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Marknadsföring och sälj September 10, 2013

Marketing strategy should go hand-in-hand with product development

PR3 PR challenges and 3 tips on how to get your startup out there.

This is an interview by Elia Mörling taken from Swedish Startup Space.

Editor note: Elia caught up with Jill Lindström from STING to chat about product marketing and gave a few tips for startups too!

Hi Jill Lindström! Who are you and what do you do?

I do marketing and communications at the business accelerator STING in Stockholm. I coach and work with our startups when they want to bounce around PR ideas or discuss other communication matters.

Why do you do it?

I do it because it’s incredibly fun to work with entrepreneurs. I learn a ton from them and if I can contribute and help them and their businesses move forward, that’s a great feeling.

What are the most common PR/marketing problems faced by startups?

I’d say a common problem is that many young startups spend pretty much all their time developing their product or service so that there is no marketing or PR being done at all. Your brand, marketing strategy and communication plan should be developed alongside your product. PR takes a lot of work and you need to invest both time and effort to get your story out there.

Another issue is that entrepreneurs often are incredibly passionate about their product, but journalists may not share their excitement. A good idea is to prepare different messages for different types of audiences. And show the journalist that you took the time to research his or her interests. Share a piece of news with that journalist that you don’t give to anyone else.

Don’t get discouraged if a news release doesn’t get picked up. A lot of factors are at play and you can’t control the media.

A third common challenge for startups is to find their niche. Who are your key customers and what is the value that you offer them? What is it that they actually need? And where in the media jungle do you find them? If you try to talk about your startup with everyone, you waste both yours and the journalist’s time.

What are your top 3 tips for startups?

1. Get to know the top 5-6 journalists, bloggers and key influencers that report on news in your field. Read up on them and learn what they like to write about. How do they prefer to be contacted – email? Twitter? Phone? Target them personally when you pitch your story, don’t send out the same press release to 500 people. Also, stay in touch with your top 5 once you’ve created a relationship. Let them know how your startup progresses. No big pitches, just a simple “wanted to let you that this will happen next week… Interested?” works. Conversations are usually better than formal press releases.

2. The pitch: This is about the journalists’ readers – not about your product or company. What do the readers care about? What is value for them? In the pitch – be brief! Use bullets. Use common Swedish/English, e.g. talk the way you would talk to a regular person. Prepare clear messages that explain what you do, how you’re different and why your product is worth talking about. How will it change the readers’ lives? Also, try to avoid jargon like “award-winning unique innovation…”

3. Offer an exclusive. Don’t talk to everybody at once. Pick your top 1 journalist. If that’s a no go, call the next. Remember to adjust the news angle to suit each individual journalist. If you want, let them know that they can have the story exclusively. If you get a yes, ask what day they will publish it. Then it’s okay to contact other journalists and send out a press release to the masses the same morning the story is published.

Lastly, don’t get discouraged if a news release doesn’t get picked up. A lot of factors are at play and you can’t control the media.

Marknadsföring och sälj January 14, 2013

Zoom in and zoom out to connect with reality

Entrepreneurs need zooming abilities to connect their vision with the real life of their customers.

Numerous very serious attempts have been made to pinpoint what certain characteristics and habits set apart successful entrepreneurial leaders from their less successful counterparts. What tempted me to humbly add an observation to this plethora of findings is that one vital treat of successful entrepreneurs often is omitted from the typical list of treats: As an entrepreneur in a startup where most things still are hypotheses to be proven, you need zooming capability. You need to know when to zoom in on the details and when to zoom out to get the overall perspective.

You often hear the expression “the devil is in the details” and yes he/she is. As an entrepreneur, you must therefore be prepared to now and then leave the captain’s bridge and go down to the engine room, get your hands greasy, find out what’s wrong, and fix the problem.

You need to understand exactly what makes your customer delighted, relieved or whatever is his/her compelling reason to buy. You need to know all the little chinks in your competitors’ armor and learn to use it to tune your value proposition and messaging. You need to be deeply involved in the user experience of your product/service. You need to understand every consequence if the developers are saying that they are three weeks behind schedule. Does it in reality mean three months?, etc. Some entrepreneurs really excel in this regard; they see the slight momentary constriction of the pupils of their customer when they happen to hit their true pain point and they equally sense the dilution of the pupils when they tune the value proposition in the right direction. They dig out the details that may very well be crucial for success. But do they see the storm coming?

Because the devil is in the big picture too. Especially if you have an ambitious plan to disrupt your industry or ecosystem. Most likely you are not the only one that sees this whopping opportunity. The established players and other startups have plans too and this will constantly change the game. I myself had big plans for car navigation systems with fiber-optic gyroscopes, this was before the GPS and before the US military ended its practice of intentionally fuzzing the satellite’s signals for security purposes. Guess what happened to my plan!  As an entrepreneur you need to be ahead of technology shifts, ahead of your customers and competitors and ahead (not to far though) of the VCs.

Some entrepreneurs truly master this arena. They are on top of all the trends in their market. They follow the Tech Crunches and Gartners of the world and they are seen at all the important events in their industry. These entrepreneurs are years ahead in their thinking and they see the shifts in the market well in advance. They love C-level meetings where they impress everyone with their sharp analysis of the future and their perfectly aligned vision. Often they give very inspiring talks.

However their bird’s eye view tends to limit the resolution of their picture. And even if their strategy is as beautiful and logical as the proof of Pythagoras theorem, it is often based on an oversimplified picture, making it difficult to translate the strategy into tactics. The customers don’t recognize themselves are in the entrepreneurs vision because it does not really connect with their present pains and desires.

In my work, coaching many startups, most entrepreneurs are either or. Either they are into the details of the operations and the customers or they are up in the sky selling their vision. Both categories unfortunately are heading towards a cliff… But then you have the third category: They shift between the big picture and the nitty-gritty details at will and they are also very good at understanding exactly when to zoom in and when it is time to zoom out.  The reason for this zooming ability being so vital is that it enables the entrepreneur to connect his/her game changing vision with the reality of the customers in the segment of his/her choice.  The gap between the vision and the everyday to-do-list can now be filled with a strategy and with tactics that makes sense. Sense not only to the entrepreneur but to his/her whole team, to their customers and to the investors.

So how to improve your zooming capability:

  1. Make it a habit to change perspective. Deliberately put yourself in your customers’ position, in your investors’ position, in your developers’ position, etc.
  2. Zooming in on detail is a good thing. Especially if it improves your understanding of your customers, employees and investors. Follow the problem to its root cause. Observe, learn, and improve.
  3. Always zoom out before shifting focus. Make sure that your priorities are still right. Is your to-do-list up to date? Update and zoom in.
  4. Zoom out fully from time to time. What is going on at the horizon? Does your vision still hold?  Which macro events may change the game?
  5. Share the perspectives. Let your team, your investors and sometimes your customers understand your picture. This is a critical part of your leadership.
Entreprenörskap October 10, 2012

The Pivot – so hyped and so underused

My colleague Raoul Stubbe recently wrote an excellent (yeah right, I’m not biased) blog post on ”Why Swedish entrepreneurs need more staying power”. One of the issues Raoul brought up was the PIVOT, in the context of how much harder it is to pivot here in Sweden than in the US due to how investors (and, let´s be honest, most of us) regard failure.

(If ”pivot” is still not part of your vocabulary, a nice way of defining it is ”A change in STRATEGY without a change in VISION” quote on quote from an article I recommend.)

After having spent a couple of weeks in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and meeting with quite a few entrepreneurs there, the picture is pretty clear: The view on pivoting is definitely one of the more distinct differences between entrepreneurs here vs there. Yes, it is true that here in Sweden, in most cases the pivoting needs to be done before bringing in angels, whereas in the US the investors are used to endure one or several pivots, with the often accompanying need for additional capital.

BUT, and this is a crucial difference between success and failure for many Swedish startups I think: the fact that Swedish investors generally don´t like the idea of pivoting doesn´t lower the need for it. Quite the contrary, just because we have less capital here, because we have a lack of failure acceptance, the need for pivoting is BIGGER than in the US. Swedish entrepreneurs increase their chances of success exponentially if they embrace the thought of pivoting already from the start in their projects.

So, where does this leave the Swedish entrepreneur compared to the American? With a need of being better in both staying power according to the blog post mentioned in the beginning, AND being faster in challenging and pivoting your business model. And, of course, this is nothing less and nothing more than saying that Swedish entrepreneurs need to be better than their American colleagues in lean entrepreneurship. Iterate, iterate, iterate, and involve customers and users in every step, every work week.

Speaking of pivoting, here is a good post in Techcrunch with a number of both historical and current pivots.

Clarification: No, the number of times I´ve been using the term pivot is not an attempt to bring www.sting.co to the top search results on the search phrase pivot. Ehhh, Pivoting. Pivots. Pivotal. (If you have other forms of the word, please write it in the comment field.)