February 22, 2016

Why Startups Fail With Their Beta Marketing Efforts

an email welcoming you to polymail beta

Like a lot of people, I’m a sucker for new online services. When I come across something interesting that will launch in the future, I’ll sign up for a beta.

At that point, the startup has captured my attention. Now, they need to keep it so I’m engaged and, as important, excited about sharing it with others.

The problem, however, is most startups drop the ball on their beta launches. Their email campaigns are full of happy words but they frequently drop the ball when it comes to marketing. This includes fundamental tasks such as reminding people why they signed up the beta, what their product does or the benefits.

Case in point is Polymail, a new email service for desktop and mobile that is “simple, beautiful and powerful”. That’s great but what’s in it for me (aka the user)? How is Polymail different from Gmail or Spark, which I use on the desktop and mobile respectively? What would make me switch to Polymail? [Note: I’m not specifically picking on Polymail but it is representative of many beta marketing efforts.)

We live in a fast-moving, multitasking, ADD world. We scan, rather than read. There is little brand loyalty in a world chock-a-block with choices. If you don’t capture someone’s attention immediately, they will quickly move on to the next shiny object.

For startups such as Polymail, every opportunity to touch the customer has to be seized. It’s not enough to send an email that invites someone into a beta program and then assume the opportunity will be embraced.

The email needs to be a powerful sales and marketing tool. It needs to clearly articulate basic information: what the service does, why it’s different or better, and the biggest benefits over the status quo.

It’s Marketing 101; it’s not rocket science.
If I were doing marketing for Polymail, here’s how I would have crafted the email:

Welcome to Polymail! We’ve developed a completely new approach to email. We’ve created a streamlined way to read email and organize your inbox. How are we different? Good question! With Polymail, you can quickly create lists based on topics or interests, track email opens, schedule email to be sent later, and it delivers the same experience on desktop and mobile. Here are three steps to get started with Polymail: 1. Create an account – it’s super quick. 2. Write an email, click on “send later” to schedule it. 3. Create a list.

But wait, there’s more.

Although I received minimal direction from Polymail’s welcome email, I downloaded the software and easily set up an account. That’s the good part.

Polymail, however, failed to embrace me into the fold. Getting started simply involved adding an account without any guidance on what to do next. I’m a new user so now is the time to start courting me. As well, I haven’t seen a follow-up email yet that provides more details about how Polymail is different and how it should be used. That’s not good marketing. Instead, it leaves me to my own devices.

Polymail could become a huge success. At a time when email still rules the roost, there is plenty of room for innovation and new approaches. At the same time, however, there are plenty of email-focused startups battling for a foothold. Given the competition, it is important to capitalize on every opportunity to attract users and create evangelists.

The bottom line: A startup needs to be marketing and selling at every opportunity to drive adoption, loyalty, evangelism and brand awareness.

More: Here are good examples of companies that have good welcome emails for new customers.

If you’re looking to jump-start your startup marketing, I can help you make it happen – everything from messaging and brand positioning to strategic planning and content development. I published a book, Storytelling for Startups, that provides strategic and tactical guidance to entrepreneurs looking to embrace the power of story-driven marketing.

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A blue spark illustration