Have a product, but need a marketing strategy? Tyler Koblasa, High Growth Labs partner and founder of CloudApp, explains the principles of product-channel fit — and how to leverage content to drive your startup’s growth.
Finding product-market fit can be challenging enough. But there’s another piece of the equation that can make or break your startup’s growth plan: Finding the right channels to market and sell your product.
It’s never too early to start thinking about it, according to Tyler Koblasa, partner at Permanent Capital and managing director at High Growth Labs. Koblasa specializes in helping startups and impact organizations accelerate their growth, and was previously founder and CEO of media sharing platform CloudApp.
- Defining Your Customer
- Crafting Messages
- Creating Content
- Nurturing Leads
- Testing and Learning
Product-channel fit is a matter of identifying the best avenues — and the best content — to get the word out about your product, test your prospective customers, and eventually drive sales conversions. But it’s not as simple as running a few social media ads.
“Commonly, founders think that they can either pay for some ads, or get some PR, and they’ll get users or customers. But that’s just not how it works,” Koblasa says. “It’s more about having an integrated marketing and sales approach.”
Particularly for B2B software startups, the most effective approach is a blend between marketing and sales that hinges on content. But leads can take time to cultivate, so it’s wise for founders to get started building those relationships as early as you can.“Regardless of any lead, contact or interest you have, you need to nurture that contact and provide value.” - @TylerKoblasa Click To Tweet
“Regardless of any lead, contact or interest you have, you need to nurture that contact and provide value. Don’t think someone’s just going to sign up and pay you just because you have your doors open,” he adds.
The process of finding product-channel fit begins with defining who you’re trying to reach — your ideal customer profile. But that isn’t just a vague approximation of what type of person might be interested. Your ideal customer profile can start with a hypothesis, but eventually, the customer profile serves as the basis of your messaging. So your hypothesis needs evidence and data to back it up.“As builders we love to build, but you also have to figure out how you actually market this.” - @TylerKoblasa Click To Tweet
“As builders we love to build, but you also have to figure out how you actually market this,” Koblasa says. “Think about your funnel early in the journey, starting with: Who is your ideal customer?”
Down the road, validation and testing will make it easier to design and measure the effectiveness of various messages in reaching your sales prospects. Ultimately, the question founders need to answer isn’t what they’re selling, but why a potential customer would want to buy it.
“If you can get some data around where you’re getting traction early on, and then work backwards with that ideal customer profile in mind, you can test whether you’re solving their pain points,” Koblasa says. “Then, you’ll focus content on the right persona. If it’s a sales manager or an engineer, it’s a matter of understanding what they care about.”“Think about your funnel early in the journey, starting with: Who is your ideal customer?” - @TylerKoblasa Click To Tweet
To learn about what the results of that process look like, founders can look at the webpages of popular B2B software tools like Intercom or Outreach.io. Product descriptions revolve around the benefits to using it, demonstrating an understanding of the customers’ needs. Effective messaging doesn’t happen by chance; it requires an iterative process backed up by research and testing.
The messaging framework you develop will serve as a coherent, common thread in the content you create. For most software businesses, that will be some combination of your website, blog, social media accounts, press placements, and other forms of advertising. And each of those contributes to a feedback loop of how well your messaging is performing, and where you can make improvements.
Naturally, your approach will vary depending on what type of startup you’re running. Startups doing direct-to-consumer sales, for example, will have different sales demands, and will likely rely more heavily on generating a direct response from potential customers. B2B startups may lean more heavily on using content to generate demand, get contacts, and run a standard software sales process.
“Content is always king — but make sure your content is explaining benefits and adding value, not just talking about yourself,” Koblasa adds.