Marketing Post – The Bug Report
Yesterday's marketing post had a few bugs in it. The AVC user base did a lot of bug reporting in the comments and if you have an hour or more, you should read through the entire comment thread, at the end of the post.
The first and most important bug is that I dissed the marketing profession at the start and again at the end of the post. Seth Godin says I conflated marketing and advertising. I don't totally agree. I simply disrepected marketing and then went on to talk about how to do marketing. Not a great way to have a rational conversation about marketing.
The second important bug is that my advice holds mostly for the kinds of companies we seek to invest in. I did a decent job of explaining that in the post but I could have done a better job of it. We seek to invest in large networks of engaged users on the wired and mobile web. This largely means big breakout companies in the free consumer web. It does not mean ecommerce, saas, enterprise, or plumbers (as one commenter pointed out).
The third important bug is I gave a bunch of advice in an area I don't have a lot of operational experience in. I've never been a marketer nor do I ever want to be a marketer. But I have seen what has worked well for our best performing companies. I should have been more clear that I was sharing what I've seen work for our portfolio instead of giving broad marketing advice.
There are a host of other smaller bugs and you'll see me reacting to them in the comment thread.
I'll end this bug report by saying that I still think the kinds of companies we want to invest in do not need to have marketing budgets at the startup phase. And I'll also say that I have seen "marketing professionals" do a lot of damage to our portfolio companies over the years. Most of the damage has come from outsourced marketing relationships with agencies who charge too much and help too little. But I will also say that marketing hires in our companies have had the lowest succcess rate of any hire and there are many so called experts who have turned out to be bad and expensive hires.
I'm angry at the marketing profession for these transgressions over the years and it spilled out into my post. I'm not proud of that but it is what it is. The post stands as written with all of its bugs and an awesome comment thread at the end.
UPDATE: There is one other thing I want to mention about the original post. I totally left out customer service. That is possibly the single best way to do marketing for startups. It allows you to connect to your early users, learn from them, and turn them into advocates for your product or service. Yet another bug in my original post.