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.
“I’ve never been a marketer nor do I ever want to be a marketer.”Not sure that’s true. You can call it whatever you want, but you’re an extremely intuitive and effective marketer…
semantics rears its ugly head again 🙂
Ha! Well, considering your current opinion of marketers, I apologize for my gross insult! 😉
I’m going to have to stand up for semantics – it’s the study of meaning, so it’s pretty damn important! Don’t like how much of a bad rap it gets.
Are you saying that ugly people can’t also be important? 😉
Well, that’s one way to explain my obscurity. : P
You’ve just blown Fred’s cover as a secret double-agent marketer.He slips words like “bug”, “grok”, and “i hate marketing” into conversations with unsuspecting geeks. To gain their trust.And it throws agency people off the scent of his trail as he plants the seeds for a revolution led by next-generation marketers who can code, and an elite force of she-hackers with special powers in the cultivation of millions of followers with no marketing budget.As we speak, they’re being trained in an undisclosed, secure mountain location. So when Fred soon announces he’s “going on a ski vacation with my family”, you know what that really means. The end is near.
how did you decipher my secret plan?
I think you do envision a more beautiful New World Order.
Regardless of how popular or unpopular the opinion I respect the fact that you just put it out there on your blog. Business is hardly black and white and what works for one may not work for all. Without a doubt you have achieved amazing success based on your business philosophy which I immensely enjoy reading. Your post this morning makes me wonder if marketing as a whole is not to blame, but a few faulty practitioners encountered early on that left a sour taste.
Fred, you’re under-estimating the fact that when you invest in a company, that’s the biggest marketing boost you give them. It makes it easier for them to *not* have to spend a ton of money on marketing, because of their association with you and USV. That was the basis of your comments yesterday and today, i.e. you’re seeing it from your point of view/experience/playground, and not everybody has understood your vantage point.
100% agree.I’ve been at a startup with quiet investors — investors with no audience, no platform, etc. It was honestly frustrating knowing that the investors could have built the same bully pulpit Fred has here … but, well, didn’t. The investors’ startups lose, and in turn, so does the investor.
The average joe – most likely your customer – never heard of USV and couldn’t care less if you were backed by Warren himself. All it begets is more capital, not more customers. Good products trump all that.
The hard part of exponential growth is the left side of the graph is really, really flat.Investment by USV (or KP or Sequoia or a number of other name brand VCs) can get you those incredibly difficult to acquire first few thousand users and get you moving to the right on the exponential growth graph MUCH more quickly. A good write up by Techcrunch can do the same thing.The difference between starting exponential growth with 1 user and 5000 users is huge. Yes the product has to be good, but if the early adopters never find out about it no one else will either.
You are right on the money.The old phraseology about Crossing the Chasm that we all learned from Geoffrey Moore is a timeless and basic truth. The momentum to get market pull is faster and more frictionless if you have those large early adopter populations.Fred or whomever can help get you to round second base is a priceless advantage.You still need to have value but having a party when no one knows about it is no party at all.
I completely agree with this. I’ve only created start-ups in my head, but I’m intimidated by the thought of getting early users to any site that depends on other users/networking for appeal. If there’s nobody there, then nobody wants to be there- whether its selling/buying products or just social interaction.I guess great marketing could solve the problem, or does it take months/years of slowly moving under the radar? Techcrunch write-ups or VC credibility seems like the best ticket.
Of course good product trumps all. And of course the average Joe cares not for whom your investors are.But that underscores my point. If Warren Buffet had a blog, we’d read it. (How many non-Berkshire Hathaway shareholders read his letter to shareholders?) If it were interesting, we’d share it. If he could make the case for why an investment of his made sense for us — not all of us, of course, but a few of us — that’d be great.Having an engaged audience is a good, powerful thing. Getting money from most investors doesn’t get you that. From Fred, it does.
Of course good product trumps all. And of course the average Joecares not for whom your investors are.But that underscores my point. If Warren Buffet had a blog, we’d readit. (How many non-Berkshire Hathaway shareholders read his letter toshareholders?) If it were interesting, we’d share it. If he couldmake the case for why an investment of his made sense for us — notall of us, of course, but a few of us — that’d be great.Having an engaged audience is a good, powerful thing. Getting moneyfrom most investors doesn’t get you that. From Fred, it does.
I’m very skeptical of this. I think Fred’s brand is fantastic but there are a lot of companies in his portfolio that did not break out despite the brand cred that Fred brings. And the ones that broke out would have broken out without Fred’s brand. The VC brand is very useful for other industry related things – such as raising a subsequent round of capital. But there are many very successful and “famous” (fame in a very small world – not fame ala Paris Hilton or Oprah) VCs making investments and there a huge number of companies with famous VCs that don’t break out.
I’m not sure anybody is claiming that a VC brand alone is sufficient to cause a breakout. But it doesn’t hurt.
Awareness of a product is not a panacea, so it should go without saying that awareness via Fred isn’t going to make your product successful in and of itself. Far from it.As for your other point, I think you’re miscasting what William said. He’s just stating that the biggest marketing boost most USV startups get, especially early, is from the association with USV and Fred. I don’t think he’s claiming that the companies wouldn’t have succeeded but for that boost. It helps, but it’s not dispositive.
Thanks Dan. Totally agree with what you said.
Yup, just summed up better than what I was trying to say in an analysis.I should just stop posting here and let all you other brilliant nuts do it. 😛
Yes and No. My point was that Fred’s brand “can” literally catapult an obscure or less-known company overnight, and the rest is up to the company to pick up from there and determine their fate. And I didn’t imply that other VC’s don’t have similar mojo.Agreed that those that broke out don’t need the AVC/USV brand as much anymore, but they took it early on. Also, think of the other side. If something bad happens to Twitter, Zynga or Foursquare, Fred is the first one that will defend them, and that carries weight too.So, you need as much good marketing in bad times as you do in good times.
So why does it work for some companies and not others
Shana, That’s a tough question to answer in a general sense. I think each case will be different.
Good point – I agree
True, the ecosystem that’s evolved around Fred, if he invests in you, will draw attention of others including VCs (who may possibly be apart of future funding), but it also draws the attention of competition.Social media news sites like Mashable will cover you and keep tabs on what you’re doing – which the level of effect will depend on how interesting and widespread of a market you’re going after. However assuming your company is a free consumer-related business such as Fred invests in, then well, the benefits of that press could be substantial, seeing as there are a lot of consumers that visit Mashable …. benefit depending on how well that exposure can be harnessed.So, biggest marketing boost Fred gives them? Most valuable? Possibly.. But this doesn’t mean a breakout will occur – which touches on Elie Seidman’s skepticism.Elie’s right to bring up the fact that this given boost isn’t exclusive to Fred – and that companies that breakout may have been able to breakout with someone else investing; This is assuming other investors understand the metrics and theories as well to feel comfortable investing, and to help navigate the company and pitch it properly for subsequent rounds.
I’m still not 100% sure I buy that.Having Fred as an investor is certainly a huge gateway into tech community early adopters…arguably the best one there is.But even some of Fred’s tactical ideas in yesterday’s post require a marketing budget to reach a mass market (i.e. Events).I start Tuesday with my new startup. (As if I didn’t “start” living and breathing it a long time ago.) I’m going to work my tail off to build an insanely great product that can build an engaged community of users all on its own.But I’ve certainly budgeted for smart ways to acquire users. I’m not going to leave my success to sheer luck. If things proceed how I hope, there’s a trove of money to invest in engineering!
Aaron, Best of luck with your new startup! I don’t disagree with what you said. All I was saying is that it’s a great booster/starting point. The rest is up to the startup to live up to the hype and deliver both product and customers.
Thanks William – and I think we’re on the same page there.
That’s fantastic about your launch Aaron. All the best to you!
Wow, the AVC community is sure a great way to get encouragement on new ventures! Thanks Donna… 🙂
Wow, the AVC community is sure a great way to get encouragement on new ventures! Thanks Donna… 🙂
Best of luck Aaron :).May your market be HUGE and your products spectacular.
Thanks Mark! Many thanks.
Thanks Mark! Many thanks.
Luck is a bad strategy but a good thing to have on your side. There’s always a little in every winning formula.Best of ‘luck’ to you!
Absolutely true. I just want the degree of luck to determine the range between $50MM and $10 billion…not $0 and that. :)Thanks!
Absolutely true. I just want the degree of luck to determine the range between $50MM and $10 billion…not $0 and that. 🙂
OOh, good luck, what exactly is Riskalyze?
All I can tell you so far is that we’re building some very cool technology to revolutionize how people make risk/reward decisions.Our first product is due mid-year and we’d love to have you be a part of the beta list if you’re interested!
Betas are my new hobby. So put me on the list.
I’m honored and you’re on! Thanks Donna.
Sorry I should have written before – please send me an e-mail at [email protected] so I know how to reach you when it’s time! Thanks again.
All I can tell you so far is that we’re building some very cool technology to revolutionize how people make risk/reward decisions.Our first product is due mid-year and we’d love to have you be a part of the beta list if you’re interested!
Good Fortune Aaron, keep us posted.
Thanks much Richard!
Thumbs up on the good luck Aaron.
Good luck Aaron – you’re LTD now ( living the dream )
It’s the truth! Not my first rodeo but an exhilarating return to the startup world. I’m excited.
Oprah = marketing plan Fred = marketing moment
leigh = semantics
It should be considered that Fred’s “marketing” boost is based on his reputation. His reputation is founded on actually using the products he invests in and investing in products that solve a problem well. If he invested in and promoted products (and services, to be fair) that sucked, would his reputation be as good? Would the marketing boost be there? Probably not.
The Fred brand is not great because he tells his story and he blogs a lot promoting his portfolio, but because he actually, consistently delivers.The Fred brand is reinforced by this consistency. That’s branding, not marketing.
Branding is part of marketing. And so is PR & social media now.How a brand is perceived is the result of good marketing + good content/product, happy clients, etc…
Bingo.I was thinking the same thing.
Expecting Fred to give marketing advice for anything outside of companies he would invest in would be a bad idea. If you come to this blog to read how a plumber should advertise, then you are lost. The post was very insightful, especially when taken in context.But everyone knew it wasn’t going to be the most positive spin when you started off with “You asked for it, so I’m gonna talk about marketing…”
That’s true, but Fred actually *does* understand marketing. He’s incredibly good at it, in fact.The best example is his Donors Choose campaign. http://www.donorschoose.org…He managed to get over 200 people to donate over $8k total. That’s incredible. And all he had to do was ask!Few if any of us could do that overnight, but almost all of us could do something similar within 3 years time. I have a daily email newsletter, for example, which I started in June. It now has 2,400+ subscribers. Last month, I asked the recipients to donate to my cousin’s campaign to raise money for childhood cancer research — and a few (at least 3, maybe as many as 6-7) did. People who were strangers to me in May donated money *simply because I asked* in January. That’s something really anyone could do, if someone helped them through the process.That’s what Fred can bring to the table on the topic, and in advising his startups.
I believe you’re confusing marketing with reputational influence.
yeah, not many good things start with “you asked for it”i’m chuckling as i write this
Your anger toward the marketing profession is not totally misplaced. I own a design firm and am indeed part of the marketing profession, but I see so called marketing experts dishing out terrible advice regularly. The majority of people that claim to be marketing experts are nothing more than self proclaimed experts. I am a strong believer that you can’t label yourself an expert….you must earn the title by delivering consistent results.However, I would argue with one aspect of your post. You are indeed a very talented marketer. This blog is one of the best marketing platforms your company and portfolio companies could have.
I respect that you describe yourself as “part” of the marketing profession.I wonder if part of the bad rap marketing sometimes gets is based on people describing themselves as marketing experts when really they are specialists in a particular aspect of marketing — and on top of that, don’t truly understand the limitations of their particular knowledge base and area of specialization.
As with anything in this world…specialization breeds expertise. You can’t be good at everything and I never intended to label myself a general “marketing expert.” I also wasn’t insinuating that all aspects of the marketing profession are the same. Notice that I specifically refer to my company as a design firm. We don’t do PR, we don’t do media buys and we don’t offer consulting…we do what we know well, design and creative marketing. That does indeed make us part of the marketing industry even though we don’t offer many other marketing services. However, in an effort to keep the post short I did generalize to avoid going into great depth within each aspect of marketing.And I don’t argue with your reference to many people in the industry labeling themselves as marketing experts even though they have limited knowledge of many aspects within the marketing industry.
I tried to respond a few moments ago and it didn’t take — hopefully this won’t be a duplicate.I didn’t communicate clearly in my previous comment– I meant my comment as an affirmation of how you described yourself (your firm). I think you made it very clear that you were claiming expertise in a particular aspect of marketing!
and a total accidentbut i’ll take ityou are correct in your assessment
Maybe the bugs were the best feature yesterday Fred ;)The comments from yesterday’s post are a treasure trove of value. Really a blizzard of great ideas, voiced anxieties,articulate but defensive posturing and really honest queries by a host of entrepreneurs striving for success. Really good stuff.
And I might add that the bugs caused you to shine Arnold. While I’ve come to greatly admire (and learn from) your knowledge and insights, you were particularly “on” yesterday. I felt like there should have been a sign flashing “The doctor is in.” Marketing has an eloquent champion in you!
High praise coming from you Donna. Thank you!This discussion just tapped right into my DNA.
Yeah I know, it was a great post and it definitely was a value ad to see how the ideas developed
I’m enjoying and learning quite a bit from this discussion. Disagreement always prompts a better understanding.One thing I would add: The intention of marketing most things is to show people value that they can’t see for themselves. True, applications with great user experience and network-businesses should be able to show (not tell) their value. But sometimes there is a deeper value (not immediately recognized) that requires a leap of understanding – not necessarily for the visionaries and first adopters, but most certainly for the pragmatists. In such instances, marketing is a necessity.As to what makes great, cost-efficient marketing. Well, that’s a whole other discussion. I’ve always loved the quote that “advertising is the price you pay for being unoriginal.” But if people fail to grasp the value you add with your product or service, you need to reevaluate both the product itself as well as how you communicate and make the case for it.
Astute comment Scott.Marketing architects the connection between product and customer. For early adopters and developers it’s one thing, for a broader community of users another as you point out.Both are the realm of communications and marketing connections in my mind.Certainly brand, referral systems, and campaigns to touch a new segment all play into it. But…the best campaign can’t drive acceptance of a poor product. With democracy of choice and access, conversations not shouting is what is necessary. This is easier and faster if the value is overt, more prolonged and possibly pointed if the value is more subtle.
Just curious: do you encourage small scale post-mortems like this in your portfolio companies, when something doesn’t go as expected?
Marketing isn’t about agencies or budgets or any of the BS that pisses you off. Marketing is about building an audience and a relationship with that audience. It allows you, the marketer/speaker, to push forward your ideas, interests, passions, and investments (in time, for us non-VC folks) to a larger group.You are an incredibly effective marketing tool for your portfolio. You’re underselling that aspect greatly. I hope and believe you advise your startups to do similar things — blog about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it. Write guest posts and speak at panels (and perhaps attend conferences — I know you find them to be a personal timesuck) and make themselves available to most people who want to know about their ideas, interests, etc.
If Fred thought of his blog as marketing, would it be as good as it is?
Semantics aside? Yes.http://www.avc.com/a_vc/201…See?
Is word of mouth (both online and offline) not what most digital services made famous?”He said, she said…” a viral memetic epidemic about the goodness of something.I remember when I used altavista next to other ten search tools until google found more what i wanted. I guess there is a sort of SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST playing a big role in the fame of a practical technology like google and twitter and so on.Innovation (as in “like no one else”) is the ultimate marketing strategy for me. So yeahr why should an innovative business model spend money on hypnotizing?I remember when we went to the advertising museum in London and my friend Marilou said “This museum is an attack” lolIt was interesting to see the origin of adverting as a result of mass population, mass production, mass advertising.For digital innovation the formula could be mass population, mass demand, mass innovation.For me Facebooks success has to do with their restless micro-innovations. And those micro-innovations have a MASSIVE marketing effect.
Marketing 102: Transparency and the ability to admit mistakes builds trust and loyalty.Congrats sir, you graduate.
a good nights sleep and a few hours in the comments led to that post
The hardest part about marketing is that it is more of an art than a science. Even with all the great new ways to market (twitter, facebook, etc.) you still have to grab attention and find your voice through the noise. I remember my time at business school (Columbia, very quantitative based workload), most of my classmates felt that marketing and sales just happens, “it is just common sense”. While I agree with you, the great ideas do not need as much marketing, you do have to find that voice and get consumers feeling your message, not just hearing it.I have hired quite a few marketers, the good ones get it and can push your message the way you need it. Others make brochures and a website and just expect customers to come. There is truly a difference.www.retailpitch.com
A lot of this is semantics. Marketing – as the name implies – is expertise in the marketplace your product is sold in. No more, no less. Markets are complex and not to be taken lightly – bringing a product out in a crowded market requires this expertise. So does defending your turf when you’re first. It’s not fancy (empty) suits and expensive image campaigns. It’s a hard and quantitative business that develops actionable plans that businesses can profitably act on.
I could not possibly disagree with you more — in the most professional and gentlemanly way possible, you must know.There is real science to making a “real” marketing plan not just saying we are going to start “doin sum social media” and a bit of common sense.To know your industry, your customers, your competition, your product requires painstaking research and hard work. And should result in such verifiable and unquestionable data as to be worthy of the CIA in the old days.The fashioning of a plan which is both strategic and tactical requires a skill in planning, budgeting, evaluating and revising that is the equivalent of planning D-Day.To design materials which capture all that you want to communicate to your targeted audience is as technical as testing concrete strength.Done correctly, marketing is a lot of tangible hard work before the guys and gals with tattoos and piercings show up.
The fashioning of the plan has to truly be back at the beginning of drawing up the design/architecture. That is what places it on the order of D-Day where you plan the initial invasion and anticipate the resulting skirmishes in different conditions/terrain.If you put those pieces truly together, you can do something that follows a more different take on crossing the ocean (water) delivering profit at a much lower investment.Doing something truly creative along that line backed by some of the expected manuveurs (expected by competitor) allows that truly creative to catch everyone offguard. Feed them what they (competition) expect and saturate (with truly right product) the market via creative leaving competition looking like deer in headlights.Then the market talks about you.
JLM. Like yur comment, but come to think of it : ‘doin sum social media’ plus add some tatoos and piercings sounds kindof f’n a 😉
It’s not the art that bothers me. I’m a rather artsy/creative/intuitive type — but also do a lot of analysis (and some say, too much analysis).The issue is that, if you’re doing this for a business that’s new, then by definition, you can’t be entirely certain in advance that it’s going to work.The engineers have the same issue. But, hopefully, their failures can be a bit more private, so they can learn and correct.Often the marketer’s failures, especially if there was a lot of spending involved, are by definition public. So it quickly becomes that person’s last campaign.And that’s why it’s smart practice to launch a small pilot that’s a 3-D representation of your business. Hopefully if you’ve analyzed it 7 ways til Sunday as JLM describes, then you’ve defined the ‘right’ pilot, that tells you what you need to know to decide the next way to fix or scale. Refine the value proposition. Know what they love. Drop extraneous stuff. Know who loves you the most and find more people like that. You have to talk to people in the trenches. No substitute.That’s not art. It’s toil — sweat and hard work, analysis, headaches. And delicious fun when it works.
An subject that warrants a lot of discussion.i agree with both you and JLM. I believe in the plan but I believe that the plan is brought alive by strategic and creative and self conscious execution.Marketing is hard work…you got it!
“The hardest part about marketing is that it is more of an art than a science…”That’s a scary statement.
Interesting that you would say that is a scary statement when you are in the field of hiring people. I really liked your blog post, but the most indicative sentence is the following when dealing with a new venture:”As I’m writing this, I’m thinking about more entrepreneurial companies where precedent is limited and there are few, if any, systems around hiring.”I believe that marketing a new service or company you have to be a pioneer and you have to create new and better ways to get your service/product. You can look at what has been done in the past that created great companies in the past, but “where the precedent is limited”, you have to blaze a new trail.
The need for both “art” AND “science” in marketing has already been eloquently stated in other responses.I could possibly be confusing “rigor” with science — there is a certain amount of rigor in good marketing. And what’s scary to me is marketing that is all hunch, intuition, etc. without the rigor — and the opposite would also be true. The magic and the juice often come from those more creative and intuitive instincts.I know that in my business, there’s got to be a combination as well. One of the reasons I left my earlier career as an analyst to become a recruiter is that I wanted to use more of that intuitive/creative side.BTW, when you talk about pioneering, creating new and better ways and blazing trails, you are talking my love language. :-)And thanks for what I think was a compliment on my blog post. Probably time for a new one — maybe “The Art and Science of Hiring” What d’ya think?
It was definitely a compliment on your blog, hope you did not take it any other way.This is a fantastic blog (AVC), however I can see where you may take it as a diss given that a lot of the comments on here are trying to one up each other and look smarter than others. I find the word semantic come up a lot to try to disprove or prove others right/wrong.I think more people need to talk about hiring people, as when it comes down to it hiring/firing people is the most important part of a business. Even better would be the art and science of taking on a partner. Whether this person is a financial or “in the trenches” partner.I have raised VC/PE money three times all with mixed reviews. Our new venture has huge promise (www.retailpitch.com) in the world of retail social media with great technology and a good group of key customers already signed up. However, we are trying to decide if we want to raise money or not. Our model is revenue ready from the day of launch.Obviously you have to believe in your partners and finding the right ones are important. I believe that hiring an employee and finding the right partners are the most important thing you can do and either you or our friend Fred Wilson should get some insight in to that.
brochure should be eliminated from the english language
“Others make brochures and a website and just expect customers to come.”Brings to mind how all those top folks who want to be Trump’s Apprentice do those brochures without address/phone#.
I’ve had the same experience with “professional” marketers. Unfortunately, unlike being a doctor or engineers, being a “professional marketer” does not require any real qualifications.And the challenge with hiring marketers is that, first and foremost, they know how to market themselves – which makes it that much harder to get through a useful interview process. Same problem with hiring salespeople but at least salespeople are accountable to quota and it’s usually pretty easy to tell who is performing and who needs to be fired.And the “hire me so I can hire an agency” is a total non-starter for a startup evaluating a marketer. Either the marketer being hired will actually do real work themselves or bypass them and go directly to the agency yourself. You can use the budget you would have spent on hiring that person to buy actual tactics from someone who will be accountable.
Loaded comment Elie.The marketers’ credentials is their reputation. If you can’t find it, they don’t have it. I think this is true.I’ve taken this further when building teams for clients. If you are hiring anyone in marketing or sales or biz dev even, if you can’t get to know them before you talk to them, to some degree, they are the wrong person. Why hire a marketing lead if they don’t have that as their DNA and exemplify it.Re: agencies, when and how to use them. Bigger topic. From all my comments yesterday, its obvious that I believe that only the company can do an honest job of speaking for themselves.
“…only the company can do an honest job of speaking for themselves.”Are you only applying this to startups? Or everybody?
Of course the larger the generalization the bigger the exceptions but…I have to say yes.The dynamic we strive for is for the company to speak to it’s community/customers and for the customers to speak to each other.
Ah, but a company cannot “speak” as it’s not human. The people inside the company can, of course.Do you advocate that everybody speak equally and openly? There is no defined messaging? No “elevator pitch”? I don’t think most successful and mature companies run that way.If there are such things, who defines them? Not marketers?Somebody might be a terrific programmer, but an awful communicator. Should that person become a “face of the company”?Ultimately, all great, mature companies have a central story they tell – a mythology, as it were. See Apple, Google, Facebook, etc. It needs to be based in something genuine (ideally in a great product and/or service). But there’s still an awful lot of marketing in there. Ask P&G if marketers are important.But if we’re talking about companies in the startup stage, the kind that Fred invests in, this may not apply. Or at least not nearly as much.And thus my earlier question.
We are going to have to disagree here Scott.(Or since I think you are in NY, we can continue over coffee sometime.)People communicate and tell stories to other people. And this is true in small companies and large when done right.-Best Buy’s CMO.-Multiple blogs and tweets and info channels through Dell.-Multilayered blogs from everywhere within the Microsoft organization.-And the Boxee blog as a great example of a startup communications channel.Its a poor decision to hire a product manager in small or large company that cannot build a blog to talk to the community of developers or early adopters.Companies market their brands of course. Their customers decide whether they are real. That’s not the same as communications with their customers.Early days when everyone worried that blogs were bad because you couldn’t control the comments are long past. Most companies have discovered that simple rules about confidentiality and civility are all that is needed.Sure there are bad examples, but we are looking for reasons to do more open communications not reasons not to.At least this is my experience.
Seems I can’t directly respond to your more nested post, so…I’m not sure we really *do* disagree. To some extent I’m playing devil’s advocate.A lot of the comments I’ve been reacting to (as well as the original post) have, in essence, claimed that marketing is a bunch of BS. I just think that’s an awfully narrow view of marketing. Do we disagree about that?On this topic, I really like Joseph Jaffe’s book, “Life After the 30-Second Spot,” which talks about how traditional advertising is clearly on the wane (thankfully), the reasons why, and how marketers need to adapt. Marketing is changing, no doubt, but it’s hardly dead. If anything, marketing has never been more exciting than now.If you’re curious to see more of my take on this, I recently posted on this topic here: http://blog.abstractedge.co…And I’d love to grab a coffee. scott at (well, the domain is the same as the above blog post.) That ought to fool the spambots!
Yup. When you find an experienced marketer, they will have a track record and references that speak for themselves. This person is not cheap and also usually loves the sales process. They are inspired by a limited to “no” budget. Nothing cracks me up more than the marketing candidate who “dislikes” sales.
Marketing and sales are tied at the hip. Add BD to that as well.It’s been only rarely in my career that I’ve not done both. Needs a deep partnership and coordinated financial incentives to make this work. It can but is more rare than not.
I worked once with a person, a ‘media marketing expert’, who later in the process bragged she’d had 3 secretaries in order to keep up with the ‘work’ she was doing. And turns out most of that was antagonistic ‘marketing’ negotiations, through lawyers. If that’s not a red flag, I don’t know what is.At the same time, there is an ‘externally focused’ skillset that needs to be somewhere on that founding team. Someone who can talk to tons of users and customers, and translate that qualitative data into a legitimate understanding of what’s going in and how to compete and win their attention and business. And is right there sticking that understanding straight into the product.And it’s not advertising or PR-on-consignment.Call it ‘product’, ‘customer development’, or ‘marketing’.
This ‘media marketing expert’ seems to have confused activity with productivity :)Great point about someone representing the user on the founding team. This may, and most times should, go beyond marketing. This person should be involved in the end user market but also have enough breadth and depth of knowledge to work with, or ideally within, the development team.As you said, call it what you will, but it should be there.
We are of like mind on this one Tereza.
If you are interviewing a marketing person for a startup and the word agency comes out of their mouth, that could be a signal to end the interview.Edit: This was in response in Elie’s statement: And the “hire me so I can hire an agency” is a total non-starter for a startup evaluating a marketer.
Yes…but Donna.The broader the responsibilities the more there are deep pockets of really specific expertise.The company needs to think about the depth of expertise they need. I like to start with the opportunity that the candidate will plumb. There are instances for particular pieces like an SEO audit to figure out the architectural barriers to crawlability or someone with a PPC engine that you can pay on the upside.Pose the opportunity and let the candidate create a solution. Few people can be a community manager and understand SEO at a code level. Not realizing this is as large a red flag in my opinon as it portrays a knowledge gap.
Point well-taken.I was being a bit rash, but not completely.It’s just always a warning sign for me when I am recruiting for a client with a lean marketing budget and the prospective candidate seems to have relied heavily on vendors and primarily managed agency relationships.By the way, has the term “guerilla marketing” gone by the wayside?
Actually you are correct in my opinion.Reliance on outside agencies in a lean startup environment doesn’t bode well. In fact, it never bodes well.My only point (and not very well said) is that there are items that are more cost effective to job out. Maybe not to an ‘agency’ but to a vertical expert. And the ROI is justifiable.If someone is in charge of the traffic funnel for the online site, you would expect them to understand how to develop keyword sets, syndication of content, link building and keyword density as an example. They probably can’t however understand the code behind what works for the spiders.In this case I would think that someone really knew their craft to say that it might be worthwhile to get the audit for $x and do the rest themselves.Re: Guerilla Marketing. Not a term I”ve heard nor used in a long while.
Interestingly, a lot of the ads I see put out by startups for hiring explicitly ask for agency experience.
Making an assumption here that the ads are referring to wanting someone who has worked for an agency, rather than someone who has managed agency relationships.I’m referring to the latter and more specifically ad agencies.
I think there is something else going on. Especially when developing pm or design skills, agencies apparently have an ability to church out people who do a decent job….
AGENCIES DO OKAY FOR TRAIN IN GRAPHIC DESIGN.TERRIBLE IN TRAIN FOR UX DESIGN, OR PROJECT MANAGEMENT THAT RELEVANT TO STARTUP OR SOFTWARE BASED BUSINESS.IT LIKE VIETNAM. WHEN ROTCIE GET ASSIGNED AS SARGENT, YOU SHOT HIM IN HEAD SOON AS YOU IN JUNGLE, OTHERWISE WHOLE TEAM DIE.PM OR DESIGNER FROM AGENCY SAME THING.
STARTUPS NO WANT AGENCY PEOPLE. WAY OF DO THINGS IN 1980S NOT USEFUL FOR 2010S.READ THIS, IT INSIGHTFUL. http://edwardboches.com/a-n…THAT BOCHES GUY, HIM GET IT.
Shana — the context of my comment was Elie’s statement:”And the “hire me so I can hire an agency” is a total non-starter for a startup evaluating a marketer.”
Nice. And BTW that’s why it’s so good to as you say own PR in house (we’ve always done it). Results are measurable – at least in how many media hits did we get this week – and you can often track some revenue back to those hits, certainly exposure.But when a company has a successful product and wants to extend it within the category or into new categories, expert marketers (whether or not that’s in their job title) are critical to the success of that.Love this discourse, I have a particular interest in the “online only” business models and perceptions as they relate to the offline world.
Fred, I think I found another bug. Marketing sales has to support sales. It seems to me your experience in bad marketing hires is that marketing was not supporting sales. Since you are focusing on the consumer web, sales is not directly to your audience. Therefore the only real effective marketing would be to advertising media buyers or premium buyers of your app.
To back-up Fred’s disdain for marketing that’s conceived to push ‘bad products’, what are cases where good marketing successfully pushes fledgling products?One example I can think of is Facebook Places.
You’re half way there in my opinion.It’s still (more than) a bit frustrating as a marketing professional to read something like this. The TL;DR version of this post would read something like:I don’t know much about marketing, but I know I don’t like it and I know it doesn’t work.I wish you had stuck with your last paragraph which is clear and honest. Because your bias does spill out into the rest of this post.You say: “The second important bug is that my advice holds mostly for the kinds of companies we seek to invest in.”The word ‘mostly’ sticks out like the word virtually in the phrase ‘virtually spotless’ when selling dishwasher detergent.Marketing is important, though in varying degrees for the type and stage of company. There are plenty of bad marketers out there. It’s a field filled with phonies. They can and will wreak havoc on a company should you hire them.Those who don’t understand the field may wind up hiring the worst sort of marketers. I’d venture that it has less to do with the inability for marketing to make an impact than an inability to make the ‘right’ marketing hires.
“I’d venture that it has less to do with the inability for marketing to make an impact than an inability to make the ‘right’ marketing hires.”At the risk of seeming self-serving, this is most likely the case.Also, good word choice: venture 😉
Great followup Fred. I had a feeling you might want to address yesterday’s happenings in today’s post. :P”Most of the damage has come from outsourced marketing relationships with agencies who charge too much and help too little.”Yup, and are people who don’t know your product but that you have to teach them everything about – but then aren’t you doing their job for them? Perhaps you may need their help finding your narratives for you – but then I don’t see a founder creating a great product. I’d hope the founder’s good at this and has figured out the leading metrics towards success, and built their product around this. They should know the metrics based on ‘a hunch’ (I guess is the word recently used) – hunches which would have come from knowing the area well and/or they’ve talked lots to people involved on a regular/daily basis with it.I know when I will need someone other than myself (and core team) dedicated to keep more of an eye than I can on things – I don’t see them doing a better job figuring things out, perhaps a better job of keeping track of what needs to be kept track of. But really the whole team will (should) be good at that.P.S. I find your use of the word ‘bug’ in this interesting. 🙂
>I find your use of the word ‘bug’ in this interestingFred is a former programmer 🙂 In fact, per his bio, he started off that way, IIRC.
Yup, however it’s an interesting usage of language for a passive-mistake. :)My mom has her Phd in psychology and lingustics and language is her focus, so I’ve kind of always paid attention to words and word use, etc.. 😛
True, I see your point 🙂
The only thing hiring a top tier marketing company ever did for me was to teach me NEVER to hire one again.Meetings about scheduling meetings. 30 people round a table nodding at each other, jerking each other off all vying to see who could blow more smoke up my ass.Achieved nothing and cost a sick ammount of moneyEnded up spending about $100k and only having a belly full of Danish pastries to show for it. (they excelled in meeting refreshments)
Do you advocate handling all marketing in house? Is there a type of marketing agency that is worthwhile, in your opinion?
I don’t have much experience other than hiring one (Leo Burnett) in 2006 to help market a consumer web brand.I found the whole thing a disaster
Probably at best the warning you could get from this would be, “Be careful when considering hiring a large, traditional agency.”
If your agency’s website takes more than 3 seconds to load, or doesn’t tell you anything about what they do, don’t click anything but the back button. They don’t get it.
I’m sure there is. I don’t really have that much experience in this. The bit I do have using above the line marketing to scale a consumer web site (back in 2006) was a disaster.
SEE OTHER COMMENTS. HIRE GREAT COMMUNICATOR AS FOUNDER, ALONG WITH GREAT UX FOUNDER.THEN FORGET EVER KNEW ABOUT MARKETING AGENCIES. REST WORK ITSELF OUT.
Don’t forget the sandwiches. They also excel at sandwiches.
Fred, your problem was that you challenged a group of people who are very active on the web, not that you didn’t express yourself clearly. It’s understood that your domain is early-stage, Internet-based companies.When marketing is held up as a scientific discipline separate from what the company or product is supposed to do and how the entrepreneur really feels, it isn’t genuine, and it fails. The idea is what matters, not the size of the megaphone — or the cleverness of the gimmick — used to broadcast it.The hero of Inception makes a good case for the power of the idea itself:*~*~*~*Resilient, highly contagious. Once an idea’s taken hold in the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate. A person can cover it up, ignore it — but it stays there*~*~*~*Marketers can have good ideas like anyone else; the best ones have a passion for the product, and for the founding values of the company. But if a company needs marketing for the initial expression of its idea, it doesn’t really have an idea at all.
What about Marketing as a profit center?I’m not a fan of marketing as a cost center, and I think this is what you refer to when you talk about marketing hires that have generated a horrible track record. However, there is another flavor of marketing – where it is considered a profit center – and this is something you have not touched on in your post. Next week is the LeadsCon conference – the largest gathering of performance marketing professionals and companies. They represent a whole industry built on the concept that marketing should be a profitable activity. In this model of marketing, every expense is justified by measurable and profitable returns – each customer that is acquired is acquired profitably.
Hi EricAt the end of the equation, all marketing carries its own ROI.While its difficult to put a value on a brand, anyone of us who has ever OEMd a branded product knows the delta that brand brings. Still…you need to take some big leaps in the beginning of the process. Good news is that its not about pricey push, its about resource intensive and smart social loops often.For keyword based performance, you are certainly right on. Keyword and even SEO spend when its plugged into an ROI, is not ‘cost’ at all. I never considered PPC spend, for example, part of a marketing budget as long as the ROI formula hit the margin numbers and was monitored.
SO how do you account PPC spend?
PPC is still marketing, but if used as part of a customer acquisition engine, it’s just a different and more predictable animal than the typical “marketing spend” you see at companies.What torques Fred – and he’s right – are the massive marketing expenditures that many startups make, and you divide them by the number of new users or customers acquired, and they will NEVER be profitable.But if I can use PPC to acquire a new user for $4, and I can ALWAYS monetize that user at $10, I’d have to be an idiot to say “nah, let’s do this AU NATUREL.”That being said, PPC is always just one tool in the toolbox and Fred posted a much richer set of tools in his post yesterday.
It’s just money in, money out.I’ll skirt the debate over PPC enhancing natural rankings and the branding crossover. Neither which I’m a proponent of.But if you have your analytics nailed and know the value of a click per keyword, you know how to work the Google auction model. Simply buy within the margin that you are willing to spend. You are spending margin dollars not fishing dollars.Of course, there are market limiters so its not as simple as simply spend as words cap out.Glad to talk in specifics if you are engaged in a project.
Nicely done. Your ability to reassess and build without rancor always impresses me. You teach on multiple levels. Thanks!
Yesterday’s and today’s post have been incredibly interesting to me, since I work in “marketing” (technically, “advertising”, but agencies don’t want to call it that any more).Fred made some great points in both posts – some I agree with, some I do not. But this really stood out to me: “Most of the damage has come from outsourced marketing relationships with agencies who charge too much and help too little.”I couldn’t agree more.I don’t believe marketing is a bad thing – nor do I believe that millions, even billions of dollars are needed for a successful marketing program, despite what many agencies and marketing professionals would have you believe. Does Coca-Cola still needs to spend billions in marketing every year? The market share of the leaders in that category has remained basically the same for years.To be bluntly honest – the primary goal of a “marketing” (or advertising) agency is to bring in revenue – and win awards. If this means a client gets a successful campaign, that’s a bonus. I have personally seen a large technology client and their partner agency spend millions (high 8 figures, maybe 9 figures) in campaign dollars. The campaign failed – period. Every single metric was in the red. The agency submitted the campaign to multiple award shows, won one of the top awards in the industry and can now put it on their client roster, use in business pitches as a “successful case study”. The client moved the business to another agency. My understanding is that the client still has not successfully met any of their objectives, which reinforces what I believed from the start – the objectives the client has are not what they should be focusing on.Not all marketing professionals are like this – there are many incredibly intelligent, smart people out there who are not afraid to recommend the right approach for their clients – even it means you can’t charge an annual fee of $15 million. Sometimes, this means you don’t win the business because it’s not what the client wants to hear, because what you recommend might not be the latest trend/buzzword that the client has latched on to, because the client wants to believe if they spend more money, they get better thinking (all things I have experienced – I have enough to write a book). It means that there is ALWAYS someone else waiting to say “we can do it” without any thought as to whether it is the right thing to do.But I do believe marketing has its place for all businesses – start-up to giant global brand. The challenge is just identifying at what level and channels and changing the perception that more $$ means success.
And the biggest takeaway on this may be, if you do find a great marketer, break out the krazy glue.Any advice on finding marketers who actually care more about their clients’ business than squeezing their clients as much as possible?
Yeah: Ask them what they’ve turned down. Then ask them why.I’ve turned down working on a number of projects because I didn’t believe I could do a good enough job. I lacked the passion for their product and/or an understanding of the market. I’d be a bad fit for them, and as such, would have failed.
You make a great point. I’ve definitely turned down work when I didn’t think I could move the needle.Great advice Dan.
Well said.Just like great salespeople know when they are waisting their time on a sale, every professional, consultants especially need to know what they can’t do.We carry our decision along with us forever. Smart to treat all decisions with that lens.
Is that why you work for Sesame Street now? 🙂 I’d do it just to meet Cookie Monster.
I’d probably add giving incentive, equity … people run on incentives.
So how will that world pivot? Do you see pivots happening?
Little tiny pivots…but so much is ruled by fear. Agencies NEED revenue (they aren’t non-profits, right). So in some cases, so many are doing what they feel their clients “want” them to do. Saying “no” rarely happens with a few exceptions – Weiden and Kennedy, Cripsin, Goodby and I believe Fallon publically fired a client (via AdAge and it was deserved). They are usually willing to sacrifice revenue because they know there are others out there who understand their worth.On the other sides, I have seen agencies contribute to inflation – staffing (6 planners? Really? 3 strategic planners, 2 experience planners, 1 communications planner. Seriously). I have agencies with senior level of executives making bad decisions because they just do not understand what is happening out there – case in point – a DIGITAL media budget of almost $90million support…banner ad creative. It made me choke. When the campaign didn’t work, I couldn’t help but think “told you so”.I think the pivots are being…forced….because at this point, it’s so obvious when you don’t get it. But let’s be realistic – having a bunch of people at SXSW does not mean your agency “gets” it – it means you do good PR. What I would love to see is thought-provoking, great work that understands where the consumer is and delivers on 2-3 clear business objectives that both the client and agency worked on together. Strategy and creative in a solid partnership. Not doing something for the sake of doing it.
CORE PROBLEM AM FUTURE NOT ONE WITH AGENCIES IN IT.FUTURE IS NEW PLATFORM THAT CONNECT TRUTH OF PRODUCTS WITH PEOPLE INTERESTED IN THOSE PRODUCTS.NO ONE INVENT THAT YET. BUT IT COMING FAST. WHEN IT ARRIVE, THOSE AGENCY PEOPLE ALL UNEMPLOYED.THAT WHY THEM NOT SO INTERESTED IN EMBRACE FUTURE.
It’s not that the agency people won’t exist Mr. Robot Dinosaur – the ones who actually get it will evolve into the facilitators of stated platform. :)I’ve thought through this in the past and you’re right, nothing specifically tailored for this exists – although the timing just might not be right for certain platforms that could fill the gap to actually fill it.
US AGREE, BUT FACILITATORS PROBABLY NOT PAY MUCH. ESPECIALLY NOT IF ONLY THING NEEDED AM GET THE FUTURE, NOT HAVE DEGREE AND EXPERIENCE.THAT WHAT INTERNET DO. IT TAKE THING THAT USED TO BE HARD, REQUIRE EXPENSIVE EXPERT, MAKE IT SOMETHING ANYONE WITH RIGHT TALENTS, NO EXPERIENCE DO FOR CHEAP.OR FREE.
You know, I was checking out a long term favorite messageboard (makeupalley ftw). And there was a whole thread about BZZAgent.I think one of the interesting things about the level of transparency the web has is that ultra truthfulness and lies seems to be swinging like a pendulum.
INTERNET MAKE LIES EASY. ALSO MAKE REVEAL LIES EASY. BOTH HAPPEN LOTS.BZZAGENT TYPICAL OF FLAWED INTERNET PLAY. IT ATTEMPT TO FORCE WHAT ALREADY HAPPENING ON OWN. IT VANISH ONCE ORGANIC FORM OF SAME THING MATURE.
“a DIGITAL media budget of almost $90million support”Give me that and I’ll make $2 billion … recurring every 4 years.And I’m not sure I’d ever hire an agency. More likely I would prefer hiring someone who’s awesome (and can outsource illustrators and copywriters themselves and would be earning equity so they’d care). I would probably just direct them to do what I want and hope their feedback is intelligent and advances the purpose – otherwise I guess they’d not be hired much longer. 😀
IT SAD WHEN COMPANY SPEND ENOUGH ON MARKETING TO BUILD 3 COMPANIES THAT COULD OBSOLETE IT.:)
I think I’m numb to the amounts sometimes. It DOES make me think carefully about how I invest my financial portfolio :).I get your desire to hire someone and direct them; in some cases the client has the know-how to do so. In many other cases, not so much (lots of those stories). I’m an expert at what I do, I’m good at what I do. Why pay me if you are just going to tell me what to do? Would you tell the builder how to build your house? It would be great if client/agency relationships were more collaborative as you suggest. More agencies would then be willing to structure fee based on success. But who wants to risk that when you are told to do something that just isn’t going to work?
NO MISUNDERSTAND WORD “DIRECT.”MATT LIVE IN STARTUP WORLD. IN THAT WORLD, DIRECT MEAN “HERE GOAL, YOU FIGURE OUT HOW GET THERE.”YOU LIVE IN AGENCY WORLD, WHERE DIRECT MEAN “ME STAND BEHIND YOU AND PULL STRINGS LIKE PUPPET BECAUSE ME OVERBEARING CONTROL FREAK WITH NO REASON FOR LIVING.”COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THOSE WORLDS HARD SOMETIMES.
It’s good to be numb to numbers sometimes. It takes away a lot of anxiety for me anyway – but I imagine it can induce some fear in someone learning that you can spend “10%” of the normal budget for same results, especially if agency is paid on a %.As robot dinosaur says, by direct, I merely mean guide but with a goal and give some core ideas to follow; Collaboration as you mentioned is key though. I know my product and at least initially will have talked to people about the product much more than the expert marketer will have. And I probably have a higher understanding than most marketing agencies currently of online marketing works – understanding all of the variables that come into play.P.S. You get used to FAKE GRIMLOCK after awhile … whether that’s a good thing or not, I’m not sure. 🙂
Well. if you ever want to work on pushing through those pivots, I am with you on that. I saw the big post on your blog, and narrowing down people managing and kpis, and making the process driven on reuslts would be a really helpful (and needed) change
I don’t think pivot is the correct term. Disruption is better suited to the displacement of an existing inefficient market.
ME THINK DAVE HAVE IT. BUT HIM NOT EXPLAIN WELL.EXISTING AD INFRASTRUCTURE CRUMBLING. HUMANS WANT PAY DIRECT FOR NO ADS, LIKE NETFLIX AND ITUNES. ONCE THAT TRANSITION DONE, WHOLE AD INDUSTRY GONE.THAT FORCE PRETTY BIG PIVOT.DISRUPTION HAPPENING NO MATTER WHAT. NO ONE INVENT STARTUP YET TO FILL HOLE DUG BY DISRUPTION BOMB.
The pivot is coming and in a way that will force Ad Agencies and Businesses to pivot also.Luckily, we have a simultaneous change in entertainment options that will force the eventual need for old school networks to prove their worth along with promotion designers.The fight will take place between those pushing a true opening B2C relationship with quick access to feedback and the old school who want to do the same thing over and over again.Currently, promoters are trying to use social to gain attendence at events/concerts and so on via a platform that is rigid… this strategy spilling over into eCommerce.Not too far from now, the rigid engine will pivot into something more fluid and those that stay with the former end up with rust, the new achieve bigger market.
Great thoughts.”Does Coca-Cola still needs to spend billions in marketing every year? The market share of the leaders in that category has remained basically the same for years.”Yes, when you’re selling unhealthy sugar-water – and you can link sales directly to specific marketing efforts.
CocaCola is very much an entrenched iconic brand. They need marketing maybe in new markets ( I would prefer if they did none at all – I refuse to go near the stuff). It’s pretty much Coke or Pepsi – some of the preference is ingrained from childhood and just won’t change. Some is peer influence. And no amount of marketing will change the perception of people who already know it’s just junk (like you. and me.)
Obviously, simply seeing their logo is marketing and they do this well. You see it at restaurants and movie theaters on drink fountain machines, on signage for stores, etc..I don’t think they’d be able to maintain their sales if they stopped this.Peer influence is a good point.P.S. There’s a way to enlighten people. 🙂
You will pry my can of Coke Zero out of my cold, dead hands…posters and signs or not. 😉
AWARD ADDICTION WORTHY OF BOOK. AGENCIES MOSTLY WORK FOR IMPRESS OTHER AGENCIES, BECAUSE IN OLD DAYS NO ONE KNOW THEY WASTING MONEY.INTERNET BREAK BACK OF AGENCIES, FOR FIRST TIME CLIENTS CAN SEE WHEN THEM SOLD PILE OF BS. BUT SO LONG AS BARNUM STILL RIGHT, THERE ENOUGH NEW SUCKERS BORN FOR AGENCIES NOT TO TOTALLY COLLAPSE.FIRST COMPANY THAT SOLVE RIDDLE OF HOW DO MARKETING RIGHT, CONNECT PEOPLE WITH THINGS THEM REALLY WANT, NOT TRICK THEM INTO WANT THINGS THEM NOT LIKE, WIN ENTIRE INTERNET AND DESTROY ADVERTISING FOREVER.THAT PRETTY WORTHY GOAL, ME, GRIMLOCK, SUPPORT ANYONE DO IT.
Ha!Well, there are a ton of small agencies trying to do exactly that.And, to some degree (and too slowly), some of the more progressive larger agencies are therefore forced to change for the better.But no question, there’s still plenty of BS out there.
TINY STEPS NOT ENOUGH WHEN STARTUPS WAITING TO TAKE GIANT LEAP PAST YOU.
Most consumers need to be told what they are getting; they do not know what they want or need. Product information on the internet is a drink from a firehose. Drowns non-aliens.A rare occasion: GRIMLOCK FAIL :O
WHERE FAIL? ME, GRIMLOCK, NEVER SAY CONSUMERS NOT NEED TO BE LED.ME SAY THERE STARTUPS DISRUPTING OLD WAY OF LEADING CONSUMERS RIGHT NOW.MOST LIKELY FUTURE AM TRUSTED EARLY ADOPTERS DOING LEADING, NOT PAID LIARS.GO READ SOMETHING ABOUT REPUTATION MANAGEMENT AND WORD OF MOUSE. THEN YOU MAYBE KNOW WHAT TALKING ABOUT NEXT TIME.'<
Did you use alien tech to turn off reply on your subsequent post?I am joking with FAIL bit (pls note the complimentary ‘rare occasion’) & I am ignorant of the meaning of ‘<.Hope you are not hacked – I love your schtick.I do think you overdo the ‘my way right, all other ways moronic’ angle.technology is just a tool. No tech innovation to date has changed human nature.I am a sceptic on the internet being anything more than a direct media platform. Media is what media is: a representation to be interpreted.Your trusted early adopter is different from a movie reviewer in what way? People still go to movies they don’t like, ask Fred, he did it just a while ago.I am not one to think that because it is on the internet, it is raw, unvarnished or authentic. It looks that way, and it could be that way, or it could be packaged to look that way.But, I did not think robot dinosaurs could type, so………..
DISQUS TURN OFF REPLY ON OWN WHEN GET TOO NARROW. IT UI ISSUE.'< IS EMOTICON FOR SMILING DINOSAUR.ME, GRIMLOCK, DO EVERYTHING 100%. INCLUDE THING WHAT GRIMLOCK SAY AM RIGHT.ALSO INCLUDE ADMIT WHEN WRONG.MOVIE REVIEWER HAVE ARTIFICIALLY CREATED AUTHORITY.REPUTATION SYSTEM FOR TRUSTED EARLY ADOPTER CREATE REAL AUTHORITY.THAT DIFFERENCE.
Ok – good to know!I do things 100% too. But there are a lot of ways to skin a cat (and, for sure, you should skin a cat @ 100% effort), but they all work and you end up with a skinned cat.I like my way of skinning cats, but that does not make your way wrong. Do you eat skinned cats? or just humans? Or cats with skin on?Reputation management is primarily a defensive practise, today (I respect you are form the future). That is a pretty big change.Really it has always been defensive, even before internet. I know a car dealership that had a great reputation management system: one year, 95% of its customers had the same mailing address (manufacturer sent dealer satisfaction survey to customers by snail mail back in the ’90’s). Dealer had really good reputation score that year :PConsumers pretty tough crowd, when it comes to how automated system performs too. I also asked a valley VC (name on door of firm person) what the biggest hurdle for our B2C play was (in 1999, in a feedback meeting arranged by mutual contact). He said: ‘expectation of the consumer’.Chris Dixon – pretty smart for human, likes to make machines learn; do you forgive or idolize him? – says algorithms only right ‘up to 80%’. I think VC meant 80% not good enough. When a human makes a mistake, often they blame someone else. If humans blame your marketing system, they tell everyone they meet (not just the people they know on Fb). When your system works, they tell noone. When your system amazes, they tell some (but not all). These numbers pretty tough to work.And, opinion leaders, maven, word of mouse, nothing that new, other than how the buzz gets transmitted.The real authority you speak of, authoritatively BTW, who judges that this authority is real? The Ad Avoiding Consumer (or AAC;-).How does it help the AAC to throw more info into the decision making process? Their struggle is to define critical variables and then match product characteristics to their profile. Already a tough job.Are you saying they will substitute product variables for TEA (Trusted Early Adopter) variables? Why bother?Machines are rational and consistent. Humans, not so much…….. Help me out here, I don’t see it. More info online means more noise less signal.Ads will not die – just like FM never killed AM.
the fact that agency was used.Agencies are ripe for disintermediation
this is what we are trying to do locally.
WEB SITE NOT HAVE ENOUGH INFO. SHOW MORE, GET MORE INTEREST.
Appreciate your comment. Also read your blog post and tweeted it. Good stuff. Maybe you can help some disruption happen in your industry — from the inside.
Thanks! I think change will happen. It has too! (Like your blog post & tweeted – great perspective!)
I think the interview process for hiring smart marketers is more difficult than smart programmers. You can always look at a programmers code – it’s hard to BS that stuff.Bad marketing is all about BS but the people (and as you say there are many of them) who are good at the BS are also many of those who are often considered influential (beware the fancy designer bubble diagrams i always say).I try to hire based on the way people think and have challenging conversations in interviews vs. going through their resumes. My own experience has landed on so many other people’s CVs I just don’t trust them anymore.I would also ask to see the presentations people have built and the plans they’ve done. Actually ask for the documents and get them to take you through them. When I started doing that I started getting a WAY better caliber of person. The one’s that didn’t have the goods always used excuses to not show me the money.
I enjoyed yesterday’s post because it challenged many people’s closely held beliefs, leading to thoughtful and often insightful comments. I like it better today, now that it’s clear it was not designed as linkbait. Even better, Fred is demonstrating the kind of openness and willingness to pivot that he preaches for his companies.In terms of content, I think that early stage companies must provide an exceptional user experience. The greatest challenge for most companies is that products are typically “experience goods” that can best be appreciated by using them. That’s as opposed to “information goods” that can be easily assessed prior to use.The implication for marketing is that we must enable potential users to understand the experience prior to using our products. The best way to do that is to have someone users trust tell the story of their experience with the product.I’m turn, that suggests that traditional marketing, which tends to be a company tellin potential prospects what the experience of a product is like, is very inefficient. It only becomes efficient when so many people use the product that it almost turns into an experience good, and the remaining challenge is awareness.So, as early stage marketers, I see our job as leveraging social media to get early adopters, optimizing their experience, and then leveraging their social graphs to get more users, and so on. Maybe that’s an explanation for why so many of Fred’s marketing hires have worked out; they’ve had a more traditional notion of marketing that works best after you have a popular product.
“early stage marketers”The rules of engagement have changed. It does take a new breed of marketer and you’ve hit the nail right on the head.
SOMEONE NEED BUILD SITE WHERE NEW PRODUCTS OFFERED TO EARLY ADOPTERS ON CONDITION THEY SUBMIT REVIEW.IF IT POSSIBLE TO KEEP REVIEWS HONEST, THIS REPLACE ADVERTISING. WANT NEW THING? GO TO SITE, LOOK UP THING, LOOK UP REVIEWS.AMAZON.COM REVIEWS PRODUCE THIS ALMOST, BUT IT ACCIDENTAL, NOT WELL CONTROLLED, EASILY FAKED.SOMEONE DO IT RIGHT, THEM WIN BIG.
Step back from the chips/circuits for a sec…. you are too much in present/past.
YOU FUNNY. EVERYONE ELSE COMPLAIN GRIMLOCK TOO FAR IN FUTURE. NO CAN BE BOTH.
Oh well, brain clog can happen in cold blood as well as warm…good hunting and don’t get poked too hard in the belly….Oh, to all you diry minded readers, I’m referring to the Triceratops…and I’m a professional. What’s that? Man, I wasn’t referring to a Tyran and Tricera doing……
YOU NOT WATCH TRANSFORMERS EVER?ME ROBOT DINOSAUR IN PRESENT, ACCIDENTALLY LAND ON EARTH WHEN EVERYTHING BORING DINOSAURS. THEM NO FUN FOR TALK TO.NOW ME STUCK WITH DINO FORM, MAKE BEST OF IT, WORK AT STARTUP WRITING CODE.BE GIANT CARNIVORE WITH HABIT OF EATING CLIENTS MORE BETTER FIT THAN MOST PEOPLE THINK FOR THAT JOB.
Reply to because there is no reply button.Sorry dude, I understand now. Excuse me taking care of the filthy minded on this page.BTW, you may first befriend clients and let them graze for awhile (maybe rotational) to enjoy bigger snacks.
Isn’t that what happens for a lot of bloggers? Get free stuff so they’ll try it out and write a review?
THAT RUN INTO HONESTY PROBLEM. IF GET MORE FREE STUFF REQUIRE WRITE GOOD REVIEW, WHOLE THING RUINED.WHAT ANSWER? ME NOT KNOW. ME JUST DUMB ROBOT DINO WITH TINY BRAIN.'<
I am glad to see you back in your normal voice today, Fred. Yesterday’s post just felt bitter. Today’s post feels constructive.
Every failed entrepreneur I’ve met blames marketing for his company’s failure. But I’ve never met a successful entrepreneur who attribute his company’s success to marketing.
I would agree with the first part as long as you change ‘every’ to ‘many’. Not true though on the later. Brand as the aggregate of all activity and customer value is often something that has real economic power and is considered a monetary asset, as it should be.
Fred, I personally appreciate you restating your argument/opinion and also understand your POV. I’m a senior exec & CMO, and I’ve for sure been met with initial skepticism basically at every job or consulting gig I’ve held for the some of the same reasons you state. But I really think you should take some more time to understand all of what marketing is and can be, when done right. If you’ve gotten burned in the past in terms of damage to your portfolio companies, I simply can’t agree with turning those experiences into an indictment about all marketers or the profession as a whole. Perhaps it was a bunch of poor decisions by leaders of your portfolio companies – who probably think like you do – and who likewise don’t totally understand the potential of marketing and don’t know what to look for in a marketing partner, agency or employee. I can also say for sure that Marketing doesn’t JUST have to be a below-the-line expense, it very much can be accretive to the top line and I know that based on experience. I think you are basing conclusions on way too small of a sample size.
Super-like this comment. Very well said.For a big chunk of my career, I have helped companies hire marketers and have come to unabashedly love the marketing profession.One of the biggest mistakes made about a decade ago — and that I regret to this day — is a poor marketing hire at a startup based on a limited understanding of marketing by the founders. I was more of an “order taker” in those days because while I had great hunches, I didn’t have enough confidence to give push back — and honestly hadn’t yet built a platform from which to draw credibility.The company’s pain point was retail so while I presented candidates with a proven track record in building brands, the person who most sparked the founders’ interest was a channel marketer. In the end, they lost traction as companies with stronger branding efforts entered the space that this company’s innovative — actually game-changing — consumer tech product offerings for a short while dominated. Coming out of software, the founders weren’t prepared for a more heavily brand-dominated industry.Shortly after that I worked with another startup founder who was a marketing genius and rapidly led his company to the top of his industry — based primarily on branding and community-building. I watched and learned.I know that marketing is not the answer to everything. But it is more the answer than most people (who are much, much more knowledgeable than me in general) seem to realize.Most poor marketing is not based on poor marketing hires but from a poor appreciation (or limited understanding) of marketing from the top of the organization — which of course leads to poor marketing hires.Marketing is all about strategy and that requires a long-range view in hiring a marketer — or for that matter, marketing-related vendors.Sorry to use your comment as a platform, but you said something that I really appreciated and this got me going…Not sure I need to offer the caveat of limited perspective/experience as I spout off my views…I’m sure that’s already obvious. 🙂
Wow, I read the post but not the comments yesterday. The comments are absurd, marketing people left and right desperately trying to claim this or that is actually marketing. All while missing the big point, most of the things marketing professionals do are better done by other people!Pre-web you needed marketing people because communication channels were sparse and expensive and you needed expertise navigating the best options. Now communication is dense and cheap and marketing professionals are stuck trying to either steer people towards the expensive options that pay them, or trying to coopt the jobs of core team members. A well designed product with a passionate team behind it will tell its own story in a dense and inexpensive communications network. Just cause it used to be the marketing peoples job to tell that story does not mean it still is…
Some people are great communicators. Others are not.Is it a prerequisite to starting a successful business?There are more and less effective ways to tell a story, without making it less genuine. And thus, there will always be a role for a smart, honest marketer.Note the enormous growth in what most call “content marketing” or “inbound marketing.” Not every brilliant entrepreneur is also great at content creation.Marketing isn’t everything (far from it). But it ain’t “nothing” either.
Marketing and communication are not the same thing. Almost all start ups are going to need good communicators involved, but there is absolutely no reason in this day and age that they need to think within the framework of “marketing”.
It seems we have different definitions of marketing. That’s fine.I would guess that if we could agree on what we were discussing (forget the word “marketing” itself), we’d find we don’t really disagree all that much, if at all.
READ SETH GODIN, ME HEAR HIM HAVE GOOD WORDS ABOUT THIS.COMMUNICATION REQUIRED FOR SUCCESS. ONE FOUNDER, MINIMUM, NEED BE GREAT COMMUNICATOR.IF NOT HAVE ONE, ANSWER NOT HIRE MARKETER. ANSWER AM HIRE FOUNDER THAT CAN COMMUNICATE. OR GO HOME.
But Fake Grimlock, if the newly hired founder can communicate, then he IS a marketer. And hopefully a great one.
YES. SEE OTHER REPLIES. PLACE FOR PERSON THAT UNDERSTAND MARKET AM FOUNDER. NOT HIRE OUTSIDE COMPANY.THAT LIKE HIRE OUTSIDE COMPANY TO DIRECT YOUR DEVELOPERS, OR DO YOUR UX. IT MEAN YOUR COMPANY BROKEN, WILL FAIL.ALSO IMPORTANT, FOUNDER THAT UNDERSTAND MARKET DO OTHER THINGS TOO. NOT JUST BE MARKETER.
Did you ever come across a large stash of cash in your space adventures? I’m totally a candidate for investment based on your beliefs. 😉
I <3 FAKE GRIMLOCK.GO GRIMLOCK! 😀
he’s got a bunch of fans here at AVC
ME WISH ME HAVE LARGE STASH OF CASH. OR EVEN MEDIUM ONE.ME, GRIMLOCK, ACCIDENTALLY LAND IN MIDWEST. RAISE MONEY IMPOSSIBLE HERE, COME MOSTLY FROM PEOPLE THAT THINK INTERNET JUST FANCY TELEGRAPH, BLOW OVER SOON.WORKING ON MOVE TO BETTER PLACE. IF ANYONE HAVE LARGE PILE OF MONEYS THEM WANT GRIMLOCK TO USE FOR MAKE STARTUP, LET GRIMLOCK KNOW.(SEND PILES OF MONEY TO FAKEGRIMLOCK PUT AT SIGN HERE IF YOU NOT SPAMBOT FAKEGRIMLOCK.COM. ME HAVE CONVERSATION WITH YOU, MAYBE EVEN IN HUMANMODE)'< <— DINO EMOTICON FOR SMILEP.S. IT MUTUAL, ME, GRIMLOCK, BIG FAN OF AVC TOO.
While it’s not a prerequisite it is certainly imperative…If you can’t communicate the amazing products you sell or services you offer how will people obtain that value from you?
Some people are just not very good at interacting with customers effectively, at mining, interpreting and prioritizing their needs.That is a skillset.A single person may have the ability to talk effectively with people and to build the thing.Although I find often even if they have the skills to do both, it’s hard to do both at once. Different parts of your brain.And then there are people who are brilliant at building things. And some of them think interacting with crazy customers is a drag or a distraction.I’m happy to do the work they don’t want to do. And come back with info and insight so together we can figure out what will be most effective (while also fun to build!)
Pretty much agree 100% with you on this, I just don’t get what it has to do with marketing. Marketing is not the same as communication and a lot of people within an organization can fill that role. Starting with the CEO, in Fred’s “What a CEO does” post (which I refer to all the time) communication is the first and foremost item on that list. It’s also the job of designers, customer service reps, sales reps and in some cases even the customers. There is no question in most industries it’s essential to hire good communicators, but those communicators don’t have to subscribe to the framework of “marketing”…
Not sure what you mean by ‘framework of marketing’. Everyone you hire who communicates with the market or your customers in any way should be communicating in a way that is consistent with what your objectives are in the market. Someone should quarterback that. Hopefully it’s the CEO.I think much of the source of argument in the original post and the comments is the breadth or narrowness of the term ‘marketing’. It seems you are taking the narrow definition. And Fred originally was using the definition from the P&L of outside expenses, specifically PR and advertising. And indeed, plenty of agencies call themselves “full service marketing agencies” when of course they do not own the end-to-end customer/user experience. Any company who gives that up is foolish.The broader definition, which I subscribe to, is that Marketing is taking a look at your company from the view and experience of your user or customer, from end to end. Period, full-stop. You then optimize that experience and the revenue you’ll get from it, and how will that evolve over time. So anyone who’s touching customers in any way is taking part in ‘the marketing framework’. This is largely accepted in marketing theory.I’m a CEO. While one of my skills is that I happen to be an expert in advertising, I happen to have no plans in the near term to spend in advertising. I view myself as totally responsible for owning the “customer development” side, everything external and market-focused. I need to know everything I can about our market and what it wants and how we can position into it and grow it. Any way we touch users/customers, I own that. And I am deeply involved in product and drive the vision of the product, from the user’s perspective. My partner “runs” product, though, and all things internal. We’re attached at the hip.
“Although I find often even if they have the skills to do both, it’s hard to do both at once. Different parts of your brain.”It’s just a bit crazy-making, and takes patience. 😀
Actually I have studied this.Some gear-switching is good.Too much gear-switching you become unproductive — you take a huge hit in your overall productivity.
IF NOT USE SOCIAL PART OF BRAIN FOR BUILD THINGS, YOU BUILD THINGS NO ONE USE.IF NOT USE LOGIC PART OF BRAIN FOR COMMUNICATE, TELL PEOPLE WRONG THINGS.SMART BRAIN USE BOTH PARTS FOR BOTH, ALL THE TIME.
FG, you know I love ya, but it’s hard to be nuanced when you’re 50′ tall and — is it aluminum, or steel?No matter how brilliant a person is on both sides of their brain, there’s a level of skill past which incremental returns are going to come from focus, not more brilliance. There are still only 24 hours in a day.There is simply too much to get done on the “What” side of the equation (customer devt) as well as the “How” side of the equation (product devt) to be done by one person. You cannot do both well at the same time. You will get your knickers in a twist and be on the road to burnout. Each may still participate in the other side (and in fact i recommend it) but each needs to own one, deep.I’m sure there are examples where someone swung both sides but I wonder how scalable that can be?
NOT DISAGREE, JUST POINTING OUT PEOPLE THAT USE BOTH ALL THE TIME EXIST.GRIMLOCK KNOW FROM FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE.SYNERGY MORE POWERFUL THAN FOCUS SOMETIMES. IT LEAD TO GREATEST LEAPS FORWARD.
Also depends if you’re talking about conceptual/thinking stages, vs. execution.Easier to conceptualize on both sides. Harder to be actively doing on both sides.
Very true. A real salesperson can work the audience, because they are reading the audience as they present.Very funny how so many of those with brilliant IQ have a problem doing that.
It’s work and it’s exhausting in its own right. I’m good at it but still it often gives me a headache and I need a good night’s sleep after. I’d liken it to speaking a foreign language. Focus required!
You and I need to communicate, for I have something you’d have a laugh over regarding what M Slater and you are discussing.Enjoy the rest of the weekend!
Sure thing. tereza at honestlynow.com or @terezan. I just twitter followed you.I really need a virtual assistant, btw.
I’m following you too. You’ll like my other design I want to push into Education and Therapy too.
I liked the post.I think people forget who Fred is and his point of view.He is a VC investor investing in large networks of engaged users.Period. Full Stop.That defines what he writes about.He wants to get 100 baggers with his money.Period. Full Stop.That defines his viewpoint.If you can’t discern this quickly you really shouldn’t be reading his posts as I don’t think you will get any value.Many of us are not in this position at all. I am such a person. I find tremendous value because I can look at the world from Fred’s point of view. Sometimes I think the world benefits from my point of view. But I appreciate “keeping it real”. 🙂
Nail. Head. Hit!
And here I thought entrepreneurs get value from competing points of view. Silly me.
I don’t think Phil is arguing against competing points of view.But only using Fred’s tactics from yesterday’s post could be suicide for an enterprise software startup, for example.So it’s not a matter of competing viewpoints, it’s more a matter of advice being relevant to a particular type of startup or product model.
Another point worth remembering about Fred’s investing is that some of his portfolio companies (e.g., Twitter, Foursquare) are free for consumers to use. Same with other examples he mentioned in yesterday’s post (e.g., Instagram). Getting consumers to pay for something is a different animal.
Presumably, there are some people in the world who excel & specialize in the areas you recommended in your post yesterday… people who understand how to get the word out on Twitter & Facebook, how to effectively use social hooks, entry points, SEO, developer outreach, and whatnot. Setting aside what title we give to those people, would you recommend hiring a person like this? Does it make sense to have a dedicated resource focusing on these opportunities or are they skills that are better distributed across the team?
Fraser who is now the COO of Adaptive Blue was one of the early hires and had the title “community manager”. I would say knowing the kind of stuff that he did, you could have as easily called him the Director of Marketing.
I started to comment, but I don’t want to hijack this thread.I’ve never been a professionally trained Marketing or PR guy, but this greater subject needs to be addressed, and I’m glad you’ve opened upa great discussion, Fred. I need to write a post instead of just commenting 🙂
I like hearing the things that people think but don’t usually say. So to me both the post and the comments were a huge win.Maybe a way to get what you need is to ask a self-labeled ‘marketing person’ — Hey, what do other marketing people think of you?If they say, ‘I’ve won such and such awards, and I brought in the highest billings, and I managed a $200m advertising budget!” then you should run the other way.Or maybe. they say, “Yeah, well, they don’t consider me one of their own and frankly think I’m rather annoying, and they don’t know what box to put me in. They think I’m too ‘techie’ and geeky and get pulled too deep in the product, and they had an aneurism when I said we didn’t need to hire an agency. And i’m probably not as good as they are in repeatable, standard activities, so they consider that a weakness. But when the shit hits the fan I’m always the first person they call….to figure out some crazy way to pull it out of the fire or crack a nut that’s never been cracked. Basically some crazy magic seeds to grow into a giant beanstalk. Hard to put that on a resume, though.’…….That one might be your keeper.Then again, I could be wrong.
YOU NOT WRONG. ME, GRIMLOCK, SAY SO.
Fred,the people who “get” your investment thesis and the types of companies you invest in definitely agree with what you wrote – in fact, I would go as far to say that there are no bugs.On the contrary, I would even take your point further and not only avoid a start-up marketing budget but thinking twice in investing in start-ups where part of the founding team is a “traditional marketer”.My sense is that we are flooded with old-school marketers (from the offline/telco world) in the consumer-web world who cause a lot of harm not only in terms of wasting a lot of money but also destroying products when they are allowed to get close to them – I call these kinds of marketers “frustrated wannabe product managers” who may cause the “design by committee” syndrome.I still believe that that good-old marketing communications can have a very impactful role in certain consumer web companies. But at a different scale and kind.Thanks for a great post. Love the bugs too.
I’m guessing that by “traditional” you don’t necessarily mean “classic.”I saw a lot of classic marketers successfully make the jump to dot-com because of their intense understanding of marketing that was not reduced to formulas. They could go in and grasp an understanding of the business and the “new market” being created by the internet and develop relevant strategies. There were growing pains because some of these marketers had to do things they once delegated or hired vendors to do. The successful ones probably also had an entrepreneurial bent to begin with.On the other hand, I’ve seen more “formulaic” marketers fail because the formula that works at a Fortune 500 may not — probably will not — work at a startup, or in the tech world.One of the important things is making certain that you are not hiring someone with merely a set of formulas rather than deep domain knowledge as well as the skill- and mindset to truly understand the given market.This truly is a new market requiring a new type of player.
WHOLE POINT OF 4 STEPS TO EPIPHANY, LEAN STARTUP, ETC. AM NOT NEED MARKETING ANY MORE UNLESS DOING IT WRONG.RIGHT PLACE FOR PERSON THAT UNDERSTAND MARKET IS FOUNDER. NOT OUTSIDE HIRED GUN.
“RIGHT PLACE FOR PERSON THAT UNDERSTAND MARKET IS FOUNDER. NOT OUTSIDE HIRED GUN.”But even the king needs counsel.
the grimlock is dropping lean startup on us. wow.
GRIMLOCK TRUE BELIEVER IN LEAN STARTUP.EVEN FAKEGRIMLOCK ITSELF A LEAN STARTUP. NO TELL ANYONE.'<
“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.”But, I think that if you think in Twitter, Zynga, Etsy and others they surely can benefit hiring marketing people (and building a department) who has field experience on companies like Facebook, Amazon, etc.
This is my first time wading into the comments of today or yesterday’s post, but…Yesterday’s post was the best thing you’ve written on this blog in the past year, in my opinion.Edit: especially given your audience.
Was just yesterday thinking of you…in part because I hadn’t “seen” you around, but also because I seem to recall that a very significant event was scheduled to take place around now. So?
Fred, I am confused (just read yesterday’s post). If the technology has already been created shouldn’t VC money be used for customer acquisition to help create more value? Why would this be a negative to your group?www.retailpitch.com
‘…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…”Me thinx you still don’t get it. Sounds like you’re the type of person, who if you were to bite into an Apple, and find a worm – would never eat an Apple ever again. Disappointing.Having said that, still found the other points in your earlier blog post brilliant as usual. You continue to be my number #1 read every day. Keep posting great posts.
“That is possibly the single best way to do marketing for startups…”Or conversely kill it. The primary reason I have given up on an otherwise interesting service is because of bad customer service, or worse yet no way to even reach customer service, which seems to be a trend.On the other hand there are some companies I am pretty forgiving towards because of the effort they have placed into same.
As I commented on Brad’s post, marketing today is almost exclusively reputation management and everyone in a business has to tend that garden…any brand recognition follows reputation. You can’t ‘create’ or ‘manage’ brands.
this follow up post was an attempt to do just that 🙂
Even for mature consumer web companies marketing rarely works. Yahoo proudly spent $120M on a massive advertising campaign two years ago and has absolutely nothing to show for it.
Advertising != Marketing. Advertising is just one way to market a company.Also, I can take any example of a company that’s doing poorly, show how they attempted marketing, and then make the conclusion that marketing doesn’t work.But that doesn’t mean marketing doesn’t work.
ME, GRIMLOCK, KNOW YAHOO MARKETING. IT NOT EVOLVE SINCE 1998. STILL FOCUS ON GET EMAILS, SEND SPAM, WORK OVER MAILING LIST TO SQUEEZE DROP OF BLOOD FROM STONE.EXTINCT THINKING DOMINATE WHOLE PLACE. THIS BIG REASON IT DYING.
Hey Grimlock,You’re right on the money once again.You should stomp over to the Yahoo! campus, find Carol Bartz, tell her that speech, then chomp off her big ego-inflated head. ;P
ME AFRAID AURA OF DEATH THAT SURROUND YAHOO TOO MUCH, GRIMLOCK SUCCUMB. IT LIKE VENTURE INTO MORIA.
If you are spending money marketing something that should be marketing itself, you are in the wrong market.at least thats what I got out of yesterdays storm of ideas.
A service like Twitter does not need to be marketed. Perhaps that is the angle you mean to come from.
yes and no.many people still don’t understand what twitter does
(Scratching my head ……) 🙂
I don’t mind someone telling it like it is every now and then.Talking about marketing shouldn’t be any different, it should be some reality check for the believers of the cult.Marketing is a man-made thing, and subject to discussion as such.
I think one of the problems here is that many (including you Fred) are viewing marketing as a “department” or a plan line item, or a “job” that a designated person does. For the busy, understaffed and overworked Lean Startup entrepreneur, a simpler definition might be more useful and actionable…Marketing is the management of the productSales is the management of the customerAdvertising is the management of awarenessWe can argue about definitions all we want, but the ones above have stood the test of time for me from enterprise to consumer, product to service, new company or established.From that perspective in an early stage startup, EVERYONE is a marketer, because the management and manipulation of product features is really all you can do and have the control or resources to do. Anything else (advertisement!) is a risky investment.See http://www.leanstartupadvis… for a hopefully better expression of this thought.Fred, your post yesterday reminded me of my best profs in school…they walk in, paint a picture, make a provocative statement, and let the sparks fly/learning occur. Your apology/bug report misses the fact that this is a great discussion that has many thinking…and hopefully few taking [email protected]
great definitions Berndi like your job title – lean startup advisor
Hmmm…job title? Can something this rewarding possibly be a job?;-)-Bernd
i feel the same way about VC
Well, Fred, as I’ve experienced and observed, your “no’s” and your “apologies” are almost if not just as good as your “yeses” and getting it right the first time. Yet another one of your gifts.You are a marketing GENIUS whether you actually understand marketing or are “just very lucky” to use your words.(and to remain consistent with some of my other comments, I’d better revise this to say that you are a genius at SOME aspects of marketing)Those poor marketing hires can’t be blamed on the hirees, by the way. I hope you know that.I don’t know the circumstances, but there was a disconnect somewhere that started with the person doing the hiring and, probably, their understanding of or expectations of marketing– and then the ongoing relationship of the top marketer with the CEO.Please tell me you didn’t use a recruiter. (Although, you probably can’t completely blame the recruiter either especially if using the person strictly as a sourcer or order-taker.)And if you didn’t use a recruiting/executive search consultant, well I’m sure that explains everything. (Just kidding, sort of.)
I believe that one thing these posts and the comments point out is the need for disruption in the marketing arena to meet the changing needs of the tech marketplace.Although it appears that the disruption is already happening. It’s an exciting time to be alive.
FYi, thank you for a postmortem of yourself. It is an extremely honest thing to do.
Thank you for the addendum — I agreed with most of your original post, yet understood why people misinterpreted it.As with advertising pre-CPC, traditional PR and Marketing have consumed precious startup capital because their effectiveness is hard to measure. In our case, we’ve spent over 25% of our net-of-expenses funding (or $400k) on outside PR teams over 4 years, and yet whenever we talk to smart marketing people they always say that we just need to start doing PR. It’s always awkward responding to that.While our first PR team was bad, our current one is the same that has had a lot of success with Glassdoor. There’s a belief that outsourced PR teams are essential for their connections, but journalists want to go to the source, not a middle-man.BaconSalt and Urbanspoon, companies founded by my former managers, have both done quite well without an outside PR firm. The lesson is that if your niche is one mainstream journalists want to write about — flavored salt and restaurant sites/apps are more interesting to them than a TripAdvisor for cosmetic treatments — you don’t need an outside PR firm. If they don’t want to write about your business, an outside PR firm won’t help you overcome that. The press that we’ve received has mostly been about helping consumers fight back against shady businesses.If we could do it over again, we’d put the PR investment into customer service. I totally agree that you gain a lot more from actively engaging early users than pitching overwhelmed journalists. Your users are your best and most authentic advocates.
One of Fred’s company’s portfolio companies, Zynga, uses an outside PR firm, Brew Media Relations. It would be interesting to hear Fred, someone from Zynga, or someone from Brew Media weigh in on this.
Zygna probably didn’t use an outside PR firm when they were starting out; now they are so big that few journalists would expect to talk directly to the CEO.Early-stage startups should not use their most expensive capital to pay a PR firm’s retainer, and I’ve always argued against that spend. But I’m not the CEO, and our investors are big believers in the power of PR. PR has been more difficult for us and for Avvo than for Zillow and Glassdoor. Most PR is not about the company itself, but insights the company has uncovered. Insights about law and plastic surgery don’t have the wide appeal of real estate and careers. Just like knowing whether you’re building a cash flow or equity business, you also need to know if your category can produce the PR fodder that justifies a large PR spend.We’ve been looking for someone to manage the process in-house for a year, but our hiring bar is high and it’s hard to find someone who understands the new realities of customer acquisition that Fred advocates (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) So we’ve modified our search to look for a customer service manager who will help us support the passionate users in our community.Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone has a lot of good insights about PR and Marketing, and I highly recommend it.
I’ve heard that book recommended before. I’ll have to give it a read.
I have read Keith Ferrazzi’s book very thoroughly (and met him once, too) but would recommend even more strongly *Rain Making* by Ford Harding. I think of the two books as being in the same vein. *Rain Making* is a bit more old-fashioned, perhaps, but it reveals a deeper level of understanding of many of the same concepts.
Brew has been great and I’d recommend them to anyoneZynga needed outside help to manage the PR, not to create it
A wonderful and detailed rebuttal from Rand Fishkin of SEOMoz:http://www.seomoz.org/blog/…
rand is awesome
Fred, I think the spirit of your Marketing blog was right on… albeit confusing. I too have seen a lot of “superstar” “””””Marketing””””” people turn out to be super duds… but I’ve also seen them knock it out of the park. For example, Kenneth Dodson was the marketing genius who helped push TicketsNow.com over the edge to funding and eventually acquisition by TicketMaster.I’m grateful for your thoughtful posts, thank you and please keep it up!
i have seen so many marketing geniuses in our portfolio. matt stinchcomb atetsy comes to mind. matt was in a rock band when he joined etsy. he createdthe marketing plan following techniques he learned in the music business. heprobably would not consider himself a marketer. but he is brilliant at it.
“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.” YUP! TYE baby!
Warren Buffet’s Secret to Making 100% a year: http://www.philstockworld.c…
An omnibus effort – please excuse the length.- Big M marketing is properly called positioning, given that name by Jack Trout and Al Ries in the book of the same name (written in 1970’s). They wrote a seminal book in the late ’70’s called The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing. All tech marketing gurus, including Geoffrey Moore & Seth (knowingly or not) base their work on these principles. * I think FAKE GRIMLOCK may be Al Ries 😉 * read the book: positioning is the art of marketing, but even art has rules. The rules take a long time to master.- small m marketing is anytime a person has an experience with your company, in any way.- no 2 words have been more bastardized than brand & strategy. * noone looks smart and important at an agency by talking tactical mastery all the time 😉 * a broad theme, that is operational in nature, is a strategy (think Fred’s idea of targeting a specific type of community as a great go to market strategy). Strategy is generally repeatable; it will be supported by many campaigns that will need many detailed tactics to be effective.- a brand is a promise, based on the expectation that is created by any method where a consumer forms a thought about your company. When the reality of a consumer experience occurs, the experience either meets/exceeds the expectation or does not meet expectations. The brand is strengthened in the former, weakened in the latter. * think of your very first time searching on Google; posting your first picture on Fb. Expectation exceeded. * think of Google today. Think of the people who post on Fb like a desperate cry for validation. Expectation no longer met (for me, I’m 45 and Fb will not be core to my entire adult like – think of being able to contact anyone you ever meet, expectation exceeded!).- once strongly positioned, a consumer brand is very difficult to dislodge. It is also very hard to pivot. It is very easy to mismanage, however.- brand extension (‘we do everything, not just what you know us for’) is the hallmark of a tech founder who is a bottom up finder of needs. They do not understand that people only associate a brand with a single position (MS=tools for PC, GOOG=search, Fb=friends). MS is not BOB or a phone OS. GOOG is not Android (getting somewhere there!). FB is not Twitter, Groupon or Foursquare. * again, read the book 😉 * major auto manufacturers have the ridiculous cash flows to fall into this trap as well;- bottom up finders of need are always first to a huge new category. Top down creators of experience are always the owners of the end game positions in a mature category. * on an 80/20 basis;-)- people have reputations, products have brands. Famous people have both, as they use their name to sell stuff to people they never meet. Pet peeve.- Fred hates marketers because 60% are dilettantes, 30% are deeply cynical / unhappy money or experience grabbers and 9% are just incompetent (9% is true for a lot of occupations, the other percentages are unique to marketing). * vast majority of marketing consultants are mostly in the 60% group. They lack the business experience that provides the required confidence to find your own idea and build a company. * they are ex-agency or corporate marketers who just want to not have the hassle of a big company job. They are not grounded enough to be effective; not committed enough to be right (think the antithesis of anyone associated with Dave McClure.) * many an ex-agency person get tired of being right but changing nothing ( personally, I don’t miss ‘putting lipstick on the pig’ ). * many other ex-agency people tire of working for corporate marketers who care nothing for the customer (‘but there are so many battle to be won INSIDE the company!’).- traditional advertising worked to remind people to purchase brands that are established in the market or to create disruptive awareness. Still true today. * big agencies will always exist to aid big consumer brands to manage big consumer campaigns that keep their products top of mind (think Coke). * if you want to kill a crappy position, product or service, do a really good traditional ad campaign (ancient ad industry maxim).- a founder must be able to identify a position of value to his market. Founders must be able to deliver to the expectation that position requires. * a founder does not need to be able to communicate well, if the product / service fills a strongly needed position in a growing market (see bottom up need finder above, or think 1985 Bill Gates.) * a founder who can communicate needs to be disciplined, focused and grounded (see top down experience based above or think ‘1985 Steve Jobs, meet 2005 Steve Jobs.’). * top down founders need tons of experience to be successful. They require perspective/repetition to be able to be impactful / laser focused, (see the last 40 years of Silicon Valley’s preference for bottom up 20-something founders). * most founders who are successful fit their business to their personality / philosophy although they likely do so unconsciously.I have learned a lot from Fred. I hope this is a small return of the favour that is AVC.
James – great comment. you should post this in its entirety on your blog
Fred – Thanks for the suggestion. No blogging at the moment.
A really striking comment. Well worth the read. Thank you.
IMHO – Seth’s cirtique is spot on – you are talking about marcom….and while small companies may not have someone with the title product manager – someone is doing the role as it is the core of the business.I’d encourage you to review the pragmatic marketing framework for a MBA Monday version of what marketing is and see how many of your funded companies can do without marketing.http://www.pragmaticmarketi…
I read this post and most of the comments. I loved the post and took the whole thing as advice for entrepreneurs involved with start-ups. (as Fred later confirmed). I loved it because I’ve done all of the 8 obvious things that entrepreneurs should do.I would add one other. Do your research whatever way you can. When you are starting up you can’t afford user focus groups. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’d be driving my son and his friends to sport and in the half hour drive I’d ask them a load of questions. I’d be testing their appetite for new products we were thinking about or finding what really bugged them currently that could be included in enhancements we were planning.My approach to user based design was free, quick and almost always spot on. Later on in the life of a start-up it may make sense to pay for market research to feed into your product development strategy but when you are building do your research whatever way you can.If you do this it will help you build great products. Your users will be your marketers. From a piece of software to run a basketball association in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne to having FIBA, the world governing body for basketball as a client, http://bit.ly/i4mItG we are testament to this.
“Bugs” ? Can’t you just say that you were wrong on a few points?
I’d just finished up a book by marketer/authors Al Ries and Jack Trout the night before the original post called THE 22 IMMUTABLE LAWS OF MARKETING. I thought your post fit pretty well with their book which talked about mistakes companies make and, in some cases, how marketing professionals are complicit in those mistakes. I liked the warning a the end of the book, “Many of these laws fly in the face of corporate ego, conventional wisdom, and the Malcolm Baldrige awards.” Maybe it wasn’t as diplomatic as you’d like, but I found the post very helpful in the work I’m doing.
I have to say that I have found the responses to the original post somewhat puzzling. Many of them felt to me as if they were “looking at the finger not where it is pointing.” They were, in other words, fixed on what I consider to be nuances of ‘how’ the key point was being articulated rather than ‘what’ the point was. My reading of the article was that it was a plea that entrepreneurs in the very early stage of startup be extremely cautious about assuming that any company needed “marketing.” More specifically, that it should have a marketing department and associated budget. Fred expressed it graphically but I don’t find the proposition to be particularly controversial. Steve Blanks has made significant contributions to the whole way people think about startups, and to the associated “lean startup” movement but pointing out much the same thing. He advices explicitly against a startup having a marketing department and instead recommends the process he calls ‘customer development.’ And his advice is designed precisely to avoid the kinds of problems Fred is referring to. Now you can get up in arms about how marketing is defined and consider it so broadly that just having a product at all is marketing, and you may well have a valid point, marketeers and their academic theorist partners have never been humble about the role of marketing, but that doesn’t mean that Fred (and Steve) don’t have a point. Be very very careful about “marketing” in very earl stage startups. I’ve been there myself. I know what Fred and Steve are talking about. It is good advice and no amount of biting the pointing finger will convince me otherwise.
“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”Guess what? I’m a marketer and sometimes I’ve had to try to market products or services that are quite obviously crap (and have managed to do so) and I’m angry at the engineers/product people/owners/VCs for these transgressions and it’s spilled out into my comment. I’m not proud of that but it is what it is.
that’s great. nicely put.
Hopefully we can all understand that being bad at a job isn’t distinct to one profession, and that, done well, each has their own piece to add to the mix.
What about a portfolio company like ReturnPath? They are a marketing SaaS provider. You could say the same thing for Twilio.
OMG i love how this “afterpost” has 253 comments.Talk about pent-up demand!Amazing what happens when you poll your audience…
Fred succinctly: I have seen and had all of those exact same experiences within my industry. I have not seen much out of your same experiences. If any.
Oh! so glad you mentioned customer service ( saw your comment on that post too ).I think good customer service people are like good engineers – not only are they better than the average – they might be 50x better 🙂 It seems to me they’re often undervalued.
one thing that is clear to me after this post is that there should be a checkbox on the disqus comment ui to ‘FAKE GRIMLOCKize’ your comment 😉 FAKE GRIMLOCK rocks 🙂
A graphical representation of Startup Ad Spend vs Age Of Startup – http://www.chrisfrost.tv/st…
I’m inclined to agree with Seth on this, you are certainly confusing marketing with promotion, or communications.Marketing funnels through the entire organisation and is attributed to everything from product development to answering the phone.One of the most important aspects of marketing is research, or listening to your customers and wider target audience. This valuable information about what customers expect and want should be fed back into product development, and wider strategy, to ensure the solution meets the needs and expectations of those who are keeping you in business. Successful organisations do this very well, and whether they like it or not, are very good at aspects of marketingAny organisation that has ever convinced others to consume their product or services has at some point engaged in marketing. When Zynga launched on the Facebook platform, they had identified an alternative means of distribution and built a product that engaged their audience, this in itself is good marketing!Where you are right, is that the product should be the main focus. A good product will get recommended and passed on through word-of-mouth, driving uptake. Promotion just adds polish, and a crap product can have all the polish in the world, it will still be crap!
Fred, I too wanted to blast you for that post! Instead, let me be a little more constructive.First, you just wrote this: “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.”So, whoever did the hiring apparently doesn’t realize that there’s a difference between an electrical engineer and a mechanical engineer. There’s also a difference between an entrepreneurial CEO and a “operational CEO” (just ask former CompUSA CEO’s Jim Halpin and Nathan Morton).Marketers also have different areas of expertise. You need to find one who is adept at startup marketing. That means Guerrilla Marketing, Social Marketing, Free Publicity marketing, etc etc. I wouldn’t hire a marketing chief whose expertise is creating Super Bowl ads. I do NOT believe that even your companies can build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door; I do think that you need to have people who know how to create that initial buzz at a low cost.
Key to making marketing work for you is to experiment and use it for learning in the early stages. Money spent before you know your positioning, benefits, messages, and go-to-market approach really is money wasted; but a company that is willing and able to market well will easily outplay a “we think marketing is evil” company, other things equal, in the mid-term.Fred – by the way, if you’re wondering why you ended up with a lot of heat in your original post, maybe it’s because VCs and Marketeers share a lot of personality and business-approach traits, for better and worse – the kinds of similarities that breed contempt. Just sayin’.More: http://myperfectstartup.com…
I find it ironic that the very companies who hold their nose to spending money in advertising depend on other’s advertising budget to survive (google, facebook, twitter, ..).
Advertising is not quid pro quo
Interesting to see where at least part of marketing in established categories (like Coke’s) is heading, in many cases following the USV theme of ‘engaged communities’.Companies like Radian6 are mining twitter (or facebook or whatever) to allow ‘Marketing’ to enter and participate in online conversations wrt to the company’s brand in real time, a move from push type traditional marketing content to interacting with the user/consumer community directly over the web.Companies like ResponseTek are working with large corporations to mine their users for information at the time of an interaction with the brand, whether on-line or contact centre of even in store: what could we have done better? why did you abandon the transaction? How was our agent’s product knowledge? This type of information, gathered directly from a company’s most enagaged users (customers) gives the company great feedback on how it is delivering versus their brand promise, and a medium to have a conversation with their community as they respond to suggestions, criticism, accolades.Also great data to hone future marketing/CS/OPS spend for majour brands. The interesting theme, for me anyway, is how this allows big companies to mirror what successful start-ups do, which is to engage in a persistent two way conversation with the folks using/consuming (ie engaging the community already engaged with your brand) their products.Note: not involved in Radian6 but love what they do, am a VC in ResponseTekLove your blog Fred.
i dont see why you have to “DE-bug” – Just because a herd of marketers took exception – does not mean you were wrong – or were not being authentic in your view.There is too much PC’ness these days here fred….;)
i will try to cut it down. though others thought there was something wrongwith me because i was using a different tone of voice than normal
Yep. With you all the way. A good, well thought of idea / concept / service / product sells by itself.This is the age of the net.No excuse for ignorance or failure.
Passion Bugs. 😉 I know those.