As founders, each of us is hungry for success. But predictably, we often underestimate the importance of hiring marketers. Wondering but I need to run my startup under least expenses? Here’s something that I’ll recommend you must go through,
The Builder’s Dream
As the CEO of my last company, I was on a mission to build an outstanding product. I wanted it to simplify searching of quality graphics resources for all the creative minds across the globe.
So, I set the product right. I consumed every piece of content I could find online about effective product management. I spent hundreds of hours conducting surveys among the target customers to ensure that product details get finer and finer. In this process, I understood their pains point, motivations, and routines. I was all set, I gathered a team of talented people, developed a prototype using agile development lifecycle and measured acquisition funnels, user activation goals, user journeys, etc to understand how well the product could perform.
Finally, we launched. And the prototype was made live on Google web store as a test chrome extension. The prototype got 10,000 downloads in just a single week. Users recommended it to their friends, we received a shoutout on various blogs, even got a feature in the MAC Affiliate Conference and things were just going amazing. My team and I were all set to launch a fully functional product. But, met a tiny problem.
The funds required to build the complete product was HUGE which was beyond the first yield of revenue generated.
We never got to Series A. Eventually, the money ran out.
Growth is a big deal in an early-stage tech startup. Surprisingly, a fellow founder was facing the struggle in building his company. When I ask him whether he had hired a marketer, the answer is all-too-often, ‘Not yet.’ And for almost 6 months, he gave the same answer. It was a massive mistake. Worse still, even at the time, for my product, I think I knew it was a mistake — but I didn’t fix it.
It’s much easier to spot your own committed mistakes when you see other people making them, so here is why I didn’t hire a marketer. I hope it will inspire you to make marketing an early priority when you plan your product… and to avoid the typical fate of failure that most startups face.
Myth 1: Great Products Don’t Need Marketing
I used to believe that if you had a great product, it would market itself.
It would have been great if that was true. But it’s not. The actual fact is that Great products deserve great marketing. Always remember this lesson which I learned the hard way, “The first rule of growth hacking is, do not talk about growth hacking at all.”
Successful companies do hide what actually drives their growth (which is quite obvious), and they are better off simply saying, ‘We just focus on building products which suites our users needs.’ This is the lie which we generally all buy into. But not anymore.
Myth 2: Most Marketers Don’t Get it
During the first year, I interviewed dozens of marketers. I asked them to draft a marketing plan for my product to achieve X users and walk me through it. I was eagerly waiting for someone to tell me how to generate a huge amount of high-quality traffic to my website, for free, and almost immediately.
To me, almost all of the marketing plans looked boring. One marketer in a tough conversation told me: ‘A brand isn’t created overnight — it takes many months (or even, years) of messaging to build a reputation among the target audience.’ Many months? But, I wanted growth immediately! I didn’t have funding for ‘many months’. There had to be a hack which could solve this issue.
There is a hack.. but it’s not what most founders think of when they hear this term. And the hack is to hire a marketing consultant months before your product launch and begin marketing development activities early on.
Myth 3: Marketing Starts After Launch
Here’s the most popular question, “How much can a marketer achieve before having a product to market?” Similar to you, The whole premise sounded inefficient to me as well, futile, even. Looking back, the list of critical activities that I postponed unnecessarily made me cringe.
And it’s a long list that one could achieve: activities like creating and promoting content for gaining future customers, building relationships with influencers, capturing leads in a mailing list, keeping them warm with a monthly/weekly newsletter, building an online social media following, forming distribution partnerships, speaking at events, setting up an evangelist program, and testing communications on different segments of your generated funnel.
In simple words, ‘Marketing development’ activities don’t require a product to be launched at all. You could simply ‘help’ to make your customer aware.
Myth 4: Marketing Too Soon is Deadly
What if users signed up early but the product launch was delayed? What if they came to the website and it crashed due to lacking? What if everyone in the world laughed at the product and said, ‘Amar, you quit your 12 LPA job to build that piece of shit that doesn’t even function?’
I never said any of this out loud. But this fear of not being good enough was around. I realized after wasting almost 3 months that attracting too much attention is never bad. While some might still think it is, all I have to say is, believe yourself and your work. It’s quite easy to say but a lot harder to do. In retrospect, the product was good enough and it was helping so many more people than I ever thought would interact with it.
Someone needs to look after marketing your startup idea from Day One. Not after launch (you’ll only make it hard for yourself). Not during some PR campaign. But from the beginning, from the initial zero, and every day. Building a great product is hard. Great marketing is hard too. But, both need each other. And you absolutely need to put in faith & believe in order to win.
Always account, like product development, and customer development, marketing development takes longer than you think. It is one of the most important factors which determine your success. Hire the smartest people you know, because you need all the help you can get. Also, for your help, here are a few marketing tips for entrepreneurs that you may employ for conducting through your startup journey.