All posts by markevans

For Startups, Target Audiences can be a Challenge

Bullseye by Joe Prosperi (prosperij) on 500px.com
Bullseye by Joe Prosperi

Within a marketing strategy, it goes without saying that target audiences are a key consideration.

For all the focus on nurturing an idea, addressing a point of pain and developing a product, the ability to achieve traction hinges on the ability to connect with target audiences. Again, it’s an obvious statement.

The trick and challenge is identifying target audiences, their demographics, needs and buying behaviour. For some products, target audiences can be straightforward, while other products appeal to a variety of target audiences with slightly different needs.

For startups, getting a good grasp on target audiences can be a challenge because they may not have the resources to conduct in-depth research – be it through surveys, interviews, focus groups, etc.

It means developing target audiences can be a quasi-guessing game that include a number of assumptions. In an ideal world, these assumption are pretty accurate so a startup’s sales and marketing activities are aimed in the right direction.

It also possible the target audiences that had been identified are either not right or a startup attract customers who weren’t originally identified or seen as a priority.

It is important to continually get as much information about their customers. Who are they? How did they find you? What are their needs and motivations? How did you find you? What alternatives or competitors did they consider?

Getting this information provides valuable insight that can confirm target audiences or deliver eye-opening information about new customers and new sales opportunities.

So how does a startup begin the target audience process?

It begins with creating personas that identify a customer’s age, education, needs, goals, purchase risks, how they get information and do research, and the buying process. This will help you create a pretty good buyer profile. Keep in mind, there can be multiple buyer personas for your products.

Buyer personas provide direction and insight into the ways to reach the different parts of your target audiences. If possible, you can interview people who fall into these buyer personas to test your assumptions and, if necessary, tweak or overhaul them.

The reality for startups is nailing their target audiences can be difficult to achieve out of their gate. But by taking the right approach, you can establish a good foundation upon which to build.

Editor’s note: This is a cross post from Mark Evans Tech written by Mark Evans of ME Consulting. Follow him on Twitter @markevans or MarkEvansTech.com. This post was originally published in Sept 18, 2012 on MarkEvansTech.com.

What makes a startup “disruptive”?

Editor’s note: This is a cross post from Mark Evans Tech written by Mark Evans of ME Consulting. Follow him on Twitter @markevans or MarkEvansTech.com. This post was originally published in April 17, 2012 on MarkEvansTech.com.

CC-BY-20 Some rights reserved by Kevin Krejci
Attribution Some rights reserved by Kevin Krejci

I had coffee recently with a VC who talked about how “disruptive technology” was a key part of his firm’s investment approach.

On the surface, it makes sense. After all, “disruptive” is impressive because it sounds like something that could make a difference and, in the process, attract a lot of users and be worth a lot of money.

But after thinking about it, I began to wonder what “disruptive” really means and, in particular, what makes a startup truly disruptive. Is it a product that leaps ahead of the competition in a major way? Is it a product that solves a problem or a need in a new or different way? Is it a product that’s easier to use or less expensive than what exists?

  • Is Wave Accounting, for example, disruptive because it launched a free online accounting service into a market in which most players were offering a fee-based service?
  • Is 500px disruptive because its elegant and service displays photographs so beautifully.
  • Is Engagio disruptive because it offers a “social inbox” at a time when people are getting messages from multiple sources.

In many respects, “disruptive” can be defined in many ways. This makes it an alluring but, arguably, difficult creature to discover and identify. For one investor, disruptive may be one thing but it entirely different from another investor.

The problem with “disruptive” is it’s a sexy term for entrepreneurs and investors to throw around. Suggesting your product is “disruptive” is easy to do and get away with because it can be difficult to argue otherwise because “disruptive” is so slippery. How many times have you heard an entrepreneur proclaim their technology is “disruptive”?

The reality is we love “disruptive” because it’s elusive, multi-faceted and difficult to pinpoint until a startup enjoys success. Then, everyone can confidently say: “I know Instagram/Pinterest/Path, etc. was disruptive when I first saw it”.

So, how do you define “disruptive”?

Editor’s note: This is a cross post from Mark Evans Tech written by Mark Evans of ME Consulting. Follow him on Twitter @markevans or MarkEvansTech.com. This post was originally published in April 17, 2012 on MarkEvansTech.com.

Do Startups Need Community Managers?

Editor’s note: This is a cross post from Mark Evans Tech written by Mark Evans of ME Consulting. Follow him on Twitter @markevans or MarkEvansTech.com. This post was originally published in March 26, 2012 on MarkEvansTech.com.

CC:BY-NC-ND-20 Some rights reserved by leg0fenris
AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by leg0fenris

Do start-ups needs community managers to operate their social media activities…and a whole lot more?

It’s an interesting question. On one hand, social media is seen as a low-cost marketing and sales channel for lean and mean start-ups. On the other, every full-time hire is a major decision so start-ups need to decide whether having a community makes sense, or whether having another developer or salesman is a more pragmatic option.

If the right person is hired, a community manager can be a valuable asset for a start-up. There are, however, several important skills a community manager needs to possess. These include:

  1. Have in-depth knowledge of social media strategy and tactics. It’s more than knowing how to tweet or post an update. It means knowing how to execute, when to get involved in a situation and when to lie low, and how to build relationships and connections.
  2. Excellent communication and writing skills given so much of what a community manger does is engage and talk with a variety of people in a public forum. A good community manager has the ability to prepare blog posts, presentations, case studies, and speak at conferences.
  3. Understand and appreciate the business development process. In talking with lots of people and consuming tons of information, community managers have the ability to discover, identify and nurture prospects, which can then be passed along to the sales team.
  4. Provide top-notch customer service. It means having the knowledge and patience to deal with all kinds of issues and problems – big and small – that emerge. Some of them can be handled online, while some needs to be tactfully taken off-line.
  5. Sell and, even, close a deal: There are potential customers who make it clear about the products they need. A savvy community manager will be all over these opportunities with the goal to complete a sale.

Like a stellar five-tool baseball player, community managers require a variety of skills to not only be effective but provide startups with maximum bang for the buck. They need to multi-task AND be good at all of the tasks that pop up during the working day.

Community managers who have these skills can completely justify their hiring and, in the process, serve a startup in many ways to support its operations and growth.

What do you think? Is there a right time for a startup to hire a community manager?

Editor’s note: This is a cross post from Mark Evans Tech written by Mark Evans of ME Consulting. Follow him on Twitter @markevans or MarkEvansTech.com. This post was originally published in March 26, 2012 on MarkEvansTech.com.