Here’s How To Make Your Startup Remarkable
Selling your startup to new people is tough. Do you ever see their eyes glaze over as soon as you launch into a pitch? Maybe it’s not your product. Maybe it’s about the way you’re pitching but it’s time to learn how to be remarkable.
The world is unforgiving—telling people that you’re “original” isn’t going to cut it. It’s all about differentiation and value: What makes you different than everyone else, and what value are you offering? You have to learn how to communicate this effectively, not just in your words, but your actions too.
That means having marketing, branding, and sales techniques that make you, your product, and your company leap out of the crowd. Pull that off, and get ready to watch your startup’s buzz, sales, and revenue surge.
Show, Don’t Tell
No one likes to be patronized: Let people discover how great you are for themselves. Don’t fall into the trap of churning out sales fluff telling people how “innovative” and “cool” you are; focus on customer narratives, business insights, and personal stories instead.
Let testimonials, endorsements, and results speak for themselves. It’s great if you can get others to share these for you, but that’s not always possible. So when you are sharing endorsements through your own channels, elicit curiosity through storytelling, not self-promotion.
To be remarkable, share little moments of your everyday life. Don’t ostentatiously big up yourself in client meetings, but instead share your excitement from the back for your Uber, or post a picture of you with a colleague on the road. Try to bring people along with you on the journey, rather than present a PR-perfect veneer. This is how a lot of founders behave, and big social media personalities like Gary Vaynerchuk are keeping it real (even when big stars like Jessica Alba come to stay).
Haven’t got a lot going on yet? Make the most of what you do have. Capture moments of business and customer activity early on. These are far more compelling to share than a faceless promotional message you’ve whipped up in Photoshop. Even with a small operation, it’s entirely possible to create a positive culture around your brand and inspire others—especially on social media.
Some of the most successful social influencers (like Lolly Daskal) owe a big part of their online success to their ability to motivate, inspire, and lead other people. They focus on bringing value and great advice to the people and communities around them, rather than broadcasting their own successes, products, and services. Use this same strategy to get your business and message out there: Focus on leading through inspiration. It takes very little money to start inspiring. You just have to serve your audience well and create consistently thoughtful content.
Here are some tips for your startup:
Share Your Success
Share your success, but only in the context of a story and narrative that will help others. Tips and advice are great, but so are moments of vulnerability that will help you connect with other people’s struggles (vulnerability is also a key ingredient of leadership).
That stereotypical image of an online entrepreneur driving a flash car bragging about their seven-figure business smacks of self-promotion, and is often a thinly disguised product plug. Make your content real and customer-focused. Really home in on solving their problems and be precise with your advice.
Groove, who sell help desk software, have a very open and transparent content strategy that is reflected in their company blog, where they share real advice and stories from the heart of their startup. Down-to-earth and levelheaded advice that’s founded on experience lies at the heart of their brand story.
Host Q&As on a regular basis to field questions from your community and get a feel for what people are on the hunt for. Twitter polls or surveys are a quick and easy way to do this, and it’s worth integrating them into a wider #TwitterChat. People love to come together on social to share ideas and opinions! Don’t neglect the old-fashioned power of email and online surveys either. They can be a powerful source of in-depth information and context.
People love to feel motivated. Give them the reason to keep hanging on. No matter what niche your business is in, all businesses face similar challenges. It’s important that you stay connected to your audience in a broader sense, and create content that helps people lead better lives.
Yes, industry advice is great, but so is advice on how to juggle family and business, or manage stress. If you can come to people during a challenging time for them or at an important life/career intersection, you will find it easier to capture their hearts, as well as their minds.
Communities are a powerful business tool, but if you can’t find one you want to join, start a community yourself. The community is what keeps spaces like Foundr so dynamic, and it’s also the strategy behind Carrie Green’s hugely successful Female Entrepreneur Association. Carrie shares motivational messages and insights with her audience, something everyone can do when you know your audience well enough. Get some quotes together, design a custom logo, and start sharing your inspirational business message.
Explore New Channels and Platforms
Sometimes you become more remarkable simply by being there. By being the first at adopting a new platform or channel, you might get lucky and quickly become the most important person there. Whether that’s a new coworking space, or the latest social media channel, early adoption is your friend.
People who saw the potential of Quora have lucked out and are driving a huge amount of relevant referral traffic their way. Simply by being there and answering questions, entrepreneurs can source qualified leads and set themselves up as niche influencers.
The best way to get noticed is to follow very niche topics (Quora’s email alerts are brilliant), and jump on questions as soon as they come up. Witty answers, anecdotes, and personal stories all work really well on Quora, so don’t just go down the route of giving generic, corporate answers.
There’s now a huge entrepreneur community on Quora—full of successful founders and business leaders sharing insight. Embrace new platforms and formats and become a pioneer. Many people made their mark on Quora simply by having a unique take on things and answering questions on everyday matters in ways that no one else could. Originality and insight always come up top trumps.
You can use multiple channels, but be clear on where your best engagement comes from. Grant Thompson, “The King of Random,” has joined other social channels and posts on them regularly, but his YouTube channel remains his core focus. His fun science experiments have made him hugely popular on YouTube, and that’s where he still invests a lot of his time.
Rather than targeting channels with universal audiences, try to find out which channels are going to be important for your niche. Finding the right channels boils down to the following:
- Market and audience research
- Channel research and feasibility tests. This Inc.com article underlines the main components of feasibility testing: focused thinking, honing in on specifics, and rigorous analysis. You will need to look at the industry and competition in depth, as well as analyze the cost of acquiring new customers and business growth potential.
- Experimentation and live feedback, or what your audience is telling you
Combining all three factors should help you focus on the channels that are going to be most fruitful for your business.
Don’t be tempted to sign up for everything right now—you will spread yourself too thin. It’s better to focus on one to three core channels and then experiment with the rest to find out where your audience is flocking to. Don’t be afraid to let go of the channels that don’t work for you.
You don’t have to have the whole world listening: just the right people.
Invest Heavily in Social
Social media is where remarkable stories and people can spread like wildfire. It’s not a place for bland, mediocre content.
Social media is about content and relationships. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t also space for selling and product promotion (if handled wisely). Any emerging entrepreneur who wants to be remarkable should invest heavily in their social strategy. It’s the easiest way to humanize your brand and share company culture stories, and it’s also an invaluable networking tool.
Go visual to increase engagement. Stories, video, GIFs—use rich content and cut down on a text-heavy approach. Sometimes less is more, and teasers and snippets can help raise curiosity levels.
Chubbies is a great example of a brand that uses funny videos to drive Facebook engagement (both paid and unpaid). Their quirky approach to American culture is lovable, but their content really works thanks to its short and “snackable” format. Their funny gags and videos are easy to digest as users scroll through their feeds, and they make people sit up and take notice
Jim Curran from SlimJim Studios is another creative entrepreneur with a mission to brighten up social feeds with his colorful GIFs. When he’s on the road, the animator likes to share his travel experiences in the form of a #GIFathon (featured below). It’s a great way to combine storytelling with social media, and his GIFs get a ton of engagement on Twitter and Instagram, thanks to their unique blend of humor and insight.
Having a social media strategy isn’t just about adhering to an editorial calendar, it’s about defining what themes and values you want to endorse. This goes right across the board from how you organize your social feeds, to what content you want to curate. To help you make the most of content curation, use tools like Feedly to help you automate your content efforts. Here are some awesome tips on how to outline a sound social strategy for your startup.
Jeff Bullas’s tweets get a ton of engagement and shares thanks to his clever knack of curating and publishing unique content. By opening up his own site to guest posts, he has managed to create a really diverse content community around his name—driven and supported by his impressive social following.
Social is changing all the time, so what it works right now may not work in six months. Don’t focus on the specifics and technicalities of platforms. See social as a relationship-building tool instead.
Don’t Be Afraid of Negative Responses
When you’re hustling, you may upset a few apple (or golf) carts.
This might seem counterintuitive, but negative reviews and comments are a natural part of operating a business. Having no negative reviews whatsoever can seem suspicious. Sometimes embracing controversy and going deep into the heart of an industry issue can set you apart as fearless, and get your name out there faster than being a “yes man/woman.”
Obviously, having loads of negative reviews or comments is never good, but you can’t always please everyone. Afraid of that one negative reviewer? Don’t be. Users size up other reviewers—it’s very easy to tell if someone’s on a warpath (and your customers may even stick up for you). Deal with negative reviews and opinions gracefully, and don’t slam people down in public (though everyone loves an antihero restaurateur gone rogue). Move conversations off into a private forum as quickly as you can.
Calling your industry out on something is also a hard thing to do, but it’s a tactic that does work. If your mission in life is to make something better for people, you may have to raise awareness at the same time. Just make sure you tackle any issues sensitively and don’t use someone else’s battles and challenges as a cheap springboard.
This controversial “essential oils bullshit” post created an immediate backlash that Julie Walsh addresses at the top of her post. While this wasn’t a huge post that made the national news, it takes courage to stand up for something you believe in and put yourself out there. Stories like these can generate a lot of interest, but be warned, it can also be challenging shouldering other people’s views and opinions once your story is out there.
Tell a Better Story
Someone out there with a similar product or service? Don’t be afraid, just tell a better story!
Storytelling and narratives are as old as time, and they work! Try to frame everything that you do within a wider context, and look for little micro-journeys and narratives everywhere in your business. If often starts with asking some questions:
- What has brought you here?
- Who inspired you along the way?
- Where, how, and why is your product made?
- What drives the business?
- What people stories underpin your operations?
Ebooks are very popular with founders as a way of getting their ethos across, and they are pretty cheap to produce and market too. Content like this can be a great way to position yourself in an established market as someone who is bringing something new to the table. From Chip & Dan Heath to Ann Handley, writing is a no-brainer for copywriters and marketers, but it can also be a huge gamechanger for entrepreneurs.
Readers appreciate honesty and people who are willing to share something real. An entrepreneurial book can be something to have fun with—you don’t have to make your book sound all serious and corporate if that isn’t you. Focus on your unique voice and message and your audience will appreciate being taken on a journey with you. That’s certainly the strategy behind British entrepreneur Dan Meredith and his popular, recently published book with a bit of a cheeky title:
Be Remarkable: Get Out There and Share Knowledge
Sometimes the best people are just the ones who show up and deliver. How to do that for your business? Share knowledge and contribute, even when you don’t directly profit from it.
Speaking at an event sound super scary to you? Get over your fears and start sharing your knowledge at events and conferences from day one. Go to smaller events at first, but keep submitting decks to be a speaker at the big ones too. Host online events and webinars to get used to talking in public. Here’s a guide to hosting your first ever one!
You can also contribute to projects and educational programs around you. Stop focusing on your image, and focus on the value you offer instead. Jump on your laptop and record that tutorial you have been putting off for ages, even if you haven’t got everything 100% figured out. The important thing is to get out there and get stuff done.
We are all remarkable in some way or another, but only remarkable messaging will be remembered. Don’t skimp on your messaging—it could be fatal. Learn how to interact with the community and people around you, really listening to them and adding value to the conversation. Whether you want to disrupt or inspire, you need to spend time getting a feel for the market.