If you haven’t already seen it, you need to read this post from Union Square Ventures founder Fred Wilson, and his thoughts on startup Marketing.
I believe that marketing is what you do when your product or service sucks or when you make so much profit on every marginal customer that it would be crazy to not spend a bit of that profit acquiring more of them (coke, zynga, bud, viagra).
Wow – that alone ought to stir up a few folks (emphasis mine). He goes on to discuss how his advice is mostly oriented toward ‘consumer/free’ and not ‘enterprise focused SAAS’ companies (whew…) but then goes on to provide a lengthy list of ‘obvious things you will want to do’ such as both promoting on and integrating with Twitter, Facebook, etc…, events, search marketing and ‘building a great product’.
Perhaps most importantly, he discusses the value of evangelism – both to customers as well as the developer community – building PR buzz (which he says you have to do internally) and developer support.
I will say that the best PR centric startups have the “media DNA” in the founding team.
Couldn’t agree more.
It’s tempting to pick on individual points in his post, especially since many of his ‘free’ suggestions are a helluva lot easier to pull off with a few million in funding from a top-tier VC like Fred Wilson. After all, not all of these ideas are truly ‘free’, such as events like SXSW (as many companies are about to (re)discover). Also, since the media tends to be infatuated with and is much more likely to ‘buzz’ about deals that are funded by those top-tier VCs, true garage-based startups have a much tougher time getting anyone to write about them than, say, a USV portfolio company. And of course, being a ‘PR centric startup’ isn’t quite the same as being a ‘revenue centric startup’ – all of the ‘success stories’ Wilson cites give their primary offerings away for free, which they certainly wouldn’t be able to do without significant investor support – giving away your product might not require a ‘marketing budget’, but it’s certainly not ‘free’.
Despite those quibbles, however, I do agree with most of his points, and his fundamental premise on evangelism both from a PR and developer perspective. This is still far too frequently-overlooked, particularly among more product/engineering focused startups, of which there are many here in the Boston area.
If you’re a current or wannabe entrepreneur, it’s a great read. It should certainly generate some discussion today.