Things You Should Know Before Going Global with Your Startup

Targeting international markets with your startup can be a highly rewarding activity if done right. However, it can also present legal, financial, and cultural challenges. Every expansion into a new national or regional market comes with its own set of considerations.

For the global operations of your startup to be profitable, research and planning are paramount. In addition to knowing in advance how to manage currency exchange fluctuations, payment systems, and taxes, you must also develop a deep knowledge of the cultural values and traditions of the countries you want to do business in.

Let's explore six key things you should know on how to go global with your startup.

#1 Researching Local Markets

Using a standardized approach for every market you operate in is one of the major mistakes in international management. What works in one national (or even regional) market may not work or even be counter-productive in another.

You should carefully assess whether your product or service is viable in the new market and what is the best way to promote it and engage your target audience. In the new country, your product or service may appeal to different demographics or lifestyle communities. Sometimes, you may have to change the market segment you are going to target.

Analyzing the current and potential competitors is also crucial to determine whether you can successfully create a competitive advantage in that market, which is a prerequisite for medium and long-term profitability.

#2 Understanding Laws and Trade Regulations

First of all, you should determine what type of investment you are going to make in the target country. Are you going to open up production facilities and service points, or will you simply export your products from your origin country?

In the first case, you will probably have to create a new legal entity to operate and abide by the commercial, business, and tax laws of that country. These regulations may significantly differ from the ones you're used to, so consulting with legal and tax professionals is usually highly recommended. Some countries have no restrictions on foreign investments, while others may set some limitations.

If you don't plan to have your production facilities in the new country, you should also consider export and income regulations and whatever commercial agreement exists between your origin country and the target market. These regulations are there to ensure that competition is fair and that both businesses and consumers are protected from unfair practices.

Studying the legal framework of the target country in advance is highly recommended and can prevent you from finding yourself in difficult scenarios, which may also end up weighing on your organization's finances.

As a startup owner or manager, you should also be aware of the biggest legal risks in the new market. Failing to comply with local laws can result in fines and, depending on the severity of the violation, even criminal proceedings.

#3 Developing a Global Strategy

A global strategy is a plan that outlines how your startup is going to compete in the global market. It should include plans for your business operations on an international scale, ranging from production to marketing, to pricing, to distribution, to customer relationships. While it's essential to define local strategies and tactics to operate in specific national markets, they should still be coordinated to ensure consistency and synergy across markets as a whole.

For example, higher prices on basic products in a particular emerging market may be compensated by premium prices on augmented products in a more developed national market. Having the proper coordination ensures the business as a whole is profitable and sustainable.

Startups should also consider the advantages of globalizing production and service delivery, including economies of scale in manufacturing, cost savings from shared services, standardization of processes, and access to large international pools of talent.

#4 Considering Language Barriers

While linguistic diversity is a great cultural asset for our planet, it can represent an obstacle for businesses. According to data provided by Ethnologue, there are currently 7,151 languages spoken in the world today. The challenges in operating in markets where different languages are spoken can be felt when communicating with suppliers, defining the right promotional strategies, and providing quality customer service.

One way to deal with language barriers is to either hire bilingual employees or hire native speakers for each country in which the country is going to operate. This solution may be the best when you're planning a significant investment in the target country and want to set up an almost autonomous organizational structure in that market.

However, this is a less feasible option when operating from your origin country and exporting your products or services worldwide. In this case, contracting a translation and localization agency is the best call. Professional and experienced agencies like Circle Translations can ensure that whatever textual, vocal, visual, and emotional piece of content is not only perfectly understandable by your target audience but it's also converted in a way that feels local to local customers and suppliers. These agencies are used to operating in multiple industries and can typically provide their services to companies operating in areas as different as information technology, finance, food, tourism, and fashion.

#5 Prepare for Cultural Differences

Awareness of your target countries' social and cultural aspects is another crucial component on how to globalize your startup. It can help ensure successful business operations and positive relationships with customers, suppliers, investors, institutions, and other stakeholders.

Before venturing into a new country, you should make an effort to learn about the local customs and etiquette, which includes which behaviors are considered appropriate in the country you are entering and what are acceptable forms of communication.

Behaviors considered friendly and pleasant in your origin country may be perceived as disrespectful in the target nation, if not offensive.

You should also learn about the local business culture. This includes finding out about acceptable business etiquette, such as how people address each other, what is the standard practice for closing deals, and what's the most effective way of networking.

#6 Identifying Helpful Technologies

Technological advancements have been very beneficial for businesses of all size, from startups to major corporations.

One example is CRM (Customer Relationship Management). This system helps you keep track of your clients and prospects from all over the planet and manage communications with them. This can make serving international customers both easier and cheaper as well effective.

Another example is e-commerce software. Decades ago, it was unthinkable for somebody in Japan to buy a product in the Netherlands in two minutes using a computer. Today, even small entrepreneurs with a limited budget set up their online stores and reach potential clients on the other side of the planet. Moreover, analytics tools allow businesses to understand their customers better and improve their marketing strategies and tactics accordingly.

Other examples of technologies and digital solutions that can help you implement an international business strategy are social media, cloud computing, international payment solutions, and marketing automation tools.

Startups tend to have limited budgets compared to established big companies and leveraging the full potential of technological advancements can help them keep the costs down while still remaining fully competitive.

Tips to Start Building a Digital Network as a Startup Founder

9 of 10 startups fail – that is what you hear at the beginning of your startup journey from the speakers in pretty much all events for fresh startups. You might start wondering - which pedal to accelerate to succeed and become The One? Mentor at TechHub startup pre-accelerator, organized by the Innovation Agency Lithuania Aurelija Šilinskaitė shares why building a network can be crucial to your startup and how to start doing it.

Your story is important to investors

Here is the ugly truth - nobody will help you if you persistently keep your idea in your heart like a child and won’t listen to people who try to help you improve your value proposition. Crucial advice before you start your brand communication - check your idea, valide it with real people, attend at least one acceleration program. This will help you realize your idea has a potential or you will find out it’s not so unique. If the second scenario happens, don’t worry. Find another one and validate again. 

Start communicating

There are many channels in digital space that can help you find new partners, maybe future employees, or future startup investors. Why future? 

Because the are many chances that you will fail the first time. But the next or second time could be successful and the experience you had the first time might affect the decision to invest in your startup. Investors love the experienced and brave founders, that learned from their mistakes and are ready to rock the world. That is why building a network, especially on social media, is so important when you are in the beginning of your startup journey.

Tips for creating a network on social media:

  1. Your branding. Before people know that you are creating something, they must know about you. Get professional training about branding on Linkedin or Google, the main tips & tricks. Headline, intro about what you do and your experience, recommendations are key parts of building a successful profile.
  2. Think about the goals. What do you want to achieve? Find a co-founder, attract the attention of investors, or build a list of your product promoters? Act accordingly to your goals, write a story about what you have accomplished or what you are looking for. Remember that every message you create on social media must have a goal. Try to get attention in the first paragraph.
  3. Decide which strategy is suitable for you - hunting or fishing? Hunting strategy explains how to chase the concrete people. Fishing can lead you to the fortunate success. I recommend using both. Make a list of people that you want to pitch to or attract their attention, then think about the physical or digital channels in which you can find them. 
  4. Attend events, physical ones. Get to know the people. Make connections. 
  5. Put those people into a list of your Linkedin connections. The same rule applies if you met people in the digital space (webinars, lives, etc).
  6. Write a message with the invitation to connect. 
  7. Create meaningful content in your Linkedin account. Tell your brand story, your journey, and what you have achieved. You don't have to wait till you build an MVP to start communication. Your idea might change during the development of the startup, and if you wait, the perfect time will not come.
  8. Invite people who you have in your personal Linkedin account to like your Linkedin business page. Be sure, that it is alive and - post a message there at least once a week.
  9. Tell real stories - this is what people want to hear. Remember that social networks were built to create relationships, not to text about your product or solution.
  10. Browse the successful brands. Do not copy them, learn the technics. It may affect the organic reach of your post. 

Building a network is a long journey, so if you start when having an actual MVP, you may fail because it might be too late. You can miss many chances – to find partners, investors, co-founders, and more. But if you are „everywhere“- you can learn fishing. Moreover - there is nothing to lose. You will learn how the social networks work, raise your personal brand. 

The project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund. No: 01.2.1-LVPA-V-842 “Inogeb LT”





5 Golden Questions That Will Keep Your Customers Obsessed

How can you know for certain where your customers first hear about your brand? How do you gain insights into your customers’ pain points? How do you find out which other brand your customers are considering? How about you try asking them?

That’s what Zyro website builder decided to do. The startup offshoot of hosting provider Hostinger devised 5 Golden Questions that deliver actionable insights into their customers’ buying decisions. After signup, each user is sent a questionnaire consisting of 5 questions. Each of these questions is designed to elicit informative responses about how the company builds and markets its product.

By finding out what made customers choose a particular product, the team is able to quickly adopt changes that make the brand more appealing. This model is universal for any business that wants to stay sharp and know what their customers need.

Let’s see what those 5 questions are:

1.  Where exactly did you first find out about us?   

Marketing teams around the world tie themselves in knots trying to find out where their customers discover their brand.

Which messages are working? Where should more investment be made? Which channels are dead weight? All these questions help hone and streamline a company’s marketing mix.

However, this isn’t just about cost and convenience. This is about serving their users from the moment they first hear the brand’s name. Clear attribution of marketing leads allows to tailor the focus to where its real potential customers are.

2.  Please list the top three things that persuaded you to use us rather than a competitor

This may sound like asking for praise, but what this question translates to is “please, tell us what’s working.”

Understanding what is working is almost as important as understanding what’s not working. Confirming that certain bets have paid off should inform all the choices you make in the future.

For example, Zyro devised its original messaging based on what it thought customers would care about. It effectively guessed which features to promote.

How can you ever hone that messaging to be more relevant to what your customers really want without data about what convinced them to purchase in the first place?

3.  Which other options did you consider?

More competitor research comes in the form of question 3. All companies should have an idea of the main competitors within their space. However, understanding in granular detail which are those brands closest to one’s own helps you compare and contrast in the most helpful way.

This question is all about finding out exactly what a competitor is offering that is catching your customers’ attention.

Not only does this allow to make its messaging more distinct and unique, but it also offers the company the chance to determine which features it may need to adopt in the future.

4.  What's the one thing that nearly stopped you buying from us?

If question 2 is about what a business is doing right, question 4 is about what it’s doing wrong.

It’s never comfortable hearing criticism, but criticism is an essential element of growth. Asking your customers where you need to improve is often the only way that glaring errors get addressed within a company.

Customer obsession is about putting yourself in the mind of the customer and finding their pain points. It’s about constantly striving to do better.

Learn from your errors. Be open to criticism.

5.  What was your biggest challenge, frustration or problem in finding the right website builder?

This final Golden Question is another way of asking “What is it you’re REALLY looking for in a website builder?” It offers the opportunity for users to be totally transparent about the features they need which current website builder might not yet provide.

It’s not just about guiding product updates, either. Imagine website builder already features functionality that users are looking for but isn’t actively promoting it in its marketing materials. Knowing this allows the team to adjust its messaging to reflect users’ desires.

From product to promotion, customer obsession runs deep.

5 Sales and Marketing Tips for Early Stage Startups

Knowing how to sell is definitely one of the most important startup skills needed to attract both first customers and investors. However, according to Monika Holland, business advisor and “TechHub” pre-accelerator mentor at the Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology (MITA), startup founders rarely have Sales and Marketing background, so they frequently face significant challenges in developing a startup.

“As we all know, when it comes to go-to-market, timing is everything. It is great if founders attract a Co-Founder with commercial experience who believes in their mission and shares their vision early on. Otherwise, I would strongly suggest to seek external help from Sales & Marketing professionals in order to reduce business risk, gain traction early on, shorten time to market and lift off at the right time with the right customers and investors on board”,– says M. Holland.

However, according to the mentor, not having a person experienced in sales might be fine early on if the founders are guided by external professionals in this field who help them lay the foundation for Sales and Marketing Strategies. There are specific steps to be completed by Founders with any background before they can start selling the product.

Obsess with the problem, not with the solution

“42 percent of startups fail due to lack of market need. This means that the founders obsessed with the solution to the problem they thought was crucial to be solved for a lot of people and went all in on building out the solution before finding product-market fit”,– says M. Holland. According to her, to have an in-depth understanding of the problem your solution intends to solve is one of the core steps that has to be completed when creating a startup and if done wrong, might be almost impossible to fix later on.

Validate the market before building the product

“The problem you are solving would ideally be affecting a lot of people, would be a growing problem, hopefully, urgent to be solved, expensive if not solved, perhaps mandatory to be solved by new legislation; or at least falls under a couple of these conditions. If that is not the case, achieving product-market fit might be more challenging than you thought. You can only understand this early in the journey by talking to your potential customers early and often with the aim of understanding the problem in-depth“,– says the mentor.

As she points out, the most advisable way to validate the product in the market is to solve the problem manually or by building a simple MVP (Minimal Viable Product) before building the product itself. This is the best way to reduce risk and give your idea a chance to become a profitable business.

Define your ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) clearly and redefine it often

It is necessary to fully understand who your customers are, says M. Holland: “How are they solving the problem today? Are they aware they have a problem? Are they willing to solve it and why would they solve it with your solution? Fall in love with your customer. You will have to deal with them for the entire existence of your business. It is also crucial to understand that defining your ICP is not a one-time event, it is a process. This is a common misconception.“

Define and communicate your value proposition to your ideal customer

“Fully understand how their lives would change after they solved the problem they have with your proposed solution. How big is the impact? Measure the impact. Learn to talk about the problem the way your potential buyers would. Spend time to understand how your potential buyers would go about educating themselves and eventually purchasing your solution so you can wrap your internal Sales & Marketing strategies and processes around the buyer's journey.“

Have a plan on when and how you will become profitable

“You will have to adjust the plan multiple times before you do become profitable, however having a plan will make all the difference. Your plan will be the North Star in the chaos and ambiguity that you will have to deal with as a Founder in the startup journey.  If you are missing the right expertise in-house within the starting founder’s team, seek external help early in the journey. You will thank me later“,– says M. Holland.

The 7 Principles of B2B Sales Professionals

The following manifesto outlines my answers to the question: “How do you recognize great salespeople?”

Although I’ve been working with B2B sales for the past 10 years and genuinely find this area fascinating, I’m still dumbfounded every time I hear the misconstrued, negative clichés about sales professionals -- and let me tell you, they can come from both young talents and senior executives. Salespeople are often put in the same bucket as tricky, sneaky con artists who just want to get your money. And that’s plainly wrong.

I wrote this manifesto to share the values that drive my approach to B2B sales. I trust many fellow sales leaders from various industries, who strive to operate by a similar code of conduct, will share these views that guide me in delivering the highest value to my customers on a daily basis.

I will call this manifesto the 7 principles of B2B sales professionals:


The best salespeople have one thing in common -- they don’t talk much about themselves and excel at listening. They do their homework and prepare their questions. Great salespeople don’t need to explain their questions; they understand that silence can be one of the most powerful tools available to them and know when to shut up.  


Great salespeople have deep empathy for their prospects; searching for ways to solve their prospects’ problems is what keeps them up at night. They don’t seek to build relationships for the sake of it, relationships happen to them naturally because they make their client’s life easier.


Great salespeople don’t celebrate when they close deals, they celebrate when they deliver value to their customers because they always think win-win. Very often, delivering on your promises  means you work during the weekends or clock long office hours because you care about honoring your words. And finally, great salespeople don’t believe in quick wins, they know how toxic they are for the business.


Great salespeople will never think they are higher than their prospects and they will understand when to walk away and leave the door open for feedback. They don’t take rejections personally and want to learn from their mistakes.


Great salespeople understand that sales is a number game and to deliver consistent results they need to turn their daily routine into a disciplined execution. They systemize their repeatable tasks and organise their days to focus on what brings most value to their pipeline vs. their target. Great salespeople don’t believe in excuses, they’re persistent because they believe in facts.


Great salespeople are curious by nature. They like to challenge their prospects to promote new ways of solving existing problems, but they will also constantly look for ways to improve their own sales processes and become more efficient.


Great salespeople are on the edge of technology, they understand the difference between workflows and tools and know how to leverage the data from a sales funnel to repeat their success and scale their sales efforts.

Thanks Jean-Baptiste Daguené for sharing this with startups’ community!

Jean-Baptiste Daguené: 9 Sales Tips for Early Stage B2B Startups

When you run a startup, you don't have to focus only on product development - it is necessary to think over your sales strategy too. In this article Jean-Baptiste (JB) Daguené, Partner of 70 Ventures shares 9 basic sales tips for early-stage startups.  

1 - Sell your vision, not your product

There is nothing more boring than a features-oriented sales pitch. Just stick to the Lean startup basics and remember that your MVP is just your interpretation of your vision. At the end of the day, your clients will help you to shape your product while you are lifting up your vision. Simon Sinek puts it well in 1 sentence in his TED talk: “People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it.”

2 - Always set low expectations

This point is critical if you don’t want to deal with unhappy clients and eventually, spend most of your time doing support - simply because you wanted to close leads without setting the right expectations upfront. If you’re a B2B SaaS startup, you most likely offer a free trial or a pilot project before they’re ready to buy into your vision with a yearly contract. There’s one big “but” here, though: the Free Trial or Pilot extra step is actually increasing your sales cycle and can become very distracting if you don’t set the right goals upfront. Bottom line, even if your clients buy your vision, remember that they still expect to achieve results with your product. By setting low expectations, you’re giving yourself more wiggle room to reach and exceed them. If you are unable to reach the expectations they have, then update your CRM accordingly (prior to the trial/pilot) and ensure you hit them once your product has evolved.

3 - Don’t forget to shut-up

Here we are, you finally succeeded to reach a potential client and have this amazing opportunity to talk about your vision. Everyone loves to talk about themselves, and so do you… But guess what, most probably your clients like it too. Start with a very simple, yet challenging exercise and try to pitch your vision in 7 words or less. Remember that the aim of your elevator pitch is to make your prospect curious. Afterwards, you should have a list of qualifying and discovery questions to immediately determine if your client matches your Ideal Customer Profile (see this ICP template with eg here). Once you understand better what your client’s KPIs are, your questions should be challenging and pain-oriented to place your product as the painkiller.

4 - Never down-sell competition

Competition is great. It confirms that your idea wasn't so ludicrous after all and that there is a market for your vision. Competition will also put pressure on the product team to always be open to client feedback and constantly innovate with new features. However, I see many startup founders and sales people becoming very emotional once we start talking about competition. Just keep in mind that your client might already have a trustworthy relationship or have a good opinion about your competitors. By trying to down-sell them, the only message you communicate is fear. I remember when I was working at Trustpilot, 50% of our inbound leads used to come in right after talking to one of our competitors, who was constantly down-selling us. We were very good at closing those leads.

5 - You don't need a marketing budget

I hear this one too often: "Sales are not picking up as we don't have any marketing budget". Excuse my French, but this is a very lame, full of sh*@! excuse. When you are an early stage startup, your main goal is to get a product-market fit. The only budget you should have is for VOIP phone service provider and be on the phone (at least) 50% of your time - talking to prospects and clients. There is no gratitude in outbound sales; it's tough and very time-consuming, but there is no other way to get the feedback you need from your potential clients.

6 - It's (very) OK to copy others

Seriously, I think our generation is blessed. Our job is a ton easier since we have the Internet. You don't need to spend countless hours designing a landing page or a pricing page, as you have plenty of examples and templates available out there. And let’s be honest,most of your visits are from your team and your Mum anyway. You can also follow plenty of rockstar blogs (Yesware, Pipetop, Datanize,, Nick Persico, Predictable Revenue)  that share great cold email templates, which you can tweak for your email outreach campaigns and follow-ups.  So, please, use and abuse all of these resources.

7 - Get ready for your new job

This point can be a rather sensitive spot for many startup founders and early stage sales employees. The truth is, you did an amazing job when the company needed to get the first clients on-board and confirm the product-market fit, etc. Now you need to setup commission plan based on sales targets and hire/manage sales reps who can work with the support team and, whether you like it or not, this is a completely new story. You (or the sales guy in your team) need to be ready to step-up at any moment to make sure you constantly have the best talent in your team!

8 - Understand your sales funnel

All too often startups work very hard but forget to measure what they do. So, when you ask the founders how they did what they did, they typically say something along the lines of: "We worked very hard and then something happened". And  when asked if they know how to repeat their success, they most commonly say they are going to work very hard again. There is nothing wrong with working hard; but in order to be able to to repeat your success, you need to understand your sales funnel and have as many data points from your ICP in the CRM as possible. So when you do your sales report and look at the bottom of the funnel, you can see what type of clients are moving down and add more of these leads to the top of the funnel!

9 - Systemize repeatable tasks

The rule is simple - if you do something more than twice, systemize it. For example, as soon as you start moving your leads down in the sales funnel, you will need a call summary, different offers and follow-up emails. You can create templates for all of them and systemize these steps. I highly recommend to use tools like Yesware for this, as you can also measure the reply rate and share those templates with your team.

Thanks Jean-Baptiste Daguené for sharing these sales tips with startups' community!

Ilma Nausėdaitė: Inbound Marketing for Startups (VIDEO)

Not too long along, Startup Lithuania ran a seminar on inbound marketing with Ilma Nausėdaitė, CMO at MailerLite, among the speakers.

Ilma spoke about creative inbound tactics that MailerLite uses to compete with huge corporations like Constant Contact and Mailchimp. 

Ilma used some of the material from our seminar for another presentation and for a video she recorded and shared with our readers. So if you could not make it to the event, you’ll find many of Ilma’s examples and pieces of advice in this video!

Thank you Ilma!

The Power of International PR for Startups

Public relations is a lot more multifaceted than most startup founders realise. PR not only helps your startup stand out from your competitors in an always buzzing market. PR is the practice of building your reputation and shaping a public image. Mastering the art of representing yourself correctly will go a long way in attracting attention and making your voice heard.

Julija (JJ) Jegorova, a trained journalist who has been working in international PR for the past decade shared her thoughts on the topic of startup PR at one of Startup Fair 2020’s online sessions. Here, she went over the most important things to pay attention to in order to properly harness the power of PR, as well as outlining some of the most common mistakes and challenges that startups face along the way.

According to Julija, PR builds your reputation, molds your public image, and makes you stand out from your competitors. 

According to Julija, PR offers many benefits often overlooked by startups. And there are a lot of things startups can do themselves early on to be successful with international media outlets. The issue is that new startups tend to lack marketing expertise. Especially for startups coming out of smaller markets like Lithuania, international experience might be lacking, and the temptation might be to resort to PR tactics that work at home, without a strategy that contemplates their actual target audiences. By definition, startups are businesses with a strong emphasis on scalability, meaning that for startups in small countries the audience will necessarily be international.

Sometimes, public relations is confused with advertising but it’s not the same. You can buy an ad, but you can’t buy a reputation. Edelman’s trust report 2019 gives us some interesting insights: 67% of people say: “A good reputation may get me a product, but unless I come to trust the company behind the products, I will soon stop buying it”. And 3 in 4 people (74%) avoid advertising by using ad-blocks, changing media habits and/or paying for streaming services.

Julija defines PR as building your reputation through activities such as media relations, investor relations, thought leadership, crisis management, events and speaking engagements as well as creative stunts. It’s all about enhancing and protecting your reputation. But it’s important to understand that not all PR is necessarily good PR. How to distinguish it from the bad one? Good PR:

  • Starts with a strategy that ties into the overall business and marketing strategies.
  • Being proactive in creating and sharing new stories, not just business milestones.
  • Always timely and relevant
  • Properly tending to your press office – try not to lose media opportunities.
  • Saying “no” is an integral part of the job.

And bad PR means:

  • No plan, no strategy, no purpose
  • Selling the product and not the story
  • Poor timing
  • Neglecting research – reaching out to random journalists

Julija notices that many startups in the Baltics use newswires in the wrong way. They become content with their releases simply being copied into the press wire section of well-known publications. The bad news is that it has no impact. Why? Anyone can pay to have their press release on a wire, that is not an actual PR achievement. Wires are generally used by larger, mature companies for stories that will have a wider appeal. For startups, this is lazy work that almost never pays off. It’s important for startups to know how to communicate with journalists. It will be clear to most sophisticated readers, such as investors, that it’s not a real editorial piece.

During the session, Julija emphasised that local Lithuanian news will rarely go international. Why? The local media news is limited in terms of stories, meaning there is less competition for a story to make it to publications. Also, home-grown success makes it easier to be featured in the local news. Internationally we see a lot more outlets but even more startups with stories to compete with. You need to understand newsworthiness, and what will be newsworthy for a given journalist or publication. It might be that you don’t actually have a story. 

Having first devised a marketing strategy, once you’ve considered and defined your PR goals you can start thinking of more specific actions. So, what are the things you can do without spending a lot of money? Julija gives a number of suggestions:

  • Try to always understand what is really important to say, the timing of your story, the impact you are making on customers or others, and whether you are geographically relevant.
  • A press kit is a PR essential. What is it? It’s made up of the company backgrounder (1-2 pages), founders’ biographies and short editions of these that can be used for different purposes. How should it look like? Straightforward and compact. It should also include high quality photographs. It should be easy to understand the origin and the ambitions of the company.
  • You would also do well to include a press page on your website. It’s a page where journalists can find information relevant to them, because typically they look for different information, packaged in a different way than consumers or customers.

So, you have the PR kit, press page and newsworthiness. What is next? Here are some tips on kick-starting media relations:

  • Don’t promise something you cannot deliver
  • Some journalists prefer direct contact with the Founder, CEO or executive. That’s OK. Facilitate introductions
  • Not doing basic research means pitches can be irrelevant. Journalists hate irrelevant pitches
  • Encourage the CEO and other executives to develop relationships with journalists
  • Choose the best medium to pitch: 94% of journalists prefer being pitched via email, 22%-Twitter. Do your research
  • Timing is key: 55% of journalists prefer to be pitched in the late morning 9AM-12PM

Julija notes that sometimes startups can get carried away and proceed in a way that is not the most productive. These are the main mistakes done in PR:

  • Underestimating the power of traditional media
  • Poor timing and expecting miracles
  • Lying and overpromising to the media and your audience
  • Overcomplicating the language and the message

Startups might not become PR experts overnight, and it’s very possible some mistakes will get done in the beginning. But let’s remember the old saying “practice makes it perfect” and let’s keep going!


Tips From jobRely: Best Practices For Reaching Key Players In a Digital World

After the development of an MVP, every startup wants to scale. It means getting traction, attracting employees, and most often raising investment in order to fuel the first two. This article offers some advice on how to do that with the help of LinkedIn and email automation.

Why LinkedIn and email?

Before we go any further, why not LinkedIn or email? Since we are speaking about cold outreach, communication via LinkedIn messaging has certain advantages over email. First, you can check quickly who is writing by taking a look at the sender’s profile (hence the importance of polishing your LinkedIn page). If the message is coming from a Founder/CEO, people will be more likely to respond, even if negatively. Second, LinkedIn inbox tends to be cleaner, because it lacks newsletter subscriptions, intra-company chatter, and whatever else that clogs your corporate inbox. Third, LinkedIn InMails arrive not only on LinkedIn’s own messaging platform but on email inbox too. This is why we notice higher response rates to outreach via LinkedIn messaging in regards to job offers, investor pitches, and sales proposals.

However, there are disadvantages too. LinkedIn is less regularly used than email (40% of users visit the site daily, but average usage is only 17 minutes a month). Therefore, to maximize the response rates to your outreach campaigns, we recommend to start your communication sequences on LinkedIn and then jump to email for a final push.

Why automation?

To find an employee that you like and who is keen to jump ship using a direct approach via LinkedIn and email you will need to reach out to a few hundred people (provided everyone on the contact list is someone you are interested to talk to). To find investors and new clients, you may have to source and write to thousands of recipients. Considering that a campaign includes 4 touches to solicit a response (LinkedIn connect request, a follow-up message, InMail, and email), you are looking at a huge number of messages to be sent out to. When you add to that response management and keeping track of different threads and follow-ups, it’s easy to see that this is a task that requires some form of automation.

There are a plethora of email marketing platforms and LinkedIn automation tools. However, those that integrate these two channels into seamless campaigning across both are rare. Most such tools have a learning curve and have to be set up, maintained, and trouble-shooted, therefore don’t expect that automation is a holy grail that works with a push of a button. It is thus prudent to consider using such tools yourself or outsourcing to someone who can deliver results. 

Finding employees using LinkedIn and email automation

Finding employees and reaching out to them using LinkedIn and email automation begins with sourcing. There are many specialized platforms on the internet dedicated to engineers, doctors, and other professionals, but let’s consider LinkedIn, which is the most ubiquitous. Even with a paid account of LinkedIn Recruiter or similar, sourcing a few hundred profiles that fit who you are looking for is a task that is only deceptively easy. You would think that filtering by geography, title, seniority, and some keywords will produce you a contact list. It will, but don’t expect that more than 1 in 10 profiles will be a hit (sometimes you will browse a hundred profiles to find one which is worthy to be included in the campaign). It’s not that LinkedIn’s filters don’t work (although sometimes you wonder why a certain profile was included in the search results); it’s just that experience and skills — the two main criteria — are not sufficiently defined by the number of years and keywords alone. You want to evaluate the caliber of previous employers, the scope of responsibilities behind the titles, the depth of skills acquired based on projects and achievements undertaken, and the general progression of the career. A seasoned human eye can make these subtle calculations, but a filtering algorithm cannot (at least not yet). For a more in-depth discussion on finding employees using LinkedIn and email automation, read the blog.

Finding investors using LinkedIn and email automation

Sourcing investors is easier than sourcing employees. Say, if your startup is in digital health, it is not very hard to obtain a list of angels who previously invested in this space - you can start on Crunchbase and/or AngelList, apply a few filters, and voila. But going after them with a direct approach will yield a lower response rate than going after employees. To get on a call with an investor it may take reaching out to a 100. And you might need 10 calls to land 1 who is willing to open the purse. Even if you use automation tools to reach out to so many, you will need much more time to manage all responses. The first question from an investor replying to a campaign message is usually “send me a pitch deck” (therefore, have one ready). You may also be asked about traction, burn rates, product stage and other questions before the call is arranged. However, when you finally get to speak to an investor, he/she already knows about you and his/her willingness to talk more means that you have a genuine opportunity to close. For a more in-depth discussion on finding investors using LinkedIn and email automation and various strategies worth trying, read the blog.

Finding new clients using LinkedIn and email automation

Not all products and services are worth pitching using LinkedIn and email automation. There are three constraints to consider before engaging this method: reach, price and bandwidth.

You can reach about 2000 contacts per month using one LinkedIn and email account, because LinkedIn limits about 100 messages per day and excessive email use may flag your messages as spam. Therefore, if your product is B2C, you might want a wider reach and opt-in, which can be provided by advertising.

Lead generation via direct LinkedIn and email approach is not cheap. It’s not easy to put a concrete number as it varies case by case, but it’s definitely in the tens of dollars and perhaps up to a few hundred per lead. If your product is low value (e.g. low monthly fee) and customer lifetime value is below $1000, this method might be too expensive.

Last but not least is bandwidth constraint. Some products can be pitched in two-three sentences; others are not that easily explained without interaction. The rule-of-thumb is that LinkedIn and email automation is a viable channel when you are able to zoom in on a very specific pain that your target currently experiences and you have a solution which is somehow unique. To make sure that your message is going across the bandwidth constraint A/B testing of messages is strongly advised. We’ve seen many campaigns that start with almost no leads for a month and then gradually produce results as messages get refined and target segments become more granular. 

Using LinkedIn and email automation for finding employees, clients and investors is probably the quickest and cheapest way to hire, sell and raise. LinkedIn yields better response rates than email, but using both seamlessly is even better. Automation is clearly required for outreach campaigns with hundreds or thousands of recipients, however, it's not holy grail as significant manual work is required for pre-campaign tasks (sourcing) and post-campaign tasks (response management). There are different key success factors for hiring, selling and raising using LinkedIn and email automation, but to name one for each: for finding employees - sourcing; for finding investors - response management; for finding new clients - A/B testing of messages.


The article is written by Indre Kaikare, Founder & CEO of jobRely.

3 Biggest PR Mistakes Startups Make

A general observation we see when it comes to startups expanding abroad is that they are missing a person with experience and expertise on how to carry out marketing internationally.

In general, startups are founded by two co-founders, one of them with a sales profile, typically the CEO, focused on overseeing the startup generally and raising investment, and the other a technical person, a CTO focused on creating and perfecting a product to make sure it adds value for its target market. Unfortunately, the CMO, who can be a vital connection to the startup’s target audiences, and the maestro of the orchestra that is marketing, is often missing.

There is a number of common issues with how they approach PR: 

MISTAKE #1: Lack of strategy or plan for PR and communications

Marketing and PR are often left until the last minute. At that moment, the founders also realise the startup has limited marketing expertise in the team, and need to quickly find a solution because they want to go to the media. Startups tend to have a business strategy in place, but will leave out marketing. Many think that users will flow in and that their reputation will be crafted in the way they want by default, and miss out on shaping their own image.

Lack of awareness of how the media works, and the meaning of newsworthiness, is also an issue. Startups won’t land placements in publications such as the BBC, TechCrunch or The New York Times “just because”, it doesn’t work like that. Unfortunately, there is a misconception that PR is about blasting a press release to as many journalists as possible and seeing what sticks. And the reality couldn’t be further from that. The startups with the best PR results are those that are able to forge a solid reputation not only in front of sophisticated venture investors, industry peers and future employees, but also, importantly, journalists themselves. A startup wishing to achieve a certain reputation and awareness in relevant public conversations cannot simply rely on blasting press releases every now and then. They need to invest in real, interpersonal relations with key journalists.

The lack of awareness of how PR works also mean startups often underestimate the time needed to build the foundations of the company’s press-friendliness and prepare to reach out to the media in a meaningful way. 

Another common misconception is that some startups believe PR agencies will land them placements because they know journalists. Journalists are professionals who will do their due diligence about a startup before reporting about them or including them in a story. After all, startups are companies without previous validation. Therefore, as part of the first steps in the media, PR teams should take steps to maximise press-friendliness. This means startups should have everything about them that can be accessed publicly presented in a way that will seem favourable and tick the boxes of what the potential journalists are looking for. And of course, the stories to go out to the media need to be newsworthy.

Before doing any media outreach, you should have a clear strategy and be very specific about two things. First, who you are targeting, and secondly, what problem you are trying to solve. Some of the things to keep in mind:

Who is your competition? This might seem to be an easy question to ask, but it will help to know them “inside-out”: by the end of the day you will be compared and you want to make sure that what you do is done better or in a way that stands out more.

Who is your ideal customer? Imagine your ideal customer and develop their persona: what they are like, what they do, where they work, what they read – the latter will help you to decide on what publications to target (you might be surprised that the BBC or the Financial Times might not be your first choice, but that instead, it’s a better idea to look into more niche media outlets).

Awareness / Acceptance / Action – these are the main objectives you should strive for, but for each startup, the importance of each might differ, so make sure that you and your team know what you are striving for: it might also be that other marketing tools, such as social media advertising, are more adept for certain objectives.

MISTAKE #2: Not having a press kit and a press page

Journalists – like your customers – have their own “customer journey”. This leads us to one of the most common mistakes startups make: not having a press kit and a press page, which make the job easier for journalists. They are under immense pressure to produce good quality news pieces and are extremely limited for time. These items will help you to communicate directly with journalists and will save both your and their time when landing those desired news pieces. For some journalists, making it too complicated to find the right contact, or having to wait too long for a text, can be a dealbreaker.

Your press kit should consist of:

A company backgrounder. Should be straightforward, factual, but exciting to read and written in a media-friendly tone.

A founder bio. Should give the whole story in short about the person (or people) behind the company, what is his/her vision and where is he/she headed with the business.

High-quality images and professional photography. Do not underestimate the power of good quality imagery. It’s definitely worth investing in! These should tell your story and subtly showcase your product and brand. You should have photographs of the team and founders.

Having a press room/media center on your website will – in the future – help you with getting more attention by making sure journalists go to the right place, are aware of the right things and contact the right person. Journalists might not want to get in touch with an info@ email address, but a press@ will give the impression that you can attend to their needs and answer in a timely fashion. Besides having a downloadable press kit, always add media logos and links where you landed news pieces. It should also have your press releases and, most importantly, correct and relevant contact details.

MISTAKE #3: Thinking you can buy news articles (spoiler alert: you can’t)

This is a common thought among those who are new to the world of media and PR, especially in some countries newer to the startup game. “Why can’t we just pay a journalist to write about us what we want?” is a question that I’ve heard in my career one too many times. Unfortunately, a lot of people think that you can simply buy articles (and journalists!) in top publications (without specifying that it was “sponsored” or “paid by”, which are advertorials, not articles). 

It is worth noting that reputable media outlets such as The Financial Times and journalists cannot be bought as their reputation will be at stake. They will also not simply re-print your press release. Journalists forge their own reputations by producing quality articles. You can use the money to help build an image in other ways, but at some point, you will need third-party validation and a certain public perception that will demand real credibility. This will come from merit.

Another common mistake that goes with it is expecting the news article to have links to your website or product, or have a call to action. A lot of media publications avoid providing any links due to their editorial guidelines, with exceptions made in order to provide informational value. Journalists are doing journalism, not advertising.

And finally, a word on news wires and how not to use them. Newswires are paid services that exist, and rightly so, as they play a role in how some news are distributed. However, the online repositories that host press releases boosted by wires are not actual media placements. We’ve seen startups pay for wires unnecessarily. Their press release is then uploaded to certain repositories, a section within publications to host press releases, which are later highlighted as media wins. Newsflash for them: those are not media wins, there is no involvement by a journalist, and are making fools of themselves on social media if they pretend they are the prize.

Wires are useful for short term SEO on Google News, something that can be useful as a larger company to obtain other coverage. For long-term SEO benefits, and if you’re confident enough, it might be a better strategy to have announcements on your own site. But nothing beats knowing the journalists that cover your industry and engaging with them in the right way.


The article was written by Julija Jegorova, Founder at Black Unicorn.