Creating a tech startup

Don't Build A Startup, Build A Business Instead


A simple guide to marketing that gets your startup users and customers.




Avoid all the hoopla and lottery dreams.


Focus on marketing that gets you sales, not marketing that gets you attention from people who

1. Are not your users/customers, and/or

2. May not get the word out to your target users/customers.


1. There is too much building up of 'software companies' (and running down of 'real world' companies)

A business is a business, always looking for a customer.


Some business may use a lot of software in their products (think computers in cars). Some businesses sell only software (think Microsoft Windows).


Some businesses sell products that are 100% software dependent (think smartphones). Other businesses use bits and pieces (now more than often) in their products - e.g. sensors and programmers in air conditioners).


'Software companies' get the most hype because people look at Bill Gates, Google founders, Facebook founder, Steve jobs, and the odd (they are very odd indeed, they don't happen often) big ticket purchase of a small software company by a bigger company, and they think 'lottery!'


A news report said a while back (2014) 7,000+ internet companies have been funded by VCs. Only 18 are built into substantial business ($1 billion +).


2. Start doing this instead

Get the necessary direct (and harsh) feedback from users in your market. Improve your product.

Don't waste time networking with investors, fellow entrepreneurs all the time.


Yes, funding and marketing are important, but a useful product is more important.


1. Get sales


'Do things that do not scale'

- Paul Graham


Basically, it means focusing on an important narrow/small user group (e.g. Facebook started with Harvard students), going there and doing the talking and pushing yourself, recruiting new users/finding customers yourself. You can't have unlimited versions of you doing all these.


Instead of marketing from in front of a screen, hit the streets.


Often, your users, with whom drinking coffee now and then, will tell what works, what doesn't in product/service, and you will also know whether you are better off modifying the product and address another market (they call it 'pivoting'). In any case, you got to get out, boss.


Just launch and start selling. Get to your target users. Think like a small business.


Far too many people think that getting investors money (OPM - Other People's Money) is validation of their idea. It isn't.

The serious game has not even begun.


Traditional marketing things:


- Four Ps (or 6): Product - Pricing - Promotion mix - Place/Distribution - Partnerships - etc


- Communications strategies: PR/Outreach - Offline - Online - User Communities - Influencer marketing (getting influential people to talk you up) - Events etc


- SWOT: Strength - Weaknesses -Opportunities - Threats


- Porter's five forces (Threat of new entrants - Threat of substitute products or services - Bargaining power of buyers - Bargaining power of suppliers - Intensity of competitive rivalry)


- Building brands: A brand that people love, trust and use - stand for something.


2. Offline sales tactics


Here are some useful things salespersons should know to bring in more offline sales.


- Competition: Your real competitor often is sitting across the table (the prospect). - Harry Beckwith


- The Most Compelling Selling Message: 'I understand what you need'.

Don’t sell your service. Sell Your Prospect. Find what the they (prospects)need; what they want and what they are.


- What Blank eyes Mean: Talk about him, not about you.


- Use vivid words: ‘You cannot bore someone into buying your product’- David Ogilvy. Do not use cliches and tired words. Fresh words sound sincere.


- Your positioning: It should be singular. One simple message. Your positioning must set you apart from your competitors.


- If somebody expresses only a slight interest in your product/service, keep calling until you get a firm 'No, I don't want your product' - without getting too personal or upset.


- In start, founders must do sales, even if they are 'not good in sales'.

What matters is, whether your product solves the client's problems or not.


- When selling an expensive solution, don't discuss price up front if you can avoid it.

Try to get as much info as possible about their problem. Get them invested in you at a personal level.


- If all your emails go unanswered, don't send emails like 'Hey, I am wondering if you're still interested'. Instead, send update emails about your product – For example, 'Hey Justin, I just wanted to let you know we updated X so now you can do Y (the benefit). Here's a video explaining more.'


- Fear of loss is a more powerful motivator than potential gain. (The Agitation method - explain the consequences of not dealing with their problem asap).


- Followup, follow up, follow up.


- B2B selling is about personal relationships, which take time, and which starts with you being likeable. Do the 'give and take.'

For example, look up the prospect's birthday from Facebook. Send them greetings.


- You can give out branded merchandize (t-shirts, caps, pen drives, etc), also known as swag. This happens all the time during trade shows.


Related idea: 'Business Development'

Whereas sales is all about getting cash from selling stuff, Business development is described as 'Exchange of Value' - licenses, affiliates, franchises, partnerships, traffic exchanges, joint ventures, co-promotions etc. This is where you get partners to sign term sheets, give LOI's(Letters of intent), sign MOU’s (Memorandum of understanding), or any verbal understanding.


In the factories, we make perfume. But in the stores we sell HOPE.

- Charles Revson


- Cold calling works: Buying/building a database of prospective buyers in your industry (starting with people who have bought similar kind of products etc)


- Cold emailing also works: Send emails to top people in your field, to journalists who might be interested, to people who have shown interest in related products/services elsewhere (but, please be very careful with 'rented' databases, you may be banned for spamming.) Short and sweet emails work better than long letter full of 'marketese'.


- Hitting the streets, pounding the door: And getting the LOI (Letter of intent) from customers (businesses do this often) who say 'Yes, I would buy this.'


- Getting the right sales people: People with experience in that industry, or generally a successful experience of sales and marketing. But verify first. Sales people are also first grade B.S artists.


- Pricing strategies: How much are people paying for your kind of product/ spending on getting things done currently? How can you get them to pay your prices? How about packaging some 'presumably valuable' stuff alongside the purchase? Etc.


Outbound sales (cold calling, door knocking etc) in a nutshell

Lead Qualification: Market Response people qualify marketing leads coming from other marketing programs, search engine marketing, or organic word-of-mouth.


Prospecting/Cold Calling 2.0: Sales Development Reps or New Business Development Reps refine these prospects into lists of target accounts to develop new sales opportunities from cold or inactive accounts.


Account Executives or Sales reps: Driven by quotas, they close the deal with new customers.


Account Management/Customer Success: These people handle the day-to-day customer relationship management/handholding etc.


In a small startup, all these sequential tasks are done by 1-2 person (who is also making coffee for others). In bigger companies, they have dedicated sales team handling each role.


(Source: 'Predictable Revenue' by Aaron Ross and Marylou Tyler)


Google 'outbound sales tips'.


3. Online sales tactics


- Digital marketing: Great landing pages, Paid advertising (Adwords, etc), Content marketing (great, useful content related to your industry), Inbound marketing (pulling in customers through word of mouth/links/mentions etc - content marketing is part of this)


- Optimized sign-up flow: Effective online ads bringing customers to simple and clear landing pages


- Branding: Much of the advice in 'Personal Branding' section is applicable here as well


- A/B testing: Building two or more versions of main web page where the sign up/purchase happens (Landing page), and getting people to test which one performs better.


- Explainer videos on YouTube


And many, many other tactics.


Note: There are startups who do need time before they start to see sales and profits. Maybe, these startups have a valid plan to disrupt an industry (the next Google?).


Some startups may be working a serious technological/scientific problem which will benefit many in longer run (e.g. electric buses that go huge distances). But, these are less than 0.5% of all startups. Maybe more less.


Startups may have big plans, but more than enough startups have raised and wasted huge sums of money trying to be the next Amazon.


One gets the point that some are long-term plays, some are valid purchase targets by bigger players (e.g. Zappo), but most startups don't need millions of dollars before they start to show any sales traction. Not all startups are 'disrupters'.


4. Online advertising


How to decide how much to pay for online advertising

It varies from business to business and also depends on your business situation.


A. Get the important numbers in your business: How much your product/service costs, profit margins, how much others are spending on marketing, what are competitors' profit margins - basically, know your business first before planning on advertising budgets.


B. Know your CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost - How much does it cost to acquire 1 customer - you spent $1000 and got 1o customers - your CAC is $100 - your profit margin must be more than this) and CLV (Customer Lifetime Value -- the amount of money that the average customer provides to your business over their whole lifetime.)


Smart startups pay any amount less than that to acquire a customer. For example, if your CLV is $100 and you know that 10% of your quality leads convert, you would pay anything up to $10 for a quality lead.


Experts also say that customer acquisition cost should be no more than 1/3 of lifetime value.


C. CPC (Cost per Click) advertising: Google Adwords costs per click vary by industry and keywords. A 2014 report says these were the average CPC for the given industries:


Automotive - $1.57

Education - $4.30

Financial - $2.61

Health - $2.61

Home & Garden - $1.30

Legal - $5.82

Shopping & Classified - $0.77

Telecommunications - $1.35

Travel - $0.91


What is the maximum CPC price limit?

It depends on your profit margins. For example, if you make $10 on every sale, and it takes 50 visitors (clickers in CPC lingo) to make 1 sale, and conversion rate is 2% (that is, 2 out 100 clicks result in a sale - 1/50 = 2%).


Multiplying the profit amount with the conversion rate, and get a break-even cost-per-click amount.


Here the maximum CPC price you should pay is: Break-even CPC = $10 * 2% = 10.0 * 0.02 = $0.20.


If you spend higher than $0.20 a click, it would be uneconomical for you and you would start to make a loss.


This is a highly generalized example, but you get the idea. Now you would also understand the CAC (Customer Acquisition Costs).


D. Display Ads

There are three kinds of display ads mainly: Facebook ads (expensive, not that good) - Display ads on any website through one-on-one deals (expensive, exposure is limited, have to deal with a large number of websites to be effective) - Google branded display ads (affordable, don't convert much if you use many keywords, but good long-term play)


5. Where to promote, validate and grow your product or startup


Like much advice on startups, many lists answering this question focus on internet/software startups. They will list news sharing/link submitting websites (hackers news, product hunt etc), social media, crowdfunding websites, local groups and events etc.


Just Google 'best places to submit your product or startup' and you will get plenty of help.


But the best places to promote your startup or a product is among the target users themselves. They aren't browsing these directories and submissions to find a long cherished service or a product. Do you search for products that way? You get recommendations, word of mouth advice, see ads as you are browsing the web, or some write in a newspaper or mention in TV news, etc.


Some of these online places are indeed helpful for advice from industry experts or for general networking:

For example, Facebook groups and Linked in groups for your industry, Hacker news, Subreddits related to startups and small business (just Google all these) - all these are really helpful.


As for just submitting your product/startup every place you can think of, some may bring you links which may help your search engine visibility. That's all.




1. There is another category of listings very common online - lists of 'best/top' tools for startups.

Just Google this and see how many results turn up. 99% of startups may fail but some startups are making money. Their customers? Other startups who need - email marketing, invoicing, project tracking, etc.


6. Where do non-internet companies submit their products?


- Get writeups in press

- Online sites who write about products include: Springwise, Trendwatching - But they focus on design more

- Best is to on big eCommerce websites such as Amazon, start a blog and write about your product/industry (and other Personal Branding stuff), etc.


Examples of lists of submission places:


Examples of 'tools for startups'


7. How to know your marketing tactics are working


Which metrics help measure 'Traction' for a new website?


There are two thing you should know:

1. The useful metrics that tell you the performance of your project, and

2. The monthly growth (or not ) of these figures.


People come to your website, browse your pages through

1. Search engines (they call it Organic traffic),

2. Paid search (Google Adwords etc) and other paid marketing, or

3. From other websites, via links - Twitter, Facebook, Google +, or any website.


Some important metrics

- Total visits: Total number of clicks that happened.

- Unique visits: Actual number of people (or devices) who came. Many come and click on multiple links.

- Return visits: Presented as percentage of all your visits. You want people to find your site useful and you want those people to come back. An online store or a news site will obviously want many return visits. But a single product seller will be content with how many purchases she/he got.

- Time on site: How much time did the average user spent on site. They must stay longer.

- Main goal completion: For example, user registration, product purchase, email submission for leads, comments, etc. ALl this depends on how smoothly you say what you say and without distracting the user, take her/him through the 'funnel' and get the job done. Your paid marketing is done to achieve this main goal.

- Bounce rate: This is very important if you want people to see more stuff on your web site. Bounce rate is roughly the rate of single page visits. The higher it is, the more chances are there isn't much else interesting on your website, or you are properly presenting all the good stuff when the user first arrives on your website.


In mobile, important metrics are like:

- Total app installs

- App use after a week: Many of us sto using an app after 2 days of installing.


8. The Online Sales Funnel


In brief:

People see your URL on websites/blogs/news/social media (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+)./Google Ads/Facebook Ads

People click and come to your web site/page

People scan the landing page (average stay on a web page is 4-6 seconds) - see the benefit headline, picture etc, reading in a F or Z fashion

People are intrigued/interested enough to click on your CTA (Call To Action - 'Get guide for free', 'Buy Now & Save 20%')


The thing common through is user journey: relevancy and benefits. Address the target user's WIFM (What's In It For Me?) right away.


9. SEO (Search Engine Optimization)


In brief

SEO is about getting others to link to your valuable content, thus pushing you up on search engine results pages.

- Check for links to competitors' websites using tools such as MajesticSEO etc. Get in touch with webmasters for these linking websites and pitch them your case, sweetly and concisely.

- Make sure your headline, sub-headings and the main text (as well as all images) carry the relevant keywords.

- Try to answer all questions about the topic on a web page and you are gold.

- Create useful content related to your target keywords on a constant basis and push the link out through your online outposts as well as anywhere your target users are - social media, online groups, other websites etc.


10. Launching the product/service/startup


You will get instant big traffic from a big press mention/blog mention or a big ad in a big media property. However, to maintain a healthy ongoing traffic you will have to continuing the online advertising, viral content creation and other marketing activities over a longer period of time.


Name one startup that launched with a boom via media, and got users later. All get some users and then seek media coverage.


Some things you will need beforehand:


A. Have a press kit

It should also be available under same 'Press kit/Information for the media' section.


- Media Advisory: All the important things about your offering (benefits), why it is unique (and your vision for the world), success till date (the stats)

- Brief biographies on team members (founders etc), including their photos and ending with contact details (name, postion, contact email, phone) of point person and others.

- Quick snapshot of the startup in the end: Mention the company name again, founders, the web url, blog, Twitter account, Facebook page, product launch date (if due), product price etc.

- Links to logos, screenshots, help pages and any other useful, relevant information.


B. Be ready with key messaging:


SOCO (Single Overriding Communications Objective)

The most important thing you want the work to communicate. Only one thing.

E.g. Dropbox's 'It just works.'


SOCA (Single Overriding Communications Avoidance)

What you must avoid communicatin - the one weakness, problem or liability that you don't want users or the press to hear?


A. Launch using the media (newspapers, news TV, etc)


This is part of the 'Hollywood launch' method.


Entrepreneurs (software) , often using other people's money (VCs), will build some initially mediocre product (not some decent MVP people will pay for), announce it to the world (by getting 'mention' in leading media, and other places, but then they find that users never show up. They won't even know how their product turned out to be.

That's why people who know their stuff, advice to adopt the 'sell first, then market' strategy. You can do both.


A better idea is, 'launch' after you've picked up some customers, after you have 'proof'.


When you are ready for your press closeup, here's what to do:


- Make a list of top 10 media (offline and online) properties and their writers/reporters covering your industry.


Go to top news websites and blogs in your industry. Look for articles for your industry and the people who wrote them.


If all else fails, just Google 'industry x reporter/writer country/city Y'


It would be a good idea is to start maintaining a 'PR' contacts spreadsheet - person, media outlet, contact details etc.


When you find some contact details, send a short and sweet email with your elevator pitch (2-3 lines), as well as your newsworthiness ('we are the only online learning startup for elder people'), and end up by saying that you will be happy to answer their questions about the industry and/or product.


- Find your newsworthiness: Make a list of talking points about yourself. What is the solution you are offering? How is it unique?


Smart people will put a spin on the product, tying their product to a trending news story (e.g. 'an essential supply bag for hurricane season')


- Look for top writers covering your industry on Twitter (search 'Industry x reporter/journalist/writer/blogger'). Pitch them your product/startup.


B. Launch using paid advertising (online/offline)


Newspaper ads, display ads on websites, email lists via your landing page, useful viral content related to your industry and targeting a specific user group ('Career guide: 100 tips for introverts'), and paid advertising campaigns (Google Adwords, etc.)


C. Launch on your website/blog as well as on all your online outposts.

Also post useful and relevant comments on blog posts and forums in your industry.


Find out blogs and news websites etc appearing in Google search for your target keywords, and leave relevant comments on those blogs.

For example, 'You have written a useful article about problem x. I think your readers would also like this 'your headline and link'


D. The cute angle

Many new startup nowadays have started using cute sounding email addresses to appeal to their supporters.


For example - [email protected], [email protected] or just [email protected]


And please do a pre-launch checkup. For example


Thank you for reading.
This guide is from The Success Manual, which contains 200+ guides to succeeding in business, career and personal life.  Get the pdf ebook for $12 only.



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