Look Out Startups, 2014 is About Results, Not Buzz
Companies may have been able to get ahead before with cool ideas -- but not anymore.
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Companies whose products many of us use daily -- Dropbox, Twitter, and, of course, Facebook -- all sprouted from tiny startup seedlings. And while these all serve as great success stories, the truth is that most startups won't see this level of achievement. It's no secret that for every Instagram, there are hundreds of other apps that fail simply due to oversaturation. And yet that fact hasn't slowed the startup buzz machine.
But the promise of the next big startup win may be losing some of its luster, leaving both investors and brands to look beyond the glam and glitter, instead focusing on business fundamentals and results.
David Berkowitz, CMO of marketing agency MRY and AdAge contributing writer, postulates in his article, "Why Brands Will Focus Less on Startups in 2014," that lack of results, along with clutter and PR, is the reason why startups' relationships with brands and agencies will fade like a tired high school fling this year. And I couldn't agree more. In 2014, brands are looking for results, not hype.
Related: 9 Reasons Why Most Startups Fail
For startups, this means understanding and answering the key questions that all brand marketers are tasked with finding the solutions for, such as, "Will it work on mobile? Is it scalable? Will it integrate with our current content? Will it improve awareness, engagement, conversions? By how much?" These questions ultimately lead to three areas of focus for startups: mobile, serving customers' needs and analytics.
Mobile. I can vouch that mobile is one concern addressed in almost every one of our sales meetings. And for good reason. In our studies, mobile viewing time actually exceeds desktop viewing, with campaigns such as Philips' "Designed to Play" seeing viewing times of more than five minutes on iPhone and Android. The importance of mobile for brands is unequivocal, so it is crucial that startups have solutions that work in a fragmented but very important ecosystem.
Serving customers' needs. Startups looking to succeed in 2014 will also have to quickly solve the existing business problems of the companies they're working with in order to see results, instead of wasted time and resources. Whether a brand's issue is a low number of sales qualified leads, a high website drop-off rate or a decline in subscriptions, as a startup, your solution needs to fix those problems.
Case in point, Gaiam TV needed a way to bring a more informed consumer through the checkout process, while also increasing conversions. We devised a head-to-head competition, pitting a standard landing page against an Interactive Video landing page, and ended up doubling subscriptions in less than four weeks, solving the company's pain point.
Analytics. For a brand to spend a chunk of its marketing dollars on your startup, you need to have the numbers to justify spending. Unfortunately, we too often see data chains that don't provide insight because no one has thought through which metrics matter and how to measure them. Startups need to be savvy about how to integrate their solution into a complex ecosystem of existing analytics and should be prepared to help their customers implement these solutions.
"Journalists are going to start craving more meat." Berkowitz writes. "After the fifth brand-sponsored startup hackathon at South by Southwest … serious journalists will focus on what such partnerships accomplish."
No matter how great the idea, if your startup doesn't create hard and fast results with analytics, targeted business solutions and mobile integration, it won't survive in 2014. Launching a startup can't just be about how cool your product is. No business can subsist off of just buzz and press. This year, startups must focus on business fundamentals and start emphasizing partnerships that generate results.