For many startups, marketing is an expensive, difficult to understand and measure and not as important as product development and sales.
But marketing is also an integral part of startup operations and, ultimately, their success. Startups that don’t embrace marketing as a key pillar in how they do business are operating with one hand tied behind their backs. By diligently avoiding marketing, startups are counting on consumers to magically discover their products. It’s the classic and flawed “if we build it, they will come” approach to business.
In a blog post that resonated with me big-time, David Bailey talked how his product management product software failed, in part, because his startup didn’t do marketing. Among the five “myths”, Bailey said many entrepreneurs think a great product will market itself. Instead, he says “great product deserve great marketing”.
Another myth highlighted by Bailey is marketing begins after a product is launched. This makes no sense because it is like getting into shape for a marathon after the race has started.
Instead, marketing starts from the beginning. When an idea for a product emerges, it is important for entrepreneurs to think about stories to attract customers, employees, partners, and capital. Then, it involves tasks such as building a list of influencers – reporters, bloggers, and analysts – to target, and the development of different types of storytelling vehicles such as presentations, sales sheets, videos and Website pages.
In my experience working with startups, marketing is often seen as a way to solve or fix problems. This includes things such as messaging that is unclear and confusing, Websites that aren’t driving conversions, a lack of sales and marketing collateral, or an ability to attract media coverage.
The embrace of marketing is, frankly, an act of desperation rather than a positive development. It explains why startups expect marketing to perform miracles and why marketing success has to happen overnight rather than being a slow burn.
There is a better way for startups to embrace marketing: make it as necessary and as important as product development and sales. It means investing in marketing – time, money, people – as much as other parts of the business. It means blending together product development, sales, and marketing to create a business that rumbles along on all cylinders.
Startups need to approach marketing as a positive long-term investment in their success. Yes, marketing is a different activity and success can’t always be accurately measured, which is difficult to accept in a data-obsessed world.
But marketing is a necessity for startups serious about success. Without marketing, even startups with awesome products will struggle to reach their full potential and attract the audience the product deserves.
Here is the secret to climbing on the marketing bandwagon: think of marketing as sales. Approach marketing as something that attracts customers and revenue, which sounds a lot like sales.
For startups, sales is an acceptable use of resources because it brings in money to keep the lights on, employees paid and investors happy. If marketing is viewed as selling, it is easier for startups to appreciate and embrace it.
Here’s another thing to think about: unless you have super salespeople, sales materialize after customers have touched your product and brand multiple times. According to SiriusDecisions, consumers are 70% down the funnel before they even talk to a salesperson. It means startups need to encourage and educate, which is, um, marketing.
Marketing matters. It makes a difference and plays a key role in turning a product into a business. Without marketing, a startup is waging an uphill fight against rivals that can easily outflank it.
A startup without marketing is a startup with, at best, tepid prospects.
My advice to startups is to stop being afraid of marketing or thinking it is an expensive or unnecessary or mysterious activity. It is an important part of the business mix.
The initial steps into marketing are challenging so take it with research and pragmatism. Get advice about the best approaches and solicit opinions from trusted resources before making big decisions.
At some point, however, it takes a leap of faith that marketing will deliver benefits and dividends.
I’ve worked with dozens of startups and fast-growing companies looking to accelerate their marketing. My services are driven by frameworks and processes to create messaging, strategic plans and content. If you want marketing that makes a difference, let’s talk. If you are looking for hand-picked startup content, subscribe to my weekly newsletter.