In our last few posts we talked about why startups should create a minimum viable audience and how to actually create one. Now that we’ve created the audience through user testing and interviews, it’s time to start attracting it with sales and marketing campaigns. Just as startups don’t want to spend too much money before they reach product-market fit, this blog will highlight a few ways of getting started in attracting your minimum viable audience in a cost-effective way.
Partnerships are an excellent way of discovering your minimum viable audience through tangential audiences where you can bring new value to an existing partnership. The best way to start is by vetting credible companies who help your minimum viable audience in a different way. For example, at Albaloo we help early stage startups. We have partnerships with other companies who serve early stage companies such as designers, recruiters, app developers and finance companies. Your partners lend you credibility with their customers. Introductions from credible sources will speed up your sales pipeline and make you look bigger than you are.
Another vein of thought to partners is referrals. Do you have an exceptional product and a huge network? Or, do you turn heads when you’re at networking events? Referrals may be your way to success! Referrals can work in three ways:
1. Your network has a lot of decision makers for your product or service.
2. People who see your product or service immediately know how it can be useful to themselves and others
3. Your customers or clients see the value of your product or service and know others will also gain value from it
Like introductions from partners, referrals also lend you credibility, since ther referrer ou is going to bat for you. Ways to grow your network through referrals are social media; attending conferences within your niche; and asking current customers, friends, and colleagues for introductions. Not all of your referral sources will be in your industry – they may only be connected to an audience you’re trying to get in touch with. Since referrals are so lucrative, many businesses create referral rewards programs.
Communities are great places to find early customers and test out ideas. General community members post ideas and share thoughts on a range of particular topics all around one topic. Communities give founders a place to connect with prospective customers, hear their stories and get needed feedback on their products or services. Even better than reaching our community members cold is to have a leader of the community help make connections or post about their product or service. At Albaloo we tell all our founders to engage in communities to better understand their prospective customers and eventually find some beta testers and customers.
People with a large social media presence are called influencers. They hold significant sway within their chosen niche. Thought leaders, opinion makers, and celebrities are some examples of influencers. Contacting influencers within your niche to see if they will promote your brand is a great way to build recognition and attract your MVA. Influencers have a vast audience and often promote brands within their chosen niches. Influencer marketing functions similarly to referral marketing on a large scale. The influencer has their audience’s trust, so if they recommend your brand, people will automatically be more confident in your products. High confidence, plus higher recognition, means higher conversions. Influencers will often expect compensation or a reciprocal relationship. These relationships are an investment, but can pay off for certain companies. To find relevant influencers, look in places where your niche operates, for example, on LinkedIn or Reddit, and search and subscribe to relevant topics, groups, and individuals. After finding a chosen influencer, reach out and see whether they are interested in working together.
5. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing programs function similarly to influencer marketing and benefit small startups and B2C companies. Affiliates are marketers who don’t necessarily have the following to be considered worthwhile influencers. That doesn’t mean the programs are wasteful, though! Affiliate compensation is earned by the amount of business they successfully attract, meaning there are no up-front costs for this type of relationship. Companies give out coupon codes to affiliate marketers. These affiliates then put the codes on their social media and websites that link to products. When a customer makes a purchase, a percentage (usually between 5-30%) becomes a commission for the affiliate. Like influencers, affiliate marketing builds brand awareness and helps you earn new customers you might not have reached otherwise.
Press is another method of reaching your MVA. This is a more traditional method of brand awareness and probably one most founders have considered. Contacting local newspapers, radio, and TV stations or writing an article about products/services to increase awareness are all traditional methods of building recognition via the press. There are more modern ways, though. Podcasts are the new radio. Ads operate across all social media now and are no longer limited to TV. Writing a blog post on a partner’s blog will expose you to a new audience. Think outside the box with press and you might be able to drive targeted traffic to your website.
7. Cold Calling
The fastest way to test whether a specific demographic fits your minimum viable audience is through sales. For B2B startups, this often means cold calling. By cold-calling prospects, founders can quickly discover whether their messaging aligns with their market.
At Albaloo, we train teams to narrow their niche to Ideal Customer Profiles. Our experts help you frame your product or solution to express how it solves your ICP’s challenges. Then, together, design talk tracks or scripts that target your chosen niche to qualify your prospects. After some targeted research, you’ll be ready to cold call, build rapport, and sell your products.
What comes to mind when you think of sponsorship? It could be the image of a major brand paying millions to promote its products and services. Or how about companies paying exorbitant fees to advertise on a banner at a sports event? Those scenarios are not the extent of sponsorship opportunities.
There are four types of sponsorships:
1. Financial Sponsorship: Paying for sponsorships helps get startups in front of their ideal customers for a fraction of an advertising program. Being able to add a speaking slot or even more advertisement to the sponsorship package makes it even better for brand recognition.
2. In-Kind Sponsorship: For some companies, it could be possible to give your product for free or do some sort of consulting service to make up for the cost of sponsorship without having to give money to it.
3. Media & Promotional Sponsorship: Other companies have great media partnerships, connections, or even a huge community that can drive more attendees toa a conference or event. Selling more tickets or getting more eyeballs is super valuable, almost more than financial sponsorship!
For founders who have a strong background in the market their company is in, booking speaking engagements as part of the sponsorship is a great way to test the market. By speaking on topics related to your product or service, founders can see the interest complete strangers have in their ideas. At the end of the speaking session Founders can give a quick advertisement for their product or service and give the audience an easy way to contact them to start a conversation. A lot of these conversations can turn into a founder’s first customers.
The best way to make sponsorships work is through treating it as a marketing campaign. The goal is to create awareness about a product or service, build relationships with potential customers, and drive sales. The best part about event sponsorships is your target audience may need to talk to you about challenges they’re facing and can easily find you. Like cold calling, find the talk track that works and follow up with anyone you held a great conversation with at the booth or after your speaking engagement. Then qualify them during a discovery call and add more opportunities to your pipeline!
Advertising is a faster (although more expensive) way to find the message that works. With digital ads, it’s pretty easy to know if a message doesn’t work – all you have to do is look at the cost per click and click through rate. If the ad has a high cost per click and low click through rate, it’s not resonating with enough people and you either need to change the targeting or the messaging.
If neither changes help your ads, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. The best way to start advertising is to fine-tune your messaging with marketing user interviews and using social media and communities to talk to prospective customers. Once you’ve consistently found users who want your product or service and react positively to your messaging, you can update your website. Once the traffic you’re driving to your website has a 5-10% conversion rate to email, you’re ready for advertising.
A great example of brand advertising is Apple’s “Think Different” campaign from 1997. It was revolutionary because the company was promoting itself rather than the products. The campaign turned out to be one of the most successful in history. Why was it such a triumph? Apple took something as complex and expensive as a computer in the nineties and made it personal. Suddenly, the layperson understood the value and versatility of having a home computer.
Apple turned luxury into a need, and everyone had to have one. This arguably led to the technology boom and was critical for later successes, like the iPod, which was released just four years later. Inventions like tablets and smartphones might have been delayed for years if Apple hadn’t made personal computers ubiquitous.
How to Take Action
As a startup, you need to attract your minimum viable audience to be able to start filling your pipeline and finding customers.
You’ll succeed more if you understand your niche’s audience, their problems, and what they need. Once you know your audience, test these channels one at a time to see the result of the campaign. We recommend testing each of these channels for 30 days to see what performs best. Once you find one performing channel, stick with that one and do more of it so you can grow in that one area to hit your first revenue goals. For example, if you find success in referrals, only do referrals for the first year and work on getting more referring partners. If you succeed at partnerships, do the same thing.
Once the founder or executive can write the playbook for that channel, they can replace themselves out and then go to the next channel and do the same. As a company’s marketing initiatives grow, they can participate in more channels at the same time. Cross channel marketing, or marketing via various media, is the best way to increase recognition, so all methods should be considered and prioritized based on your audience and budget. Are you considering trying any of the campaigns listed? Have you already used some? Are there any we missed that you consider vital? We would love to hear your input and experiences.