Marketing Lessons From Tech Startups

Leading a startup to success is all about doing more with less. More development with less developers, more exposure with less funding, and more users with less industry connections.

As a result, tech marketers have become experts at leveraging the social networks of their initial users to gain massive exposure online.

The Hive team all have tech-backgrounds, so this is an area we know a bit about.

In this post, we’ve condensed a few key insights from the world of tech marketing, and tried to make them applicable to the music. 

Referrals Rock

A staple amongst Silicon Valley growth-tactics are referral programs. Perhaps most famously, Dropbox grew at a fantastic rate early on by offering users extra storage space for sharing the service with their friends.

Exponential growth is incredibly powerful, and friends tend to share musical taste, so here are a few ways you can leverage your fans’ networks:

Upcoming Shows

Have an upcoming show in Boston? Check which of your fans there have the most social reach, let them know that you’re psyched to visit, and ask them to share the ticketing link. If you’re using Hive, the influencer reporting section makes this easy. If you’re generous, or the fan needs greasing, offer up one or two of those spare spots on the guest list!

Track/Album Releases

Reach out to those of your fans with the most followers on Soundcloud, Spotify, or YouTube. Most fans love helping their favourite artists and would be happy to add your track to their playlist. Hearing from the artist, or someone close to them, directly is most often enough, but a little merch or a quick Skype call never hurt anyone.

Product First

In tech it’s widely accepted that no amount of clever marketing can save a bad product. At least over time. While there might be a bit of evidence that this isn’t entirely true in music, you certainly don’t get to be Led Zeppelin by putting out less than great music.

Music is what you do, so let it be front and centre of your campaigns. Selling to someone who’s already familiar with your work is significantly easier, so focus on exposure rather than monetization early on.

Growth > Monetization

As a musician or manager, your fan base is your biggest asset. Fans spend the money that will hopefully end up in your pocket, so your focus should be on them.

Consider your fan base a funnel: at the very top are everyone who ever encounters your brand, whether listening to your music, seeing a post of yours on Facebook, or hearing about you from a friend.

At the bottom of the funnel is everyone who’s strongly engaged and willing to spend money to consume your music or to identify with your brand.

Your objective is to pull as many fans as possible to the bottom of the funnel, and keep them there. This means acquiring new fans while retaining old ones.

Building a large, highly engaged fan base is easier when the barrier to entry is low. Because of this, offering some of your content for free is a counterintuitive but highly effective way to acquire fans who can be monetized later.

A key part of both fan retention and acquisition is identifying and understanding what your fans respond well too. It’s important to recognize that all of your fans might not respond to the same things, e.g some fans might only like the chill parts of your catalogue and vice versa.

So every time you get a cohort of new fans, make sure to note what attracted them to your music.

Did you acquire a bunch of Taylor Swift fans after that live “Bad Blood” cover that someone posted to YouTube? Did you get a bunch of ravers excited about your album after DJ WhatsHisFace remixed the single? Knowing where your fans came from will tell you at lot about how to excite them.

When you understand your fanbase deeply, connecting with them is easy. You can avoid “straining you voice”, and start being laser focused in your communication. This helps you deepen the fan-artist relationship, and avoid alienating any fans.

Love Is All You Need

Getting a lot of people to love your music is of course ideal, but expecting that right away isn’t realistic.

Initially, you’ll have to prioritize, and to double down on specific segments of fans. Appealing a little bit to everyone’s taste is hard, appealing a lot to a smaller segment’s taste is easier.

More importantly: it’s significantly easier to grow a giant fan base from a smaller group of dedicated fans, than from a larger group of fans who feel ambivalent about your music.

Fans who love your music will turn into evangelists, who will go to great lengths to share your genius with their friends. That’s how you create the kind of fan who will buy extra tickets to your show, just to share the experience with their friend (wearing the signed t-shirt she bought for $300).

At Hive we're crazy about data. From working with thousands of artists, interacting with millions of fans, we've seen how leveraging fan data can amplify the results of your marketing efforts, leaving more time to focus on what matters: the music.

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