June 5, 2014

Why Early-Stage Startups Can’t Blow Off Marketing

By Mark Evans

For startups, marketing is sales, and sales is marketing.

They are so intertwined that it’s difficult to separate them or place into silos. This is why marketing and sales people at startups should sit close to each other.


When I create marketing collateral for startup clients, I’m really creating sales collateral. Every piece of collateral is about getting potential customers into the sales funnel. Having marketing/sales collateral gives salespeople a powerful toolkit to get customers interested in the product.

In the scheme of things, startups need to embrace marketing pretty early. It is important to start exploring ways to connect with potential customers. It is a mistake to delay marketing until a startup wants to hit the accelerator.

In the Wall St. Journal recently, Jessica Livingston argued that startups must focus on sales, not marketing. There is a flaw in her thesis because she focuses on early stage startups talking to customers. In many ways, that’s marketing. When you’re communicating with potential customers, you’re marketing and selling at the same time.

At every stage along the way, startups are marketing. Whether it’s pitching an idea to a co-founder, raising seed capital, hiring employees, trying to get media coverage, a startup is marketing. They may not think it’s marketing but they’re doing it.

One point that Livingston mention that’s bang on is the need for a good product. It goes without saying it’s easier to market and sell a product when it’s good. But a good product fizzles if a startup fails to properly market and sell it. In other words, if the world doesn’t beat a path to your door, it doesn’t matter how good the product.

As I mentioned off the top, marketing is sales. This should make it easier for startups to get their heads around the value of marketing. Most startups are happy to hire a sales person but they’re cautious about hiring a marketer. This is despite the fact marketing and sales work hand in hand to drive revenue opportunities.

It’s always frustrating to come across startups that are unable to embrace marketing or, even worse, believe that marketing happens when the business gains traction.

The reality is most startups come around to marketing due to a point of pain – a bad Website, a thin sales funnel, or a lower profile than rivals. At some point, they surrender to the potential marketing. The interesting thing is once a startup gets into marketing, they quickly see the benefits. In other words, there is plenty of easy wins for marketing.

It is important for startups to discovery their core customers so they can sell effectively. This is what business entails. Marketing is an integral part of the mix – as much as sales, customer service or development.

For startups looking to jump-start their marketing, I provide strategic and tactical services – core messaging, brand positioning, marketing strategies and content creation.

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