Marketing Can’t Be Seen as a Necessary Evil

marketingFirst, 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.

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  • Robert C. Townsend

    “Marketing, in the fullest sense of the word, is the name of the game.”

    • Mark Evans

      Agreed! :)

  • tomwilliams

    Mark, I *think* I agree but with a big caveat. There is a low likelihood that “marketing” will remain an isolated division of a fast-growth technology company and/or that that Company will have a significant investment in people who are experts *only* at marketing.

    Marketing is no longer an isolated domain. Talking about it as though it is, is probably where the push-back comes from.

    • Mark Evans

      Yes, I agree that marketing can’t be in a silo; it needs to be integrated into product development and sales strategically and tactically. Thanks for the comment.

    • Matt A. Myers

      Agreed. I like the idea that certain companies have where developers actually have time interacting with the public, users, etc.. I imagine it can’t work in all cases, and some people won’t necessarily enjoy it – though I think it could be valuable, when time permits, to experiment to see what can come of it.

  • William Mougayar

    If a founder isn’t good at marketing, that’s the first problem.

    Marketing is difficult. Part of it is about timing- knowing when to do something for maximum effect.

  • JimHirshfield

    Fundamental, and so overlooked by many startups. Marketing gets done by biz dev, sales, product, CEO, et al. And everyone thinks that base is covered, but no one _owns_ it. So it’s inconsistent and often an afterthought.

  • Jim Huinink

    Hey Mark, I love this post. I think the fact that so many people (whether they are in startups or not) view marketing as any kind of evil is unfortunate. If people within a company are excited about their product they shoud be excited about marketing of every kind, including SEO, which is so often dismissed. I never understood any other stance, although many people’s belief is that “the product will find its own market.” No, it probably won’t… and your naivete is really unfortunate.

    Also – there’s a typo in 4th para (“It is [a] mistake…”)

    • Mark Evans

      Jim: I agree that market reflects and add lustre to good products. Thanks for the comment. Mark