How to market a startup

In our interview with Eric Rafat, founder of Keyobi, we talk lean marketing, committing to inbound, and tennis.

Kendra: Eric, thanks for taking the time to chat about marketing startups! Before we dive in, can you tell us a little bit about your story?

Eric: Sure! Thanks for having me. I’m a passionate startup founder. Before diving into the startup world, I worked in both corporate and not-for-profit sectors. I’m currently working on a new startup called Keyobi. It’s a web app for connecting talent and organization. We are bringing a refreshing approach to an outdated online recruitment space. This is a sentence about eBooks.

Besides working on a startup, I’m a top ranked tennis player, avid volunteer and like to play chess. You can find me at startup events, tennis courts, coffee shops, and on Twitter!

Kendra: I love Twitter. You and I met briefly last year at the Startup Open House event, but we got back in touch more recently in a Twitter conversation about brand voice. There were a ton of conversations that day under the Marketing Leap hashtag. It was a great opportunity for marketers from very diverse backgrounds to connect.

You’re very active on Twitter, and so is your company, Keyobi. Can you speak to the opportunities that social media gives startups?

Eric: Absolutely! Social media is a great platform to open up the conversation about opportunities. It’s also a great learning tool. You can connect with industry leaders and pick up tips on the go! The Marketing Leap conference brought out some golden tips and insights from experts.

We had a great conversation on brand voice. Startups have to figure out their brand voice and values early on and start building the marketing assets well before launch. Smart brands realize the importance of not only being active across social media channels but also being responsive. This is what’s called “moment marketing”.

A brand has to be responsive, relevant and exciting in delivery of a great product or service! Your prospects and customers are no longer going to wait for 5 business days just to get a reply. We also see this on Facebook with new metrics added for the brands pages, where you are measured on how responsive you are to prospect inquiry.

For startups, you have to be selective in terms of which platforms you are going to be on. You have to be where your audience is and this depends on the product or service you offer. Because you have limited resources and time it doesn’t make much sense to be on all platforms all the time.

Kendra: I hear Keyobi is launching soon; congratulations! Your team has been hosting two blogs for months, though – one for recruiters, and one for job seekers. Why have you invested so much time in creating content before your launch?

Eric: Thanks Kendra! It’s great to be finally getting out there. Inbound marketing is huge for any startup. You have to be able to create remarkable, value driven content for your users, and create a buzz around your brand. Is your content value additive or dilutive? That is the question to be asked.

The thing about inbound marketing is that it can’t be generated overnight. Inbound marketing takes time, commitment and consistency. With remarkable content, you can drive traffic and more leads essentially to your site. Your blog is what I call the heartbeat of your site, and if it’s not authentic and original, no one will get excited about the brand. Consequently, it will be tough for potential prospects to discover your brand.

Kendra: How else are you planning on marketing Keyobi?

Eric: Our main focus will continue to be on inbound marketing, social media, and other channels. It takes creativity and commitment to go inbound but it certainly pays off in the long-term.

Kendra: I’ve worked with a few startups now, and they all have one thing in common – a tight budget! Does this impact the types of campaigns your team will choose to run?

Eric: It’s always a challenge out there, especially when you’re bootstrapped and trying to keep everything lean. We are always finding creative ways to push new ideas and launch new marketing campaigns despite challenges of time and resources. This means iterate, test and pivot pretty fast.

One of the biggest advantages of being a startup is having that agility and the ability to make decisions on the fly.

Kendra: When you finally have some money to play with, whether it’s from funding or sales, how do you scale your marketing budget and initiatives?

Eric: Hopefully, we’ll be focusing on scaling out the team and rolling out exciting campaigns! But the principles of inbound marketing and running things lean will continue regardless of budget.

Kendra: What other things should startups be thinking about when they’re building a marketing plan?

Eric: When building a marketing plan, work with a startup marketer and consider breaking down your activities into inbound and outbound initiatives. Put the strategy in place before going full out on execution. And finally, really get out there to execute.

Execution is the name of the game. Start blogging, use the relevant tools, and fire up the marketing well before launch to avoid landing flatfooted in the market! Keep yourself and your team motivated and always go back to “why it all started….”.

And remember: the world remembers your stories, not features.