Marketing Strategy · Sales Strategy

Any marketing suggestions for finding first customers?

Andrew Westberg Nike+ Running App Android Developer at Nike

February 16th, 2015

My startup, miletrackgps.com, launched an IoT product in September, 2014. My initial business/marketing plan was that through a partnership with Verizon, their business service reps would be trained on our product and bring us leads from the pool of existing Verizon customers. We've trained a good number of them on our product, but so far, they've brought us 3 leads with only one of them being decent.

In February, I realized that we couldn't rely solely on Verizon for leads. As my first business experiment, I hired an appointment setting company to do a pilot program for us to find leads for an online webinar. We're half-way through the month and I'm again concerned that we only have one webinar scheduled. I've currently instructed them to target home healthcare, retail auditing, and insurance claims companies given that those company types usually have large teams of employees who drive their own vehicles and are reimbursed for mileage.

So far, we've been able to sell around 15 devices to individuals or really small companies, but haven't found any larger deals. These were all leads I hunted myself or people who just happened upon the website.

What suggestions do you have for other approaches to find companies interested in doing business with a startup? We're currently a bootstrapped company, and I still work my day-job doing software development consulting, so lower cost and time-commitment options are preferred.

Thanks in advance!

Paul Training) Your Attitude, Accountability, Sales Methodology and Selling Technique Trainer and Coach

February 16th, 2015

Hi Andrew - you are not going to like this...but you cannot get to second base with your foot on first. Getting traction as a start up is a full time, 80 hour a week role. It's the hardest thing you'll ever do.

Do not waste your money on advertising
Do not waste money on appointment setters.

Master picking up the phone yourself learn to tell your story in less that a minute. Talk briefly about the problem you solve and then check if that's a problem your prospect faces.

"Hi John, I want to be straight up with you, this is a sales call and I'm really uncomfortable calling you out of the blue like this........could I take 1 minute to tell you why I called as long as I stick to that?

....(wait for permission)

I help x type companies who are fed up with x and/or concerned about y.

This is just a stab in the dark, but I was wondering if that's what I do, would that get any of your attention.

.....(feed off response). If they are not facing the problem you solve, thank them for their time and move on

Peter Kestenbaum Advisor, Investor, Mentor to Emerging firms

February 16th, 2015

couple observations 1. You are making an assumption thats its your channel or sales strategy not your product, pricing or generic interest. What were the results/feedback of your MVP or initial customer research. Just a hunch I would guess that many individuals would shy away from mileage tracking because it eliminates abuse.. A salesman that charges or logs 50 miles for a trip to his boss, the IRS does not want a device that verifies it was actually 43 miles. 2. Who is the customer. I sense your target is the user.. ( the same guy who does not want it tracked).. What if it was the person wants it tracked... meaning the trucking company, messenger service.. Who were your investors and advisors? if they were chosen well it was because they believed in the product or were in the industry... Have you approached them? pk

Anonymous

February 16th, 2015

Let you customers help you sell. People believe people more than ads. Gather video testimonials and post on your web site, Youtube channel and social media. Also create short video demonstrations of your product and include your connection with Verizon. Having their name behind your startup will help your reputation even if it isn't helping your bottom line through sales. Network within your target market on LinkedIn, educational articles in industry publications and industry gatherings. Build trust and relationships by offering value, not a sales pitch. Then referrals and sales will follow. Business is personal, it's about relationships. Relationships are not built overnight. Finally, one of the best way to build relationships is by connecting over a cause. Find a cause that your target industry supports and find a way to get involved. Connecting over a passion in a cause is powerful. One last thought, hire a salesforce who has a vested interest in the company, not just a paycheck.

Tedd Abramson Founder, CEO at ZeroTruck Corp.

February 16th, 2015

Hello Andrew, Its not always easy for sales people to close deals like the founder, when you are a start up. Buyers want the credibility that a founder can offer. Sell your reputation, gain market traction by understanding first hand how to close deals. No one else can create what you can, write the book and then train top people to re-create your success. I wasted a lot of time with the so called professionals, they couldnt close one deal. Good luck make it happen! Best regards, Tedd Abramson, CEO www.ZeroTruck.com

Laurelle Johnson, MBA

February 16th, 2015

Brilliant device.  Could work very well for other demographics besides sales. As mentioned in another comment, sales people tend to not want to be tracked.  BUT the IRS wants 'accurate' reporting.  That being said, nothing, for a startup, replaces a strong sales strategy.  It is a 4-5 page doc. that outlines who are your target clients, where are they, what is the problem costing them, and how does your solution solve the problem.  Then crafting the right message or 'script' that can be changed depending on who you are talking to, will help guide your conversation.  Gather testimonials, referrals, groups to network with, etc. etc.  In the plan you know exactly who to call, what to say and how to show that your service will solve A & B problem. The plan also lets you know how much budget you can assign to sales and who you need, on it, to start and close the sales process.  Appointment getters often don't work (as you have seen) so toss that idea.  Ads won't work as who really is your target audience?  What materials  (i.e. email, etc.)  do you have to send to someone?  What can they say that will grab the attention and prompt someone to answer your follow up call? 

A strong plan gives you a sense of direction, focus and the ability to know you have potential clients and it's all a matter of executing it well. 

Happy to talk further with you offline on what a strategic sales plan is.  Onwards and Upwards,  

Yoli Chisholm Founder at WELL - WeLearnLive.com

February 16th, 2015

Hi Andrew,
Great here are 10 things you can try that range from scrappy to Ad investment.
1. You want to ensure you have instrumented your site to capture data that will help inform your marketing in the future. Implement something like Google analytics - this will tell you the keywords people are using to find your site, the sites they are coming from, the Geo, demographics and interest affinities. This will give you clues into finding more people who look and act alike.
2. When you type in mileage tracker into any search engine you want to make sure you show up organically on the first page of the search results. You want to either work with a a marketer/agency or study yourself on the topic of SEO Search engine optimization. They will tell you things you can do to ensure that you rank high in search results for relevant keywords. These things will include optimizing your site as well as the content strategy Rachel T. mentioned above.
3. While you do step 2 which is an ongoing must do but can take time...you can pay to show up on those pages by buying relevant keywords through adwords and the like on the various search engines. Leverage the insights from point #1 to help develop your keyword list as well as using keyword planner and suggestion tools available through the search engines or more sophisticated premium tools that are available.
4. You didn't get specific on the Job title/roles of the buying decision makers which is key to cost efficient marketing. This tells me that you likely have not done any persona work which would be extremely helpful in informing your go-to-market strategy. But here's how you would use that data - on Linkedin and Facebook for example you can get ads infront of people in specific roles at specific Healthcare companies at specific company sizes in specific Geo's using their targeting parameters.
5. In conjunction with point #4 you want to put a Facebook and google retargeting pixel on your website and on each product SKU...this will allow you to re-market Ads to anyone who came to your site and didnt take an action. You essentially can get an ad and test different messaging and follow them as they navigate the web and Facebook. You have probably experienced this yourself...gone to a website looked at a product ...left ..and now as you surf the web or are on Facebook you see the product remarketed to you. It is highly effective.
6. You want to position yourself as a thought leader on the topic and relevant subtopics get the folks at Ebyline to come up with a regular cadence of content monthly that can be posted to your blog...ensure the content follows the SEO principles you learned in point #2 and then use a service like Outbrain, taboola or gravity to distribute your content throughout the web driving people back to your site. Remember now these people who land on your site will be put in the retargeting pools and picked up by your marketing tactics in point #5
7. Repurpose the content from point #6 in your social channels, newsletter, email marketing and ensure every url is wrapped with a Radiumone shortner...that brings all kinds of goodness and expands your targeting pool.
8. The 20 webinars number a month didn't make any sense to me ... I signed up for the webinar and I think you could probably prerecord the webinar and put it behind a gate so that as soon as people give you their info they get immediate access to the pre-recorded webinar and then your email nuture stream can kick in if they don't purchase right away and you can drive them to other content via email and now this is the point where the Appointment setter makes sense or Tele... deliver those leads to Tele or sales teams or your appointment setters to further qualify and set up real sales calls. If you have set up the infrastructure for 1-8 you will be a good candidate for Marketing Automation - check out Marketo and the like.
9. Along with step #1 you want to check out a tool like Adbeat or Adgooroo...put your competitors urls in and you will gain insights into how much they are spending in advertising, where they are advertising, keywords working for them, you can even see their Ads and landing pages for messaging insights. If they are too small to have data look for other competitive analysis tools that look at one area like search to help inform your marketing strategy.
10. Scoring a relationship with Verizon seems to me like a huge accomplishment....you need a partner marketing Ninja to help you with a strategy for through-partner marketing who can help you milk every customer touchpoint and marketing opportunities in their existing channels.

1-9 are just baseline tactics that every organization should do as part of their "always on" marketing. I think you could also be doing a ton of strategic partnerships in the business travel arena and retail. I hope this was helpful. If you can only do 2-3 things I would go all in on Search, targeted Social Ads and content through Outbrain - all three tactics are self serve, you can start and stop anytime and you can start with any size budget and once you hit your sweet spot set up it can run in the background consistently driving leads while you work on strategic partnerships. Hire someone on Elance to set it all up for you.

PS...start to type in the word Mileage in the search box on amazon.com and you'll get a sense of how people a searching the keywords they use and the fact that they are doing it on amazon should tell you something...you can develop a whole Amazon strategy that includes selling on their site or simply advertising. Just a thought...that was fun ....I love marketing :) and we haven't even talked about affiliate marketing or referral marketing....or look at what reviews do to your sales check this out

Richard CSO Sales Process | Operational Optimization

February 16th, 2015

Personally, without reading any other suggestions, I would recommend you try getting up the food chain in the companies you are targeting. In other words, find the executives that would most be interested in your value proposition. Value proposition always coming in the form of money (+ sales, + cost savings, + productivity for better margins, etc). You need the company executive to see the value proposition and get them driving the implementation process. Otherwise, the lower individuals will not take time out of their company initiatives to sell for you. Speak to the executives in terms of additional "profit center" for their company - a strategic alignment!

Josh Orum CMO, Operating Partner at Spotlight Equity

February 16th, 2015

Andrew, it looks like you have an interesting product.

I took a look at your website and a few things jumped out at me:
First, your website's main message targets the people who track mileage, not their bosses. ("Tracking mileage for business is no fun and wastes your time...")

Second, a 20-minute webinar is the wrong 'carrot.' No one wants to sit through that, and you don't need it to sell your concept ("It's a device that you plug into your employees' cars to accurately track reimbursable mileage."). Get rid of this. If you need to explain the dashboard, put some screenshots up.

Third, make your homepage all about selling the product, not selling the 20-min webinar you've gotten rid of. If people aren't ready to buy, just have them contact you.

Fourth, on your pricing page, why are you leading with the highest amount possible (the $150 device fee)? Lead with $20/mo or $18/mo for the annual option. For what it's worth, the pricing isn't aligned with what you've said earlier - it's priced as if you're selling to individuals, not companies.

Finally, now that you have your website set up to drive sales, get an email list and start sending emails, and making follow up calls. 

Peter Kestenbaum Advisor, Investor, Mentor to Emerging firms

February 16th, 2015

mixed message as to who the client or target audience is...  i glanced at website,  which is all a prerspective person might do, and immediately got the impression the target was end users not business.

Bart Burggraaf Managing Director & Partner at MediaGroup London

February 16th, 2015

some random thoughts quickly written;

I would suggest you look into advertising instead of sales/partnerships. Since this is a well defined audience, you should be able to find publishers that have similar audiences and advertise on them. The lowest risk / cost possibility is advertising using Google Adwords on relevant terms. With adwords you will find audiences that are already looking for such a solution, so your sales process should be easier. 

As for larger deals; I think there really is no substitute for calling management at those companies yourself - appointment setting companies are rarely able to effectively sell larger ticket items (remember you are not looking for one or two items sold).  

Lastly, did you consider working with distributors?