Generating qualified leads for Tech startups – a practical guide

Content marketing drives 10x increase in lead conversion

This Content Marketing Guide brings together specific actions and use cases most from our day-to-day work with Tech Entrepreneurs. It draws also from our own experience building Tech ventures in Energy and Aerospace industries.

If you have more money than brains, you should focus on Outbound Marketing. If you have more brains than money, you should focus on Inbound Marketing.

Guy Kawasaki

We believe that a well-executed Content Marketing strategy is key to success for early tech ventures – in this Content Marketing guide for Entrepreneurs we cover:

  • Why Content Marketing is important
  • What content works for your startup
  • 5 Ground rules to shape your content
  • Great Use Cases on content distribution
  • Powerful, Easy to use and cheap Tools
  • Call To Action to get qualified leads

Why Tech Entrepreneurs should focus on Content marketing

Outbound Marketing & Sales feels great!

You dig through your network e.g. Linkedin & co. to get some target names. You reach out to them, email or chat, for a chance to sell your solution. Probably a necessary step, but this has some flaws:

  • You spend most of your time establishing first contacts
  • You are interrupting your audience in their day-to-day business
  • Missing problems where your solution could be of greater value
  • Very low sales conversion rate and huge time spent

In this Content Marketing Guide for Entrepreneurs, we prefer to focus on the definition :

“The marketing and business process for creating and distributing valuable and compelling content to attract, acquire and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience — with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Epic Content Marketing, Joe Pulizzi

Build the right Content Marketing for your startup

In order to maximize impact of any marketing action, it is critical to understand the characters at play.

THE HUNTER a.k.a Entrepreneur

The Tech Entrepreneur should consider key characteristics of one’s early stage Startups, as it affect the Content marketing strategy:

  • Mostly unknown to your target market
  • Still validating and discovering real market needs
  • Time-to-revenues and acquiring new customers is key
  • Cannot afford fully fledged digital marketing campaigns

THE TARGET a.k.a Prospective Customer

Be careful! Your Target is NOT the Innovation Manager, who is scouting for Innovative ideas.

Every decision maker you’re trying to engage with spends 90% of their working life in F.E.A.R. They are: Frustrated, Evasive, Apathetic and Risk averse.

Paul Cash, Rooster Punk

Our Target character is one of the Business Managers busy tackling day-to-day operations. He has probably lived many years with the Status Quo. When the Target decides to solve a problem, one wants tangible benefits:  increased sales, reduced cost or improved quality.

5 practical rules for effective Content marketing

So now it is time for Tech Entrepreneurs to take this content marketing guide into action!

#1 Make your content relevant to your Target audience

Know-Your-Customer with empathy. Focus on understanding your Target market needs, problem and expectations. Work out various options to address this issue incl. your solution. But keep it low-key on branding and hard selling.

#2 Build credibility and trust

Working in F.E.A.R., the Decision Maker is concerned by the risk of working with you as a new supplier. Testimonials and facts from Pilot, existing customers, research partners or opinion leaders increase your credibility.

#3 Illustrate your content

You should grab attention through relevant picture or visual. License-free pictures and video material can be found on Pexels, Unsplash, Pxhere and many more on a pay-for-license e.g. shutterstock & co.

#4 Your Call To Action

Prepare your Call To Action well before your content marketing release. Keep in mind that your goal is to generate awareness so that your target audience connects with you. You need to have a clear path to bring these new leads into your commercial funnel.

#5 Measure impact and iterate

We are competing for attention with a million other content. While the costs of ‘Distribution’ have dropped to almost Zero, the ‘Production’ time & costs have increased to deliver quality content. Regularly measure impact to fine tune type of content, messages and distribution channels.

Now that you have built your content, let us look at ways it can be distributed to your audience, leveraging specific use cases.

THE DISTRIBUTION – where to publish my ‘content’?

It should be where your Target audience is looking for information. Do you address a large, fragmented market? Or rather a an industry with few big buyers? How much time and money you are prepared to dedicate?

Below are some of the main distribution strategies implemented for tech Startups.

  • Social Media
    For most Tech businesses, preferred routes will be Linkedin, Medium, Youtube and Industry specific blogs. If your business involves design or visual value creation, consider adding Instagram or Facebook.
Labtoo, France, European marketplace for scientific research. Leveraging LinkedIn & more
  • Blog
    Startups should favor theme based content, which grabs attention. Add some News as you become a more established businesses. Keep it generic, typically loosely tied to your company and branding. Many blogs follow the ‘Listicle’ format and some more Best Practices here.
Hubspot, USA Marketing, sales, and service software that helps your business grow without compromise. Great blog!
  • Podcast
    Simple audio recording, easy to edit, convenient to consume, inexpensive and quick to produce. 17% of marketers plan to add podcasting to their marketing efforts in the next 12 months. For a step-by-step guide, how to Start a Podcast check this here.
Flyability, Switzerland, provider of solutions for the inspection and exploration of indoor, inaccessible, and confined spaces. Great Podcast series & more.
  • Meetup & Network events
    In 2018, Atomico reports about 15’000 Tech related meetups in each Paris and Berlin, 30’000 in London alone. Meetups can be a very powerful and cheap way to connect with your audience. It allows you to explain your solution and build a community around your brand.
LuckaBox, Switzerland a last mile platform for logistics, recently launched its own Meetup
  • Live or online Training seminar
    Workshop format built around your solution. You might consider also providing some online training as lead generation to your main business. Based on the right content, it can be scalable and promotes you as expert in a field. Consider Udemy, Teachable and more.
Flokk by Iart, Switzerland, an open platform for implementing interactive light installations without coding. Here Hands-on workshop at Architecture Biennalle, Beijing 2018
  • Video
    Video is a must have nowadays; combined with landing pages can increase conversion by 86%. Vary your format from short social media teaser, to company overview to ‘How-to-Video’. A nice infographic by Hubspot and more B2B Video examples here.
Inopsys, Belgium, Advanced industrial wastewater treatment solutions, Janssen Pharmaceutical Testimonial Video
  • Product Configurator
    An online product Configurator is great to automate your product features selection. Gartner estimates in 2018, 40% of B2B digital commerce sites to use Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) tools.
    Your challenge is adoption. Start small using Google Form or a Web Editor before expanding functionalities.
Up2Parts, Germany, Revolution in Digital Manufacturing. Advanced Online Configurator
  • Open Source & Freemium models
    Providing a free(mium) Open Source solution can drive great business traction. It is powerful to ‘Try-before-your-buy’, build a community of users as an asset or generate a larger hardware installed base.
Klepsydra Technologies, Switzerland software for faster embedded computing performance, releasing an Open Source version
  • Industry Trade show
    As a startup, forget your expensive own booth. Instead, join the booth of a large established player. Apply for Call For Paper to be on stage, alongside a well-known partner if possible! Take on comfortable shoes to walk the floor and meet prospect customers.
Neural-Concept@Nvidia-Supercomputing-2018
Neural Concept, Switzerland, 3D Deep Learning Software for Enhanced Engineering @ Nvidia Booth Supercomputing 2018

Now that we have decided on the type of content we want to deliver, we need some tools for an efficient content ‘production’.

THE PRODUCTION – Making it happen !

There are many great (free) design tools to help you be efficient. But do not get distracted – the ‘Design’ part of the content is the easy bit.

The hard part is to work, re-work and fine tune your content. It is old fashion but it forces you to think through key items : audience, wording, problem, solution, features, benefits…
Forget the font, color & co for now…

Knowing that you could work on the detailed ‘content’ forever, now you feel good about it. Ready to tackle the ‘design’ !

Below is a list of tools we use every day… powerful & easy to use

  • Canva great for quick & professional looking design
  • Gimp open source graphics editor for image retouching and editing
  • Lightworks open source video editing software
  • WordPress simple web editor for professional outcome
  • Anchor.fm to create, host and broadcast your podcast

But of course the content is only a means to an end… so let’s get into action.

CALL TO ACTION – turning your Content into Sales

After the Acquisition comes the Activation phase. Whatever your established goals are, it is critical to ensure you have a Call To Action.

If your business relies on a large community of users, consider having a sign-up landing page. Strategic landing pages are used by 68% of B2B businesses to acquire leads.

But of course, most Tech solutions need to build a personal rapport with your prospective clients. Be prepared to share details about your solution in online call, live or recorded demo and a personal sales meeting.

Tech Content Marketing is a wide topic! This content marketing guide for Tech Entrepreneurs is to trigger thoughts and actions. Since we all can benefit from everyone insights, we invite you to comment and share your experience.

Note: many statistics from https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics

Three ways large tech conferences could be a gamechanger for your startup

… And how to make the most of them!

October is upon us and with the end of the year approaching quickly, as a startup founder now is the time to kick your goals! Summer may be over but that doesn’t mean the good vibes are; in the next few months some of the largest Tech conferences for Startups will take place including SaaStock in Dublin, Unleash in Amsterdam, Web Summit in Lisbon, Slush in Helsinki, MWC in Barcelona; the list is endless!

With tickets and exhibition spots usually sold at steep prices, you’ll probably think twice – and read our other post first – as a startup founder before forking out the money of your scrappy startup budget to attend one of these events. And if you do, odds are you’ll lose focus in the sea of people, presentations and activities. So how can you use these conferences to turbocharge your startup journey and how do you prepare to make the most of them?

Connect at Tech Conferences

With a mixed audience consisting of startups, investors, blue chip companies, tech pioneers and media outlets these large conferences have got you covered, no matter where you are in your startup journey. Looking to learn about best startup practices and figure out how to get your idea off the ground? Head over to the exhibition area and learn from the hottest startups on the planet and how they turned their idea into a reality.

Are you an established startup looking to pilot or partner with leading brands and get feedback on your product? With many blue-chip companies attending these events in search of the latest trends and technologies this is the place to make your move. And once you’ve sealed the deal, don’t forget to get the word out! With an abundance of journalists, bloggers and media seeking for their next startup hero story, large tech conferences are the place to share your story with the world.

Oh, and in case you want to connect with investors to secure your next round of funding; big names like Sequoia, High Tech Gründer Fond (Germany), BPI France, SOS Ventures, Accel Partners and Andreessen Horowitz are returning visitors at several of these events and always on the lookout for the next unicorn, just sayin’.

Our advice? Create a list and reach out to people and companies that could be gamechangers for your business BEFORE the conference, and schedule your meetings to take place during the event. These events are huge, so you’ll want to avoid time wasting and having to find the right people whilst the conference is in full swing. Also, make sure you have your Gaddie pitch practised and ready to go; it’s by far one of the most effective ways to get people interested in your idea.

Discover

However, don’t over-plan and make sure to leave ample time to discover and be inspired! Jet lag tools used by astronauts, educational curricula based on neuroscience and AI, and a social platform integrating AR/VR to enhance brand experiences and consumer engagement; the future is here, and it’s right at these conferences! Like Stephen Hawking said “We stand on the threshold of a brave new world. It is an exciting, if precarious, place to be. And you are the pioneers”. As a startup founder, prepare to discover mind-blowing technologies, get the inside scoop on global trends in innovation and walk away with a ton of inspiration for your own business.

Needless to say; come with an open mind and bring your business cards (for the cool cats a fully charged phone will do) to make the most of random interactions and capture amazing tools and technologies that are relevant to your startup.

Learn

And last but not least, Tech conferences for Startups are the ultimate spot to learn anything about tech (duh!) and innovation. A quick glance over the programming of a few of these events teaches us that this year’s events and speaker line-ups are bigger and better than ever.

Are you looking to disrupt the HR industry and shape the Future of Work with your tech solution? Head over to Unleash to hear from experts in HR, including Margareth Greenleaf from Roche, Carolanne Minashi from UBS and Dominik Hahn from Allianz. Want to learn more about sales and connecting to your customers? Hear from David Gerhardt, VP Marketing of Drift or Martin Afshari-Mehr, Director of Salesforce at SaaStock, a conference focused on SaaS businesses. Operating in the travel business?

Join Web Summit to hear from Gilian Tans, CEO of Booking.com, on how artificial intelligence and machine learning is improving their service and transforming the industry. Looking to learn from the best in venture capital?

At Slush, you can learn from Arlan Hamilton, a remarkable entrepreneur who built a venture capital fund from the ground up, while homeless. Or maybe you would like to hear Cyan Banister, Partner at Founders Fund, who’ll speak at Web Summit. She has made dozens of angel investments over the years, including in Space X, Uber, Niantic, and DeepMind Technologies, which was acquired by Google for more than $500 million. And whilst you’re at it, don’t miss the opportunity to hear from some more unconventional speakers, including one of the greatest soccer players of all time, Ronaldinho, and Buddhist Monk, Author and Humanitarian Matthieu Ricard.

Again, make sure to plan ahead to learn from brilliant minds in your industry but also don’t forget to check out speakers working in completely different fields; they might just share some unexpected gems of wisdom that change your perspective and outlook.

All in all, plenty of reasons to check out our startup events overview , do your research and take your pick… You never know where it might take your startup rocketship!

Check-out also our detailed posts on Commercial Growth:

By Liz Derks

Which events are right for startups?

As a young Entrepreneur, you know that getting out of the office is key to building a relevant network. You know that a the right events for Startups can propel your business where it can thrive and achieve its business goals more efficiently. However, we are always amazed at how much time Entrepreneurs waste attending the wrong events. Are you also tired of not getting what you expect from events?

Why attend an Event in the first place?

Motivation and goals to participate in an event can be diverse but mostly fall into one or several of these categories.

  • Scouting for new ideas, market intelligence and competition
  • Reputation marketing to build credibility as opinion leader & employer in your field
  • Raising funds for your venture and increasing your visibility to Investors
  • Accelerate Customer acquisition and connect with relevant decision makers
  • Influence key policies and decisions within your industry
  • Have fun, combining team building with business related discovery

As with any business decision, in a resources constraint environment, it is foremost important to ensure you have clear goals regarding event participation.

What types of events can you attend?

Of course there are many different types of events available to startups depending on time, resources and costs of participation.

  • Networking & Apero & Meetups
  • Pitching competitions
  • Startup event e.g. Pioneers Festival
  • Hackathon: 1/ 2 or 3 days of rapid prototyping (coding) for project sponsors
  • Tech show: horizontal events covering multiple markets, typically focused on selected technology solutions e.g. Mobile World Congress, CES Las Vegas
  • Trade show: Vertical events covering multiple technologies but focused on targeted market segments e.g. HannoverMesse
  • Accelerator: 2-3-month programs e.g. Kickstart Accelerator, IKEA Rainmaker
  • Incubator: 6-12-18-month program often with co-working spaces

You can check some selected upcoming events for startups here.

Some things to watch-out when picking Events

Whether with customers, investors or partners, it is great to try out some various events formats. However, below are some pitfalls you should be aware of to select the right events for Startups.

  • Being in the spotlight: as Founder, you put yourself in front of your business; you use the venture as a vehicle for you to get visibility and positive reinforcement; this syndrome is likely to appear in pure-play startup events, remote from market challenges
  • Comfort zone: some Entrepreneurs tend to select those events where they know they have an edge; remember that for a deep tech start-up, pitching and winning at tech events might feel great but does not solve key business questions
  • The Booth: getting a booth at an event can be a curse for a startup; A booth is great for established companies to gather partners or customers efficiently. Generally understaffed, startups are better off walking the floor and talking to people
  • If it is Free… you are the Product: many events are popping up financed mainly through corporate sponsors; they are scouting for innovation & ideas but not always with a clear purchasing mandate
  • Vision vs. Market: as you engage on the growth path for your business, you will encounter many challenges along the way. As you do this, be prepared to call “bullshit” on pitch focusing only on “vision”, “paradigm shift”, “disruption”. As your talks shift away from talking about markets, customer and sales so are your chances of building a sustainable business.
  • Selling vs. Discovering: as you start facing commercial challenges, watch out for being stuck in “discovery” event mode; early on you should shape your ideas and technology into a product + pricing proposal you can bring to potential customers
  • Escaping reality: as the business challenges increase, attending Events can become a place of comfort away from the tough reality of the business

Making the most out of your event

  • Selection: take a bit more time to challenge the need to join specific events; look for qualitative assessments and peer recommendation to meet your objectives
  • Priorities: stay focused on key business questions you are trying to answer? Key challenges? Resist the temptation of going to events just because it is free or you “won” a pitching slot! (Remember: if it is free…)
  • Liquidity: most likely you are better off not renting a booth and walking the show; as needed, booking a demo room nearby a larger event can be a great alternative to renting out expensive space on event premises
  • Time: you might leverage the event platform to connect with speakers or participants but decide not to attend in person; this might prove a great compromise to not participating to the event at all
  • Impact: prepare extensively before attending time-intensive events and particularly when you have a targeted audience in mind e.g. Investors or customers; review their specific strategy, focus and priorities so you can be razor sharp in your message
  • Value: a thorough and timely post-event follow-up is critical to getting real value from an event and send a clear execution-focused signal
  • Focus: Events should only be a means to an end; make sure you do a candid post-event lessons learned to inform your business decisions and challenge further event participation.

To execute the right events for Startups, given the lack of transparency, information and reviews, identifying and leveraging the most out of the right events can be a challenge for most Entrepreneurs. The need for exposure to peers, customer, partners or investors should force a sound judgment on to the few events, which a Startup must attend.

To simplify this task for you, sparksense.co provides you with a platform for start-up events here. We would appreciate your suggestions and feedback !