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Do's and don'ts for tech startups

When launching a new product, these common mistakes could cost startups valuable opportunities.

By , Network World
October 23, 2013 12:12 PM ET

Network World - Last week, DEMO Fall 2013 provided more than 40 startups the opportunity to launch. For some, it may have been the first step toward massive success. Some major names in the tech industry, such as VMware, E-Trade, and Salesforce.com, began their rise to prominence with a brief pitch at a DEMO conference in the past.

However, a lot of startups make the same small mistakes when launching. 

These aren’t the kinds of mistakes that will necessarily cause a young company to fail, but rather the kinds of mistakes that just make it more difficult for a startup to get the publicity that could be so valuable early on.

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1. Don’t hide everything about your company

Many companies reserve these large startup-centric events for their debut, remaining in stealth mode right up until they get on stage and introduce themselves to the world. While that might make sense for a company with an exact launch date, keeping the press completely in the dark prior to the launch may cost a startup some opportunities for coverage.

For example, DEMO collects demonstrator information to provide to members of the press ahead of the event. It’s meant to give the press some information on the demonstrators before they launch, sometimes in order to write pre-show content on which companies seemed the most interesting.

Some companies provide little to no information on their company websites, limiting it to a splash page with a company logo and a tag promising that more information is “coming soon!” Others use vague language, which may sound good for advertisements, but doesn’t provide any hint as to what the products might do. One such company described its product as aiming to “level the playing field” in the market and “revolutionize the brand-to-consumer channel through mobile.” How exactly the product would accomplish that was never made clear.

Basically, the press can’t write about something they don’t know anything about. Some companies may want to remain in the dark until they launch, but they’ll have to understand that doing so could mean passing up free publicity.

2. Don’t use industry jargon and buzzwords

While keywords are important to get a product noticed online, a pitch that is weighed down with jargon and buzzwords will only distract from the message.

One demonstrator at DEMO simply listed buzzwords that apply to the product – “mobile-first, cloud-based,” and so on. Those terms might apply to the product, but they’re used in that same sequence so often that, in the constant stream of tech-related announcements and press releases, they start to lose meaning.

If a product is in fact mobile-first or cloud-based, a more useful way to get that point across is to explain why those aspects matter to the consumer. Explaining that “because it’s cloud-based, it has this benefit” will resonate with more people than simply rattling off buzzwords.

3. Don’t sound like an infomercial

Similarly, several demonstrators employed some phrasing in their demonstrations that seemed like it had been ripped from a late-night infomercial. After explaining a handful of a product’s features, one demonstrator said “and that’s it…but wait, there’s another thing,” before proceeding to explain another feature. Another demonstrator began the pitch by saying “our app is a…sorry, words won’t suffice. Let’s show you how it works.”

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