Hands-down, startup founders know their cutting-edge products better than anyone – but that doesn’t mean they know how to market them.
The hard truth is that even the most well-funded start-ups and talented leadership team can lack a practical understanding about what marketing is, when to begin it, what to budget for it, and how to staff it. Despite this, many founders and exec team members insist that they:
- ”Know marketing”;
- “Don’t need a marketer”; and/or
- Place the future of their brand in the hands of an “inexpensive” junior marketer.
All of the above approaches are high risk (ask an any successful VC) and can lead to errors that take the company off course, from sales revenue to brand equity valuation.
This common “marketing blindspot” is a serious momentum killer. The good news is that you can avoid walking down this path for too long by creating a team of smart marketing pros (e.g., in-house, agency, consultants) to manage your marketing needs, with the flexibility to scale your budget, as needed.
Five Tips For Building Marketing Intelligence For A Start-up
1. Invite a senior marketer with start-up and brand-building experience to join your Board. It’s shocking that startups think only CEOs, CFOs, and COOs are worthy of Board invitations. You should have a professional marketer in the mix that brings senior experience to your company’s knowledgebase. A marketer Board member can help you build a marketing team, screen candidates, offer referrals, provide budgeting guidance and more.
2. Staffing: Consultants/Agencies or Full Time Employees? If you have Angel or VC-funding, you were likely required to have at least one or two PowerPoint slides in your funding presentation about a marketing strategy. The good news is that you now have funding. The bad news is that you have no idea how to find a marketer to build out a plan and execute. Many start-ups engage a hybrid model that includes hiring a senior marketing lead in-house full time, complemented by an agency or a set of freelancers to support ongoing marketing programs. The in-house marketer offers executive level guidance on a consistent, daily basis as part of the leadership team, as well as strategizes and executes programs. The in-house marketer sets up consulting agreements with freelancers based on specialty areas (e.g., graphic designer, SEO, SEM, lead generation, PR, social media, etc.) or hires an agency that can meet many of these needs.
3. The Art of Recruiting: Business development and sales people are NOT marketers. Really. Save yourself some migraines by respecting these specialty areas and avoid tossing “marketing” on these respective titles. You will be unhappy with the results. Only consider resumes of people who have a marketing pedigree (e.g. marketing titles), and not used “marketing” as an aspect of their job. Look for a candidate who has been on a marketing team for at least one start-up (in-house or agency-side), unless you are hiring entry-level. As you know, a start-up culture is very chaotic and hands-on. And it’s not suitable for all personalities. Also, avoid jumping for someone who has been at a global public company for 5+ years. Skills stagnation and slow-moving bureacracies can be a challenging adjustment to these folks – unless they are leaving for this reason. Try your best to verify that chaos and speed are a “turn-on”, and not a “turn-off”.
4. Interviewing: What to Ask & Expect. The process for interviewing an individual is very different from interviewing an agency. After you’ve narrowed down the respective candidates in each category, you should conduct a phone interview for the first round. Prepare a list of questions and ask them consistently across all candidates so you can evenly gauge experience and personal connection/personality. The most significant difference is that agencies will present a colorful presentation with some specific ideas to showcase their creativity, along with some past client case studies to tout their successes. An individual will share how they’ve collaborated to create effective marketing programs, describe their role in these and if they’ve led any projects. When you ask your finalist for references, actually call them. You’d be suprised how many companies don’t and regret it.
5. Budgeting: Salaries & Consultants: Salary information based on title, experience and city can be found on sites such as payscale.com and salary.com. Take a look so you’re in the ballpark. Talk to other colleagues. Then figure out how much you can realistically offer in cash, equity and any benefits to be competitive and win the candidate you want. You can ask what their range is during the interview process, but this game gets old. If you have a salary range that you are rigid about, just say so. Save yourself time and energy. As far as a monthly budget for outside consultants, conservatively estimate 3% to 5% of your projected quarterly revenue and allocate accordingly. (For example, new product launch months require more resources.) If this guideline is too “rich” for you, work with your new in-house marketer, agency or marketer Board member to prioiritize tactics and build a quarterly plan with cost estimates.
Marketing has as many sub-specialties (e.g. PR, social media, lead gen, etc.) as YouTube has channels. Prioritizing and implementing the one’s that address your startup’s immediate needs, with the help of professional marketers, will save you a lot of time and resources in the long run.
Did you enjoy this article? Say thanks by “Liking” our Facebook Page!