Something we see in a lot of startups is hesitation to start marketing before they have a perfect product that customers can use and love.

For most startups, this is a mistake.

Waiting until you’ve launched to start marketing means you’re delaying building up an audience. It’s that simple. The sooner you start marketing, the sooner you can start building up an audience to sell to when you’re ready. If you wait until you have a beautiful, finished product to start marketing, you’re going to need more time to start making sales (if you ever launch that is).

This makes perfect sense to us, but it’s one of the hardest things to explain to entrepreneurs who feel protective of their idea/product. We get it. It’s scary and it’s not traditional, but so is starting a business, and if you want to succeed, you need to keep things moving.

Stealth mode, really?

Stealth mode is the period of time when a business builds a product or service in secret. The reason many businesses do this is because, they believe, this will help them to get a competitive advantage.

There are certainly advantages to operating in stealth mode in the early days of your startup. As Partner of NextView Ventures, Lee Hower, writes

“The most common reason to be stealthy is to develop v1 away from the prying eyes of competitors, press, and others. Founding teams can be flexible in the design and development timeline of their product with less immediate worry about being imitated (great ideas always spawn competitors in the longer run) and less pressure about release date.”

The arguments for stealth mode are strong and can be extremely appealing to protective entrepreneurs. But there is a way to have your cake and eat it…

Keeping your product secret is not the same as keeping your business secret

Getting the word out about what you’re doing doesn’t mean sharing your entire business plan with your competitors.

You don’t have to show anyone your product.

If you insist on staying in stealth mode, bear in mind that you can still start marketing and keep your secrets secret.

VP of marketing at HR SaaS company Rise, Misha Abasov, argues in this article that the basis of all startup marketing is content, and this is very much your disposal regardless of whether or not you’re in stealth mode…

“The content you produce can be about the industry you’re about to disrupt or about the pain you’re addressing. Plus, you can share some insider information and behind-the-scenes action.”

You don’t have to give away any of your secrets to start building up brand awareness in your industry. You don’t even have to have a product and if you do, you don’t have to tell anyone what it is.

An example

Causr is a startup we’ve recently been working with founded by James Eder, co-founder of Student Beans. Technically, Causr is in stealth mode. Has that stopped them from marketing? Certainly not.

Take a look at Causr’s landing page…


“Creating connections on the go. Never let an opportunity or coincidence pass you by again.”

The copy on this landing page doesn’t tell you what Causr is or how it will work, but it does give you an insight into what problem it will solve.

Take a look at Causr’s LinkedIn page


Once again, the problem Causr will solve is explained while the product is not.

While the Causr team are keeping their product in stealth mode, they’re using their value proposition to start pre-launch marketing.

This way, they can drum up interest from people who share the problem Causr is looking to solve. Based on what you see here, it would be incredibly difficult to guess how Causr will work, let alone replicate it and beat it to market.

As a serial networker working on a social product, James Eder is mostly using word-of-mouth to get the word out about Causr so far. For most startups, there will be more effective and easier ways of driving potential customers to register their interest in your startup. You can use landing pages, paid ads, social media and content marketing on a restricted budget to build up an engaged audience who will be ready to leap on your product plus you can have the security of keeping your business secret.

Marketing in stealth mode is possible…

… But you might need to change your idea of what stealth mode means. Remember:

  • Building up a list of potential customers will give you a receptive audience to launch to
  • You don’t have to give away your competitive advantage
  • You don’t even have to show people your product
  • Sharing your value proposition and content relevant to your industry will attract potential customers

There’s no excuse for not starting your marketing pre-launch. You just have to think smart and remember what you want to achieve.

If you want advice on your startup, get in touch with Simpleweb today.

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