Being an entrepreneur is tough work. You know you are building something incredible -- but unless people know about your product, they won't buy it. This challenge becomes even tougher when you are building a B2B product where you need industry credibility and recognition in order to land those big deals. So how do you get the word out? I learned a lot through trial & error as a first-time entrepreneur trying to make a name for my company StyleSage, a B2B data analytics and machine learning startup focused on fashion retail. Here are 5 tactics to consider that helped our company gain national recognition.
1. Practice your pitch - you are your own PR machine Just like finding love, you never know who you are going to meet where. I met my first investor at a conference where I had mere seconds to impress her with my pitch. A few weeks later, she became our first investor when our company was only 10 months old. In the early days of starting your own company, it will likely just be the founding team. That means you have to become your own PR machine. First, perfect a 30 second elevator pitch that communicates what you do and what you solve so clearly that it makes sense to a 4th grader. People have very limited attention spans. A compelling story helps people remember your company and what you do, long after they've left your presence.
2. Have all materials ready to go at a moment's notice This will not only save your time, but also ensure all outgoing communication is accurate, especially when someone else is sending out the information (for example, an intern). The list of materials to have handy are:
- Founder, key team member and notable advisor bios
- Professional headshots
- Business cards
- One page executive summary*
- Pitch deck*
- List of press stories, awards, partners, clients and speaking engagements**
It's worth it to invest a little money in having a professional design your collateral and make it consistent. There are a lot of affordable resources you may leverage, such as 99 Designs and Upwork. * Multiple versions needed. What is appropriate for investors, media, and clients may differ greatly from one another. **Make sure to ask for permission before using client and partner logos.
3. Be a thought leader. As a founder of a B2B company, you not only need to keep up to date with your industry but also contribute to its community. Being a thought leader builds awareness and credibility for your business (added bonus: helps with business development!).
- Attend as many industry-related events and meetups. Talk to everyone you can and chime in on discussions. Network with the organizers to see if you could speak at the next event.
- Start your own meetup group. This becomes a channel through which you can pull in industry experts, contribute to the community, and build your reputation.
- Publish whitepapers and blog posts on your own website and third party media. It's also great to post this on LinkedIn where your network can see and share with their audience.
- Comment thoughtfully on industry-related articles and discussion threads (emphasis on thoughtfully)
When I first moved back to New York to establish StyleSage, I had zero network in the startup world. The first item on my agenda was to build relationships - which eventually led to the opportunities that built our company reputation.
4. Pitch and present in meetup groups and competitions. Public speaking is often cited as people's number one fear. This is something you have to get over fast because it's unavoidable. Pitching and presenting your company at meetups and competitions is one of the best ways to get feedback for your business and to gain exposure with the wider community, whether the audience is investors, recruits, or prospective customers. There are lots of resources on how to become an effective public speaker. All the meetup pitches I've done prepared me for later when I eventually spoke in front of large audiences, such as at NY Fashion Tech Lab and Techstars Demo Day, Financial Times Innovate America Forum, and the 65th International Retail Summit.
5. Always make time to thank your supporters and your network In my journey, my support network has generously given me time, advice and introductions. It is important to always take time to thank those who have helped and make time to give back to others. I firmly believe that the practice of "paying it forward" is necessary to help the entrepreneurial community continually thrive.
Jade Huang is the CEO and co-founder of StyleSage, a New York and Madrid based company that delivers data-driven insights to help fashion retailers and brands become faster and smarter in line planning, in-season steering, and international expansion. With its proprietary machine learning algorithms and technology, StyleSage collect, analyze and visualize eCommerce activity across 1000 retailers, 53,000 brands, and 100M products in over 100 countries. StyleSage was profiled as a top innovator by Glamour Magazine, W Magazine, Vogue, The Financial Times and The Economist and was recently part of Techstars, the number 1 technology accelerator in the world, and the New York Fashion Tech Lab, a Springboard retail-focused accelerator.
Jade studied fashion design at Parsons School of Design, and has a Bachelors in International Trade from Fashion Institute of Technology. She also has a MPA in International Economics from Columbia University, and a MBA from INSEAD where she was awarded the L'Oreal Scholarship for Creativity & Entrepreneurship Spirit. She is also a 2016 NYC Venture Fellow.