The world is a noisy place. It takes both heart and skill and to be heard in a way that moves customers to action. Your story is boring until proven otherwise and sending out another dull press release isn’t going to fix that. Instead, use your strengths as a company to create content which is as inventive as your product. After running two startups and investing in over 40, I have learned a few tricks on how to do that effectively.
1. Find a strength and use it.
My first company, TAT, was a user interface company, so visual design was our forte. We were also skilled in embedded development, but it’s harder to dazzle with machine code. We devised many ploys to get attention. We filmed new mobile phones for our blog. We commented on user interfaces and concepts. Finally, we started putting our own concepts on YouTube.
The idea was simple. We would spend a week creating a user interface concept we believed would be mainstream three or four years down the line and then film it. Many of our concepts were novel, but we make them look like finished products, so the videos got millions of views. Our strength was to come up with interface ideas and make them look real.
My second company, Brisk, is a sales process tool, so we know a lot about sales tools and best practices for Software as a Service. In 2014, we started answering sales questions on Quora, a question-and-answer website. Often we didn’t even know the answers, but we researched the topic in order to reply properly. Quora helped us to understand not only our customer's’ problems but also possible solutions. It proved to be an effective marketing tool. In 2014, 8 percent of all our installs came from Quora.
If you have happy customers, interview them about your space. If you have interesting data, convert it into great stories like OKCupid did with their blog. If you are a software developer and see problems in your space that could be solved easily, create a side product like Hubspot’s Signals. Building something useful or entertaining for your target audience is the best marketing there is.
2. Find a medium and master it.
Choose the medium that matches your strengths and master it. Focus 90 percent of your effort on that medium. At Brisk, we tried writing posts on Linkedin, but we found that space to be diluted by people sharing helpful posts. Even when we focused on Linkedin and paid for advertising, less than a 1 percent of our installs came from that source.
It helps if you are an early adopter, but you also need to know where your target group hangs out. TAT mastered YouTube when videos on visual concepts were not common. Brisk answered questions on Quora before all sales tools made that a habit. Intercom has an amazing blog on startup problems. Mionix is finding ambassadors on Twitch. There are unexplored corners of the Internet -- courses on massive open online courses, scripts on Google Spreadsheets and so on -- which may be exactly the right place for your company. Find your medium and run with it.
3. Reuse and remix.
You now have original content and know how to distribute on the medium where it performs best. But to maximize its value, you need to reuse and remix. If you are great at coming up with ideas and creating, you will often neglect this step in pursuit of the next idea. Don’t.
After 10 interviews, do a summary on Slideshare. After 100 instagram photos, create a collage or animation. After posting your concept video, do a blog post on how they are made. Create a collection on ProductHunt. Get your content re-published elsewhere.
4. Amplify your authority.
You have now put together a batch of good insights, posts, data, concepts or other types of content. You are becoming something of an authority on the subject, but probably an authority few people know. This is the time to look for a public relations (PR) agency who knows your main market.
PR agencies are seldom skilled at creating original content, and they are not experts in your field. What they are amazing at is getting your content out there. A good PR agency will not only amplify your content but react to whatever happens in the market in order to pitch you to journalists as an expert source.
5. Market and measure.
Attention is great, but unfocused attention isn’t worth much. Often people will need to hear your company name a couple of times, or even read what you write, before they look seriously at your product. But once they do, create a marketing funnel so you can measure how your press coverage and content leads to revenue. If you need customers, unique visitors will be a bad proxy, but maybe you need to start there. Measure every step from visitors to signups or installs. Figure out which source creates the best path to your desired action.
It’s great to get an article in Time magazine, but if that article doesn’t lead to a single install, then maybe it’s not so effective. PR agencies often celebrate unfocused attention and compare it to the cost of ad placement, but you need to link attention to business goals and measure impact accordingly. In the end, attention is just another resource you can use to do what you really want to do: Grow your business.