Wesley Chang

December 6, 2016

3 Powerful Strategies for Marketing Your Hardware Startup

Strategy Chess Piece Image

Marketing your hardware startup is usually never second nature.

Hardware founders and product guys get so carried away by all the fancy technologies and sweet features we desire that they forget to share it with the right audience.

On top of that, they’re never really sure where to start.

To remedy this, we put together 3 pre-prototype, pre-production, power strategies that you can use today so you can get started on marketing your hardware startup.

The beauty about these strategies is that they are independent of each other.

Although, some may seem like they go hand in hand, you can easily take action on one strategy or another.

Let’s dive in.

Exploring Your Niche Market

Niche marketing is something that founders often overlook.

Their main goal is usually so broad that their only option is to market to the entire world.

That’s not going to work.

The thing is, a large market share isn’t the only way to succeed as a hardware startup.

But when trying to share your product with a massive market of untargeted people, not everyone is going to want or buy your product.

A rapid prototyping and product development company in Hawaii called 3D Innovations–they offer a whole slew of services such as design, prototyping, 3D printing, supply chain management, and production sourcing–wrote an article earlier this  year all about niche marketing.

In the post, “Hardware Startups: Defining Your Niche Market,” 3D Innovations said:

“Developing a product that specifically targets a segment of the market that is not having their needs met is a great way to scale a business quickly. The competition is low and the barriers to entry are minimal, which is an ideal landscape for launching a hardware startup.”

Because of this, if you develop a product that specifically targets a portion of the market, your hardware startup could quickly get its product into the hands of consumers.

And eventually,  in the midst of performing online and offline marketing tactics and spending thousands of dollars trying to determine which methods work, you’ll realize that the more targeted your niche is, the easier it is to scale your business.

So how can niche marketing help your hardware company find success?

The answer is simple.

It allows your hardware startup to target a much more relevant and well-defined market segment.

The way to go about it is by understanding your product, your brand, and the consumers you are marketing towards.

By determining these 3 things, you’ll be able to identify with a market that has already been defined and best suited for your startup.

5 Step Process to Niche Marketing

Use niche marketing for marketing your hardware startup

Step 1: Determine the gap, and then close it.

Figure out what’s missing from your niche and address it by creating a product that’ll aim to solve the problem.

Step 2: Who’s your ideal customer?

Knowing this will allow your company to tailor all marketing materials towards those people.

Step 3: Narrow your audience.

With niche marketing, the more specific you are, the chances of success increase dramatically. You wouldn’t try selling a smartwatch to a group of hair stylists, right? The odds of a hair stylist being interested in a smartwatch are a lot slimmer than a group of tech enthusiasts.

Step 4: Test your new market.

So you’ve identified a possible niche that you can target. Now you need to test it to make sure that you will be able to scale your business in the future. The best part about testing when taking on a niche marketing strategy is that you’ll be testing on a small scale since your audience is highly targeted. That means that you’ll save money! Or at least a few bucks here and there. Here are a few ways that you can get testing:

  1. Host an event
  2. Give away a few prototypes in exchange for answered surveys
  3. Send traffic to a pre-launch landing page
  4. Get in contact with beta testers

Step 5: Re-evaluate and modify.

Nothing is ever perfect, especially in the hardware world. So rather than getting discouraged from failed marketing efforts, jot down what worked, and what didn’t work, and then test out new tactics!

What Comes Next?

Branding.

Don’t get me wrong, discovering your hardware startups niche is a huge step in the right direction.

But do you really think your product is going to sell itself?

Products Don’t Sell Themselves

What exactly makes you want to buy a specific product or brand?

The truth is, building the best possible product isn’t going to make you the brand of choice. It’s the story behind the brand.

For the most part, branding for hardware startups has been neglected.

To make matters worse, hardware entrepreneurs and engineering founders love technology and often believe that the best features and the highest specs will be all they need to be successful.

In fact, the majority of consumers don’t actually care for the fancy specs; consumers care about how your product is going to help them and if it’s worth the money.

If you don’t believe me, then take it from Marc Barros, co-founder and former CEO of Contour and co-founder of Moment. Marc has created some of the best resources for hardware entrepreneurs, and has even written for publications such as Inc and Adafruit.

One article titled, “Why Consumer Hardware Start-ups Fail,” discussed 3 ways that branding has affected so many startups, including his own. In it he says,

“Although tech reviews and comments from early adopters would have you think otherwise, the reality is most consumers are too busy to care about specs. All they want to know about is why they need your product, how they can use it, and if it’s worth the money.”

Every hardware startup can address this by positioning their crosshairs on branding.

With so many new hardware companies popping up left and right, building a brand that stands out could be the difference between a thousand customers and a million customers.

Just take a look at Nixon, or even Pebble.

Even though Apple is now in the smartwatch scene, Pebble has been able to remain relevant (or at least they were for a while 😥 )!

So here’s what you need to do.

Stop Selling a Product, Start Selling a Brand

Step 1:  Know what your brand stands for.

A brand is so much more than just a logo or a slogan. Identify what makes your startup so special. What do is do differently, or what does it address that others don’t?

Step 2: Know what your customers need and want.

By understanding this key premise, you’ll be able to create a product that solves real world problems that real people need.

Step 3: Drive home your beliefs.

When your customers share the same beliefs as you or at least your perspective then your brand will become the goto choice. No matter how perfectly designed your product is, or how feature rich it is, you’ll lose to your competitors every single time.

What Comes Next?

So you’ve built your brand and now you’re ready to share it with the world.

Crowdfunding could very well be your next move.

It actually makes sense now that you’ve established what your brand is all about and have an amazing story to tell.

Marketing Your Hardware Startup with Press

Marketing your hardware startup doesn’t have to stop at building a brand, and it shouldn’t for obvious reasons.

You wouldn’t want all of your hard work and maximum effort to go to waste, right?

For many hardware startups, crowdfunding at this stage seems like the logical next step.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the same for others.

Until you understand how crowdfunding can take your company to the next level and actually attempt to run a campaign, you’ll never know. So to make things easier on you, here are a few reasons why you should consider crowdfunding.

  1. Communicating with the people who believe in your brand and share your passion is easier than ever when running a crowdfunding campaign.
  2. A well executed campaign almost always result in a highly engaged and hyped community.
  3. You’ll receive tons of customer feedback.
  4. All the money you raise could go directly towards production costs.
  5. Your product will be validated.

Now, those all may sound oh so glorious, however, there’s plenty of reasons to stray from crowdfunding.

Here’s a brief list:

  1. Your startup is in stealth mode.
  2. You don’t have enough momentum to execute a successful campaign.
  3. You don’t have a market strategy yet.
  4. And most importantly, you don’t have enough time.

But if you have the time, the plan, and the resources, then your first step to crowdfunding should be to gain some momentum.

Using Press to Gain Momentum

Use press for marketing your hardware startup

Press is your best friend when it comes to gaining traction and sparking a high momentum crowdfunding campaign.

It can get your brand in front of thousands of people, and in front of other audiences that would likely be interested in your product.

The hardest part about getting press is overcoming the fear of rejection.

A lot of people are easily discouraged by a single no or an ignored email.

But if you’re able to offer something genuine or unique, your chances of getting a journalist to publish an article about you increase exponentially.

Of course there are plenty of ways to go about this.

One surefire way would be to send your journalist of choice a prototype! They’ll either be amazed and write about it, or amazed by it and not write about it.

Before you go around sending hundred dollar prototypes, I’ve laid out the keys to a successful press outreach strategy.

Key 1: Find the right journalists.

Not everyone in the media will write about your product. One reason is simply that they may not be interested in it. Or your product isn’t relevant to their audience.

Key 2: Find the right publications.

Entrepreneur and TechCrunch are completely publications, right? Determining the appropriate publication for your PR is critical because the chances of being approved are much higher. It wouldn’t make sense to approach Smashing Magazine and ask a writer to publish an article about your next generation smart watch. The right publication means that your startup will be shared among an audience that’s most relevant to your brand.

Key 3: Engage your journalist of choice.

It’s a lot easier to spark a conversation when you have something genuine to say. Instead of immediately pitching an offer to a journalist, try asking for advice, or if you’re really brave, ask to meet up for coffee. This is super beneficial for 2 reasons. One, your potential PR writer is more likely to write about you. And two, you just gained another friend and an “in” in the media!

Key 4: Journalists don’t have a lot of time on their hands.

Make their lives easier! You don’t have to provide an entire article for him/her. But if you do, chances are they’re going to rewrite the entire thing anyway. Now, what you should provide is a few pieces of information, some biographies, quotes, and images.

Key 5: Journalists don’t like to write about who makes up a company.

They want to tell a story. So help them tell yours!

What Comes Next?

If all goes well, you’ll be featured on a one of the major publications so don’t let that recognition go to waste!

Have your crowdfunding campaign set up and ready to rock.

After getting press, your chances of a successful campaign just doubled.

Use that to your advantage and collect data from your early adopters or backers.

Gather a group of beta testers and get some feedback for your product and then tweak it.

With every new prototype you build, you could send it out to your testers gather information, create a new version and repeat the process!

This will ensure that you’re learning all that you can from your targeted audience while continuously developing a product that’s better suited for them.

The Final Stretch to Success

After you’ve found the perfect niche market for your hardware product, built a beautiful and inspiring brand, and executed a successful crowdfunding campaign with the help of press, you’ll be on your way to the big leagues.

You could start getting in touch with contract manufacturers and finding the best solution to scale your business to a million units if you wanted to.

Or you can identify where your weaknesses are, and establish an even better marketing strategy.

But with these 3 powerful strategies in place, marketing your hardware startup can be easier than you expect.

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