The single most important marketing tool for your startup

I have been asked on multiple occasions how we have been so successful in marketing KickoffLabs.

My facial expression to this question is usually one of disbelief, because IMO, we have yet to figure out a good marketing story. I am sure we eventually will, but today it is a work in progress at best.

On Christmas Eve, I was nestled up by the virtual fire trying to figure out how to improve our keyword strategy when it really hit me. For a startup (especially early stage), almost all marketing is a complete waste. There is really only one form of marketing that matters, Word of Mouth (i.e., what do your customers tell others about you!).

On a recent mailing list discussion, another company was getting indirectly called out for sub-optimal support and the CEO/founder responded with this gem:

“We’ve been growing kind of crazily of late, so we’re adjusting. I used to be the one answering emails every single day, but in order to grow and evolve our business, that has had to change.”

The first thing that came to mind was a dead man walking:

A start up needs to cherish, nurture, and love each and everyone one of their customers. Even if you believe you are growing like crazy, you really don’t have many customers. These early customers will likely make or break you in the long term. If they go out into the world and say you suck, you will not be able to turn that ship around.

Our focus on support has allowed us to gain valuable insights into what we are doing well and what needs to be better. However, and much more importantly, it has made a lasting impression on hundreds of customers.

This is what has fueled our growth and has led to a vast majority of our customers.

On this same Christmas Eve, a new customer sent this email to 17 highly qualified people:

“I thought I’d let you know about a great viral launch page service called KickoffLabs.  For a few bucks a month you can test 5 different landing pages with all the viral tools you might need to drive users and test your product ideas.”

Any idea what it would cost to actually reach 17 people like this? In our case, it cost nothing. All we had to do is actually care and give a damn about every customer.

 

I won’t kid you and tell you this is easy. It takes a very focused effort and there are no short cuts. You need to be on your game, put yourself out there, and invest quite a bit of time. However, the momentum it generates is priceless. When your customers have confidence in you they open up. They tell others about you. When customers feel well supported they not only want to help you, but they actually want to see you succeed.

Scott – co-founder KickoffLabs

  • Sweet Minerals

    This is so true and a great article. You can just call us KickoffLabs groupies now. What goes around comes around. Scott your customer service has encouraged us to be at the top of our game. In a tough economy + kickoffLabs and a great email marketing plan like MailChimp customer service can seal the deal and turn those leads into “hot ready to buy” customers and isn’t that what we are all in business for?

  • Sweet Minerals

    This is so true and a great article. You can just call us KickoffLabs groupies now. What goes around comes around. Scott your customer service has encouraged us to be at the top of our game. In a tough economy + kickoffLabs and a great email marketing plan like MailChimp customer service can seal the deal and turn those leads into “hot ready to buy” customers and isn’t that what we are all in business for?

  • http://smartsoftwaremarketing.co.uk/ Giles Farrow

    When you say 

    “For a startup (especially early stage), almost all marketing is a complete waste.”
    It depends what you mean by marketing, if you buy into the definition of marketing http://www.thedefinitionofmarketing.com/2011/11/27/what-is-marketing/

    then marketing includes designing a great product, ensuring a great customer experience, listening and learning from customers, encouraging customer referrals, explaining your product clearly, enticing engagement. building awareness through advertising, PR, and social channels

    Most of the advertising would be a complete waste for an early stage startup – but without the rest you get stuck in a “build it and they will come” situation.

    • http://www.kickofflabs.com Scott Watermasysk

      I kind of agree. 

      You should certainly use the feedback you are generating along the way to improve the product (and hopefully diminish the need for support to do most things). 

      However, many take this too far and focus so much on the building the product they forget to ship and let users tell them how they are doing. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matt-Sharper/100000807088310 Matt Sharper

    “For a startup (especially early stage), almost all marketing is a complete waste.”
    It depends what you mean by marketing, if you buy into the definition of marketing.

    not really you just don’t know how to advertise?

    • http://www.kickofflabs.com Scott Watermasysk

      Is that a comment or question? :)

      We are open to experimentation, so if you are the kind of person who can help us with advertising, please get in touch.