Without great marketing you can't exist....
I am increasingly surprised by start-up founders who fail to recognise the importance of marketing. They usually highlight the number of engineers and product people they have, but then go blank when I ask them about their marketing team. They seem to view marketing as a secondary priority….a soft skill that can be addressed later or even worse learned on the fly.
Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth.
For most companies, products don’t sell themselves. Rare are those exceptions like Skype or Facebook, who have inherent virality or runaway product successes like Google, Uber and Airbnb. For all others, the world is a noisy place and you need an efficient way to stand out. Anything short of building this into your company’s strategy is a formula for failure.
Sadly, the prevailing wisdom in the tech world is that engineers rule and all else is secondary. This of course is naïve, short sighted and irresponsible. Marketing capabilities are the differentiator with which you will win because engineering and products are the pre-requisite just to be in the game. What matters is how people find you and how you efficiently convert them into paying customers.
Of course we can be forgiven for thinking that marketing is easy. After all Google and Facebook have lulled us into believing that all you need is to spend money on their platform and everything will work out. Beware of this mirage…performance marketing is difficult and unless you have world-class capabilities you will loose a lot of money.
My advice is simple.
1. Be honest with yourself. Ask the hard question: how will people hear about your company?
2. Articulate your go-to-market strategy. As early as possible test a bunch of ways to promote your company and conclude quickly whether you look more like Skype and Facebook or like 99% of the world's companies.
3. Value marketing as much as engineering. Build a balanced team from the start, imbedding marking skills early will positively impact your product or service as you develop it.
4. Recognise the inevitable: You are likely to spend 40% to 50% of your operating budget on marketing. Why trust that to an amateur?