Marketing for early-stage technology companies is one of the most active discussions in media, blogs, meetups, conferences, and wherever. Yet, despite the degree of coverage, founders can still struggle to understand how to correctly approach marketing for early-stage startups.
I’ve noticed a few reoccurring misconceptions crop up in chats I’ve had with entrepreneurs across a range of industries. Since these beliefs can be huge roadblocks to a company’s business success, I thought I’d try my hand at setting the record straight.
I’ll shed light on four particular ones in this article and discuss opportunities to maximize value from the ground up.
1. “Our company doesn’t need marketing because our product is good enough to sell itself”
These words are common to hear from founders, especially those with a technical background, in the very early days of a startup.
Despite many sources highlighting the importance of marketing, some entrepreneurs still tend to believe that having an innovative product with state-of-the-art technology is sufficient to generate sales.
In reality, an “if we build it, they will come” approach almost always turns out not to be the winning approach. Even if your product is excellent, you need to make sure that people know about it. It’s challenging to sell an unknown product, so building product awareness is one of the main marketing goals for an early-stage startup.
For example, one hardware startup I’m familiar with put its budget into research and development but did not allocate funds for marketing. When it was ready to demonstrate its product and make the first sales, it faced difficulties because the target audience had… never heard of it.
Recognizing this fact, the founders of the startup had to adjust on the fly and poured a lot of resources into advertising campaigns, which finally generated sales. Had they thought about marketing earlier, I can guarantee they would have spent less on promotion in total and laid the foundation for a triumphant launch.
2. “Marketing is all about advertising”
This is another popular belief among entrepreneurs from non-business backgrounds. Of course, advertising might play an important role in the marketing mix, but marketing is not limited to it.
Promoting goods on different channels is not enough. Marketing is much more than buying ads and posting on social media.
You have to understand whether your target audience needs your product, whether it’s worth paying for, whether it’s better than your competitors’, and so on. In the age of intensified competition and market oversaturation, these insights can be game-changing for your product even before you launch it. Founders need to examine them before turning to any advertising endeavors.
Ideally, you should start preparing a marketing strategy as soon as you validate your product hypothesis. By having a comprehensive roadmap of marketing activities, you will quickly understand what needs to be accomplished and how marketing can help achieve certain milestones.
3. “We can do marketing ourselves”
Too often, founders hold this position. The reasons behind it are diverse, but an especially common one is having a limited budget for marketing spend.
I get that, but the fact is a marketing professional can help optimize the available resources, maximizing the return on investment from different promotional activities. Even more, a marketer can identify the most suitable activities and guide a startup through them.
By jumping from one promotional campaign to another or repeating competitors’ advertising schemes, you might spend all available resources on irrelevant actions that do not correspond to company goals.
Having sophisticated mechanisms and recognizing the importance of highlighting their benefits, one deeptech startup decided to craft a positioning and create the marketing mix prior to its official product launch. Founders of the startup realized that they could not do it themselves, and turned to external experts.
Their decision to build a solid foundation has been justified over time: equipped with a compelling narrative and a sound set of promotional activities, the startup demonstrated much better results than previously anticipated.
4. “We will start doing marketing after we launch our product and gain traction”
Many entrepreneurs prefer to start thinking about marketing when they have already launched their product. As a result, they miss out on many aspects, from market research insights to value proposition creation.
By starting marketing in advance, you will be able to identify trajectories for growth on one side of the spectrum and obstacles on the other. A marketer can help you yield insights into your target audience’s needs and wants, determine a positioning statement, and eliminate ineffective solutions, reducing the stress of jumping on the promotion bandwagon too late.
In addition, the earlier you start doing marketing, the higher your company’s chances are of putting out a product people actually want.
Forward-looking founders and technology teams recognize that having a strategic marketing overview from the beginning can help save up funding, increase the chances of a successful launch and promotional campaigns, and contribute to achieving the business rationale.
While many other beliefs about marketing in early-stage technology startups exist, I’d say these are the ones most encountered by marketers. If you rethink these misconceptions as a founder, it’ll help open the door to the tremendous opportunities marketing represents for the future success of your company.