What is Startup Marketing?

What is Startup Marketing?

Many startup founders don’t fully understand what a startup marketer does or should be doing. When I talk to founders I find they often have a very narrow definition of what startup marketing is and only after they have found a great senior person to run their team do they really understand what a broad role it is. I put together a presentation that I thought might be useful both for founders that are looking to understand the startup marketing role better as well as marketers that are struggling to explain to the other folks on the team what’s on their plate. What is Startup Marketing? from April Dunford Here’s what startup marketing is NOT: The Cure for a Lousy Product – There are a lot of things that marketers can do but if you have built something that nobody actually wants to buy or something so difficult to use that buyers give up on the product in disgust, well, marketing can’t really help you all that much. Magic – Related to the previous point, we might be good at many things but I don’t believe the tooth fairy leaves money under your pillow and neither should you. Convincing people to part with their hard earned money is difficult to do and there is no simple magic wand that works when we need it to. Like everything else in your startup, it’s hard work. Common Sense –  Just because you are on the receiving end of thousands of marketing messages a day and have an opinion about those, does not mean you understand what goes on behind the curtain. So what is...

5 Things Startup Marketers Can Teach Big Companies

I did a keynote talk last week at Communitech’s Tech Leadership Conference. The audience for this talk was a mix of big company marketers and startup marketers. My goal was to show the folks at the larger companies how small, agile, high-growth startups are managing their marketing operations. At the same time, when I think about the startups that I hang out with not all of them are doing everything that I talk about in this deck. I decided to post this deck over here to get some feedback from you folks. If you are a startup marketer – does your group operate in the way I’m describing in this deck? If you are at a larger company do you see these types of things being adopted? How do you think this will evolve over time? 5 things startup marketers can teach big companies from April...

How Should You Market Your Startup? The Definitive Answer

The most common question I get from early-stage startup founders is “How do I market my startup?” Experts are full of answers to this question telling startups that for great marketing all they need to do is social media, inbound marketing, SEO, hire a better sales team, build a better website, build a better product, do better media relations, get more customer advocates, or be more likable/remarkable/authentic. Every day I read a blog post telling startups there’s a simple key to revenue growth and oh by the way that simple key is different from the previous 20 simple keys I just read about. You don’t have the resources to follow all this advice and even if you did not all of it applies to your business. But what if you’re not a marketing expert – how the heck are you supposed to know what pieces DO apply to you? So you call someone like me who’s run marketing at a bunch of startups and you ask me the question “How do I market my startup?” To which I respond – “I don’t know.” Yeah, that sucks. It’s not the answer you want to hear. But it’s the answer you need to hear. The reason I don’t know is not because I’m an idiot (at least not all the time) so stick with me and I’ll explain. Tactics are just Tactics Most of what we talk about in marketing is tactical and there are many folks that are experts in certain tactics. I’ve got some experienced opinions about content, email, inside/outside sales support, strategic relationships, messaging, and some other stuff. If...
Startup Marketing: A Systems Approach

Startup Marketing: A Systems Approach

I gave a talk last week at The International Startup Festival on startup marketing. I’ve been thinking a lot about how many startups I see that are extremely tactics-oriented in their approach to marketing. My worry with many of them is that rather than starting with an exploration of their target customers (who they are, how they view offerings, how they buy), many marketers are jumping straight into tactics (i.e. choosing to focus heavily on social media or inbound marketing and excluding other potential tactics). It’s not a bad approach per se, particularly if you are measuring results and culling out the bad tactics and doubling down on the good ones. That approach does however lead to a few bigger problems in the longer term. First, the tactics tend to run independently and as a result lack consistency. Secondly assumptions are often not tracked across tactics and when they are, the measured results of the tactics are rarely used to re-asses those assumptions. Thirdly, because tactics were somewhat randomly chosen rather than chosen based on where the friction or best potential accelerators are in the buying cycle, any new tactic suggested is just as good as any other until you test it. Here are the slides Startup Marketing: A Systems Approach View more PowerPoint from April Dunford I had an amazing time at the conference. The speakers were great and I literally lost my voice chatting with startup folks in various tents including the speaker tent, the FounderFeul Mentor tent and the Women in Tech tent. If you didn’t go this year and get a chance to next year,...
Should Only Startups with Products Get Funded?

Should Only Startups with Products Get Funded?

The “trend” of startups without a well-defined product idea getting funding was discussed in a recent Forbes blog post. Here’s an excerpt: Having some kind of notion what line of business your fledgling company might want to pursue used to be a prerequisite to raising capital. Now, it’s a mark of hubris. You don’t tell the market what it needs; you gently offer it a series of options, which are less viable concepts than ritual sacrifices aimed at cultivating the favor of the start-up gods. It’s called “iterating.” The gist of the post is essentially this: if there’s no product, there’s nothing to invest in, yet people seem to be investing anyway and OMGITSABUBBLEWE’REALLGONNADIE!! (ok, I’ll admit my version has extra drama). The post doesn’t offer up much to back up the thesis that startups with no specific product idea are getting funded left and right (positioning Instagram as a typical startup is, in my opinion, bonkers) but it raises an interesting question – is there really value in a company that doesn’t have an offering? Suppose you invested in a company with a product, that later changes the offering significantly – does that mean you screwed up? Pivots aren’t new. Admitting we do them is. I’ve been involved in loads of version 1 product concept/development/launch exercises I’ve yet to see one where the offering didn’t significantly change after initial customer feedback. At what point in the product life-cycle these “pivots” occur however is shifting earlier and earlier as most self-respecting entrepreneurs have read Steve Blank and are now embracing the concept of early customer feedback and “customer development”. If...
Industry Analysts: Can You Buy Coverage?

Industry Analysts: Can You Buy Coverage?

I had a B2B startup founder ask me if it was possible to buy placement in a Gartner Magic Quadrant. The question shows a fundamental misunderstanding that the big industry analyst firms like Gartner Group and Forrester are “Pay for Play”. That simply doesn’t make any sense. You care about analyst coverage because customers care. Customers care because vendors can’t purchase it. The only reason marketers care what some industry analysts have to say is because some customers respect their opinion. The moment customers suspect that this opinion can be bought, they would stop paying for their advice. These markets where an analyst opinion really matters are often those where the decision is made by a purchase team that doesn’t have the time/skill/money/risk tolerance to perform a complete evaluation of every vendor in the market. They trust analysts to educate/advise them enough to quickly get the vendor list down to a more manageable size. It varies by market/geography/company size of course but if you are selling to a Fortune 500 IT buyer in North America, you may not get on a short list if Gartner doesn’t cover you (if you are selling to consumers, you probably should stop reading this right now). You can’t buy love. But you can purchase a date. So the entire business model of an analyst firm depends on customers trusting that the analysts are not biased for or against certain vendors. Vendors cannot purchase coverage in a report, nor inclusion on a Quadrant or Wave. Analysts do cover companies that don’t pay for their services. So does paying an analyst firm increase your chances of...
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