3 ways for startups to stand out at Mobile World Congress

(Image: catwalker / shutterstock.com)

Each year, more than 85,000 attendees walk the exhibitor halls of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona to set their sites on the “next big thing” in mobile, tablet, or wearable tech. This year will be no exception.

Starting March 1st with a soft opening, companies from all over the world will begin to showcase their latest designs, all with the hopes of garnering the attention of prospective buyers and press. Over 1,900 exhibitors are expected to take up shop for the week and represent their countries’ hottest new ideas. Bigger names at the conference include Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Tom Wheeler from the FTC.  It’s expected that larger name brands will sound off in unveiling their much-anticipated models. 

These announcements started coming out on Sunday, with Samsung’s Galaxy S6 and S 6 Edge, followed by HTC’s The One M9 and Grip athletic band.  Although not in attendance, Apple has also been generating buzz and media attention around the launch of their smartwatch, which is to be announced at a press presentation on March 9th. As the mobile industry continues to grow, and bigger tech giants like Samsung and Apple continue to dominate the news cycle, how do lesser known companies begin to make their mark?  More specifically, what makes a press worthy moment in a room dominated by the larger brands, some of which aren’t even in attendance?

1) Try to build strategic partnerships

For companies like HTC and Google, it’s all about forming relationships with the right partners.  Google is expected to talk about Project Ara, their modular smartphone development effort with Yezz.  As mentioned above, HTC announced the release of its first wearable tech, Grip – which is in partnership with Under Armour. Grip is intended to be for serious athletes with some smart watch components. Additional features include a built-in compass, pedometer, as well as GPS functionalities.  Strategic partnerships can make all the difference for a brand that doesn’t dominate the market share. Companies that find creative ways to develop new technology in line with their audience have a way of making it to press – the ultimate goal to reach prospective buyers. Developing strategic partnerships across brands and industries can help revitalize a company. In return, this helps to bring new attention to their technology, especially with press.

2) Keep an eye on your competitors 

Other companies like Samsung face increased competition by growing brands like Xiaomi, which dominated China’s smartphone market last year with 186 percent growth in market share.  Even for smaller startup companies looking to get press coverage, a large part of the challenge is having strong competitor awareness. By watching what your competitors do well, and comparing that with what they aren’t doing, smaller companies can get ahead of the curve by filling the gap. Journalists are in search of a good story and new ideas. Xiaomi’s flash sales were the perfect PR campaign to drive buzz and conversation around the growing brand, selling 100,000 of its Redmi 1S smartphones in India in just 4.2 seconds.  The allure around a flash sale, and the drive for reliable technology at a fraction of the cost is what helped to propel the brand forward. The unexpectedness and anticipation around Xiaomi’s product kept their smartphones in demand, and drove buzz around the brand.  Competitive awareness is all about recognizing what your competitors aren’t doing, and having the confidence that you can do it better.

3) Network, Network, Network 

Another way to garner press coverage at an event like MWC is to seek out networking opportunities and form relationships, both before and during the event.  With large events like MWC, companies get access to some of the brightest minds in the industry. By leveraging the amount of access to top talent and exposure, a smaller startup can get critical feedback towards improving their product or service.  Furthermore, MWC is host to educational conferences like 4 Years From Now (4YFN) – a startup event intended for entrepreneurs in the mobile and digital space looking to move up. These events give startups access to investors and financiers looking for founders with the next big ideas.   The overall goal for any startup at MWC who is looking for press options is to have a plan before attending. This means securing press interviews, understanding which journalists will be most interested in hearing about your product, and having a competitive edge that will differentiate you in a crowded space.  Whether this is a strategic partnership with another industry, or flash sales that turn into good PR, the goal is to create something worthy of talking about.

Samantha Dickson

@Sam__Dickson

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