Startup Marketing: a Gift or a Re-gift?

by David Hattenbach, CEO of Hugg Technology

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You came up with what you think is a really great idea. You spent countless hours developing your idea into a workable demo. Then you developed an elevator pitch that went something like this – we are the (blank) for (blank). You then networked your ass off, selling yourself, your team and your elevator pitch to prospective investors and partners until you were able to raise some capital. You did it by telling everyone how great you are… and it worked! Now you’re ready to ramp up the marketing machine and grow the business to enormous heights.

Here’s where things can go sideways. What worked to get you where you are now may not get you to where you want to be. One of the biggest marketing mistakes I see startups make as they try to grow their customer base is that they talk about themselves too much. While this may be an effective way to get VCs excited about your business, it often fails to excite the target consumer.

Why? It’s because of an insight into people that is as old as the hills. As sales guru Dale Carnegie taught us many years ago, people don’t care about you, they care about themselves. Unlike investors, consumers aren’t really interested in you or your company. They don’t want to hear about how great your company or your product is. They want to hear about what your company or your product can do for them. To attract consumer attention and build long term connections, you need to change your point of view. If you want truly great marketing, you need to stop thinking about you and start thinking about them.

The difference between great marketing and bad marketing is the difference between a gift and a re-gift. Think about the last great gift you got from someone. Think how you felt the moment you opened it. If you are like me, you probably said something like – “WOW, how did you know?” You felt special, you felt cared about and you felt understood. The gift demonstrated a high level of insight into who you are and what you want. Maybe you felt they understood you even better than you understood yourself. This is what great marketing should feel like.

On the other hand, think about the last time you were “re-gifted.” You probably got the feeling that the gift giver didn’t really care about you as much as you had hoped. They didn’t really “get you.” Nor did they even try. You felt like an unimportant afterthought. You probably questioned the strength of your relationship with that person. This is what bad marketing feels like.

In the startup space, we talk a lot about quantitative metrics and acquisition models. These are all important concepts, but great marketing requires great content. It requires marketing content that makes a connection with people on a human level. When consumers see your ad, read your emails or visit your website, they should feel – Wow, this brand gets me like no other brand! Publishing your twitter feed is not great marketing. Making the extra effort to show people you care is.

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