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  1. 4 Marketing Tips for Pre-Revenue Startups

    Marketing Your Ideas: A Must for Pre-Revenue Startups

    When you’re first starting a business, marketing is probably the last thing on your mind as you’re searching for investors and developing your product or service model. However, a well-kept secret is that marketing is crucial at every stage of business, even for pre-revenue startups! While you likely won’t be ready to market to consumers, preparing informational materials for investors and potential partners is still considered marketing your business idea. To help you get into his mindset, these four marketing tips can show you how to grow your startup and reach your predefined goals while in the pre-revenue stage.

    1. Be ready to present to investors!

    In today’s digital world, you never know when your product or service might be put in front of potential investors. Keeping this in mind, be sure to have informational materials detailing your business idea, structure, market analysis, and financial projections on hand to give to potential investors or partners. Make sure you have business cards printed for the founders and senior managers of your company, and have a few collateral materials printed or available virtually, like an executive summary, to detail your product or service offerings and financial projections for investors. This way, whether it’s a formal presentation, or a random encounter with a potential investor, you’re prepared to make your pitch with supporting materials.

    1. Make sure you have an informative, professional website.

    A common misconception among pre-revenue companies is that because you may not be ready to drive consumer traffic to your website yet, you don’t need to have an online presence at all during that stage. This isn’t true! Having a website can be an enormous advantage for pre-revenue startups. Having a dedicated place that potential investors, funders, employees, partners, and office space owners can go to learn more about your business provides a professional touch while also creating an easy, streamlined experience for potential stakeholders. If you’re recruiting for funding, have a page dedicated to potential investors or funding organizations with all the information they’ll be looking for, like financial projections, market analysis reports, and product or service benefits. Be sure to use your website as a place to make your business come to life – don’t just talk about your product or service. Talk about the people behind the product, the problems that it can help your target market solve, how your offerings close gaps in the current industry, and what sets you apart from your competitors. 

    1. Invest in market research.

    While sometimes costly, market research may be the most valuable information you can come across during the pre-revenue stage. Even online surveys or small focus groups may give you a clearer picture of what your customers are looking for. Tailor the questions to the information you’re looking for or how to best serve your potential audience. For example, if you’ve already identified a market for your product, talk to those audience members to determine any gaps that may exist in the current market landscape and how your product can solve these problems. You can also take this opportunity to learn more about how to reach your audience by asking how they consume media and what channels are important to them. This way, when you are ready to go to market, you’re equipped to reach potential customers effectively!

    1. Utilize free resources!

    There are plenty of free or low-cost marketing tools available to new businesses. Some popular brands include Canva for graphic design, WordPress for websites, MailChimp for email marketing, and various social media platforms for engaging with your audience. Budget for the large expenses that you can’t do yourself, or are better done by a professional, and that will create a return on investment for your company; and give free tools a try to create marketing materials. You might be a pro!

    Looking for more resources to start or grow your business? Visit unionriverinnovation.com to learn more about our programs for startups, including a business incubator program, business affiliate program, coworking spaces, free seminars, and more. 

  2. 5 Ways Business Incubator Programs Can Help Your Startup Grow

    As you develop your new company, there is no doubt that some business resources may be hard to come by. Managing your financial projections and everyday accounting (especially in the pre-revenue stage), creating a business and marketing plan, and hiring your first employees will likely take up the majority of your time as a startup founder. Tasks like booking and setting up a meeting space, finding an office or laboratory space, and planning your business growth can all be either maintained or assisted by a business incubator. Consider these five other ways business incubators can help your startup grow: 

    1. Business Coaching Services

    Business coaching sessions are often included in business incubator memberships to help entrepreneurs and business owners identify their company’s strengths and opportunities for improvement. Having a clear picture of what your business is doing well, as well as what you work on, can also give you a good idea of how competitive your business is in its market, and how it stands apart from its competitors.

    At Union River Center for Innovation, we offer monthly business coaching sessions that are customized to your business’s unique and individual needs, so you can create goals and track and build on your progress. Not only do our business coaching sessions focus on your business progress as a whole, but they are tailored to individual fields of business that you may not have experience in, like human resources, marketing, accounting, and financial analysis. While you are the expert in your field, let our business experts coach you on how you can succeed in all of the facets of business that you may be less familiar with, giving you the opportunity to grow a strong and prepared company.

    2. A Supportive Community of Entrepreneurs

    While the old saying, “you are the company you keep,” may not always be true, it reminds us to surround ourselves with the positive influences we need to keep our businesses running. Often, in business incubator programs you can find just that — positive and experienced entrepreneurial connections that can help you grow and maintain your company!

    Business incubator programs help your business thrive in a supportive, community atmosphere, where you are surrounded by like-minded entrepreneurs in similar growth stages. This gives you and your associates the opportunity to brainstorm and converse with other business owners from a variety of fields, backgrounds, and industries. You never know what great ideas they’ll come up with, and you can even do the same for them! The surrounding community of professionals may even have networking connections or business affiliations that they could connect you with. Working in close proximity to a community of businesses helping one another succeed is what makes business incubators stand out among other resources or programs!

    3. Administrative Resources

    Incubator programs often offer additional amenities and administrative resources to let entrepreneurs focus on their business growth goals. These could include reception services, printing and mailing, or others.

    This includes the Union River Center for Innovation! Leave the printing, mailing, and reception duties to us, and spend your valuable time focusing on growing your business. URCI’s business incubator program includes complementary printing, mailing, and reception services, in addition to high-speed internet access and free coffee and tea for all incubator tenants. The ability to focus on tasks like hiring team members, pursuing investors and funding, and researching and developing new products will help your business grow, especially with a small (or one-person) team!

    4. Access to Entrepreneurial Networks & Funding Connections

    Especially while your business is seeking funding or investors, you’ll want to spend time networking and building relationships both locally and regionally to expand your business’s awareness, funding, and connections. Many incubator programs are government funded or owned by private sector business developers or development companies that have access to a multitude of business and funding connections. Some incubators may even have agreements, affiliations, or programs in partnership with funding or business development organizations that can connect your company with grant applications, funding opportunities, or potential investors. Access to the entrepreneurial connections available through the vast networks of incubators and their affiliated organizations could even help you procure business partners or clients! The opportunities for positive business connections are endless.

    5. Facility Amenities & Office Space

    Business incubators are often equipped with everything you need to run your business comfortably from that facility. This includes the vital office and meeting space needed to secure investors, conduct your product development and research, meet with potential clients, and grow your team. In addition to the traditional office spaces available in most incubators, Union River Center for Innovation also offers a coworking space and an outdoor working space on the scenic Union River waterfront. URCI’s community lab space even allows entrepreneurs to continue their research and development in the same facility that they work in, meaning less travel time and less time spent managing locations.

    With so many resources, amenities, and growth programs available to emerging startups and entrepreneurs, it can be difficult to decide which are the best options for your company. If you have a collaborative spirit and a drive to grow your business, an incubator may make sense for your business!

    If your company is interested in joining a business incubator, reach out to Union River Center for Innovation today to learn more about our programs and amenities, like printing/mailing/reception services, office space, coworking space, conference room rentals, business coaching, free seminars, and more.

  3. The Importance of Building Your Company’s Brand (and How To Do It!)

    You’ve started your new company, and you’re ready to get customers through the door. Marketing brings your audience to you – letting them explore your product and service offerings and giving you the opportunity to sell them on how your business can solve their problems, make their lives easier, or even help them reach their goals.

    The first step in marketing your startup or small business is to establish a brand. Branding is the way that you present your company to the exterior world, both visually and conceptually. More than just the shape and color of your logo and the packaging of your products, branding extends into your messaging, your voice, your product offerings, and even how you make your customers feel. Establishing a strong sense of brand awareness among your audience is imperative to ensuring that your company comes to mind when the potential customer realizes that they are in the market for your product or service. 

    What is the first thing you think of when you think of Target? Probably their recognizable logo.

    What comes to mind when you’re asked about Facebook? Likely their signature blue.

    What is most recognizable about KitKats? Their memorable slogan!

    These companies all have strong brands that communicate their product offerings, as well as their values, quickly. Your brand sets you apart from your competition, and establishes your business as reputable, trustworthy, and professional. You’ll want your brand to communicate who you are as a company, while also being a quick symbol for recognition.

    1. Start early.

    When creating a new business, it’s never too early to start building and promoting your brand. Think about what elements your logo should have – what colors make sense for your business? What icons or imagery complement your products or services? What matters most to your customers and other stakeholders? Make sure these elements are reflected in your branding.

    1. Stay consistent.

    As you’re developing your brand, it’s important to create a recognizable look and feel. To do this, make sure that your logo, colors, messaging, and other elements remain consistent throughout your website, packaging, ads, social media presence, stationery, or any other elements that reflect your brand and its distinct look and feel. Using your brand consistently across platforms allows your audience to instantly recognize your brand or product, raising the probability that you are their first thought when they become in-market buyers.

    Your logo should be used wherever possible to connect any of your content to your brand, and should not be altered. Create a list of brand guidelines, which dictate how you’d like your brand to be used, the exact colors used in your logo and in other imagery, sample messages, and more. Your brand guidelines will help your brand assets remain consistent across both print and digital avenues, especially if more than one person is utilizing your brand elements or designing with them in mind. This can even be a running document that is updated often, but should always be updated any time you change your logo, colors, or other brand assets permanently in any way.

    1. Be different, distinct, and recognizable.

    Set yourself apart from your competitors! Try to create and use logos, imagery, and colors that are different than others in your market. Even if you sell the same or similar products, you’ll still want to stand out, especially to stay top of mind for your potential and current customers. Think outside the box – what symbols convey your message or services without showing a direct picture of your product? Consider the industry you’re in, and how you help your customers. With a few brainstorming sessions, you can create a unique brand that is distinct from the rest of the market!

    Establishing a strong and consistent brand will help your business stand out from the competition, remain top of mind for your audience, and can even establish trustworthiness in your products and services. Remember to start thinking about creating your brand as soon as you’re able, remain consistent wherever your brand is used, and create a recognizable brand that can’t get confused with other companies in your industry.

    Need more information about running a startup or small business in Maine? Contact the Union River Center for Innovation today, where we’ll connect you with local business resources like our business incubator program or business affiliate program, coworking spaces, conference room rentals, and more!