Brad Feld has a great post on how marketing in startups is broken. He despises the word “marketing” because it is often the weakest link in a startup company. He goes on to say:
“Marketing” is vague and non-specific, often poorly executed and measured, and usually a huge waste of money relative to the output. Oh – and while there are plenty of “tried and true” approaches (that any marketing consulting would be happy to charge you plenty of money to explain to you) – the effective approaches have been evolving a lot lately, especially as user-generated content becomes ubiquitous.
So far I sort of agree…marketing is not only broken in startups, it is broken in most companies. There are many reasons for this – including what I call a lot of “text-book” marketers who don’t truly understand marketing and manage marketing as a set of predetermined task lists (that should be the same from one product to the next, and from one market to the next) and who measure their productivity by the number of press releases, or the number of leads (regardless of quality), or number of trade shows they attended (regardless of whether trade shows even make sense for their particular products). Today, failure for those people is guaranteed at an even faster rate, especially in the face of a marketplace where the old rules are no longer valid – you don’t “control” the message, people distrust you and they don’t have time to listen to you, they listen to other users, etc. So yes, I am sure that you will find many consultants that will gladly take your money and give you advise – but buyer beware – many of those consultants are the same people who used to be “text book” marketers before, and may not realize that their marketing text-book is no longer valid!
In his post, he goes on to say:
Several years ago, I suggested to my portfolio companies that they fire their VP of Marketing and hire a VP of Demand Generation (it could be the same person if the VP of Marketing was willing to accept a quota and meaningful, measurable variable compensation.) Hopefully, this VP of Demand Generation understands the incredible power of having your customers so happy with your product that they’ll talk about it online.
Here I am only partially in agreement because the solution he brings forward is only part what I think the solution should be. Of course marketers should do whatever they can to get the buzz going, and be measured accordingly, but they should own that same metric/goal with the person running customer service – who is probably still measuring his call center performance by how long the wait is to get a live person (good), and the length of the call (bad) – and the person running sales. All of the customer touch-points need to be looked at as an integrated set of levers through which you will create the enthusiasm needed for market buzz.
And then the marketer needs to be held accountable for a whole bunch of other things, because if you only measure her or him on “new” demand generation metrics, all your go-to-market efforts will ultimately fail. The other tasks for which the marketer should be responsible for can all be bundled in a category called “listening” – listening to marketplace for emerging negative buzz – so you can at least “try” to nip it in the but early; listening to the marketplace for competitive moves and thought leadership – so you have the right inputs in your strategy; and of course listening to the marketplace for what people really want – so you can bring the right offer to market. Because without the right offer, you can do anything you want – you will never be able to create buzz. At least not the kind of buzz you want to…