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You Know The Game for Mind share

You Know The Game for Mind share

 

Gaining visibility and mind share is utterly important for a startup. Both are important to get the attention of potential customers, partners, investors and employees. The decisions of all these constituencies depend on what they hear about your products and your company in the press and from other influencers in the industry. The most important game is the game for the mind share of the customer. In many industries customers rely on the press, analysts and other influencers when they make purchasing decision. Especially in industries that move very fast such as the high-tech industry, customers cannot keep up with all the things that happen and make their decisions based upon what the influencers say. Therefore you have to influence these people because they determine the mind share your company will have with potential customers, partners, investors and even employees. These influencers are called the “influence engine”. It is this “influence engine” that determines “what is hot, what works and what is safe”. This “influence engine” can either spiral you up or spiral you down. This spiral effect makes it so powerful. A positive spiral effect can really leverage your venture up because you will get attention from potential customers, partners, investors as well as employees. Therefore you have to do everything to influence the “influence engine” so that it sets off an upwards spiral, a so-called “buzz”. Therefore before you even launch your business you need to analyze who influences the decisions of your customers and start to influence these people. These are often people from the press or industry analysts. They also communicate and influence each other.

Having the largest mind share is as important as having a good product. Influence the “influence engine” and set off an upward spiral.

To influence these people and create this buzz, you will have to spend a substantial amount of time talking to magazines and doing a press tour. You will really have to talk to the press all the time, doing demos for journalists, visiting them, and leaking information about new customers and products. Get a PR-person early on who has a strong network in the industry and thus can get the attention of the important influencers. Focus on the key people and try to see them whenever you can. You go to them and you talk to them even before you are ready to announce the product, you get them involved and interested in it early on. You need to start building from day one a base of influencers who endorse your product and company. Besides that playing the press is the single most important tool in the game for mind share, it does not really cost a lot, but has a huge leverage. You also want to be invited to the right conferences, and have the chance to get on stage. Once you are ready to announce the product, then you have to find the right form to announce it. Find an important industry conference, an event where the right people are, and debut the company or the product at that event. Get a very visible launch so that people go out and tell other important people about it. Part of what you should do to get the press and analysts and the various communities interested, is not just talk about the specific features of your first release but to build it into a broader industry trend. You might try to build it on top of a bigger trend or even create a new category. You should create a vision that gets people excited so that they say “Wow, this is were things are going, this is the new direction.” You want to build this excitement. Also get some big brand names as partners that everybody recognizes to endorse your product. Last but not least, you should try to get some first referencable customers. Real customer success makes a big difference and tends to drive the buzz tremendously. Basically what companies in Silicon Valley do is that they declare victory before they have victory. They go and proclaim that they are already the leader, that they have already the key accounts although they might have only some few beta sites and not shipped or even developed a working product. But in fact, how good your vision is a key component of what the press sees as the leader and what the customer buys. Of course, you have to deliver on your vision later on, but you have got time to do that. So when you keep saying over and over again that you are the market leader, a lot of people will start believing it and you will actually become the leader. Often this kind of mind share and marketing can give you a lead even over a competitor who has a better product, because you will define the rules of the game, the rules how to compete, since you will be perceived as the leader. Thus the competitor will have to play by your rules, since you determine what the features need to be and what the customer expects. Sometimes it can even happen that competitors get scared when they see that there is already a perceived market leader. Thus often the question is not which company can assemble the best technology and product, but which company is able to build the largest mind share among customers. To do that you have to start building mindshare from the very first day you start your business.

Play the game for the mind share of customers, partners, investors and employees. Try to become perceived as the market leader.

In the process you will have to be very careful to distinguish between your product and your vision. You want to distinguish what your first product is and what you are delivering and what your expectations are. You do want to get them excited about the vision but then give them pretty realistic expectations of what you are going to deliver and what is going to happen. Besides, you should not crank out press release after press release after press release, none of them with anything substantial in it, because then the influencers will write negative articles and it will backfire on you. The buzz can also work in a negative direction. Once you have a bad image it will be very hard to attract customers, hire good people, find leading partners and even raise more capital.

 In many industries the vision you are selling is as important as the actual product. Get people excited about your vision so that they buy your product even if it will still take some time until your product matches the vision.

Part of the game for mind share is to make yourself appear bigger than you are. A lot of the high-tech tools, but especially the internet helps you to appear bigger than you are. Less and less depends on how you appear in physical terms but how you look on the web and how you look electronically. You can leverage information technology a lot to appear bigger than you are. Actually you do not even need all the infrastructure a big company has behind the scenes to sign up customers, to do billing, take their credit card, give them customer service. You can do it with a few number of people and information technology. You can also leverage subcontractors by having people do work on a subcontracted basis where outsiders might assume that it was done in-house.

Make yourself appear bigger than you are.

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