In a Downturn, It's Not Enough to Have Good Financials — Brand Visibility Is the New Currency. Visibility has proven to be tied to making more money and being more successful. I've been asked by many founders how they can generate visibility successfully and quickly, so here are my tips.
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As the economic climate continues to fluctuate and uncertainty prevails, the only thing startup founders should be doing is ensuring their survival. In a downturn, having solid financials is not enough — you need to be visible. Without effective visibility and publicity, even the most profitable and financially healthy companies may struggle to attract the attention of potential investors.
In more prosperous times, startups could often capitalize on the market as VCs are flush with capital. However, with funds harder to come by, founders must actively seek ways to create a halo effect, induce FOMO (fear of missing out) and signal they're a worthy investment.
Time and time again, visibility has proven to be tied to positive financial outcomes and success. I've been asked by many founders how they can generate visibility successfully and quickly, and here are my tips.
Build in public
Stay connected with your community and consistently update them on your progress. Leverage every single channel in your arsenal (Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and TikTok if relevant) to create consistent excitement around revenue traction, noteworthy achievements or milestones and unique insights you've gained while building your business. Challenge yourself to post two to three times per week across all channels. Don't decide between channels — in 2023, you have to execute on all of them. Consistency is key.
Don't forget to highlight your team. Investors should be able to see a strong, capable team behind any startup, not only a leader. I most like the combination of seeing practical tips, insights from team building and team celebrations together with transparent metrics that showcase the direction of the business.
Craft a 'David vs. Goliath' narrative
Who is the incumbent in your industry? Challenging the market leader is a high-reward strategy for generating visibility. By taking a contrarian stance or disagreeing with industry giants, you can get a reaction out of investors and other stakeholders and get them to pay attention. Leverage the power of controversy to differentiate yourself from the competition.
For example, You.com is an artificial intelligence search engine that's positioned themselves as taking on Google and Microsoft in the current AI arms race and has gotten a lot of attention as a result of it. Sam Altman's contrarian tweet on the role of VC generated almost two million views and got the attention of Vinod Khosla, Paul Graham, Alexis Ohanian and others. Elon Musk is marred in controversy every day but the reality is that people care about his actions.
Work with unexpected niche influencers
Rather than relying on traditional paid campaigns, which can be expensive and often have limited impact, partner with emerging artists and niche influencers to create more creative and engaging content. Louis Vuitton is a stellar example — its recent collaboration with artist Yayoi Kusama was wildly successful as much as it was unexpected, marrying the fashion house's iconic LV logo with Kusama's signature bright polka dots. It was worn by celebrities and enabled both brands to tap into new audiences. I'm surprised tech brands aren't doing similar collaborations.
My advice is to find emerging artists and creatives that are relevant to your niche. Work with them on a campaign or co-host events, dinners and other experiences to showcase your company in an engaging way. I recommend that most campaigns combine a strong collaboration with surprising but relevant influencers together with a top media outlet writing an exclusive.
Focus on educating consumers
When you help consumers become smarter, they'll never forget it. Helping your customers learn and grow will help you create a loyal community that organically spreads the word about your company on social media. Provide educational resources, host workshops and create interactive experiences.
For example, Skye, a leadership coaching marketplace, recently hosted their Limitless Summit; speakers included the CEO of Myers Briggs, CEO of Handshake, Meta's director of global L&D, VCs and executive coaches who did workshops on navigating conflict, cultivating culture at scale, the physiology of brain health and wellbeing, building transformational companies and more. By educating consumers and thereby building a meaningful community with high stickiness, this has helped the company attract investors who are not only looking for financial returns but also to support companies that are making a positive impact in the world.
Dress to impress — Go for an unexpected design
Go for an unexpected design when it comes to external-facing materials, whether it's your website, pitch deck, marketing collateral, social media posts and others. Specifically for investors, your pitch deck is often the first point of contact. Alongside a fantastic team and promising traction, a visually striking and creatively designed deck and website are sometimes the deciding factors on whether I take a meeting.
Consider incorporating bold colors, interactive elements and intuitive navigation to create an engaging user experience that reflects your brand's personality. Remember, in a downturn, standing out is crucial and an unexpected design can be the catalyst that draws investors and customers in.
Get out of your bubble
Host events and invite people from unexpected diverse backgrounds to participate in captivating discussions. By inviting speakers and attendees who may not typically be part of your industry or network, unexpected magic can happen. It's not as hard as you'd think: imagine bringing together artists, scientists, actors, photographers and lawyers all together at the table with technologists for a dynamic exchange of ideas and cross-pollination of knowledge. This can lead to new opportunities for collaboration and growth and, most importantly, for inspiration and insights that you'll be remembered for.