Tag Archive: strategy

PR Fundamentals for Startups

Recently I attended a “PR Fundamentals for Startups” Best Practices session at the MaRS Studio. These great sessions are held monthly and provide entrepreneurs the opportunity to learn about sales and marketing for startups.

Led by senior executives at Hill + Knowlton, Canada’s top-rated public affairs and public relations firm, the session focused upon developing a media relations strategy and outlined a 4 step process to “tell your story” to the media:

  • Define Your Story An important first step in developing any PR strategy is articulating what you want to say about yourself and your company. Ask yourself the following questions:
    • What problems does your product or service solve?
    • What are your key points of competitive differentiation?
    • Who will buy your product and why?
    • How did your company develop? Where did the idea come from? Media outlets always love human interest stories, so don’t be afraid to injectyourself into the conversation.
  • Research & Target Before you can engage with the media, it’s crucial to understand the landscape. Take the time to get to know the relevant media in your industry and local environment. Find out who the best journalists, bloggers, analysts, and evangelists are in your industry and make an effort to get to know them. Remember that PR is not free publicity – you only own a small piece of the pie. To be successful you have to align your PR efforts with the goals of the media. Then, decide on a “hook” you can consistently use to attract and keep media outlets interested in your company’s development.
  • Contact & Follow-Up After defining your story and understanding the media landscape, you can start building relationships. It’s important, however, not to rush this step. Many startups reach out too early and their PR efforts suffer because of it. When you have newsworthy content, reach out to your media contacts and bloggers and share the news with your partners, employees, customers, investors, and as many other stakeholders as you can.
  • Build & Continue Utilize marketing tools that complement your PR efforts by providing the media with more opportunities to cover what you’re doing. These tools can include:
    • Social Media
    • Blogs
    • Tradeshows
    • Conferences
    • Articles, Case Studies, and Whitepapers
    • PR Opportunities with Partners

A well-developed PR strategy is a crucial marketing component for any tech startup. Solid media relations can enhance understanding of a complex product or service and start to build a reputation, as well as trust, credibility and longevity. Is your company ready for PR?

If you’re looking for help creating a PR strategy, please feel free to reach out to me at any time for some tips and guidance.


Choosing the Right Social Media Tools for Your Startup

By now we’re all aware of the importance of social media for marketing and sales. There’s no marketing tool that can rival Facebook’s usability and visual nature. Except for Pinterest. And Twitter’s interconnectivity and speed is unrivalled in the history of mass communications. LinkedIn is the only avenue for B2B marketing and sales that matters. The list goes on and on.

As a free (or nearly free) tool, social media has become a pillar of startup marketing and sales strategies. But with so many social media tools at your disposal, it can often be hard to know exactly where to start and which tools are worth your time and effort.

While I’m a firm believer that creative marketers can successfully leverage any platform, it’s a reality that some social media tools will be better than others for building relationships with the customers you need to reach. Here are 3 questions to ask yourself when considering what social media tools you should be utilizing:

1. Who is your target audience? Understanding who your target market is, where they are, and what they are looking for must be at the centre of your marketing, sales, and social media strategies. The medium is the message, and unique target markets will respond differently to different social media tools. If you’re a startup focusing on reaching young, fashion-savvy teenage girls, Pinterest is probably a good place to invest your time since 68.2% of Pinterest users are women, it’s a visual platform, and its social atmosphere should resonate.  If you sell standardized industrial widgets? Take a pass. It’s unlikely the foremen you sell your products to spend their workday browsing for the latest hip fashions. There are better uses for your time and marketing budget.

2. What are you trying to accomplish? The key question here is “What sort of behaviour am I looking to drive in my target market?” It’s immensely important to define your goals. If your focus is raising awareness, you should be using a different set of tools than if your focus is seeking out prospective customers to add to your sales funnel. It may sound odd, but some social media tools are inherently more ‘social’ than others. To create a marketing buzz, focus your efforts on social media tools that allow for easy sharing and are organized based on user interests like Twitter, Pinterest, or a blog.

3. What are the limitations of the available tools? Take the time to thoroughly understand what each social media tool can offer your business. Will your target market respond better to a link to a relevant website on Twitter or an interactive video on YouTube? Are the unique benefits of your products and services best communicated through text or photos? Answering questions like these will quickly narrow your focus. Many websites also provide businesses with a host of helpful tips and programs that can be of great value to a startup. Place an emphasis on tools that provide quality analytics programs so you can analyze your efforts and make adjustments as needed.

Don’t try and boil the ocean. As labours of love, startups are already time consuming enough. While social media can be helpful in prospecting for customers and nurturing relationships, not all businesses are well suited to every social media tool. The best social media tools for your startup are the ones that will help you connect and collaborate with customers, build the right relationships, and optimize your content for maximum ROI. To find out more about how Venture Accelerator Partners can help you with your marketing, sales, and social media, check out our website.


Starting and Maintaining your Blog: Tips from Natalie MacNeil

Blogging is one of those time consuming marketing activities that can either boost your marketing efforts, or significantly hinder them if not executed effectively. Natalie MacNeil, speaker at Social Media Breakfast Waterloo Region on May 29th, discussed not only the importance of blogging but the importance of not blogging if you don’t have the resources. My previous blog on “What to do with Social Media Analytics” touched on how to keep track of your social media efforts, such as blogging, in order to get the maximum benefit. If you haven’t yet started with blogging (or have and you’re debating whether or not it was a good idea), take a look at some of the advice passed on from Natalie. Although Natalie’s presentation focused more on personal branding and blogging, the tactics provided do apply to businesses and I have reformatted them to reflect this.

Build your brand and expertise. Utilize your blog to build your brand and your expertise by providing relevant and educational information related to your industry and your clients/prospects. If you sell B2B services, you shouldn’t be blogging to reach the B2C market; there’s nothing wrong with diversifying your content, but your blogging content should reflect your company’s expertise.

If you can’t keep up with it, let it go. Starting a blog and reaping the benefits may sound great but if you don’t have the resources to keep it up, you’re only hurting yourself. Put a strategy in place before you start. For example, tell yourself you will write every Monday and Wednesday and post a blog every Tuesday and Thursday – and do it! Put guidelines in place when it comes to the layout of your blog: 500 words or under, 75 character title max, include keywords, tags, meta tag descriptions and at least 3 external links in your content.

‘Everyone’ is not a niche. Find your reader base by targeting a niche of people that will reap the benefits of your expertise. Saying that you will target ‘everyone’ will only leave you targeting no one. Your content needs to be written for a particular audience; when you write for everyone your content loses its cohesiveness and consistency.

Do you have a ‘starving crowd’? In her presentation, Natalie referenced copywriter Gary Halbery and his idea of a targeting a ‘starving crowd’ with your content. Are there thousands upon thousands of blogs about ‘tips for startups in KW’? Go back to the niche idea and find a crowd that is starving for a particular type of knowledge and education; perhaps it is Startup help for young entrepreneurs out of Kitchener Waterloo.

Build a mailing list. Although your mom and family might love to read your blogs week after week, you need to start reaching your starving crowd from the beginning. Spread the word to your social connections, via Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, etc and provide them with a call to action on how they can reach your blog.

Here are some additional tips that were added during the Q&A portion of the presentation:

  • Before you start, write about 100 blog topics to get yourself ahead of the game
  • Bring in guest bloggers for some variety once you’ve established your presence
  • Utilize WordPress as a CMS tool to effectively manage your content (a tool we’ve found very useful)
  • Your newsletter can have snapshots of your blog but there should be some additional information provided

With vast experience and expertise in blogging, social media and starting her own empire while in her mid-20s, it was great to listen to Natalie’s presentation and learn how this Kitchener-Waterloo resident effectively built her professional brand. If you’re interested in starting your own blog but still on the fence about taking the plunge yourself, feel free to reach out to me and see how our team can help.


Pinterest for B2B: What to know and how to start

Many small businesses ask themselves the same question when deciding whether or not they should embark in the newest social media platform: Is it worth my time? I recently read an ebook by Hubspot on Pinterest for B2B. For those who are unfamiliar with Pinterest, it is a social platform that relies on the sharing of visuals images. On the surface, it is easy to see how Pinterest benefits B2C companies, but how may it helped B2B organizations?

Below are is a list of various questions you may be asking yourself about Pinterest. I have provided a few points that may help you make a decision about fitting Pinterest into your marketing strategy:

What is Pinterest?

  • Visual social media platform where users share, like, comment and follow people and boards to pass along information in the form of images and videos.
  • How popular is it? Pinterest saw 155% growth in one month, beating out Linkedin and Google+

How does Pinterest fit into the marketing strategy of B2B organizations?

  • What kind of businesses should be considering it? Businesses that highly utilize videos and images in their core messaging. Keep in mind that you want to be where your customers are. Do some research beforehand to see if your current customers and prospects are using the platform.
  • Pinterest provides connectivity to Facebook and Twitter. Users can sign up using their Facebook or Twitter account, therefore, posting their Pinterest activity to these separate social networks as well

I set up a profile, what now?

  • Optimize your profile: Include your company name, logo, brief description, links, keep the setting ‘hide your Pinterest profile from search engines’ checked OFF
  • Want to be successful? Avoid blatant self-promotion. Even a sales person will tell you that no one likes to be ‘sold to.’ Keep your content educational and informative.
  • Start by creating pinboards in order to build a reach and network. A pinboard is like a Twitter list; it is a tool used to consolidate information pertaining to one particular topic of interest. Remember to utilize your company’s keywords in the title of pinboards for SEO purposes and to clearly communicate what your board is for.

I’ve set up a profile. Is there anything else I should know?

  • There are 2 kinds of follows:
    • 1) Follow a board: Users will receive all information posted on a particular pinboard. It’s similar to following a list on Twitter.
    • 2) Follow a user: Users will receive updates every time your company posts an update. It’s similar to following someone’s Twitter handle.
    • When developing your pinboards, remember some of these great tips:
      • Feature visual content; Pinterest is a visual social network
      • Create pinboards about your company so users can see the people behind the brand. Example: Executive Managament board with headshots of your team.
      • Utilize strong visuals from blog articles to promote your blogs
      • Create a user generated pinboard; allow other Pinterest users to add to your boards
      • Utilize hashtags; Pinterest supports the use of hashtags.
      • Measure, Measure, Measure! Remember to measure your efforts by using a tool such as Google Analytics. Identify how many users are coming to your website from Pinterest and set goals for inbound traffic. For example, increase your Pinterest inbound traffic by 20% per month. Also use analytics to understand what works and what doesn’t; are people visiting your blogs from Pinterest and not your newsletter page?

Hubspot has a lot of great resources if you’re looking to brush up on your marketing knowledge, or if you’re interested in learning something new. Give us a shout if you need assistance putting your thoughts into action and want to start executing a strong marketing strategy. To get weekly tips, sign up for our RSS feed and take a look at our blogs on sales, marketing and social media.

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