It was awesome, because in a way only parents can do, he said “you’re right – but you’re really wrong, and here is why” – like I said, only parents can do that, well, nicely.
Basically, he wrote me an email/ essay on how I was describing marketing as a far too narrow concept and in the spirit of presenting the whole story on our blog, we need to give the full story. He made some great points and thus this rebuttal post has been simmering in my brain for 5 days.
My Dad hasn’t been in school since the 70’s but he immediately referred me to the 4P’s and how they relate to our company. I am strongly convinced I have not thought of the phrase “4 P’s of Marketing” since I was a sophomore in college. However, if you’re company is building that go-to-market strategy for biz plan, investors, or just to have on the garage wall while you’re hacking a product…in hindsight I think its definitely worth it.
So, how does a concept now over 50 years old relate to an internet startup? (Note: For some marketing majors this may be a painful experience of reliving slides given by some TA in college – My Apologies). If you are already a “mrkting” pro – skip the 5 sections and the history lesson.
Product – A product (whether a good/ service or an app/ API) should be created to satisfy the needs of customers. At retickr , our product is personalized news.
Today, many founders/ VCs will start with a problem (what must be “satisfied” or “fixed” or “hacked”) – @retickr, our problem is information overload & too much content. We believe this problem drives users to demand a product to deliver the news that they care about, which we believe we can do by intelligently filtering out the noise.
Defining the product is harder than it seems. So be aware and mentally force your team to focus on what creates value for the customer. A ticker is great and novel and helpful for many users – but without the personalized filters, algorithms, and API to distribute the news – its just another ticker.
Price – Price is obviously the amount a customer pays for a product. There’s some backlash regarding services and networks like retickr opting for a “free” pricing strategy. There could be an entire series of essays on pricing strategies (we won’t go there).
Aside: As barriers to entry continue to shrink, and thus the cost of building a product decrease, startups will continue to build first and “make money” later – which definitely has pros and cons. VCs will get more from spraying “angel” dollars on multiple companies, and won’t push hard for quick returns until the pendulum of funding swings far to the other side, and every VC wants a profitable company in 6 months.
And of course a lot of people say – Oh well, you’re just put ads up or sell people’s data to monetize…Not necessarily true. Free can evolve into a premium option into a pay-for product (think Dropbox). Its worth noting that “price” – in my opinion – can be listening to the ads on Pandora to avoid paying to listen. A price I’m willing to pay by being marketed to.
Promotion – Here is where I rubbed my Dad the wrong way – only focusing on the allegedly sexy, “Mad M en” side of marketing. And while promotion is a key segment, I still assert that far too often the “marketing guy” says, “we’ll get a TC article, 50,000 signups, and then our viral coefficient will kick in”…right, I’m sure it will.
Promotion is how you spread the word about your product, its benefits, why its better than competitive products, and overall how you establish your brand. Jared and my previous posts both focused heavily on this P, which you can read about in our other posts. <LINK>
Place – Place is extremely important. Place is the distribution method of your product. How customers can get it. Distributing software/ apps/ games is something that has evolved very quickly. Ten years ago when I went to get the new Sim City, I went to Walmart or Best Buy. Today if I’m buying a game, I go to the Mac /iPhone/iPad App store(s).
For us, the distribution channel, reliability, and market confidence for utilizing the Mac App store to allow customers to get their hands on our product just made sense – especially for the early release of our ticker as we built our API and personalization. It made managing our “supply chain” very easy in many aspects.
R & D (my Dad added this, saying simply 8“the concept should continually be evolving”) – Functionality, UX/ UI, and a cycle of innovation in a product or concept should never stop. The needs of the customer/ market should drive consistent improvement in your product (and company – lest you wake up one day and become Yahoo).
Imagine if as mobile phones increased in computational power and functionality, no one ever reassessed the UI of the device? (no iPhone). R&D is a crucial role of the marketing department – they should be closest to the customer, and thus best situated to begin the feedback cycle.
So, to tie this off – marketing is not simply “how will you get users”.
It should be a living, breathing, evolving aspect of your company. A lot of people use the term “baked in” – which I love, because it gives you the mental imagery of putting in ingredients (that while maybe invisible) add the perfect distinct flavor that make the whole dish.
Marketing is not dead, just bemoaned, and as long as startups intend to create, distribute, and innovate– there will be a need for marketing. Terms have changed, focus has shifted, but when you distill down to the basics, the core pillars still stand today.