First, this post isn’t intended as being self-serving, although it would be easy to take it that way.
Since I started to focus on startup marketing in early 2011, one of the things I’ve learned about startups is their ambivalence, cautiousness or lack of interest in marketing. It’s surprising because marketing is a key weapon to spread the word about your product, attract users and generate revenue.
But many startups are so focused on product development and sales that marketing seems to take a back-seat – if it’s being considered at all. In some respects, this is understandable, particularly for early-stage startups, because the priority is getting a product launched so sales can happen, while marketing is seen as an expense.
It is a mistake, however, to view marketing as a secondary consideration or something that can be embraced down the road when there’s more traction. To not be thinking about marketing is dangerous because it means a startup will be forced to scramble when it wants to start telling its story to target audiences – and that day will arrive.
At the end of the day, marketing is storytelling using a variety of channels. At some point, startups need to tell their stories – be it to users, investors, partners, employees or the media/bloggers.
While startups can develop their products in isolation or stealth mode, at some point in time, they’re going to have to start telling people what they do, how they’re different and why anyone should care. Moving forward with marketing to some degree is just smart business because it means you’re prepared rather than scrambling.
This doesn’t mean startups need to have full-blown marketing campaigns from the start; it means they should have marketing as part of the strategic mix in the early stage of the business, along with their vision for the product and the markets being tackled.
Approached the right way and at the right time, marketing can drive a startup forward as opposed to being seen as an expense or as a necessary evil.