PR, marketing and the clean slate of a new year

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By Leo Valiquetteclean-slate

Happy New Year.

The holidays are behind us and it’s time to get back to the grindstone. But while routines are a good thing, slipping back into poor habits, biases, and preconceptions that limit our professional success are not. Consider this a time to wipe the slate clean and make a fresh start.

I personally don’t care to make resolutions. Instead, I look back and consider what lessons I learned over the past year and how I can apply these in a positive way to my life and work over the next 12 months.

So in the spirit of a new year, here are some thoughts to guide founders, executives, and managers of any growing concern as they work to bring their technology to market and earn their time in the spotlight.

You are not Google, Amazon, Microsoft or Apple.

The day may come when your company commands the market share and brand awareness that these titans do, but it’s not today. That means you must work harder to prove yourself worthy of media attention. Having a “world first” product or service can serve to crack open the newsroom door, but the digital world is littered with forgotten tech that failed to win sufficient market traction. To impress, you must be able to demonstrate some degree of market adoption and momentum through whichever metric is appropriate; perhaps it’s the number of downloads, or the big name factor of the marquee customers you have already secured.

Riding the coattails of one of the Big Guys may take you nowhere.

Touting the fact that you have secured that Fortune 500 company as a customer can give your PR effort a big boost. However, trying to piggyback on a big name brand’s own world first announcement is another matter. If one of the Big Guys unveils a disruptive new tech that yours can somehow compliment, or that represents an emerging trend that is relevant to you, it is the Big Guy the media are most interested in, not you. The Big Guy is the trailblazer and the trendsetter. Trying to exploit the media buzz of others can easily make you appear as a “me, too” proposition, which is seldom a good thing. I am not saying you can’t lever the Big Guy’s news to your company’s advantage, but your own news hook must have its own legs.

Consider all the ways you can craft a hook that has bite.

Customers. Customers. Customers. It’s the mantra of effective marketing as much as “location” is for real estate. Nothing earns your company respect with both media and sales prospects faster than sincere testimonials and well-crafted case studies with customers who provided your product or service with the strongest validation possible – they paid good money for it and haven’t found reason to regret the purchase.

Begin with the market pull for your product.

The basis of those stirring customer testimonials and case studies, of course, is a narrative that demonstrates how your product or service addressed a pressing need, a pain point, for that customer in a way that no other solution on the market could. But this of course requires that you first undertook the basic marketing activities to:

  1. Discover the needs and pain points, and in what segments of the marketplace, that you could address with your tech.
  2. Understand what these target customers were looking for, and why, in terms of features and functionality.
  3. Determine what price these target customers were willing to pay for a solution and how they would prefer to have it delivered and supported.

Why? Because they will not come just because you built it. Why not? Because they won’t know it exists. It’s an outlandishly risky shot in the dark to expend precious resources and capital on building a product in a vacuum devoid of this market knowledge.

Which means, marketing is everything.

That is, any external-facing activity that you undertake to engage with the marketplace in any way, shape, or form, is a marketing activity. Social media, trade shows, and even poorly thought-out promos that annoy the people in your LinkedIn network, are all some form of marketing. Many tech founders, and even experienced executives and investors who should know better, will make ridiculous comments about how marketing is only for crappy products that can’t sell themselves. But…

No product can sell itself.

So rather than hit-and-miss tactical marketing activities that only serve to reinforce the misconception that marketing is smoke and mirrors with little substance or value, why not consider for the new year a strategic, holistic and comprehensive marketing strategy that will yield a cumulative positive benefit over time?

Which takes enough gas in the tank.

Our Francis Moran has said it best, and said it more than once. Marketing must be seen as an investment that will ultimately yield returns, and not as an expenditure.

So as you sit down with your team to hammer out a strategy for a new year, consider what you can and must do to make the market hunger for your technology and progress further and faster than you did in 2013.

Image: Kelleher International

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