By: Hillel Fuld (@hilzfuld)
Before we jump in, let me answer the obvious question. “Why have you been meeting Israeli startups every day for years?” Good question. Thought you’d never ask.
As my role of CMO at Zula, I am fortunate to work for a company that gets it. The company understands what too many companies still do not, that push marketing, self promotion, and spammy aggressive tactics simply do not work. The way to market a brand today is to provide value, whether that value is in the form of content, thought leadership, or just some help opening the right doors.
I know, I know, all very big words, but buzz words aside, that is my job. Obviously, there are the traditional marketing roles that I still have to execute, things like press releases, communication, messaging, positioning, etc, but by meeting startups, and helping them in any way I can, the ecosystem gains, I gain (mostly a lot of inspiration), and yes, Zula gains in the long run.
So let’s cut to the chase. I meet startups almost daily, help them in any way I know how, whether with their pitch (remember, English is not the spoken language here in Israel), their market/competition (competitive analysis, I have found, is not the average Israeli entrepreneur’s strong point), perhaps an intro to an investor, or maybe even to a journalist if the startup is close to launch.
While there is so much to learn from entrepreneurs starting their new venture, there are also many lessons to learn on how NOT to do marketing. I tried to sum up some of the major marketing lessons I have learned below:
1: If you Need to See The ROI of Social Right Now, You are Too Late! Ahh, the famous question I get asked 100 times a day. “What is the ROI of all these platforms? Do I really need them or can I just focus on customer acquisition? Oh, and how do I get more followers?” If you need those numbers for whatever reason, whether it is for an investor or something else, then we should have been having this conversation 6 months ago.
If you want to drive traffic to your content or your website via social, spend the time building up the audience prior to that need. It does not happen overnight and don’t believe anyone that tells you it does.
2: ‘Content Marketing’ is the Most Irrelevant Term Since ‘Social Media’: I hate these buzz words/phrases. Social media, the biggest paradox there is. Social=Two way/Media=Broadcast (at least traditionally). Stop using it. But then there is this other phrase everyone uses. “Content marketing”. To me, that phrase is like saying “Oxygen breathing”.
In other words, without content in 2014, you are not marketing. There is no other way to market just like there is no other way to breathe. All those other types of things you call marketing like customer acquisition, billboards, or any other type of self promotion, that is sales and at best, advertising. You are not marketing if you are not producing some sort of content.
3: PR? Sure… Or, you Can Open a Twitter Account: To say that young startups have a limited budget would be an understatement. In most cases, pre-funding, many of these startups have zero budget and yet, they spend thousands of dollars on PR agencies that charge them for some article on some tech blog. Now don’t get me wrong, there are some serious PR professionals out there that do fantastic work. They help sharpen the pitch, prepare the material, and then they help reach the relevant journalist/publication. Then there are PR agencies that take thousands of dollars to send an email to their friend the tech blogger asking for some coverage.
Dear startup founders, you can use Twitter (or any other platform out there) to research who is the right journalist to cover your story and tastefully reach out to them to tell them what you’re up to. Let me emphasize one word here… Tastefully! Do NOT use Twitter to spam journalists or aggressively sell your story. Use Twitter to build relationships, distribute your valuable content, and connect with strategic people for your company’s success. There, you just lowered your company’s burn rate by saving thousands of dollars on a bad PR agency. In fact, here is a secret, as a blogger I can tell you, journalists, in many cases, prefer to get the pitch from you, rather than your PR agency. Our little secret.
4: ‘Listening’ is the new ‘Selling’: Speaking of Twitter, yes, it is a great tool to help distribute content, but it is a much greater tool to listen, absorb, and digest content. No better way to monitor your competitors, what they are saying, what people are saying about them, why people hate them, why people love them, and how you can better differentiate yourself than Twitter.
“You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that ratio.” No idea who said that but smarter words have never been spoken. Use Twitter as a search tool, a listening platform and you will find the true power of the social web.
5: Trying to Decide which Platforms to Use? Consider the Underdog! Ok, let’s get this out of the way right now. I use and love Google+. On Twitter, it took me over 6 years to accumulate 25k followers. On Google+, after just two years, I have well over 50k followers (circlers?). Now again, numbers are not what matter but the fact remains, I will regularly share something on Twitter, get a few retweets, on Facebook, get tens of comments, and then when I share it on Google+, thousands, yes thousands of +1s, shares, and comments. Neglecting Google+ means you are, at least for now, going head to head with Google who seems to be betting big on the platform. But that aside, if you invest in the platform, I mean really invest, not go in there, play around a bit, then open Twitter to complain about what a ghost town it is, you WILL see great engagement. Share a lot of visual content, circle interesting people, comment on their content, and then share some more visual content. Thank me later.
One more platform that is hardly an underdog from a business standpoint, but definitely is not yet used in a social manner, is Linkedin. Not many people really use Linkedin like they use Twitter. Instead they view it is a recruiting tool, possibly a networking platform, but less as a platform to help drive traffic to content. In my experience, this is very misguided and startups are missing out on a tremendous opportunity. Join Linkedin groups, partake in the discussion there, share yours’ and others’ content and watch it drive not only lots of traffic but high quality traffic to your blog or site. After all, it is a much more targeted audience than Twitter. And I am not even going to go near Facebook as far as targeting is concerned.
Other platforms you might not think would be relevant but could prove to be highly effective include Instagram, yes Instagram, Pinterest, and Flipboard (try curating your own magazine there. You will be surprised how effective that can be to help drive traffic and brand awareness to your company!).
That’s all folks. It is time we stopped blurring the lines between sales and marketing and understand that sales is straight forward/aggressive and short term and by definition, marketing in 2014 means subtlety and a lot of hard work. Which drives better results? That is a topic for another time….