From innovation to market entry: A how-to overview (part 2)

Authors: Matthew Wahlrab and Craig Rochester

For founders who’ve developed a groundbreaking idea or technology, the next major challenge is successfully bringing the concept to the market. When seeking guidance on how and where to start, however, they’re pretty often met with vague, non-practical responses:

“You need to find your product-market fit.”

Sure, you think. I’ve heard that one a lot. But how?

“Make sure your approach is scalable.”

Again, heard it before. But how can I actually make that happen?

This vagueness and impracticality aren’t what founders need. What they do need are concrete approaches to facing these challenges, in practical detail. That’s the reason for this article series: sharing the step-by-step approach we use at Rapid Alpha to take founders from groundbreaking idea to successful market entry.

Taking startups from idea to market launch: Our 12-stage model

Below, you’ll find an overview of the 12 stages we action to take founders to market. In this article, we’ll explore Phase 2 in detail (looking for Phase 1 insights? Click here).

Phase 1 - Activities

Value Canvas 

  • Curate a hypothesis containing information on the industry, a company profile, and individual roles within the company who need your solution, have the budget to buy, and may seek the outcomes your solution delivers.

     Industry Landscape Report

  • Validate the identified industry bears out your hypothesis, identify indications your competitive advantage is viable and can be sustained, identify your ideal customers from potential partners.

Micro Ad Testing

  • Post Click Thru Ads on a social medium to test the validity of your pain points with several demographics.

 Landing Page

  • Direct potential customers to a landing page with various benefits and a form to capture contact information of landing page visitors.

To explore Phase 1, head to part 1 of this article series.

Phase 2 - Activities

     Account-Based Marketing 

Laying the groundwork for opening doors to your preferred buyers

     Sales Collateral

Finding the time and the right words to entice, engage, and sell to prospects

     Social Media

Gain a thought leader reputation and stay top of mind with clients and prospects  

     Ad Generation

Understand your customer acquisition costs to scale with confidence  

Phase 3

     Sales Outreach

     Web Page

     Branding

     Search Engine Optimization

Exploring Phase 2 in detail

Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

Laying the groundwork for opening doors to your preferred buyers

As founders emerge from Phase 1 of our go to market approach, they’re set with a clear cross-reference of the benefits their product or service brings to the table and the market needs those benefits meet. They have a good idea of the pain points their offering solves, as well as who experiences those pain points, in which sector, and what job role.

Refining and validating these insights ensures your Phase 2 ABM effort is as effective at generating interest in your product — and eventual sales — as possible. The results from your Phase 1 micro ad testing provide crucial insights. If any of your micro ads gain at least an industry-standard click-through rate (CTR) of 1.5% to 2.2% (depending on your target sector), that’s a good indication you’ve landed on a pain point that resonates with your prospects. Below that rate? Best to shelve the messaging you built that ad around, as it’s not piquing interest effectively.

Logically, your best CTRs indicate the pain points and messaging you’ll want to carry forward into your ABM effort. Now we turn to the ABM human factor: which roles in which size of company did you segment out in Phase 1 as your most promising prospects? Using LinkedIn Sales Navigator can guide you to these individuals so you can start your outreach.

Checklist: Get outreach-ready

  1. Create a rich, informed LinkedIn presence

Before you approach a prospect via LinkedIn, post information that’s relevant to the            person and their job. That way, when they go to your LinkedIn profile, they can see you’re knowledgeable about their sector and the pain points they’re likely experiencing. This allows the prospect to make an informed decision on whether they accept your invitation to talk further, coming to the conversation ready to hear what you have to say.

  1. Identify your best-aligning pain points

Your initial connection message on LinkedIn is limited to 300 characters, so you’ll need to concisely demonstrate that you know your prospect’s needs. Which of your refined pain points is most relevant to mention in this first message, heightening curiosity and nudging them to accept your request?

  1. Set yourself up to track and optimize your efforts

Having an agile structure for organizing ABM outreach and feedback is a vital component of creating your overall business plan — one of the biggest challenges when it comes to raising capital. We recommend VentureCast to our clients, which provides this agile tool to structure your ABM, business development, gauge product-market fit, and generate early revenue.

Sales Collateral

Finding the time and the right words to entice, engage, and sell to prospects

Sales is a process of perseverance: you’ll likely have to reach out to someone between 5 and 10 times before closing a deal. To succeed, small companies need to work smart: without the time and resources to generate reams of glossy sales collateral that showcases your offering’s features and how it resolves your prospects’ pain points, you need to rely on convincing, well-timed conversations.

For small companies with constrained time and money, 8 hours talking to real potential customers about what they need and what it would take for them to opt for your product is infinitely more valuable than spending 8 hours creating a sales brochure based on somewhat nebulous ideas of what your audience wants to see. Leveraging the feedback from your outreach conversations lays foundations for creating effective sales collateral with limited resources, while also allowing you to evolve the persuasiveness of your talking points with each conversation you have.

With the right pitch, the need for sales collateral falls away

A funny thing happens when you hit somebody’s pain point: the pressure on sales collateral reduces. Why? The pain point you’ve landed on is significant enough that the prospect will want more information right away, particularly in B2B sales where they’ll want to know for sure that your product can deliver before they put their credibility on the line by suggesting it to their wider team.

Success here gains you social proof that, in turn, enhances the sales collateral you will need to produce and use: a quoted endorsement or review from a respected sector player can do more for your reputation and sales than any amount of collateral material you produce yourself.

Social Media

Gain a thought leader reputation and stay top of mind with clients and prospects

Social media is your ticket to testing at scale, verifying whether the wording and images you’re using are enough to draw in your market and move them to action. Creating an active, engaged social presence through sharing content that’s valuable for your prospects enables you to reach and learn from far more people than via ABM alone. With the right tracking in place, this multiplies your market insights.

Translating social interactions to landing page insights

Working in links to your landing pages (more on these in our Phase 1 article) within your social presence enables you to connect the analytics you see on Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. with your audience’s behavior on the landing pages themselves.

Using a tool such as TruConversion, you can gain valuable insights on which elements of your landing page best hold viewers’ attention, across wording, graphics, and so on. Creating a range of landing pages (for example via HubSpot, to cut down your input time) also enables you to run A/B testing on the audience arriving there via social media. Do you see more engagement with color scheme, imagery, or logo A or B? For young companies that perhaps have a public presence but as yet no defined branding, this information is hugely useful to gauge what their audience likes and responds to, before committing funds to official brand design.

Utilizing social insights to start curating your IP

Your audience’s behavior on your landing pages can guide you to the elements of your intellectual property (IP) that are most interesting, valuable, and worthwhile to protect.

The wording and imagery that your viewers dwell on are all, ultimately, indications of your company’s know-how and ability to solve consumer pain points. Knowing which are the most attractive elements to your audience, therefore, points you towards your underlying technology that it would be smartest to protect, in terms of staying ahead of competitors and protecting your long-term business roadmap.

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Ad Generation

Understand your customer acquisition costs to scale with confidence

Across Phase 1 and Phase 2, our actions uncover and refine insights that prime us to create the best-optimized first advertising campaign we can. From identifying the pain points your offering solves to refining the copy, images, and colors used across your ads and web pages, both from your ABM outreach feedback and your social and landing page analytics.

Ads are expensive to build and run, so utilizing all the data at your disposal to up your ROI is key. Leveraging the insights you’ve gained so far to optimize the landing pages your ads take people to is also vital. There’s nothing worse than seeing a fantastic CTR rate for your ad plummet to 0 interaction because the landing page your audience ended up on failed to further engage and convert.

Over time, tracking ad cost against sales enables you to define your customer acquisition cost. From here, you’re set to project the funds you need to meet your customer onboarding targets — making an impressive, data-backed case for investment rounds.

VentureCast comes in handy here, organizing your financial data as your expense and revenue outlook evolves with growth (so, among other things, you can track ad spend ROI with ease). Changes to your underlying assumptions don’t mean going back to manual Excel or PowerPoint updates; instead, it’s easy to drop in new information, click a button, and generate a refreshed business plan complete with a 5-year financial forecast.

With a living operational dashboard and roadmap for running your business today and through the growth stages to come, you’re set to handle the pivoting needed to find your product-market fit. We’ve seen that having a tool that’s as dynamic as their business is incredibly valuable for our clients, saving them time and increasing their ability to share knowledge across their organization and external stakeholders, including investors.

Phase 2 round-up: How do the insights you’ve gained also appeal to investors?

Because there’s usually so little data available about a company’s potential traction in the early stages, founders are met with endless questions from investors: about themselves, their capabilities, and the capabilities of the team they’ve built around them.

Your founding team has stellar qualities, no doubt. However, a pitch that focuses on those alone won’t set you apart in the sea of startups. What does set our clients apart is presenting the data they’ve amassed across Phases 1 and 2 of our go to market approach, honing in on their prospects, analyzing and responding to behavior via analytics, and using the data gathered to define their customer acquisition costs and required ad spend.

Getting to the point where you can design data-backed ads is hugely powerful for convincing investors. It shows you’ve harnessed the superpower of understanding where your market is and that you’ve devised a data-driven approach to converting cold web traffic. It also shows you have a rational, well-formed plan for market domination, aware of how and where to optimize and maximize your time via strategic resource allocation. Music to investors’ ears.

Ready for further step-by-step go to market strategies?

Enter your details  and we’ll send follow-up reading on Phase 3 of the Rapid Alpha go to market model to your inbox. For practical insights guiding founders toward market success, faster.

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