Note: This multi-part post is for first time founders. Anyone who has done it before will already know all this.
Having made it past incorporation, opening a bank account and all that, the next thing to do is to establish a startup marketing presence.
- Naming, or rather, renaming
- What is this? To come up with a name that more appropriately describes the vision and mission after a few pivots.
- Why do it? You would already have a name for your company at the time you incorporated. However, that first name may no longer adequately represent you or your vision. 4 of the 5 startups I worked for ended up changing their name at least once.
- How do I come up with a name? Beth Marcus, a serial entrepreneur and current CEO of Playrific, taught this lecture on naming to a product design class at MIT. Her company Playrific was called Playsmrt at the time – for trademark reasons they later changed the name to Playrific, which turns out to be a terrific name.
- Who can help me do this? If you have the budget, I would suggest hiring a professional marketer – they can also help you figure out whether it is a name you can trademark. If not – an internal brainstorming works too.
- Corporate Identity, or rather, the logo
- What is this? To come up with a logo.
- Why do it? Because everything needs a logo: website, business card, letterhead for contracts… you name it.
- How much effort should I put into creating my first logo? Very little – because your company name will almost certainly change and you get to do all that again. See bullets on naming.
- Who can help me create the logo? A good graphic designer, or you can always try services like 99designs.com.
- Landing page
- What is it? A landing page is a one page website that clearly explains some premise (e.g. the value proposition of your company) that has a call to action (e.g. a large button labelled “Learn more” which takes the site vistior to an email sign up form.)
- Why is this better than building out a full website? At the beginning of a startup’s journey, the business is very nascent, and you really don’t have the information to justify building out a full website, which takes more time and energy than a simple landing page. However, in today’s world, owning your own domain and having a web presence is table stakes. The landing page is a good compromise that gets you credibility while minimizing the energy spent creating the assets (since you are going to change everything 3 or 4 times before the year is out).
- Who can help me create the landing page? If you are technically savvy, you can easily put up your own WordPress based landing page by standing up a server (either AWS or with a full service hosting platform like godaddy.com), installing WordPress, picking a free responsive theme, and tweaking the CSS / customizing the images to meet your expectations. If none of those terms make sense to you: hire an intern or a web developer skilled in wordpress development.
- 2016 update: There are now many terrific hosted services that can help you set up a landing page in mere minutes without knowing anything about WordPress or HTML/CSS. Examples include SquareSpace, Weebly, Wix. Check these providers out – they all have very affordable entry level plans and can be a huge time saver.
- Social media
- Why bother with social media? This is a bit controversial – on one hand, having a social presence is very important particularly if you are building a brand with the technorati. On the other hand, once you have a social presence you have to farm it relentlessly and it could become a time sink. My recommendation is to start with a Twitter handle that equals your company name and try to engage with the right people in your industry, and broaden to a blog when you have lined up contributors and can commit to posting twice a week. Facebook and Pinterest pages tend to be more relevant for retail brands; if you are working on a B2B project in an archaic industry where your economic buyers struggle with the concept of email and the cloud (Yes! Those still exist and some are lucrative!), you may be able to skip those altogether.
- Who can help me do this? You can sign up for accounts with all these services yourself. Maintaining the conversation is a lot of work. You may be able to keep it up yourself, or maybe you can engage a trustworthy intern to tweet for you.
The following landing page is what changecollective.com looks like right after they announced their funding round. It has all the elements we talked about: the name (“Change Collective” – formerly Revv); the logo (also new, since the name changed); a visually interesting landing page with a strong call to action. This is a great example of how to appear professional while not overinvesting in assets that are likely to change over time.
This sums up your lean and mean minimum viable startup marketing presence. Note that these are all checkmark solutions. You will come back to all these later – the point is to get that checkmark to establish your legitimacy, and focus your attention back to core existential matters, such as your company’s unique value proposition and product positioning.
The next post will be on IP protection.
Complete list of posts in this series: