It’s tough work starting a business. You know that. Starting a business from the ground up means acquiring investors, designing a winning product and completing an infinite number of vital tasks. When it comes to marketing, startups work on a bootstrapped budget and often build their marketing formula internally. In fact, many startups do not have the luxury of having a marketing person on staff, and rely on common sense and instinct to lead the way when it comes to branding, communications and social networking. At Brendan & Brendan, we’re closing in on two years of providing marketing services to young startups, and we’ve decided to reach out to a couple clients who’ve helped us grow along the way to see how they handled their marketing out of the gate. Floop is a tech startup located right here in Montreal that specializes in helping children’s app developers monetize their products. CalendarSpots, another Montreal local is an appointment software that lets businesses book and manage their appointments online. Finally, we spoke to Redbooth, a collaboration and communication software that’s not only one of our bigger clients, but also a software that’s vital to managing daily tasks in the Brendan & Brendan office.
When it came to marketing their business, Floop – a startup who connects brands and families through highly-targeted ads on children’s mobile apps – kicked things off internally. To them, it was important to establish their target markets and create buzz about their still unreleased product while seeking customer validation. Before even producing a product, Floop launched extensive email campaigns, social media buzz, SEO and discussion within the local startup community. It was crucial to find early adopters who would not only use the product, but also build a passion around it, and offer criticism and developmental support. These consumer-consultants provided a strong base for Floop to build upon and launch into mass market. According to CEO and co-founder Laurent Mascherpa, it was only once Floop felt confident in both their value proposition and strong early adopter consumer base that they turned to outside help. Working with an agency, Mascherpa says, gave Floop the strong push it needed to take their product to the next level. With an outside agency, the company was able to strategize on their market positioning as well as their digital presence. Here, they established not only who their key demographics were but how they were going to reach them.
While Floop’s research and testing fuelled early growth, Mascherpa wishes the team would’ve used surveying more in their infancy. Surveying Floop’s key demographics provided indispensable information about the type of product that their consumers were looking for, but more surveys and more targeting surveying should’ve been done, says Mascherpa. The only survey Floop conducted was sent out to a general audience, rather than several different surveys to several different segments, which is something he feels may have offered a far more complex insight on the several different market segments of Floop users.
CalendarSpots traces their beginnings to late 2009. They dropped the beta version of their product the following year, a business automation tool which allows businesses to book and schedule appointments online based on their availabilities. According to Gianna Ricciardi who handles strategy at CS, the Montreal startup had marketing in mind very early in their development. Key to their early strategy was organic audience-building which included cold calling potential customers and networking in Montreal’s startup community. CalendarSpots also established an early web presence, putting their website online even before their product launched. For them, it was all about finding out who would be interested in such a product and who would be open to the concept of automated booking. For many small businesses such as salons and clinics, the concept of booking appointments over the phone and transcribing them on paper is one as old as the business itself. Luckily, demand existed for an easier way to do bookings and CS has experienced success as a result.
Something that rings true for for CalendarSpots today as it did in their beginnings is the idea of not relying on Google for their web presence. According to Ricciardi, many companies fall into the trap of depending on Google to boost ads and searchable content – an effective but ultra competitive method of getting the word out. Even if a company pays to have their ads pop up when searching specific terms, they’re often bounced off of the first page of search results by competitors with far larger ad budgets.
Redbooth is not only a Brendan & Brendan client, but also a service which is crucial to managing our internal tasking and scheduling. Starting in 2008, Redbooth formerly known as Teambox, was a project of passion for founder Pablo Villalba. Based in Barcelona, Villalba got Teambox off the ground by networking and reaching out to others who would be interested in an open source project management service. By offering a free service, which at the time was open source, Teambox was able to grow its client base despite the financial climate of 2008 with the world reeling from the consequences of the financial crash. Simon Williams, Redbooth director of marketing at Redbooth credits a great deal of Teambox’s success to its “freemium” strategy where they offered relevant and useful services for free while charging for extra features.
On “over-marketing” your product, Williams warns against relying on marketing instead of focusing on what your product offers. With Teambox and now Redbooth, the emphasis was on offering a high-performing project management service to the people who needed it most. Marketing activities only came into play once the company wanted to take their business to the next level, from early adopters to a more expansive audience. Williams also discussed the importance of “small m marketing” or more informal marketing activities such as networking, startup events and building a strong reputation that fuels speedy word of mouth. Echoing DDC, Williams also spoke on the importance of not only relying on Google ads to bolster your web presence.
Regardless of the product or goals of the startup, the startups shared a few common ideas:
- Don’t only rely on Google.
- Step outside the office and network with your community;.
- Know your customer base and what they want.
- Outside marketing won’t bring your product from zero to hero, but it’ll take your product to the next level once you have a strong consumer base.
Working with these startups has been a blast! We’d like to thank all them for being super helpful and we wish them all the best on their continued success!