How to Create an Effective Marketing Strategy for Your Startup Company

Starting a business is no easy task. Trust me, I know this very well from my experiences founding multiple companies.

If you are currently building a startup company, kudos to you for the effort.

There is a long and difficult road ahead of you. But if you start with the right foundation, this road can be very rewarding.

If your startup company has already launched and you don’t have a concrete marketing strategy, you’re behind. To be as effective as possible, your strategy should be created in the early stages so you’re ready to go once the company officially launches.

That said, you can’t go back in time. So don’t be alarmed. It’s not too late for you to build a strong marketing plan.

Some of you may have created a marketing strategy before your company launched. That’s great. But now that you’re in business, you are quickly realizing your strategy isn’t working the way you thought it would.

It’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Regardless of your unique scenario, I’m confident this guide can help steer you in the right direction. It can also be used as a reference for prospective startup founders in the preliminary stages of writing a business plan for your new company.

Your marketing strategy can make or break your business. It’s important you spend the time to get it right as soon as possible.

Here’s what you need to know.

Identify your target market

Before you do anything else, you need to decide to whom you are going to sell your products or services.

All too often in my consulting work, I see many new business owners who skip over this step because they believe their brands are for everyone. While I admire their ambition, that’s simply not the case.

You need to find ways to segment your target audience to help you identify the best market for your brand:

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This chart is a great reference to give you ideas when it comes to getting as much information as possible about your prospective market.

You can also use generational marketing to segment your target audience.

Start broad and slowly get more specific. Depending on your brand, you may be targeting a wide range of individuals.

For example, let’s say your company sells clothing. You may sell clothes to men, women, and children of all ages. How can you narrow that down?

Maybe you’re targeting people who will wear your clothing for physical activity and fitness. You could get even more specific and target a certain sport, such as running or cycling.

Develop a customer persona for each unique type of customer.

There is a science to this strategy. One the one hand, a narrow target marketing will make it easier for you to make your brand appealing to that specific group of people.

But on the other hand, going too specific with your campaigns will alienate a large portion of the total consumer market. Tread carefully here, and do your best to find a market within the middle ground.

Conduct market research

Now that you’ve identified your target market, it’s time to start coming up with promotional strategies, right? Not so fast.

Before you work on new advertising campaigns, you need to validate your hypothesis.

Just because your brand is planning to target a certain audience doesn’t mean this group of people will automatically accept you.

You need to get out there and find out whether your target market actually wants what you’re selling.

Here’s a look at the top reasons why startup companies don’t succeed:

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The number one reason why startup companies fail is because there is no market need for what they offer.

That’s why earlier I said you should be creating a marketing strategy before your startup launches. Then, you’ll be able to find out early on during the market research phase whether your venture is worth pursuing.

If your brand created a new product or service, find out how it helps improve the lives of your target market:

  • interview people
  • conduct focus groups
  • let them try out your product
  • listen to their feedback

All of these are crucial to the market research process.

Not all of you are creating something unique. You may have just made improvements to an already existing product or service.

Well, what’s your differentiation strategy? What makes it better than the competition’s product?

Figure out how your brand compares to other similar products or services already on the market. This will make it easier for you to craft a marketing strategy.

Analyze your competition

Your startup company doesn’t exist in a vacuum. As I previously alluded to, you need to be aware of your competition within this space.

In most cases, your startup company isn’t 100% unique. It’s more than likely that whatever you’re selling is similar to other products and services on the market.

That’s OK because the right marketing strategy can help you survive even with lots of competition.

Analyzing your competition is one of the most crucial parts of your marketing strategy. Start by looking at their marketing campaigns.

A simple SWOT analysis chart can be a useful tool when it comes to your competitive analysis process:

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That’s because this type of chart is designed to compare your competitors to your own brand.

What is their target market?

Figure out what’s working well for them. If a marketing strategy works well for your competitors, it might work for you as well.

If you notice flaws in their marketing strategy, you can make sure to avoid those mistakes when you are creating your own.

Come up with a realistic budget

You may have all kinds of ideas for your advertising campaigns.

But you can’t blindly launch these without factoring in the cost. Unfortunately, I see too many startup companies fail because they run out of money.

Refer back to the graph I showed you earlier about why startups fail. The number two reason on that list is because they run out of cash.

Appropriate budgeting is important for all businesses. But it’s even more important for startups. That’s because when you first launch, you don’t have a steady income yet.

Consumers don’t necessarily know who you are, and you won’t have a regular clientele base.

If you are still in the early stages of writing a business plan and securing funding for your startup, make sure you accurately estimate your marketing costs.

Including your marketing budget in your business plan is an absolute must. If you put your plan in writing, it increases the chances you’ll follow through with it.

That’s why startups with a business plan grow at higher rates than those without one:

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Stay within the confines of your budget at all costs. If you exceed those spending limits, it could be the downfall of your company.

Don’t worry. You don’t need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to be successful.

There are plenty of cost-effective marketing strategies you can implement.

Create your distribution channels

We’ve got a lot accomplished so far. But we’re still not quite ready to start implementing new ad campaigns.

Before you can do that, you need to have a platform to promote on.

Start by creating a website. Everything you do should focus on driving traffic to that website and getting visitors to convert.

Create a profile on as many social media channels as possible:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Snpachat
  • YouTube

You need to establish a presence on these. This is especially important if you want to market your brand within a tight budget. Sure, you can spend money on social media ads, but you don’t have to.

It’s easy to save money by doing it all yourself and trying to gain traction by producing organic content on these platforms.

You’ve also got to consider which social sites are the most important based on your target market. What platforms are they active on the most?

This data from the Pew Research Center shows the habits of different groups of people on social media:

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Don’t blindly focus all your efforts on just one social platform without conducting the research first.

Yes, eventually you want to have a strong social presence on all channels. But I recommend prioritizing your early efforts on the platforms your target market uses the most.

Grow your email list

Your company needs to have an email subscriber list.

This may seem like an uphill climb at first. Your list will start from the number zero. That’s OK.

You won’t get 10,000 subscribers overnight.

But with time, patience, and effort, your list will slowly begin to grow.

Your email subscriber list will serve as one of the most important distribution channels for your startup. That’s because anyone who provides you with their email information is somewhat interested in your brand.

Even if they didn’t buy something, they were still interested enough to hear from you in the future.

Sometimes you need to offer people an incentive to sign up for your emails.

Your website should make it easy for people to sign up. Check out this example from the Knockaround website:

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They offer a discount to entice website visitors to opt in to their email list.

Once someone joins your list, you need to take advantage of that communication channel. Send them promotions, new product information, and things of that nature.

Use your social media platforms to do the same.

Figure out what type of content you’ll publish

Again, this relates back to some of the earlier points in this post: identifying your target market, conducting market research, and analyzing your competitors.

What types of campaigns will speak to your audience?

These are all examples of what you can consider applying to your marketing strategy:

  • blogs
  • infographics
  • video promotions
  • ebooks
  • informative guides
  • newsletters
  • webinars

Just don’t bite off more than you can chew. I’d recommend starting with a few of these before implementing all of them at the same time.

Focus your efforts on producing high quality content in a couple of categories before branching off.

Research shows 73% of marketers say their top priority is to create more engaging content:

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Be creative.

You don’t want your content to blend in with everything else’s. Your content should highlight your differentiation strategy.

Set aside time each day or week for brainstorming sessions. This can be done alone, or in groups, depending on the size of your company.

Really let some wild ideas fly in these sessions. Make sure your team isn’t afraid to speak up.

The worst case scenario is you don’t use an idea. But it never hurts to bring it to the table.

Reach out to prospective influencers

You shouldn’t be marketing your startup alone.

Working with influencers is a great way to build brand awareness.

But you need to make sure you find relevant influencers. Anyone who endorses your brand should be able to speak to your target market.

If you sell tennis equipment, hiring a brand influencer who has never played tennis probably won’t be an effective strategy.

There are plenty of online tools for finding and managing social influencers.

Take advantage of these platforms. They make it easy for you to get connected with people related to your brand.

Test and measure all your campaigns

Once you’re ready to start promoting, you need to be able to determine how effective your campaigns are.

Otherwise, you won’t be able to calculate your ROI, and your budget could be thrown out of whack. Use online tools like Google Analytics to help you measure data such as where your website traffic is coming from.

Look at your conversion rates. Measure engagement on social media.

You also need to look at analytics of your email campaigns. Look at data points such as open rates, clicks, bounces, and unsubscribes.

Make changes based on your results. For example, take a look at how segmenting your subscribers can impact your results:

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Now you can re-evaluate what marketing strategies are working and which ones need to be altered or even scrapped completely.

Set benchmarks based on your results. Come up with goals to ensure you’re always striving to improve.

Don’t get discouraged

You can’t expect your startup to be a huge hit overnight.

If your ads aren’t generating the type of engagement, response, leads, and sales you were anticipating, you can’t automatically blame your marketing strategy.

Sometimes these things take time.

Your strategy may not be the issue. It’s just taking consumers a little bit longer to get familiar with your brand. But the last thing you want to do is give up.

You’ve got a plan. Stick with it.

If your budget and marketing strategy are mapped out for the next six months, don’t abandon ship after a couple of weeks.

See your plan through to the end. If things didn’t go as planned, you can try a new strategy at that time.


Coming up with a marketing strategy for your startup company can be intimidating. But there are steps you can take to help guide you in the right direction.

The first thing you need to do is identify your target market. Then, you can conduct market research and analyze your competitors.

Set a marketing budget.

Create multiple distribution channels. Decide what type of content you want to publish, and determine how it will speak to your target audience.

Come up with a list of potential brand influencers to help with promotion.

Measure your results and set benchmarks. If things don’t go as planned, don’t hit the panic button. You’ve still got time to make adjustments.

Follow these tips if you want to have an effective marketing strategy for your startup.

What marketing strategy is your startup company using to reach your target audience?

Quick Sprout

Landing Page Optimization: How Aetna’s HealthSpire startup generated 638% more leads for its call center

This case study was originally published on MarketingSherpa on April 11, 2018.

Denis Mrkva, General Manager, HealthSpire, recently visited MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingSherpa), and we had the opportunity to interview him about an interesting landing page experiment that was in progress at the time. Denis also shared what happened after the landing page — namely, how he staffs and runs a call center that truly provides value to customers.

Test Your Knowledge

Before you read or watch the full case study, it’s important to get in the right frame of mind. Which landing page do you think will perform better? And why? Think about that, then continue on to the case study to better understand your own assumptions and learn what the data showed. Perhaps you’ll discover a new paradigm to take your marketing to the next level.



Here, we offer an abbreviated 5-minute version of the video interview. Or you can watch the full 21-minute version. But if you prefer to read instead of watch, you can read the full transcript of the conversation below the article. Jump to full transcript.





HealthSpire is a subsidiary of Aetna, a $ 63 billion managed health care company founded in 1853. HealthSpire serves Americans 65 and over with Medicare, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement insurance plans. It also offers ancillary products for dental, vision, cancer, heart attack and stroke.

HealthSpire also serves two other groups with its marketing — individuals who have yet to turn 65 but are beginning to research Medicare products and children or caregivers of people who are or will soon be eligible for Medicare.


About 18 months ago, HealthSpire created a landing page to get potential customers to learn more about Medicare through a phone or chat conversation and, ultimately, register for Medicare plans.

Creative Sample #1: Original landing page

HealthSpire 1

“Our hypothesis was that we want to have something that’s short and not confusing. What we were afraid of was that more information will create more confusion, resulting in a negative outcome. So we decided to go with a first control version, simple, just outlining products we have without going in depth. And giving them a chance to contact us via phone, schedule a call or chat with us,” said Denis Mrkva, General Manager, HealthSpire.

However, a few months after launching the page, Mrkva’s team realized that it wasn’t working.

“And then, I was fortunate to be referenced to MECLABS [Institute] and Flint [McGlaughlin] by my manager. And when we started talking to MECLABS, the lights went on. A light bulb went on.” — Denis Mrkva 

“I realized that this discipline that MECLABS has in actually understanding the relevant content, understanding the audience that we want to service, understanding the products, is the way to go,” Mrkva said.

“So we engaged with MECLABS to create a new set of landing pages that are actually focused on how a consumer would like to interact with us, and especially they’re very targeted [to] consumer segments who may not be that digitally savvy,” he explained.

[Partner with MECLABS Institute to drive growth in your organization]

The team analyzed the current HealthSpire landing page and identified a problem: It had a lack of credibility hurting its primary, process-, and product-level value propositions required to build trust with potential customers and create a perceived value in speaking with a HealthSpire agent.

After all, most customers are not excited about getting on the phone with an agent or a sales rep. They must first understand the value of that conversation to overcome the anxiety of a sales call, in addition to the time and effort they would invest in such a conversation.


Based on that analysis, the team created the following research question:

Will the addition of primary and product-level value, coupled with the emphasis of value on a “Trusted Advisor,” drive additional calls?

And based on that, they created the hypothesis: By providing emphasis on the trusted advisor value rather than overwhelming prospects with the various Medicare products and plans options, we will generate more leads and requests for calls than the control.

From that hypothesis, they designed two treatment landing pages and launched an experiment.

Creative Sample #2: Treatment 1 — long page

HealthSpire 2

Creative Sample #3: Treatment 2 — Short page

HealthSpire 3


Denis visited in the middle of the experiment, and the results we discussed in the video were intermediate results before the experiment closed. The final results also showed that the longer landing page performed better, generating 638% more leads.

HealthSpire 4

Value of longer landing page outweighs its friction

Visitors (valid leads only) who saw the longer page — which included more HealthSpire/agent value copy and imagery — were more likely to call than those who saw the simpler page with less content about the agents and HealthSpire values.

In other words, the additional value presented in the longer page outweighed the additional friction from having a longer page.

Humanizing the brand added appeal and visualizing the agents reduced anxiety

Knowing that they were going to be speaking with a friendly agent may have helped them visualize how the conversation would be and reduced their anxiety.

Creative Sample #4: TeleAgent Tip from winning landing page treatment

“What we found out by working with MECLABS and testing things is that, at the end of the day, what we are asking somebody to do is call us and talk to a person,.”  — Denis Mkrva 

“So having actually the person or the people who the customers will be talking to on the site, and actually having the opportunity to get to know the agents before they call, and provide the content that will actually create a relationship between the customer and the agent on the site even before they call us, are some of the reasons why we believe that Treatment 1 is doing a lot better.”

Creative Sample #5: Q&A with TeleAgent from winning landing page treatment

HealthSpire 6

It all begins with creating real value for the customer

The longer landing page worked because it did a better job of increasing the perceived value of contacting a TeleAgent. However, for this strategy to work, Mrkva first made sure to create real value in interacting with the TeleAgents, that could then be communicated on the landing page.

“Part of that value is the people we employ. If you think about the agents that work for HealthSpire, all of our agents are college graduates,” Mkrva said. “The question became, how can we create a call center culture that becomes a value proposition for the college graduates?”

One way Mrkva’s team creates the value proposition for college graduates is by creating an environment the employees can thrive in. For example, they balance time on the phone with time reflecting on what they learned from previous calls — to help understand the psychology behind conversations they previously had and optimize future conversations. Understanding the people they’re talking to, not just the products they’re selling and a script they’re reading.

“It is perhaps the hardest sale you can make.What you’re trying to do is, in real time without looking at the person, persuade the person that if you have the right product for them and their needs, this is the right thing to do and to make a decision that will be very impactful on their well-being and financial health of their household budget.” — Denis Mrkva

A customer-first marketing approach

Not only is there value for customers who call into HealthSpire because the TeleAgents are well educated, but value also comes from the type of people the company hires and the customer-first philosophy behind the advice these agents offer on the calls.

“What we look for is — and it’s not easy, it’s not easy to evaluate people in an interview — is integrity. You have to do the right thing,” Mrkva said.

“We’re trying to find the right solution for the customer. And if there is no right solution for the customer with us, we will not sell.” — Denis Mrkva 

“Actually, we’ll recommend either stay with what you have, or maybe you should go and call other providers that have a product, because we can help them find the better product. Even though we cannot sell to them, we can tell them there is … company X [that] has this product, so you may want to go to this site,” he said.

This approach helps with employee satisfaction and engagement as well.

“It’s human nature. Our nature is to help somebody. So we need to enable people to be people in the workplace,” Mrkva said. “If you have the right people and if you make them happy and content, our customers will be happy and content.”



Related Resources

MECLABS Research Partnerships — Participate in a research project and drive conversion increases

Landing Page Optimization: 57 guides, case studies, examples and experiments to help you increase conversion and sales

Email Marketing: Landing Page Testing Less Popular But More Effective

Landing Page Optimization: How The New York Times Generated A 1,052% Cumulative Conversion Gain

Web Usability: Long Landing Page Nets 220% More Leads Than Above The Fold Call-To-Action

Landing Page Optimization: 262% Increase In Lead Rate

MECLABS Institute Landing Page Optimization online certification course (from the parent research institute of MarketingSherpa)

Call Center Optimization: How The Globe and Mail cut number of calls in half while increasing sales per hour

Call-to-Action Optimization: 132% increase in clickthrough from changing four simple words

Full Transcript of Video Interview

Daniel Burstein: In our marketing, we have a lot of assumptions about what we think will work. We have that golden gut. One of those assumptions is, long form doesn’t work. People want short, they want quick. They want quippy. Well, that’s why you’ve got to test and experiment and see what works. And we’re going to look at an experiment today that challenges that model.

    Hi, I’m Daniel Burstein. I’m the Senior Director of Content at Marketing and MECLABS Institute. And I’m joined by Denis Mrkva, the General Manager of HealthSpire, a subsidiary of Aetna. Thanks for joining us, Denis.

Denis Mkrva:     Thank you for having me.

Daniel:     So, here we’re going to look at an experiment that your team ran with MECLABS Institute. So let’s just start, pull it up on the screen, and we’ve got the control and Treatment 1 and Treatment 2. Let’s just start by telling us about HealthSpire briefly. Who are they? How does HealthSpire serve a customer?

Denis:     Well, HealthSpire is an Aetna subsidiary. And as such, we offer a portfolio of Medicare products for the seniors in the country that are eligible to purchase Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medicare Supplement, as well as ancillary products such as dental and vision, cancer, heart attack and stroke. Really we’re trying to protect as much as we can and enable people to have that protection holistically for their health.

Daniel:     Okay. And so when we look at this landing page, what was the goal of the landing page?

Denis:     Well, the goal of the landing page, if you look at the first, the control version, that’s when HealthSpire started a year and a half ago. And as you said, we all want things to be shorter, cleaner and to the point. Unfortunately, when you deal with very complex products in an industry such as healthcare, it is not that easy to do.

    However, a year and a half ago when we started HealthSpire, the assumption was, or hypothesis was, that we want to have something that’s short and not confusing. What we were afraid of was that more information would create more confusion, more friction, hence, resulting in a negative outcome. So we decided to go with a first control version, simple, just outlining products we have without going in depth. And giving them a chance to contact us via phone, schedule a call or chat with us.

Daniel:     Let’s take a look at it. So what were you trying to do with these two treatments?

Denis:     Okay, then a few months after starting up that page, we realized it’s not working. We realized something is going on. And then I was fortunate to be referenced to MECLABS and Flint by my manager. And when we started talking to MECLABS, the lights went on. A light bulb went on. I realized that this discipline that MECLABS has in actually understanding the relevant content, understanding the audience that we want to service, understanding the products, is the way to go.

    So we engaged with MECLABS to create a new set of landing pages that are actually focused on how a consumer would like to interact with us and especially {inaudible} very targeted consumer segments who may not be that digitally savvy.  And so we started working on a few different prototypes.

    Again, we wanted to have something that has a bit more information, it’s more informative, but give two different looks and feels. One would be with a lot more information, in depth. Another one with less information, that would really service almost as a passthrough to people who have already done their research. And then we launched.

Daniel:     Yeah. So now you can see, if you’re watching too, look at the short versus the long. And think about that for a second. I think most people would assume, you can see how much longer that page is, short is going to work better. It’s quick, everything is right there, people don’t want to read through things that are long. Let’s take a quick look at the results.

    So now let me mention these results. They’re pretty astounding. We’re still in the middle of this experiment. Denis just happens to be joining us at our headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida, here. So that’s why we’re discussing it now. The results aren’t complete yet. But look at those early numbers. That’s pretty astounding of how well the long form is doing.

Denis:     It’s doing great, actually. And what we found out by working with MECLABS and testing things is that, at the end of the day, what we are asking somebody to do is call us and talk to a person. So having actually the person or the people that the customers will be talking to on the site, and actually having the opportunity to get to know the agents before they call, and providing the content that will actually create a relationship between the customer and the agent on the site even before they call us, are some of the reasons why we believe that Treatment 1 is doing a lot better.

Daniel:     I think what you’re doing there is a process level value proposition. Right?

Denis:     Yes.

Daniel:     You’re not trying to sell all of HealthSpire, all of your entire product. All you’re trying to do is get someone to make a call. And that could be a reason why the long form works better because who among us is like, “Yes, I want to get on a call with someone to sell me. That’s what I want to do. Let me grab that phone number right now.” No. You have to sell them on the value of the call, right?

Denis:     Yes. And the part of that value is the people we employ. If you think about the agents that work for HealthSpire, all of our agents are college graduates. We believe that since the product itself and the industry is actually very complex compared to some other industries I worked in, such as consumer finance or the P&C insurance industry — it is heavily regulated, it has a diverse set of products and plans, and to actually understand that, we do want to employ people who have cognitive skills. And I think a certificate of having cognitive skills in the country is having a college degree.

    So we wanted to really try to figure out how do we — and I ran analytics for some time in my previous career where we had always an opportunity to hire people with a high level of education — the question became, “How can we create a call center culture that becomes a value proposition for the college graduates who just spent maybe $ 40,000 or $ 50,000 on their education, and now we’re asking them to be on the phone?” It wouldn’t be appealing to me at all.

    And then also, inform our customers that in order for us to service them, it has to start with our employees first, how we train them, how we treat them, how we work with them, how we develop them. And that connection that’s being done on the digital landing page or the longer version is showing results. It’s working.

Daniel:     If we take a look deeper into the results of conversions, we see there’s also more conversions for the longer page. It’s clear, you’re not just getting more people, you’re getting probably better leads. But also, what you’re doing on the call center side is working.

    So let me ask you about that because we recently did a case study with The Globe and Mail, a large Canadian newspaper, and they have a call center there. And what they were telling me is, the real challenge is, (you probably have a bigger challenge than this) is there is such high turnover in call centers that they don’t really get people who understand the product enough. Right? So what they had to do is create this messaging guide and really give them all the information necessary to even someone who’s only there a short time to understand the product.

    It’s interesting what you talk about. You have even a bigger challenge. Understanding a newspaper is one thing. Understanding a complex product that you probably yourself don’t use because you’re not a senior citizen, is more difficult. So what are some of your tactics to, one, reduce turnover and create a working environment that’s amenable, and two, to educate them so they can help educate their customers and really understand the product?

Denis:     Well, that’s interesting because let’s suppose that we are running a basketball team. That’s our business, and as a coach and general manager, we show up for a game and we realize that our players don’t know how to play the game. Whose fault is that? It’s the coach and the manager’s. So the very first thing that we realized is that in order for people to do their jobs, we not only need to find the right talent and onboard that, but we need to continuously work on coaching them day in and day out.

    And through the process, the hardest part is how do you find a balance between them doing their job and having enough time to develop them into effective employees. But not only at a professional level, how do you help them personally develop themselves and get them ready for some other jobs within the company or outside the company? So very quickly we realized it all comes down to culture and environment.

    What I mean by that is that, see, when we ask somebody to be on the phone 9 or 10 hours, it’s humanly impossible to be focused on talking to customer after customer without having the ability to actually take some time off and reflect on, “What was I talking about in the last call that made me do well versus now?”

    Then we need to enable them to start learning about the fact that talking on the phone with somebody is perhaps the hardest sale you can make, and it has a lot to do with the psychology of people rather than just learning the product. Because what you’re trying to do is, in real time without looking at the person, persuade the person that if you have the right product for them and their needs with that, this is the right thing to do and to make a decision that will be very impactful on their well-being and financial health of their household budget.

    Now to do that you also need to take out product knowledge, you need to start helping them to understand the importance of listening, importance of being able to lead people in the conversation through certain decision-making that you have to do on their behalf. So very quickly we realized it’s not only about knowing the product and having a script that you can read, it’s about exploring behind, what’s behind a sale. On the phone, it has to do with the psychology of people and ability of people to adjust their approach to the customer given the differences they have listened to on the phone.

Daniel:     It sounds like empathy.

Denis:    It is.

Daniel:    Is that something that you look for when you’re hiring? Empathy?

Denis:     What we look for is — and it’s not easy, it’s not easy to evaluate people in an interview — is integrity. You have to do the right thing. And what are we doing here? We’re trying to find the right solution for the customer. And if there is no right solution for the customer with us, we will not sell. 

    Actually, we’ll recommend. Either stay with us or maybe you should go and call other providers that have a product — because we can help them find the better product. Even though we cannot sell to them, we can tell them, “Company X has this product, so you may want to go to this site.”

Daniel:     So that’s very interesting. I don’t want to lose that point because I assume you’re investing significant amounts to just get these calls, to begin with, on the landing page. And each call is valuable to you. So you’re saying that you train your call center employees when you don’t have the right product for them, to find the right product for them, wherever it’s from, to point them in another direction.

Denis:     Indeed.

Daniel:     That’s outstanding.

Denis:     That’s I think, if you think about HealthSpire, as I said, is a subsidiary of Aetna. Aetna has been in existence for more than 160 years. And if you take a look at our competition, perhaps the one that’s the second oldest one is most likely a hundred years younger than us. There’s a reason why Aetna survived all those decades or century and a half, more than a century and a half, and that’s the ability not only to anticipate change that is coming but actually to be around people who believe that our job is, our fiduciary responsibility is, to make money for our shareholders and to maximize that. But the way, how we achieve that is the right way. And when you put these two together I think you maximize both. You maximize the financial performance of the company and you maximize an employee satisfaction engagement that then allows you to sustain the business model.

Daniel:     It’s more fulfilling to employees to really serve the customer even when they’re not selling their own product, it sounds like.

Denis:     It’s human nature. I’d be surprised if you, maybe not every one of us, but if you take us in general, our nature is to help somebody. Would you agree?

Daniel:     Totally.

Denis:     So we need to enable people to be people in the workplace.

Daniel:     Let me ask you about that because enabling people to be people in the workplace, that could be a challenging call center. So I wonder how you monitor individual performance. Because a lot of what you’re talking about would go against the metrics we see in a lot of other call centers. It’s about the amount of calls they can make in a day or getting off the phone quickly, some of these things. It almost seems like a factory production. So how do you monitor individual performance and allow people to be people in a call center?

Denis:     It’s interesting you said that because before taking this position about 18 months ago, I never ran a business, a startup. I was in the area of analytics my entire career. It’s a function of support which you contribute, but it’s really not directly responsible for the performance of the business. And when I started learning about this, when I started my job, I reached out to people to see how other people do that. It’s new to me.

    I started thinking about things such as average handling time, minimizing average handling time. And I was thinking, and I realized, “No, I want to maximize the average handling time, given the maximum productivity.” In other words, we don’t monitor average handling time. With our agents, we have goals, what we need to sell, and then we have a very strict process on how we sell.

    That process ensures that we stay in compliance with the federal as well as state regulations because some products are regulated by the federal government, some by state. The process in which we ensure that going from introducing yourself to sale is not two minutes because in two minutes you cannot understand consumer needs. And even if they call you with a specific, preconceived notion of what they want to buy, we still want you to understand their needs because given how complex the industry is, many people actually need more education.

    So it’s easy to us. We employ people to sell but do it in a way that we want it to be done, which is actually serving that customer. And that’s what we monitor. We monitor productivity and quality. How many calls you took, how much time spent, if you sold two policies today and that’s your goal, you’re going to go home. You go home. 

    You have to allow people, give people goals, enable them with the support they have and make sure that you hire people who are accountable. And accountability comes down to making sure that one does his or her job. Part of that is not how long we talk on the phone, how many calls. It’s actually how you’re doing the right thing and how we’re meeting our goals.

Daniel:     And it sounds like diverging from the script when it’s necessary?

Denis:     Yeah, because the script guides you through the framework of sales. What I mean by that is, often if you call somebody to buy insurance products, most likely they sell only one product. And when you sell only one product, you don’t want to know the consumer needs. Because if the needs tell you they need product B, which you don’t sell, guess what? You don’t have to sell. So you’re pitching the product you have.

    Now we have every product that’s out there. So a script allows them to systematically go through the process. And that’s important because most of our people that work for HealthSpire, including myself, we don’t have sales experience. And after a while, you see that the agents start not only memorizing, it becomes very natural for them, but we still let them be them. 

    Their personalities have to come to the phone. The way they assess the situations come to the phone. It cannot be a robot talking on the other end of the phone and reading word for word, which in some cases you have to do when you get to the certain regulated things. But in the process of assessing the needs, selling, we want them to be themselves.

Daniel:     Yeah, if you want people to be robots you could just use AI at this point, right? You bring that humanity and their personality into it, sounds like?

Denis:     You have to because the difference between buying a retail item, piece of clothing, and buying insurance is different. We’re talking about, what I would say, is this emotional purchase, “I like this jacket. I want this jacket. Do I have enough money? That’s the only thing I need to know. Do I like it? Do I have enough money? Then I’m going to buy it.”

    Health insurance is a rational decision. And in that rational decision given the complexity, it’s good to have another human being thinking with you through what the implications are, what my options are. “How do I choose between these options?” And even though I do believe in numbers and technology, I don’t think AI can get us that at this point in time. Even then, you’ll still need to have some human aspect in the process.

Daniel:     Absolutely. Let me ask you lastly. You mentioned Aetna is a 160-year-old company. HealthSpire is a startup within that company.

Denis:     Yes.

Daniel:     So what have you learned from that from maybe learning the best from an established enterprise company and learning the best from startup culture?

Denis:     If you think about Aetna and HealthSpire, its relationship between Aetna investing in HealthSpire and taking a risk to invest in a different business model that doesn’t exist today. Well, at least doesn’t exist at the large scale. So what I learned is that as in any startup it really takes a few things. 

    The first becomes, “Are there people who are willing to invest, that have a vision of where they want to go?” I was lucky enough to be part of the company that has senior leadership who realized that the market is changing, the consumer demographics are changing, the profile of people that we employ is changing. So we need to learn this. And secondly, a person that wants that job has to have a vision that’s aligned with the overall vision of people that are willing to invest. You have to have a certain level of courage to try things that are not tried before.

    And most importantly, you have to surround yourself with people who have similar traits. People who are curious. People who are not afraid of challenges. People who are willing to sacrifice their time when the time comes to make things work. And most importantly, people understand that the success of their organization is not in having the products or the processes; It’s actually having the people on the team. If you have the right people and if you make them happy and content, our customers will be happy and content.

Daniel:  Excellent. All right. Well, thank you very much, Denis.

Denis:      You’re very, very welcome.

Daniel:  Thank you for sharing this test, and I hope you enjoyed this experiment and learning a little more about call center optimization.

The post Landing Page Optimization: How Aetna’s HealthSpire startup generated 638% more leads for its call center appeared first on MarketingExperiments.


16 Tips for Naming Your Startup

So you’ve got a great idea for a new business.

You took the time to write a business plan for your startup. After long and grueling months of conducting market research, coming up with prototypes, and analyzing your competition, you’re finally ready to turn this plan into a profitable business.

You even came up with a plan to raise the funds to get your company off the ground.

But before you can proceed any further, you need to name your startup company.

You may have had an idea or two. But how do you know if that name will work?

Naming your startup may seem minor, but it’s actually one of the most important and undervalued aspects of your business. This name will be attached to your brand image for years to come. You need to get it right from the beginning.

Otherwise, you’ll face some challenges if you try to change your name down the road. That’s a headache you won’t want to deal with.

With this in mind, I wanted to show you how you can simplify this process. These are the top 16 tips to keep in mind when you’re naming your startup.

Use this guide as a reference before you finalize your name.

1. Keep it short

The name of your business should roll off the tongue.

People shouldn’t have to take a breath midway through saying your name out loud. Just think about some of the brands that dominate worldwide.

Nike. Apple. Walmart.

I found a really interesting study conducted by a UK insurance broker. They discovered that the average length of a company name in their region had 22 characters.

image1 11

More than half of these businesses fell within the 17 to 24 character mark.

While these are obviously longer than names such as Apple or Nike, they still fall within the lower end of the spectrum, as you can see from the graph.

Your business shouldn’t sound like a sentence. Sure, in some instances, two words might be appropriate. I’m talking about names such as Waffle House or even Quick Sprout. Ha! But both of these names are still short and roll off the tongue.

Most importantly, keeping your name short will make it easier for consumers to remember it, which will help you tremendously with your marketing campaigns.

2. Make sure it’s easy to spell

Put yourself into the minds of consumers.

Let’s says they hear your brand name somewhere. Whether it’s on TV, the radio, or in a conversation. Next, they search for it online, but can’t find you because they don’t know the spelling – it’s too complicated.

Stick with names that are spelled exactly how they sound.

Even if they see your oddly spelled brand name written somewhere, they may not remember how to spell it when they look for it.

Don’t do anything weird, like using the number 8 to replace the “ate” sound or use the letter “Z” in a place where you should have an “S.”

3. Don’t restrict growth

Right now, your startup may be focusing on something specific, whether it’s a product, location, or target market.

But that doesn’t mean you should name your business something extremely specific.

For example, let’s say you’re creating a fashion brand selling men’s jeans. Naming your company “Jeans for Men” is a bad idea.

What happens when you want to start making shirts, shorts, hats, or women’s clothing? The new directions no longer fits with your name.

Or let’s say you name the startup based on the location of your first physical store. You may be thinking something along the lines of “Tuxedo Shop of Seattle.” But when you want to open a new location in Chicago or San Diego, you’ll be faced with a challenge.

Instead, name it after something like a street if you want to have some connection to your local area. Just make sure it’s easy to spell.

4. Check the domain name

So you think you’re ready to settle on a name.

Next, use an online tool, such as GoDaddy to see if the domain is available:

image4 11

I see businesses make this mistake often. A company settles on a name, but someone already has the .com domain. So instead of trying to purchase it, they decide to use another extension, such as .net, .biz, or .org, instead.

I don’t recommend that. Consumers have grown accustomed to associating .com domains with credible and established businesses.

But that also doesn’t mean you should make your domain different from the name of your startup just to secure a .com domain.

My suggestion is this. If your domain name is taken and you can’t buy it, try to come up with a different name for your business.

5. Be original

You want your brand to be unique. Your name needs to be memorable and stand out from the crowd.

Do your best to avoid common names. “John’s Plumbing.”

How many plumbers out there do you think have that name? I’m willing to bet there is more than just a handful.

You want your name to stand on its own, without any confusion or association with other companies.

6. Say it out loud

Your name may look good on paper. But what happens when it’s spoken?

Earlier I said names should be easy to spell, but they should also be easy to pronounce.

Make sure that when you say it out loud, it doesn’t get confused with other words. You don’t want it to sound like something that could be inappropriate.

I won’t give you any examples in this instance. I’ll let you use your imagination.

7. Ask for feedback

You don’t have to struggle alone naming your company.

Sure, you can come up with some ideas and ultimately have the final say. But if you’ve got a team or partners, make it a group discussion.

Write down your ideas. Narrow the list down to five or ten names.

Then reach out to your family and friends. See what they think. If one name by far stands out from the crowd based on that feedback, you should consider it more than the others.

8. Research social media profiles

This is similar to your domain name search.

You want your branding to be consistent across all your marketing channels. See if certain social media handles are taken.

Here’s an example from Thule. Let’s look at its Facebook page first:

image3 11

And now let’s check out its Instagram profile:

image2 11

As you can see, the company uses @thule everywhere.

It may sound simple, but you want to make sure all of this is squared away before you name your startup.

Having different social media handles on each platform will confuse your customers. It’ll complicate your efforts to build brand awareness for your new company.

If your name is available on all social media platforms except for one, reach out to the user and see whether you can purchase it from them, or consider coming up with a new name.

9. Make it catchy

Your brand name needs to resonate with consumers. It shouldn’t be forgettable.

Even though you’re in the early stages of your business, you should always be looking toward the future and thinking about potential marketing campaigns.

How will this brand name fit with your campaigns? Will it be easy for you to come up with a company slogan that flows well with the name?

You can’t pre-determine whether something will be catchy or not, and there aren’t any tools that can help you with this. But you can still figure it out based on your gut feeling and feedback of others.

10. Search the Secretary of State records

Once you come up with a name, you’ll need to register your new business.

You’ll probably form an LLC or corporation. In the US, check the Secretary of State records to make sure the name isn’t too close to a business that’s been previously registered.

If the name is too similar, the state may disallow you from registering that name.

Find a lawyer to help you register your new business. They can potentially help you with this research as well.

11. Do trademark research

You don’t want someone else to be able to steal your name.

Do a search on to see whether you can trademark it.

image6 11

This website will provide you with the resources and information you need to know about existing trademarks and the application process for your own trademark.

12. Make it relevant

Earlier, I talked about picking a name that doesn’t restrict your growth.

But that doesn’t mean you should pick something random or obscure.

Let’s say your startup company focuses on Internet security. Don’t name it “Bunny Ears LLC.”

Is the example a bit extreme? Probably. But you get the point.

13. Keep your logo in mind

Your brand name will be tied to all your marketing efforts. Keep your logo design in mind as well.

Different color schemes can impact sales. That’s because visuals are processed faster than words.  Consumers will remember a name if the logo is memorable.

Think about McDonald’s. The “M” golden arches are iconic.

How will your brand name translate to your logo and will it be recognizable? Ask yourself that when coming up with a name.

14. Take advantage of brainstorming tools

If you’re stuck on a name, you can use technology to help.

Use a tool such as NameMesh to come up with a unique domain name. Or use Namium to choose a name based on specific themes.

But one of my favorite tools is from Shopify:

image5 11

This business name generator helps you come up with ideas while checking for domain availability at the same time.

15. Don’t drive yourself crazy

Picking a name is important. But don’t let it consume your life.

It shouldn’t turn into a six-month project. If you take time to work things out, you’ll be just fine.

Will the name be perfect? Maybe not. But what is?

Don’t keep second-guessing yourself. Go with it if:

  • all the pieces line up
  • the domain is available
  • nobody has the social media handles
  • the feedback is good
  • you’re able to trademark it.

16. Make sure you’re happy with it

The name of your startup will be something you hear, say, write, and think about all the time.

If you don’t like the name, don’t use it. This startup is your baby. You wouldn’t name your baby something you don’t like, right?

The same concept applies here. Otherwise, you’ll regret it, and that could impact your behavior and the way you run the business moving forward.


What’s in the name? More than you think.

The name of your startup company will be your new identity. Don’t approach this task haphazardly.

Whether you’re struggling to come up with a name or you have a name in mind but unsure how to proceed, use this guide to help you finalize the decision.

It’s better to take the time and be sure of it now as opposed to trying to change your name in the future.

What’s the name of your new startup company?

Quick Sprout

Snap reportedly acquired augmented reality startup Cimagine Media for up to $40 million


Snap has reportedly made an investment in augmented reality, purchasing Israeli-based startup Cimagine Media in a deal that’s said to be worth between $ 30 million and $ 40 million.

Originally reported by Calcalist News, this acquisition will provide Snap with a development center in the Middle East, one that will eventually house more than the 20 people currently working at Cimagine Media.

Founded four years ago, Cimagine specializes in computer vision, real-time image processing, mobile development, international marketing, and more. All of these areas are obviously compelling for Snap, whose Snapchat app is heavily reliant on augmented reality and the like. But Cimagine also brings to the table a focus on commerce, and as Snap looks toward going public, perhaps sometime next year, facilitating shopping through Snapchat might open up additional revenue opportunities.

Cimagine already has partnerships with Shop Direct, John Lewis, and Coca-Cola, and it’s aiming to help more retailers tap into the potential of augmented reality. Snap itself may want to eventually strike partnerships with big box retailers and department stores to accelerate engagement and time spent on its site. And merchants may want additional advertising opportunities, so the potential that Cimagine’s technology and team could bring to bear may be enticing.

Or perhaps Cimagine’s team will support Snap in laying objects over photos and videos captured through Snapchat.

Should an IPO be in Snap’s future, it needs to remain one step ahead of Facebook, which has been rapidly copying features from Snapchat. Investors are looking for real market leadership, so Snap’s acquisition of camera technology, especially around augmented reality, could give it a bit of a leg up.

Prior to the acquisition, Cimagine had raised an undisclosed amount of funding from Explore. Dream. Discover, iVentures Asia Ltd., OurCrowd, and PLUS Ventures. This would be Snap’s second acquisition his month — the company also purchased Flite to integrate its ad technology into Snap’s offering. In fact, this year has been a busy one for the ephemeral camera technology company, as it has already made a total of four known buys, including the $ 110 million deal for Vurb, the purchase of Obvious Engineering (also known as Seene), and the $ 100 million it dished out for Bitstrips.

Although the Cimagine deal was reported by Calcalist News, no official word has been released — to be honest, Snap tends to be secretive about its acquisitions. We’ve reached out to Snap and Cimagine Media and will update if we hear back.

Social – VentureBeat

Stanford students are using lean startup principles to help fight ISIS

Thousands of foreign fighters went to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS.

The ISIS beheadings of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. The radicalization of San Bernardino shooters Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik. The Orlando nightclub massacre. Social media, encrypted messages, or online propaganda from ISIS played a role in these horrific events and countless others like them.

Yet Silicon Valley’s approach to combatting ISIS might be compared to a game of whack-a-mole at best, largely a top-down affair. Terrorists use services like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to publish extremist propaganda and recruit followers. The tech companies, in turn, shut down the terrorists’ accounts only to have them spring up again.

But this fall, a group of five Stanford graduate students devised a promising, bottom-up approach to prevent the radicalization of Americans to ISIS. They developed their solution — called FAVE (for Friends and Families Against Violent Extremism) — using lean startup principles to identify those individuals at risk of radicalization and prevent them from joining ISIS.

The number of Americans who joined or tried to join ISIS more than doubled to about 250 in 2015, from 100 people a year earlier, according to Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Carlin. And as many as 31,500 people from across the globe have travelled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS since 2011, although perhaps only 15,000 remain, according to recent figures. Even as ISIS continues to lose ground in Syria and Iraq, there’s the threat of bombings by so-called lone wolves or by small cells of people like last week’s Christmas Market attack in Berlin.

Hacking for diplomacy

The students behind FAVE — Anusha Balakrishnan (MS Computer Science), Hyeryung Chloe Chung (MA International Policy Studies), Gloria Chua (MS Computer Science), Jian Yang Lum (MS Statistics), and Vinaya Polamreddi (MS Computer Science) — formed a team called HackingCT, for hacking counterterrorism. It was part of a 10-week course, Hacking for Diplomacy. Led by Steve Blank of the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, and father of the Lean LaunchPad methodology, students in the course partnered with the U.S. State Department to apply lean-startup principles to global challenges.

The HackingCT team.

Above: The HackingCT team.

Image Credit: HackingCT

Some students addressed human trafficking, others the refugee crisis in Europe, and still others several vexing problems. The HackingCT team was drawn to ISIS because of the large number of people it has killed. According to Chua, “In 2015 alone, there have been 11,744 attacks in 92 different countries. ISIS has also been adept in recruiting individuals to their cause. The urgency and severity of the issue is what drove us to work on this.”

Working with the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism and with the Special Representative to the Muslim Communities in the Office of Religions and Global Affairs, the HackingCT team followed the three key lean startup principles: 1) sketch out a hypothesis, not a business plan; 2) talk to customers, iterate based in feedback, pivot as necessary; 3) use agile development for rapid and responsive product creation.

While the students ultimately conducted more than 100 interviews to develop FAVE, they spoke with about 20 people during the first two weeks as they attempted to understand the characteristics of those at risk for radicalization. They quickly realized that this would not help them. “It wasn’t long before we found out that there are already many in-depth and long-term research and analysis in this area,” Chua said in an email interview. “Radicalization pathways are complex and multi-causal, and there is no one single defining characteristic. It is not about poverty levels, about education levels, mental health, etc. There is just no one general trend.”

Help ecosystem ISIS terrorism HackingCT

The team also looked at the usually unsuccessful efforts by various well-meaning institutions to reach at-risk individuals. Too often the messages are regarded with suspicion and lack credibility because of their overt agendas. For instance, the team examined the Global Engagement Center’s efforts of using Twitter to send messages against violent extremist groups, which received negative reactions online.

However, the group saw that “grassroots efforts like YouTube videos posted by youth that use humor to ridicule ISIS, or a local respected religious leader sharing their thoughts” could be effective, Chua said. “We identified that a message needed to be credible in the following: the message itself, the messenger, the channel, and the form.”

After several weeks, the HackingCT team had a breakthrough and, in Silicon Valley parlance, decided to pivot. “We realized our learning plateaued because we were unable to reach these at-risk individuals themselves to learn more. As in design thinking, we decided to look for analogous situations to research off of,” Chua said. “We explored gang violence, drunk driving, and suicide.”

Countering violent extremism

The team saw many similarities between suicidal ideation and online radicalization. “In both cases, the individual is in a vulnerable state, is highly susceptible to outside influence, and talking about the problem is often taboo. Also, suicide intervention and prevention is relatively new — while 20 years ago one might be hard-pressed to find any resources to intervene, today there is a wealth of resources like hotlines and more. This gave us hope that a similar transformation can happen for the CVE [for Countering Violent Extremism] space as well,” Chua said.

But for a person contemplating suicide, they can call 911 and get help. A person contemplating joining ISIS who calls the police is likely to be arrested. The HackingCT team determined that only family and friends can help “rescue” a person from becoming radicalized online. Trusted people could form an effective bridge between at-risk individuals and the organizations that could help them. The team also saw that 1-800 helplines could be effective, but not in the way they expected. They also looked at efforts by Google to use online ads to reach at-risk individuals.

“When we talked to NGOs, the State Department, and more, we learned that at-risk individuals were not likely to reach out and actively engage in these resources. They also pushed us to think about the people around the individual,” Chua said.

Chua explained how one of their sponsors at the State Department suggested they consider a 16-year-old who sees their friend acting differently, but then who has no idea where to go from there. She also described how an expert at one of the NGOs they spoke to showed them a presentation slide that read, “Most friends and family have an idea their family member is radicalized” but have “nowhere to turn to but the police.” The team also learned about helpline initiatives for friends and family in Austria and Canada.

MVP for fighting ISIS terrorism

Armed with this information, in the final weeks of the course the students created a minimal viable product consisting of a helpline and textline, which resonated with the NGOs. FAVE can act as short-term, lightweight, and scalable solution that serves as a bridge to long-term, personal intervention by an NGO. It’s a solution using decades-old technology — 1-800 helplines staffed by experts — borne of a new approach — startup principles.HAckingCT ISIS

According to Chua, the team is discussing next steps with the State Department and seeking sponsors. They are planning FAVE pilots in one domestic and one international English-speaking city by mid-2017. Candidate cities are Minneapolis and Luton, England, two areas where individuals joined ISIS and went to Syria.

“We hope that as a team of 5 providing a fresh perspective to a growing and emerging field, we might be able to move the needle in a meaningful way,” Chua said.

Social – VentureBeat

Snapchat has quietly acquired an Israeli startup for a reported $30 million to $40 million

screen-shot-2016-12-25-at-9-24-58-am Snapchat sewed up its first acquisition in Israel this week, according to the outlet Calcalist News. It acquired four-year-old Cimagine, whose augmented reality platform lets consumers instantly visualize products they want to buy in their intended location, paying what Calcalist says was between $ 30 million and $ 40 million. According to its LinkedIn page, Cimagine currently works with brands… Read More
Social – TechCrunch

Oculus acquires eye-tracking startup The Eye Tribe

the-eye-tribe The direction you look could one day control your VR or mobile experience thanks to Facebook and Oculus’ latest buy, The Eye Tribe. Oculus confirms to me that this is an official acquisition. The startup has developed a $ 99 eye tracking device developer kits for computers, and software that can bring gaze-based interfaces to smartphones and potentially virtual reality headsets. The Eye… Read More
Social – TechCrunch

Twitter Ended Up Paying $479M For Adtech Startup TellApart, 10-K Reveals

twitter headquarters Twitter’s largest acquisition to date, of the adtech business TellApart, has turned out to be a little less big than originally thought. Back in April 2015, it was calculated that Twitter would pay nearly $ 533 million for TellApart based on the company’s share price at the time. But a 10-K report published today notes the final numbers: It was nearly $ 54 million lower… Read More
Social – TechCrunch