Hey folks! Ever wonder why some startups soar like eagles while others… well, can’t get their feathers off the ground? Dive into this juicy piece and learn why it’s less about perfection and more about catching eyes and turning heads. Think of it as the difference between a potluck’s star dish and the lukewarm potato salad everyone avoids. Our author dishes out wisdom with a side of sass. So, ready for a brain buffet? Grab your fork and let’s dig in! 🍴🚀
Editor in Chief – Alex Sherman
Roman Shalimov is the founder and head of Dreams&Fears, a global marketing agency serving startups and enterprises. He is also a co-founder of Hice, a mobile bank for entrepreneurs, and works as a brand and communication strategy consultant. Having guided hundreds of startups through their journeys, Roman has witnessed their aspirations, challenges, and fatal mistakes. In this article, he will impart valuable insights on how startups can enhance their odds of reaching unicorn status.
1. Grab the attention of investors and customers immediately
The core of the product should be captivating, ideally innovative, and underpinned by a clear business model. However, startup products often change. Think back to how Airbnb or Netflix started out. To adapt effectively, you require financial resources. To secure these resources, you must capture the attention of investors and potential clients. Achieving this necessitates a shift in focus toward marketing. Frankly, even during the product creation phase, I would consider marketing aspects: Who will be our target audience, how will we engage with them, and how can we position ourselves as leaders in our industry?
Startups don’t die due to excessive attention. Tesla had the opportunity to develop a great product because Elon Musk excelled in marketing and generating interest. In contrast, countless startups have perished because they remained unnoticed, despite offering good products and attractive interface design.
Execute well enough, seek feedback, promote your venture boldly, and shamelessly market yourself. If your founding team lacks a strong marketer, actively search for one and consider offering them equity in the company.
2. Make it catchy, not right
I can name numerous popular apps and websites, used by millions, whose products aren’t flawless, and a good designer might find visual flaws. But the truth is, people prioritize problem-solving over design. In their leisure, most folks aren’t examining ideal UI/UX or graphic design masterpieces. What matters is grabbing their attention and presenting something intriguing, not necessarily flawless.
The Google logo may not be perfect, but it’s intriguing. In fact, designers initially found the first logo ridiculous. However, this unconventional choice has proven effective because it’s highly memorable and sets Google apart from other companies.
Designers often aim for neat, minimalist, and precise work, but sometimes, the key is to grab attention, which requires standing out from the crowd. My recommendation would be to begin with creative ideas in design, rather than fixating on correctness. You can always make corrections later, but if you start with a bland brand, you risk going unnoticed, which can result in more challenging communication and higher client acquisition costs in the long run.
3. Embrace the Power of Creative Marketing
Creativity equals efficiency. To capture significant attention with minimal resources, you must harness creative energy. In a world saturated with advertisements, people aren’t eagerly awaiting new products and brands. Dull press releases and ‘high-quality’ videos discussing your product won’t cut it. Those are only of interest to your mother. So, when crafting advertising and content, envision a client who doesn’t inherently need you. Your goal is to grab their attention in just one second and close the deal within the first five.”
This principle applies not just to clients but also to investors. When you show up at a meeting wearing a vibrant T-shirt with your brand or, in simpler terms, send them a set of company stickers, it leaves a lasting impression. Remember, investors, for the most part, seek to be a part of something meaningful. They’ll place their trust in your enthusiasm and your capability to sell an idea with conviction.
4. Find and understand your customer
Strive to pinpoint a precise individual for whom your product and communication are designed. Not an abstract target audience, but an actual person you can visualize. Ideally, that person is you. If you find the product and advertising appealing, chances are someone else will too. Conversely, if you don’t like it, it’s probable that others won’t either.
You must know everything about your target customer. What worries them, what music they listen to, who they follow on Instagram, how they spend their weekends. If you talk to this person, try to build a genuine connection and feel their pain to create a compelling product and establish effective communication.
5. Create a simple and clear strategy
We are talking primarily about brand strategy, which today is synonymous with business strategy. Begin by delving into ‘Good Strategy, Bad Strategy’ by Richard Rumelt. Then, gather with your partners and align your perspectives on your brand. To achieve this, personify it, envisioning it as a character with distinct traits. Consider the brands you resemble in other categories to gain a clearer understanding.”
As you progress, identify the mental shelf you aim to occupy in the minds of your clients and investors. This space must stand out from the shelves occupied by other brands, as competing for the same territory will be costly. For example, at Hice Bank, discussing trust or business inspiration wouldn’t be effective, as these attributes are already linked to other banks. Our focus is on time, associating our brand with a bank that prioritizes saving customers’ time.
As a result, aim for a concise phrase that encapsulates the core message. In our case, at the bank, our phrase is ‘Time for life, not time for the bank.’ This phrase communicates our commitment to eliminating banking hassles and resolving customers’ issues while they savor life.
Even if you scribble the strategy on a napkin or daydream about your future at a coffee shop, it’s sufficient. What matters most is that it’s so crystal clear and precise that it strikes the hearts of clients and investors like a well-aimed arrow.
Guest Author – Roman Shalimov
October 16, 2023