Marketers Won’t Bite You

It’s a difficult task for most startups to determine when they need to bring marketing help to the team–and when I say marketing, I don’t mean sales. I’m talking about a vehicle to give your audience a better understanding of what problem the company solves and why the audience should care. This kind of marketing has a targeted audience, usually made up of investors, institutions, industry media and established players. The actual sales cycle comes much later in the marketing process and has a different person like a VP of business development directing it.

Why Does Marketing Fall So Low On The Priority List?

It’s a truism we all start work doing the easy things, the things we know and then work outwards in concentric circles, leaving those things which are mystifying or beyond our comprehension until we can’t ignore them. Scientists focus on the science first; engineers focus on the engineering first, and so on.

Since it’s rare for the founder of a startup to be a branding/marketing specialist, we tend to get less attention in the evolutionary chain. When the focus does turn to us, most founders view it as a cost they should spend as little on as possible–and it’s hard to fault their logic especially if they don’t understand the longer term ROI.

I was on the phone earlier today with a CEO of a startup in the cleantech space which saw the world through that exact lens. Mind you; this was a company which had already raised $25 million. For the few announcements they were willing to make public, they used a newswire service and hoped the phone would ring. The rest they viewed as icing.

It struck me as paradoxical that a company whose technology required a string of components to fit together to operate, was willing to skip that process when it came to creating its brand narrative. Surely, they wouldn’t skimp on the materials they were using or the preciseness of their industrial process. I’m equally sure they sought out and hired qualified professional patent attorneys to submit their IP to the United States Patent Office. When it came to marketing, though, the CEO didn’t connect the value dots.

Use This 20-Question Checklist To Help You

So what is the equation to determine the value of marketing for a company, and do you need to understand the partial derivative of Lambda and Beta to solve it? Here’s an excellent list of questions to ask your colleagues to determine when and how is the best time to invest in branding and marketing resources.

  1. In one sentence, can you answer why your company exists?
  2. In one sentence, can you answer what problem your company solves?
  3. In less than ten words, tell me who your audience is?
  4. In one sentence, tell me why your audience should care about your widget?
  5. In one sentence, tell me what distinguishes your company from all of the other competitors in your space?
  6. If you’re not self-funding, is your story compelling enough to get you to invest your retirement funds in your business idea? How about your kids’ college fund?
  7. If your company branding and tagline were in a deck of cards, how likely would you be to pick it out?
  8. How hard would it be to find your company on Google if you typed in three words that described what you do?
  9. Do you have a plan to get industry insiders comfortable with your business idea?
  10. How are industry insiders going to find out if you have a respected third party willing to vouch for your business?
  11. If an investor who knew nothing about your company visited your website, how likely is it they would take a follow-up action like contacting you?
  12. Do you have any idea how many people visit your website, and how they get there?
  13. If three trade industry journals called you tomorrow, could you repeat your story verbatim to each of them so that regardless of which journal they read, the reader would get the same message?
  14. How often do you update your website–more or less than one time per month?
  15. If somebody visited your website, how likely are they to return a second time?
  16. If I was illiterate, could I still understand what you do if I visited your website?
  17. How much would it cost in advertising dollars to replace a cover story about your company in a respected trade journal?
  18. How much would it be worth to have three additional potential investors reach out to you through your website?
  19. How much would it be worth to be able to show a potential investor news articles that share your company’s story instead of you having to tell it?
  20. How much would it be worth to be invited to be a speaker or panelist at a major conference in your industry?

The bottom line is good marketing helps companies form a strong foundation upon which they can build, but ultimately it’s up to you whether you need to invest in marketing at the amoeba stage to create a strong pedigree, or whether you’d rather die off slowly and become fossilized rather than adapt to the landscape.



CleanTech Focus