Guest Speakers Provide Great Insight on Early Marketing Techniques

On February 3rd, Marketing 555 was lucky enough to spend some time chatting with Brant Williams of ApplePieUSA, Sohroosh Hashemi from Dry Soda, and Allison Burback of Add3.  The combination of the panelists’ expertise and experience provided useful insight and necessary contrast between online and traditional marketing strategies for startups.  Discussion centered on how to market a product through its life cycle using creative methods on a shoe string budget.

Mr. Williams emphasized that in the early stages of a product, it is important to immediately learn who your target really is before spending any money on marketing.  He noted often times people will have a big idea and spend advertising money identifying the problem they think they are solving only to learn they are actually solving a different problem for a different target audience.  He suggested rather than jumping into the deep end right away, a better approach would be to market wide and thin.    Meaning, reach out to a broader audience and go just deep enough to see if there is traction.  Ms. Burback echoed this sentiment as she said often in the beginning of a paid advertising campaign, clients will quickly learn it may be a different set of keywords reaching their target than they expected, and/or it may be a secondary target audience altogether providing the majority of the conversions.  The benefit of pursuing this recommended course of action is that startups can quickly focus in on their true target audience and then scale quickly with confidence. 

Mr. Hashemi of Dry Soda offered a similar example using a non-web based advertising strategy.  He highlighted the effectiveness of using in-kind donations as a way of getting your foot in the door at events where your target audience is likely to participate.  The in-kind donation avoids the giant fees usually associated with getting a table or booth at large events and also typically provides the ability to offer customer demonstrations.  In this scenario, you now have a target customer engaged and also possess the ability to control the quality of the trial.  This tactic is an excellent, low cost way for a small time start-up to get their product in the same arena as larger companies with large budgets.  The difficulty with this strategy compared to online paid advertising is that it is difficult to scale once your target is well defined and your product is poised for growth.

Also discussed was the ability to use Facebook as a low cost solution to test very specific target audiences and receive immediate feedback, the usefulness of high cost/high reward site retargeting, the importance of testing your landing page for its ability to convert traffic, and several examples of how strong networks facilitate early wins.

A special thanks to Allison, Brant, and Sohroosh for joining the class and sharing their insights.

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