6 ways to effectively market an AI startup

No startup is easy to grow, and with more and more artificial intelligence (AI) companies being founded around the world, the reality is that they can’t all lead the way. Some will struggle along for years, unable to find any real traction, while others will perish completely shortly after they’re funded.

As a founder or marketer, you need to be able to effectively communicate your value proposition. People respond to great products, so it’s crucial to understand that product is the new marketing.

Only the strongest, smartest, and most creative will survive and thrive. Like any product or service, the ones that do come out on top will be the ones that add the most value to users’ everyday lives.

That’s not to say, though, that you can’t give your own AI startup an edge by properly nailing down your marketing — and that’s what we’re going to talk about here.

Here are six actionable tips for getting the most out of your marketing strategy.

1. Have a no-BS approach to AI

This one is pretty simple, but it’s worth touching on because it’s something which, bizarrely, is seen all too often. Only market yourself as an AI startup if you’re actually doing AI.

With AI being the relative newcomer on the Silicon Valley block, it’s tempting for companies to say they’re the latest and greatest “AI-powered travel startup” — you can insert pretty much any industry in there, by the way.

Be careful not to add AI to comms or value prop if what you’re doing doesn’t actually revolve around AI. It might seem like a cool idea now, but marketing yourself as an AI startup when you’re not can lead to problems down the road with both customers and investors.

2. Be visual and show users how it works

It’s no secret that a lot of people are visual learners, and when it comes to communicating a product, there’s no better way of grabbing someone’s attention than with great visuals.

Give your customers a peek under the hood of your product. Sure, you can show them screenshots, GIFs, and videos of your product in action — and I highly recommend you do — but giving them an idea of how it all works is great, too.

MightyAI does this well on its products page with clear visuals and animations that help prospective customers visualize its data ingestion solution in action. Powerful visuals can help you democratize your solution, no matter how complex it actually is behind the scenes.

3. Talk about ROI, not just tech

It’s easy as AI entrepreneurs to get wrapped up in features and tech speak, but your customers probably don’t care as much as you about the ins and outs.

Yes, it’s good to show them how things work under the hood, but ultimately you’re selling a service, and what they want to know first and foremost is how your product is going to:

  • Boost their sales
  • Streamline their processes
  • Minimize their losses
  • Reduce business costs, and
  • Improve customer relationships

Contextualize your value proposition in relation to your customers’ pain points. Take ROSS Intelligence, for example. ROSS is a legal research platform powered by artificial intelligence, which helps users to quickly determine the answers to legal research questions.

What they’ve done nicely is communicate that they are first and foremost an AI company but that their goal is to help people find answers to legal questions in seconds. Less about the tech, more about the benefits.

4. Show them case studies

It’s important to write up case studies of the customers you work with.

Why? Because AI is, for most non-technical people, somewhat of an enigma. Even if you’re able to communicate the benefits of your service to them through bullet points and visuals, it might not hit home completely until they see evidence of your success, through someone else.

For example, automation unicorn UiPath offers a variety of compelling customer stories on its website to showcase its powerful solution applied in the real world.

Case studies help demonstrate tangible value creation and guide prospective clients toward use cases that fit their context and needs.

5. Build a killer demo

This goes back to the point about visual learning and touches on the above point, too. Your product ought to be able to speak for itself, and one of the best ways to allow it to do that is through a clear and engaging demonstration.

Show people how product in action, and they’ll do the rest, imagining themselves reaping the benefits of what you have to offer. Lobe does a great job of this with a highly visual and practical demo that puts its technology in context for the uninitiated.

6. Offer free webinars and consulting sessions

Talk directly to your customers. I mean actually talk to them, with your voice. Webinars and consulting sessions are an invaluable way not only to answer questions people may have about your product but also to create excitement, build a community, and get people onboard to promote your product for you.

Marketing should be about showcasing your best ideas to the right people in ways they understand and find valuable. Product deep dives, thought leadership, and a consultative selling approach are keys to earning your customers’ attention, trust and, ultimately, their budget.

You can have the best idea in the world, but marketing and growth can make or break your company. As the AI landscape becomes more competitive and democratized, understanding how to effectively market yourself to people from all walks of life, will be key to your success.

Etienne Mérineau is a former ad agency creative director turned AI entrepreneur. He was one of the Forbes 30 Under 30 in Marketing & Advertising in 2018. Throughout his career, Etienne’s work has won more than 55 advertising awards. He currently leads Heyday’s strategy and marketing and sits on the jury of The Webby Awards and Mobile UX Awards.

Aakriti Srikanth is Founding General Partner at AI Venture Amalgamators, which empowers women founders in AI. She started her career at hedge fund D. E. Shaw & Co. Since then she has worked in product management at Fortune 500 companies including IBM and Deloitte. She is a Forbes 30 Under 30 Honoree for 2019 and the San Francisco Business Times’ “Most Influential Women in Business.” In 2018, Alist and Entrepreneur.com featured her as “Youngest Influential woman in AI.”

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