Q: What do you suggest to make an online brand known aside from social media and marketing?
A: The truth is, when it comes to social media and marketing, a lot of companies put the cart before the horse. In my experience at early stage venture-backed companies, no amount of social-media mastery will be able to cover up a bad product, or a product that hasn’t found a hungry market.
Before you consider online branding, make sure your product is refined and ready to go and then you can begin to think about how you’re going to communicate its message. This process is important not just for your marketing efforts but for your company as a whole. Nail your product first, and you’ll set yourself up for success in other areas like operations, talent acquisition and customer service.
Focus on building your product first.
If you are a pre-growth startup, product is your holy grail. Focus on building a great product that a significant number of businesses or consumers adopt. Achieving product-market fit is the best way to start establishing your online brand. It may sound obvious but every ounce of effort you put into this will pay an order of magnitude in dividends compared to anything you can do to strengthen your brand in the near term. Think of some of the strongest online brands: underneath the ad budgets and Twitter accounts usually sits a remarkable product, or set of products, that serve a need and strike a nerve with consumers. And even if you’re an entrepreneur just starting out, you should start with this goal in mind.
Test that product in the field.
As you’re working to build your world-changing product, test and experiment judiciously, letting the customer data guide you. You can do this online even if your product isn’t polished or you don’t have a big budget behind you. Put your work out there, run tests to see how people respond to it and make changes based on what you see from these tests. This can be a lengthy process, but it’s a worthwhile one — and after enough testing and refining, you’ll have conviction around your product.
Once you have your product, experiment and iterate.
If you have achieved product-market fit, drive growth by taking the channels that work and double down on them. Once you have repeatable growth, then experiment with different channels or marketing efforts. Try different social-media platforms, advertising models and creative assets — and be sure to track ROI closely, so you can understand what’s working and what’s not. You’ll find this will usually lead you to more repeatable growth as well as expand your brand awareness, sometimes in very unexpected ways. And since you’ve achieved product-market fit, you know that your marketing and social media efforts won’t be falling on deaf ears. And remember to always keep your voice authentic, honest, and transparent.