I work closely with tech startups and am often asked to help market a seemingly very minimal MVP. More often than not, these startups have no funding and limited resources to market their product. They turn to us for help. I question whether they are even ready to go to market and what they can do on their own dime to make it worthwhile.
I've gotten accepted into two different accelerator programs in the US. Both were ranked in the top tiers (Gold and Platinum Plus).
For startups in an accelerator with limited resources, there are a handful of ways to get cheap traffic. Depending on the product, they may find that certain growth hacks like SEO, LinkedIn, Craigslist or Reddit can all be great channels. Its important that the product being marketed is relevant otherwise it will feel like spam. Another method for cheap traffic is to pitch a PR story and try to get coverage from a media outlet.
There are many different avenues to get traction and customers without immediately using paid ad channels.
If you have more questions on finding good cheap marketing channels feel free to call me.
I believe it's never too early to start building a brand and culture and that can be done before there's even a MVP. They can work on getting people involved in what they're doing, make new connections, and build some excitement via their blog, social media, videos, or sharing the process of what they're making. It's a great opportunity to start building a foundation for what will come later without directly going to traditional marketing.
I think it is almost too late... :(
How a startup even got into an incubator if they have not done some marketing? As soon as founders came up with an idea for a startup - they must go out and validate it on the market. Are they addressing any real needs on the market? Will they be able to do a right "job" for their intended end users? The answers could be changing through the process but they need to be asked constantly.
An incubator or accelerator is a perfect entity to complement startups lack of resources and bandwidth. They need to whip startups into getting out and provide mentoring and advisement on how to do it right and who to talk to.
I would hope startups in accelerators already have tested their theories....how can you possibly help/mentor someone when they don't even have their own concept down?! If your gut says they aren't ready for marketing tell them that followed by a list of no more than 10 things that they need to achieve before you help market them. Guaranteed that if there idea is a winner they'll blow thru them and it will be a different convo.