, losing themselves in the product versus the presentation. Whether you’re building an app, a website or even designing your business cards, take the time and invest the necessary money to make them look good.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times we’ve seen interesting ideas come through here at TNW, only to pass them by because they were ugly or too difficult to use. If Google has learned its lessons, then it’s high time you do too.

Know Your Customer

Often times, as businesses evolve (not pivot, evolve), we find out that our base of customers expands or even changes completely. I was recently talking to a CEO who had that exact problem. The product could be used as a white-label offering and it made the CEO realize that the customer wasn’t only the end user, but also the businesses who bought the white-label option.

When you’re building your product, make sure that you’re spending ample time to think up the scenarios that might not be immediately obvious. At the same time, make sure that you’re not catering to the fringe cases, but please do make sure you’re paying attention to them.

Find Your Audience

I’ve talked about this in my interview on Mixergy, but I’ll go over this again here. There should be no shame in making sure that you’re sending things to the right people. For instance, if you send me a pitch on a location-based service, it’s probably going to get passed over. Send it to Martin Bryant, however, and you’re likely to get a more open mind.

Likewise, it would be foolish to send a story on the inner workings of your bookkeeping app’s technology to Cosmopolitan, even though they might be very interested in how the app could make someone’s life easier. That is to say, often times, there are 3 or 4 different stories all surrounding the same product. Make sure you find them.

Craft Your Media Pitch

There are common mistakes that we see so often and they all make it more difficult to get media coverage for your startup. The number one mistake is that people view a press release as a pitch. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Your press release is the supporting information of your pitch. It should contain all of the things that we need to write the story, but the pitch is the hook that will make us want to write it in the first place.

Are you in a private beta? Let us know. Can we get access for 100 or so people? We need to know how. Have assets such as videos, social media profiles and the like? Make sure to include them. Are there big changes coming up soon? That’s important to the story. Put it all together, include it in your release and please be available to answer questions.

Avoid Cliches Like The Plague

It can be argued that cliches are cliches for a reason – they’re often little nuggets of truth that have stood the test of time. But when it comes to marketing, they’re near certain death. You’ve heard them all before, usually in local radio and TV commercials. Those claims of “free parking” and “conveniently located” have been repeated so often that they’re meaningless.

If you want to stand out, you need to do so by saying (and being) something different than what everyone else is beating to death. Pivot, ground-breaking, magical, synergy…these are words that make me delete a press release on-sight and you would be best-served by avoiding them entirely. Even if you are have pivoted into a ground-breaking photo-sharing application that uses synergistic analytics to seem magical, you should find another way to say it.

No More “Me Too”

When Skype announced a partnership with Facebook, we got a flood of pitches that were all directed at “we do this too”. While it might be natural to want to be included into a flood of news about something with which your company is related, it’s very easy to get lost in the shuffle.

You can bet that there’s something about your business that’s unique to you, instead of being just another version of something else. If that’s not the case, then you might want to stop reading this now and start over with a new idea. Your idea’s already been done. If you do find it to be true, make sure that you’re providing us with what sets you apart instead of what makes you the same.

On Embargoes

It’s Monday and you want your story to go out on Wednesday. If you have a definitive reason (new code push, updated application, etc.) for why you need to wait until Wednesday, then that’s great. But if you’re just deciding to make everyone sit on the same story for no particular reason then you can bet that your embargo will be broken by someone anyway. You might as well not use it.

On that note, nobody wants to play second fiddle. That is to say that every media outlet should have the go-ahead to publish the information at the same time. If you tell someone “just wait until The Next Web has published, please” then they’re likely to tell you to get bent.

Go Where Your Customers Are

While trade shows, media coverage and the rest might be important, nothing beats customer interaction. If you’re using social media and your customers are too, make sure you’re doing it right. Just blasting out information with no interaction is useless. Nothing will build loyalty quite like someone feeling like they’re talking to a real person.

Monitor for mentions of your name using every tool you can. Be that through Google alerts, a social media dashboard or something as simple as a Twitter search. When conversations are going on, walk up (virtually) and introduce yourself. We’re in an age where people don’t always buy products, they buy a feeling. Make sure you’re there to give it to them.

Return To Mom and Pop

There was a time when you walked into a corner store to buy something from someone you knew. You did that because they were appreciative of your business. As the big box era came on, the focus shifted to being all about saving dollars, appreciation be damned.

These days, the Internet is the corner store and everybody can talk to anyone regardless of location. You have to bear that in mind and start providing that same warmth that the old stores used to or else face the consequences of Internet wrath.

So there you have it. 10 tips to help relieve the mystery of marketing your startup. In reality, these could go for just about any business, but they’re especially true for startups. Often times we’ll see people who are geniuses at building products, but they have no idea how to get the word out about them. So takes some time, follow some steps and find your success.

College2Startup connects eager talent with startup founders [Interview]

Waterfield’s MacBook Air case is as well crafted as what it holds

The MacBook Air is one of the sleekest and best designed laptops that I’ve ever owned, made by a company at the top of its game. It’s only fitting that one of the better cases for carrying it around comes from Waterfield, bag maker extraordinaire.

Waterfield is a San Francisco based bag maker that builds all of their products in-house. They use top-notch materials like self locking zippers and every bag that I’ve seen so far from these guys has just been incredibly solid. The Travel Express for the MacBook Air is no exception.

At 13.5″ long by 9.1″ high and 1.9″ thick, the case is large enough to hold a MacBook Air in the main compartment, along with a set of accessories like the charging cable and a few extras in the main portage area. The sides of the bag gain some added rigidity from plastic inserts so it holds its natural shape well. This makes it easy to slip items in or out.

Apple considering buying Barnes & Noble, iTunes 11 to support reading iBooks?

Apple may be considering a move to purchase book retailer giant Barnes & Noble, according to an “unproven” BGR tipster.

The alleged discussions are purely internal and speculative at this time.

Incorporating Barnes & Nobles massive library of digital books into the iBooks store would make a huge different to the quality of Apple’s offering, which has been somewhat weak in comparison.

Apple would also be able to take the NOOK out of play. It’s hard to imagine this would make much of a difference for the iPad: if there’s any competition between tablets and the single-use eReader market, it is generally flowing in Apple’s direction. I myself bought an iPad to become a primary reading device.

BRG’s tipster, who — it should be said again — is an unproven source also suggested that we’ll see a September release of iTunes 11 with iOS 5 and iCloud.

The release of iOS 5 and iCloud alongside the rumored September iPhone 5 release would make sense, but there’s no corroborating evidence for an iTunes 11 release. iTunes 10.5 is as high as current developer betas go and includes iOS 5 support.

This supposed version of iTunes 11 would allow users to read their eBooks from within iTunes, not requiring them to transfer them to their iOS devices in order to check them out — a feature that probably should have come out with iBooks.

Apple is the world’s top smartphone vendor as Nokia sinks to third place

Despite Apple’s impact on the mobile industry over the past four years, it had yet to clinch the number one spot as the top smartphone vendor, that honour resting with Nokia despite its troubles. Now, as research and consulting firm Strategy Analytics notes, that’s all changed.

We previously reported Apple’s sales dominance over Nokia for Q2 of this year, and now taking Samsung’s results for the quarter into consideration, Nokia has dropped from the top to third place for units sold and market share.

Figures for Q2 2011 show that Apple has become the world’s largest smartphone vendor by volume of units sold (20.3 million) and market share (18.5%). Nokia sold 16.7 million units in Q2 and had a 15.2% market share, while Samsung sold 19.2 million units with a 17.5% share.

This latest news is another blow to declining Finnish company Nokia which is pinning its hopes of turning its situation around on its its first Windows Phone device, expected to be launched later this year.

Although Apple may be dominant for the most recent quarter’s results, it’s worth bearing in mind the words of another analyst firm, ABI Research, which notes that Samsung may be in the strongest position overall. “Although Apple’s 142% year on year growth placed it as number one this quarter, Samsung’s 500% year on year growth shows that going forward, the top smartphone OEM position is Samsung’s to lose.”

Handy tips and tricks for OS X Lion

The general consensus on the Internet is that OS X Lion is pretty sweet, and that may be obvious because over 1 Million of you already downloaded it. There are however a few if not a lot of you complaining about minor issues and I have to agree, there are a couple of things that just feel buggy or unfinished. It could be that those issues take a little getting used to or that they are just plain annoying.

Take the Launchpad for example, editing it is a pain as it is but to top it off you can’t even delete Apple’s apps in there. Then there’s also the new ‘Lego’ background of Dashboard, which I’m not entirely sure I like. You’ve likely already figured out how to disable Autocorrect in Lion since it is not that hard to find but it makes the list because it might be just the number one feature people would like to get rid of.

Because I also thought a lot of these features lacked a little sense I started investigating and I’ve found a lot of solutions for them and I’m more than willing to share those with you. Some of the following modifications might be relatively easy but there are also a few that aren’t as obvious.

Next to all this drama there are of course also a couple of great features that are in there but that you might not know of that we’ll go through. Please do note that if you make any changes, like switching a background for instance, it is wise to make a backup of the original file just in case.


Launchpad is a great feature but it lacks some ease in the modification department. You see, if you’re not able to get rid of the apps you don’t use, it’ll stay a cluttered mess. And the problem here is that Apple doesn’t allow you to remove its own apps. The solution is as easy as this:

Open up the Terminal and enter the following string completely by double clicking and using copy, paste. Doing so will empty the Launchpad completely.

sqlite3 ~/Library/Application\ Support/Dock/*.db “DELETE from apps; DELETE from groups WHERE title”; DELETE from items WHERE rowid>2;”; Killall Dock
If you ever want the default Launchpad settings back, do the same with the following string of code:

rm ~/Library/Application\ Support/Dock/*.db; killall Dock
If you’re not comfortable going into Terminal you might want to check out this app, which will practically allow you to decide which apps will show in the Launchpad.

Mission Control and the Dashboard

Good old Dashboard has seen its last days if you ask me. Gone are the times of great fresh Widgets, the latest widget was released in February but that’s only one out of two that came out this year. But if you still use the Dashboard and are happy with the Widgets currently provided then there shouldn’t be an issue right? Right, unless you don’t like the new background Apple has given it. Either way, if you use it or not, there’s a solution for you:

Remove the Dashboard from Mission Control

This is the choice I made, I hardly used the Dashboard anyway so I got rid of it, sort of. You see it doesn’t have to be in your dock, so the only place you’ll see that nasty ‘lego platform’ is on your Mission Control, and it’s actually pretty easy to remove. Besides, when you do this, the Dashboard is still accesible but won’t have the ‘Lego’ background.

10 Facebook campaigns to inspire your business

With 750m users, Facebook needs little introduction. But the one question I hear repeatedly at conferences and events is from marketers seeking practical examples of how Facebook can be leveraged to lure in cash from customers.

So we’ve looked around, and dug out some of the most recent examples of Facebook being put into action for businesses. And here’s ten of the best.

Flowers from Facebook: 1-800

“We use the quickness of the online world to promote 1-800 We’re bringing back the nice tradition of giving flowers, in a way that fits the digital age. Collectively. As a group. Over Facebook.”

The agency responsible for this campaign was Miami Ad School Europe. And the client was online florist 1-800

The basis of the campaign was the speed at which Facebook can help spread a person’s birthday wishes. It crowdsources friends to buy a flower each to create a bunch, which is then sent using 1-800’s same-day delivery service.

A friend downloads the app, and a banner appears on your friends’ newsfeed about the upcoming birthday, saying, “Make your birthday wish special and be part of [name]‘s Facebook bouquet.”

The birthday person’s friends are then taken to a micro-site where they can pick a flower and add a greeting. It should then become a full bouquet of virtual flowers, that by the end of the day become real.

The principle is simple and can be applied to other businesses too. It involves encouraging lots of people to club together to buy someone special a nice present.

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