I come from the product development side of things, which means that generally speaking I’ve spent my professional career surrounded by people who don’t have a lot of respect for “the idiots in marketing”. As you, my loyal readers know, I have outgrown that mindset.
If I were to describe the job of marketing it is to find efficient ways to get the product in front of people who will actually pay. So, that implies three tasks, none of which are easy. Let’s break them down.
People who will actually pay — maybe the hardest of the three for a startup, and this is the question I always ask entrepreneurs: Who is going to buy your product? I have a friend who has built a great product, but his startup doesn’t really know anybody who will pay for it. (Actually, that’s only partially true…it would be an excellent acquisition for one of about 3-5 companies in the entire world. If they can get one of those firms to bite, then they’re golden.)
In front of people — this is what most people thing of marketing as…getting stuff in front of people, i.e. buying advertising. But, the thing is, just buying advertising basically doesn’t work unless you’re selling something to a mass/mainstream market which most startups are not. Most startups are targeting a niche, and finding those people is really tricky. See the previous point: finding just one of them is tricky…try finding many, many, many.
Efficient ways — now, here’s the real trick: in theory, you could just buy SuperBowl ads, but that would be inefficient. In other words, you’d probably spend a lot more than you make. So, not only does the marketer have to find customers, and figure out how to sell to them, they also have to do it for less money than they make on a sale. Some companies can’t do that, so they trick themselves into “lifetime value”. (I suppose that’s not a trick if can retain your customers and have enough money to hang around for a lifetime.)
So, there you have it, the three-bladed gauntlet of marketing. Now, think about your job for a minute…would you want to trade it for that? Sure, maybe at a well-established company that has many customers, that’s not so tricky. But, what about at that brand new company with the brand new product that nobody has ever heard of before?