First Question a Startup should Answer

When I get a call from someone who has a startup and needs marketing tips, I usually find myself asking a series of questions. Often the person who is calling has created, perhaps even patented a product, and they realize they don’t know quite where to go from here to sell it. Usually they’ve tried a few approaches but didn’t succeed.

A call I received last week reminded me again of the perils start-up organizations have in marketing their vision. The situation for this group, like so many other was this:

- An inventor saw the need for a great product.

- He assembled a team of four (including himself): someone who could advise about product development, an attorney who could secure the patent and act as CFO, and his wife who is responsibilities was mostly to “herd the cats.”

- They started the project around 18 months ago

- They attempted crowd funding, it didn’t work out so well. They now recognize they didn’t market their crowd funding venture.

- No one on the team was a marketer or had marketing experience.

My first question (after getting a description of the product) is usually this:

After someone buys your gizmo, what are you selling them next? One-off selling using online resources might be financially viable, but the cost to bring in the lead and convert it to sale will probably swallow any profit to be had.

A timeless credo of direct marketing is this: your most important sale is your second sale. You usually don’t make money on the first sale due to acquisition cost, so it’s imperative that you have additional products to sell.

All too often for a startup company, the inventors and investors are singularly focused on a single objective: create the product and sell zillions of it. That’s an oversight. You need to think about the upsells and cross-sell products (or your product needs to be a continuity product, that is, something sold and delivered every month or on some other regular schedule).

My advice for startups: anticipate what someone who buys from you will look to you next to purchase. After the first sale, perhaps you set yourself and your company up as experts and offer how-to guides or videos. Or replacement items (think ink for a printer or blades for a shaver). Have the solutions your buyer needs. And be ready to sell them the next product before you introduce your first product.

Gary Hennerberg

After a lot of years in marketing and sales, this is what I know works:

Stories sell. Think unique. Stimulate emotion. Close deals. And here are a few other gems from my new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code.” Know the persona, interpret your offer and let your prospect give themselves permission to buy. That’s how the brain is wired. It’s how people think.

What else? When I’m not breaking down complex topics (or ones marketers over-complicate) into easy-to-grasp stories that sell, I crunch numbers. Manage projects. Write. Teach. Lead.