Working on marketing with young companies and founders can be very rewarding – and very depressing. Rewarding because there is so much these entrepreneurs can achieve with just a little hard work and some brains. Depressing, because there are the few that do not seem to want success and find so many lame explanations why marketing is not what they need or why their marketing does not need any work because their venture will naturally grow on its own and the marketing problem dissolve into thin air.
Talking to entrepreneurs especially young founders, I am often more than surprised what a low importance some of them assign to marketing and how they plan to solve the marketing aspect of their new company.
True, there may be some businesses, which do not need such a strong focus on marketing in the beginning and which can use networking, a telephone and some referrals (the process is also called sales) to start with, to get the first revenues and a proof of concept. I firmly believe that even these businesses could very well help their sales process with showing their expertise and experience with content marketing and nurturing their hard-won leads with social media, email marketing, and great content. But I do admit that there may be arguments for postponing the marketing in these cases for later – after the proof of concept. But the ventures where this applies are rare, and most young companies will be missing out or even worse endanger their businesses’ success by ignoring their need for a marketing strategy early on.
The truth is: Most new businesses need marketing to find customers and partners. And many new founders obviously have no clue how to solve that issue. But instead of trying to find solutions to this problem, they hide it behind some rather strange arguments.
Some of these arguments I have heard young founders using, are so totally beyond reason that you may find it hard to believe how often I hear them. Here are some of the worst we encountered in the past few years:
1. We don’t need marketing – we are going to turn viral
While this sounds like a joke from a fun video about startups, we have had a hard time convincing some startups of building their marketing from the ground up, because the only thing they wanted to talk about was „brainstorm something that will go viral“. This is worse than careless. Even though some marketers claim to have the secret formula for virality, this is not true. Virality cannot be planned. And virality is not a marketing method.
What you can do however is grow an audience and optimize your marketing for shares, likes, and reactions – all the basics needed for a chance of virality. These are part of any marketing strategy. And by only getting your basic marketing strategy in place you also raise your chances of any virality.
2. We will employ an intern
While an intern may be great and helpful, they usually come with a lot of problems as a solution to your marketing problem: Just like the founders themselves, interns know nothing about marketing – otherwise, they would simply get a fully paid marketing job. So, if you know nothing and they don’t know anything: Who is going to solve you marketing problems? And if your intern is an excellent learner and is figuring out how this whole marketing thing works in the short time he works for you. Once he knows how to grow your business he just moves on and says “goodbye” and you start all over again facing the same old marketing problems.
3. We will start marketing when we have revenues and can afford it
In the rare case, where you can make first revenues with talking to the right people in the beginning, this may make sense. But only if you can make some significant sales within a very short period. But in today’s social media marketing times, the lack of a budget is merely a lame excuse: You do not need a budget to set up and grow some social channels and a targeted audience within social media. What you need is some basic understanding of the processes, the will to succeed and persistence to keep going for a longer time than a handful of tweets in one week.
Marketing success is not (necessarily) a matter of money. And especially when you cannot afford much it is dangerous to miss out on the chances you have even without the big budget.
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4. We do not have time for this right now; we need to build a product
Having a product to sell may be good at some point in marketing. But working on a product for ages and then realizing that your target audience simply does not want it, is not a nice situation. And it happens more often than you think.
The way out of this is going lean: Build a minimal viable product and see how your audience reacts to it. And to reach an audience, marketing is going to be needed.
But even if you do not want to go lean: How about having a huge audience simply waiting for your product to get finished? How about launching your product to a huge social media following instead of hoping for some journalist picking up the launch story and spreading the word for you? It is possible! You can build an audience in social media without a finished product. And the better you nurture your audience beforehand, the better results can you expect once your product is ready for market.
5. We do sales, not marketing
It is often an expensive mistake to see sales and marketing as two separate entities. While it may be a quick win to pick up the phone a call everyone you can think of. Even if open new paths to more people you can call, usually you end up with a small percentage of sales and a long list of people who may still count as leads and may eventually buy later – but only if you keep nurturing them.
Marketing can help you solve the problem here and build the relationship with the lukewarm leads and keep in contact until they may be ready for a sale. Also, your marketing can help you fill up your sales funnel with targeted and interested leads, help you build trust and brand recognition. It is way easier to make a sales call if the recipient has already heard about the product you want to sell.
6. We do PR instead of marketing
We have talked to many startups who believe all their marketing problems will be solved if they manage to get featured on TechCrunch (or any other huge media outlet). The truth is what usually happens when you get featured on TechCrunch: You get a peak of interest for a few days (or hours), but this attention will not persist.
While PR may be a good way of getting some initial attention (and if you are lucky and good at telling stories even help you with holding up attention), for most young companies press coverage will be hard to get on an ongoing basis and even harder to target at the right audience.
However, even with your PR, social media, and especially content marketing or guest posting can help you get and stay on the radar of the relevant journalists and bloggers. Buffer did it – you can do it too if you are willing to work that hard.
7. If you do marketing, you are not alternative enough, and people won’t like you
We recently heard this one, and it rather left us speechless. Doing marketing obviously is not cool enough for some startups and small businesses. It sounds like: If you have to advertise what you are selling it cannot be very good. That is a mistake.
People won’t buy your products if they do not know they exist. And marketing something does not necessarily have to be annoying. Honestly: I would rather not so cool but run a successful business instead of being the coolest kid on the block which no one knows about.
I am sure there are “good” reasons why entrepreneurs, startups and founders are missing their enormous chances in marketing. If you have heard any “great excuses” please let us know in the comments.
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