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Creating a start-up marketing language

The ABC's of marketing Israeli start-ups is still a work in progress, but there are a few hard-and-fast rules
Writing (Writing image via Shutterstock)
Writing (Writing image via Shutterstock)

The challenge of marketing a start-up is that it isn’t just a new product, but often a new type of product. There’s no help to be found and you’re on your own. That’s why we do it, right?

Create a New Language

The first step (after spending 2 weeks reading) is to create a new language. I start with Thesaurus.com and try different words. In another tab, I open Google Documents and paste the words and terms that I like. The goal is to describe the start-up and its main contribution and features in a way that no one has done before.

Eventually I end up with 20 or so lines of text. Now I can focus on turning words into phrases. I’m quick to come up with short one-liners and headlines (my weakness is in the long technical articles). I check them in Google, surrounded by quotation marks, to see what I’m inventing and what is overused. I organize the original ones and delete the most overused expressions.

At this point, the best thing to do is “sleep on it.” After a good cup of morning Joe, I review what I wrote. Some of them look weird after a good night sleep, others look even better.

Feature, Benefit and Dream

Now it’s time to turn the phrases into sentences and paragraphs. “Feature, benefit and dream” is a good tool. Here’s an example:


32 levels of gameplay


32 levels of gameplay so you can play for months


32 levels of gameplay so you can play for months and save the world from a killer zombie invasion!

For most start-ups — mine included — the text will be much more serious. Start off with feature, move onto benefit and hit the ball out of the park with the dream. My tendency is to focus more on the benefit and dream and I often need to write more about the core features.

90% of Your Time on Headlines

Most people don’t read past the headline, so you’d better invest most of your time on your top real estate! There are 4 basic types of headlines:

1. Self Interest – What’s in it for me? “Save time and money by …”

2. New – “The new whatever feature does this and that …”

3. Curiosity – Mix curiosity with “self interest” and “new” and you will end up with a powerful headline. This is the most common form of headline in our neverending news cycle world.

4. Quick and Easy – “This startup does this and that.” 1-2-3 and to the point.

There are many more that fit under these. Testimonials (“This is the best whatever in the world!”), command (“Don’t miss out on the ..”), how to (“Good red wine will help you think better!), discount (“50% off ..”) and of course frustrating problem (“Tired of reading obnoxious talkbacks?”).

From Headlines to a Story

Build your start-up’s marketing story from the ground up. Once you have a series of headlines and sentences, it’s time to connect the dots. The best way for me to do this is verbally. It helped me a lot when our developers at Nubo asked me, “How do I explain what we’re doing? How do I explain BYOD to my friends and family?”

I end up coming up with words and expressions that never came to mind while “thinking too much” over a text document. Try to market your start-up to a friend who isn’t into the tech scene. This forces you to rely on the benefits and dream, not only on features. Features tend to be boring.

And finally, one last out of the box tip that has helped me to market Israeli startups.

Don’t Eat What They Feed You

I never watched Seinfeld, The Sopranos or the dozens of TV shows that most people grew up on. I was too busy listening to The Who and Paul McCartney shows/demos/outtakes and exposing myself to world music and jazz. I carved my own pop culture path. Instead of regurgitating the same one-liners from TV, I’ve always made my own.

This is my way of keeping my head in an original space. Start-up marketing requires sources of inspiration. It helps to explore a bit on your own and not just go with the same stuff everyone else is exposed to.

Don’t eat everything they feed you and you’ll find yourself cooking some delicious food!

Read Start-Up Israel to keep your finger on the pulse of Israeli high-tech and innovation!

About the Author
Kenny Sahr is a startup marketing executive. His first startup, founded in 1996, was featured in Time Magazine and on 60 Minutes. Kenny moved to Israel from Miami, Florida. In his spare time, he is an avid music collector and traveler.
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