This week, inspired by many factors including (but not limited to) Fred Wilsons recent blog post (on blogging) & our return from sxsw – we are coming out strong on being more transparent & thus blogging more.
I personally plan to blog about a number of things going forward – largely related to the business/ finance side of being in an early stage startup. This week, we’ve had a heavy focus on customer service, which got me on an interesting tangent as we were discussing stuff to write about.
Is marketing dead? Does every startup’s marketing pitch start with: Get TC coverage, go viral, & top it off by blowing up at SxSW? I’m afraid we used at least one of those phrases. Bringing up a new team mantra lately, everything your company does is marketing, & everyone has to buy in.
We’re a small team – so everyone wears different hats. And by different hats – I mean a lot of hats. Coding, operations, taking out trash, design, ordering food, finance, marketing, etc… [side note: to all those out there who are considering MBA or grad school or some other cushy internship versus going full speed into startup life, I would strongly recommend the startup. Read Fred Wilson on Mondays & try to survive for a year. 1 year = MBAx2]
So back to hats – Marketing is typically persona non grata in the startup world these days – for a number of reasons. One is the glamorous startups we all refer to in business plans or founder-bar chatter “never marketed”. At least that is the prevailing sentiment – start a conversation with a founder, ask about their marketing plan – they’ll talk about articles and word of mouth. Maybe a Scoble shout out… but Facebook/ Pinterest/ Twitter/ reddit – they never marketed. They just hockey-sticked, right?
Another reason I suspect marketing has taken a hit in startup land is that everyone is high as hell on the lean startup craze (which we @retickr live by – Full Disclosure) – and when you cut every inch of fat from your biz plan or investor deck – marketing can be a big budget item that VCs can say, “let’s put fuel on that fire later”. Simply, why spend a lot on marketing before you’ve built an awesome product to market. Strong point.
But the question is: did everyone forget about branding? Every time a potential customer/ user touches your product/ company/ brand – it should be awesome. Not just when using the product. Of course it can’t always be lollipops & rainbows – but look at how Path handled “address-book-gate” – sympathetically, apologetically, & very quickly (after some public encouragement). Even though many people may say it isn’t “marketing”, any interaction with your brand is an opportunity to shape how a potential customer thinks about you – & a good apology can be a good start.
The key is marketing, customer service, & user acquisition are vital & should be baked in & addressed at every phase in creating your product & business. I admit we’ve not always done the best job of focusing on these aspects, but as startups do – we learn, iterate, & increase our efforts. The point is, there is still a huge need for “marketing” in startups – just less focus on press releases & booth swag.
A few examples of pretty creative/ cash effective marketing we’ve seen recently:
just retickr dominating the foursquare squad – IN FOURSQUARE (from the D square that is)