“We’re too young.”
“People don't know us, so what can 10 seconds do?”
“Spending our budget on splashy campaigns is too risky.”
If you've ever been involved in marketing a startup from stealth through launch and beyond, you may be familiar with the above thought processes; sure, you want to make a grand impression, you want the world (or at the very least, your ideal user persona) to discover and, eventually, fall in love with your product or service.
But many startups find themselves too nervous to dabble in bold marketing campaigns. “What about the ROI? What if it crashes and burns? What if it’s awesome, but doesn’t bring any actual leads?” Honestly, it almost makes sense for a startup to assume that it's a smarter play to test the waters and wade in cautiously.
At anecdotes, our strategy (after careful research, of course) is to jump right in.
Creating Our (Slightly Gutsy) Billboard Campaign
Let's backtrack a bit; when Roi, Eitan, and Yair co-founded anecdotes, aside from knowing that InfoSec Compliance was overdue for a digital transformation, they also knew that even in a new startup, brand identity and marketing had to be airtight. That's why anecdotes’ very first hire was a product designer and there was a major focus on marketing from the get-go. You don't get a second chance to make a first impression—so that first one better be epic.
With this in mind, we started brainstorming for our first billboard campaign. What should we do? How should we do it? Where should we place it? What should our KPIs be?
After weeks of planning and loads of sleepless nights, hundreds of slack messages, dozens of team meetings, and lots and lots of iterations (and coffee), eventually, we pulled it off—we placed a billboard on top of the busiest junction in Tel Aviv.
Now, aside from endless fist bumps and other assorted congratulatory greetings, people keep asking me, “Eden, anecdotes is still a relative newcomer—how can an early stage start up pull off such a bold campaign? And be honest, did it work?”
So here is my tried and true formula to devise a brilliant billboard (or otherwise bold) marketing campaign:
- Be brave and go to uncharted territory - Don't be afraid to do things that other companies aren't doing. Why should it matter that most startups wouldn't dare place an ad on top of one of the busiest street corners in the world? That was a risk we knew we wanted to take. My theory was, shoot for the moon; at worst, we’d reach the stars, i.e., spend a lot of dough and learn even more lessons along the way.
- Don't go-it alone - I’m not suggesting to drill every R&D or sales person for advice on your campaign—but collecting diverse opinions and input when brainstorming is positively critical. The efforts should reflect your team as a whole and this cannot be accomplished solo.
- Get straight to your core message - Whether it’s a billboard, webcopy, or a social media campaign, you’ve got just a few seconds to capture attention. Does your target audience know what you do and how you do it differently in the first 5 seconds of seeing your billboard/website/etc.? This becomes even truer when trying to grab attention on the busiest street corner, when everyone is rushing to work. To paraphrase Geico, is your message easy enough for a caveman to understand? In marketing-speak, this is called “The Grunt Test” and the goal is to deliver a clear message in as little time as possible.
- Make sure to align with your brand voice - This may sound like a no-brainer but believe me, it’s not so simple to accomplish. Considering the limitations you have to work within, it may be tempting to just go big and bold to capture attention, with little substance or connection to your overall brand. In the end, you’ll wind up confusing your target audience and watering down your message.
- Use your imagination - Seriously, don't be afraid to get creative. For example, look at Lemonade. Aside from the fact that they are one of our favorite design partners, they make the super-boring world of insurance fun and engaging. Their recent epic Instagram campaign, in which they dipped 365 household items into a giant vat of hot pink paint, showcases their fun vibe perfectly. It’s daring, it’s quirky, and it sticks. By the way, for me, listening to music is my number one strategy to get my imagination going (with a playlist typically consisting of Billie Eillish and Noga Erez).
- Use multiple channels - You want to be where your audience is, so it’s always a smart idea to leverage multiple channels whenever possible. We backed our billboard campaign up with an online campaign, as well as an elevator campaign in some of the biggest skyscrapers across Tel Aviv. Delivering your message through different channels can do only good, if you're supplying the right message, that is.
- Test, test, and test - Marketing is part art and part science. Actually, a whole lot of science. Establish KPIs from the get-go and use data to prove your assumptions right or wrong. Knowing what works and what doesn't will help you devise more optimal future campaigns.
- Don't be afraid of failure - Creating maximum brand awareness aside, a key goal of any campaign should be to learn from what was done and apply those lessons to future campaigns. This is why being honest is key and why “failure” isn’t necessarily a bad thing—if it enables you to avoid those mistakes next time, it takes you that much closer to your KPIs.
The Moment of Truth—Did Our Crazy Idea Work?
Yes, I think we can say with full confidence that we accomplished our goals.
For example, after we put up the billboard, we had an increase of 341% in visitors to our website, compared to other similar days. Now, whenever we see a CISO or InfoSec person, they invariably stop to ask what we're all about. And last but definitely not least, in that week, we saw a three-fold uptick in hot leads. That was all the data-backed proof we needed to understand that our crazy vision wasn't so crazy after all.
So there you have it, my story on how we launched our billboard campaign. If you take away one thing from our experience, let it be this—feel the fear and do it anyway. With the right KPIs, goals, and outlook, you can launch your own adventurous campaigns too.
And regarding our next stop, stay tuned; we’ve got some pretty interesting cards up our sleeves.