Five Tenets for
Just-In-Time Marketing: the key to early startup success
High-tech startups, by their very nature, are product or technology driven, with the founders far more comfortable down the hall with Product Management and Engineering than with hiring PR firms and establishing a go-to-market strategy. Marketing, in their mind, is a necessary evil—one that they delay dealing with until it’s often too late. Our role in some accounts is to act as Interim VP of Marketing until a full-time VP is needed; for others, we provide Corporate Marketing expertise to a founding VP who is usually 60% Product Management, 30% Product Marketing and only 10% familiar with Corporate Marketing—what it is, how it works and what it costs.
Sales-Based Marketing: 3 Little Words.
We work from a simple premise: Marketing’s job comes down to three words: “Make sales easier.” If it doesn’t initiate the sales cycle, shorten it, or make repeat sales easier, don’t do it. In the earliest phases of positioning and developing the messaging and content for an early-stage startup, we want to hear from the founders and the Product folks. But we’re even more interested in what Sales has to say, since they’re trying these ideas out with actual customers. And, once we’re out in the market, we get together with Sales on a regular basis to parse their specific sales cycle, where the holes are, and how Marketing can help.
Get it right the first time.
We’re advocates of the basic philosophy of The Lean Startup, which can be summarized (and we’re doing author Eric Ries a disservice in shortening it so much) as: get your product out fast, learn quickly what works and what doesn’t, then iterate. But that process is for products, not companies. In going to market, your grandmother was right: you only get one shot at making a good first impression. So take the time to nail your positioning and messaging, test it, modify it, then develop it into a comprehensive PR and content campaign, otherwise known as The Launch. If you do all that (and have a working product and referenceable customers), the analysts, press, influencers, channels, as well as prospective customers will sit up and take notice.
Don’t confuse PR with Marketing.
We value PR. We love PR. But it’s just one of the tools in your marketing toolbox. PR firms are the most critical part of your go-to-market strategy, so hiring the right firm and equipping them with the right positioning and messaging is critical. But marketing for startups is more than PR—much more. To manage the critical marketing decisions and create the important marketing programs that will determine your early success, you need a marketing firm that can build and implement a full marketing program (with an ecosystem of proven specialists in areas like design, writing and SEO) that focuses not just on shaping opinion, but on generating sales and measureable results.
Enthusiasm is essential. So is experience.
Many tech startups are founded and staffed by people who are in their positions of responsibility for the first time. They’re excited by their technology and starting up a company from scratch, but most of our clients have never taken a product from idea to market—or built a sales infrastructure to support it. We’ve launched over 44 scrappy and disruptive tech startups (Nimble Storage, Sumo Logic, Trifacta, Snowflake Computing, Kentik and more) and know what we’re doing. So do the individual contributors and small agencies that we bring in to execute your Marketing plan. By focusing on content, competition and conversions, we develop the programs, resources and systems that will ensure a strong launch and early sales success.