Startup Showcase: An Easy Product Promotion Strategy
No one likes a show off. You know, the know-it-all, braggadocios, blowhard who boasts about his startup’s meteoric rise and the latest feature article in Mashable. You don’t have to be THAT guy. But you do have to talk up your product.
One of the best ways and easiest strategies for marketing your product is to sign up for a startup showcase, tradeshow or conferences. In this blog post we’ll go give tips on where, how and what to show off when you’re trying to market your new product or service.
Where to Show Off
Here, in Chicago a new startup is founded every 48 hours. That stat vetted by Forbes.com is probably outdated as the number of entrepreneurs producing new products and services here has exploded in just the last 12 months. As the number of funding sources in Chicago has grown, so has the number of new companies. So how do all those burgeoning new businesses market their products? They usually show off at these venues:
- 1871 — A co-working center for digital startups located in the behemoth Merchandise Mart, 1871 hosts a series of meetups, promotional events and networking parties that provide a great way for a startup to showcase its wares at little or no cost. Check out their Associate Membership which allows you to plug into events and programming there.
If you showcase here: 1871 has a small conference room so don’t bring out the big guns. A computer/video demo would be great allowing folks to see your product in action but you won’t have room for a lot of demonstration. Best bet: branded flyers or promotional USB drives are always a nice touch for this usually BETA, early adopter crowd.
- Built in Chicago — An online community for all things tech and start up here, Built in Chicago features a monthly pitch competition where new startups can hawk their products in front of a room filled with talent, entrepreneurs, marketers and investors. Apply to be their Startup of the Month for the opportunity to showcase your wares.
If you showcase here: Usually held in the upstairs barroom at Rockit Bar and Grill, this is a jammed packed love fest of tech and beer. There’s little room for products and you only get like a 2-min pitch. So leave the fat stash at home and bring 30-second video, and wear branded t-shirts and small items such as pens or hand sanitizer that you can give away while you work the room.
- Techweek — Once just a low-key tech event with a bunch of notorious parties, Techweek has earned a bit of cache and is now considered by many to be the premiere tech conference in the Midwest. Now in New York and L.A. Techweek has grown beyond measure. Your chance for startup stardom is with its LAUNCH contest. You could win $100,000 in cash and prizes and all the free Techweek marketing you need. If you’ve got less than $2 million in funding and have been around for less than three years apply today.
If you showcase here: LAUNCH is populist, free-for-all competition where public sentiment weighs heavily in the finalist selection. So please the people with lots of SWAG. Product demos are a must, if your grandmother can’t explain what you offer then start over at the drawing board. But fun promotional items will make you memorable and garner more votes from Techweek attendees. Field is narrowed from 70 startups to about 5 finalists. Judges make the final call but you can get a shot at being a finalist if the people like you. Popular products to bring include: Branded sunglasses, cinch back packs, keylights, hand sanitizer spray, fun stuff like flyers, Frisbees, and tumblers. Anything basically on the Top 50 Promotional Item list!
- TechCocktail — Event-based online community for startups, Tech Cocktail blends the best of both worlds — parties and digital — to cities throughout the United States and around the globe. They also feature speaker’s series and as a backdrop allow new startups to showcase. You can apply for a free demo spot at an event in your city.If you showcase here: These events are held in various places so it’s great to get to know the venue. But they’re a mix of lecture and networking and drinking so you won’t have a lot of time to wow people. Promo products like koozies with your pitch on them or Post-Its with your contact info, some sort of takeaway with branded marketing writing is a plus. And branded t-shirts is a must for all your exhibitors.
Be a Promotional Stand Out
When you’re promoting your product at a venue where EVERYONE is promoting their products you have to adjust your marketing strategy. You have to stand out. You have to be remembered. More importantly, your product has to be the one with the buzz.