How to Build Marketing Credibility for Information Technology Startups

The old saying, “Nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM,” remind us that having the best information technology product doesn’t always translate to having the most sales. For startups, proving marketing credibility is equally important as demonstrating product fit in the early stages of the sales cycle.

Closing those initial deals (without a proven track record) is a challenge for even the most seasoned sales pros. IT decision makers are under extreme pressure to keep business operations running smoothly and efficiently. As such, they are keenly aware that if and when something goes wrong, their decisions will be called into question.

Choosing a new technology over the established IT vendor without solid justification can be a career killer. By building and promoting marketing credibility points, marketing can help arm sales with the arsenal they need to ease IT decision makers’ concerns and win the sale.

Score More Credibility Points

The goal of a marketing credibility program is to convince IT buyers that your startup not only offers the best solution but will be around in years to come—standing ready, willing and able to deliver promised product upgrades and support. Use the following checklist to creatively score and maximize credibility points with IT decision makers.

  • Talent: The long-term success of a startup relies heavily on the strength of its leadership team. Prove your company has what it takes to survive the test of time by promoting a track record of success based on the combined accomplishments and experience of your executive team, board members, advisors, and investors.
  • Customers: If you have users (paying or not), do everything you can to gain permission to promote your relationship. As a last resort, mask the brand but promote the details of the installation. It’s okay to get creative with your response to the question, “How many customers do you have?” but don’t over estimate your numbers if they can’t be justified—you won’t look credible if you get caught in a lie.
  • Partners: Associating your company with trusted brands can help lend your company credibility. Identify market leaders that have relevancy and reach within your target vertical and join their partner programs. Take advantage of their co-branding and partner marketing programs to extend your market reach and build your brand.
  • Influencers: Positive coverage from key industry analyst and media always helps to settle the fears of IT buyers. Build strong relationships with prominent influencers through consistent and well-executed PR programs to maximize your chance for success.
  • Awards: Aim to win 2-3 awards per year. Strategically placed awards on your website and in sales presentations will earn your company instant credibility. Look for award opportunities that honor startups or product innovations at national or regional levels and don’t forget about vertically focused award programs.
  • Knowledge:  Nothing kills credibility more than a lack of knowledge about the real life challenges your IT buyers face. And yet, lots of startups miss the opportunity to score knowledge points by focusing on product features rather than solution benefits as they relate to the pain points their product was designed to address. Don’t get caught in this trap. Demonstrate thought leadership by focusing on industry issues and proven solutions as visibly and vocally as possible. Speak at conferences, write articles, host webinars, publish white papers… just do what ever it takes to clearly communicate your understanding of the market.

Your Turn: Share Your Startup Marketing Advice

This list is compiled based on my ringside view from our marketing firm. I’m sure the list can be expanded upon and improved, so please feel free to agree, disagree or weigh in with your own startup marketing experiences.