Brad Feld puts into words something that I’ve told companies for ages, but never written here. There is this nigh-irresistible temptation to fight the scary amorphousness of consumer markets by dropping multi-million-dollar marketing-spend bombs on ‘em, all on the assumption that you can come back later and pick up the dazed customers. Not:
…I despise the word “marketing” – it’s often the weakest link in a startup company. “Marketing” is vague and non-specific, often poorly executed and measured, and usually a huge waste of money relative to the output. Oh – and while there are plenty of “tried and true” approaches (that any marketing consulting would be happy to charge you plenty of money to explain to you) – the effective approaches have been evolving a lot lately, especially as user-generated content becomes ubiquitious.
Several years ago, I suggested to my portfolio companies that they fire their VP of Marketing and hire a VP of Demand Generation (it could be the same person if the VP of Marketing was willing to accept a quota and meaningful, measurable variable compensation.) Hopefully, this VP of Demand Generation understands the incredible power of having your customers so happy with your product that they’ll talk about it online. To see an example of this, FeedBurner has been doing a great job of highlighting this with their Publisher Buzz blog where they link to posts from “people who kind of dig FeedBurner.”
I suggested to both companies that I met with that they stop talking about “marketing” and instead focus on getting their existing customers to tell the world about their product through blogs, references, online interviews, and at cocktail parties (these are both products that the target customer will ultimately start talking to a friend about over a drink).
Try something – for 24 hours, substitute the phrase “lead generation” for “marketing” in every conversation you have and see what happens.
I like it. I often tell companies I’m working with that too often marketing (and business development, for that matter) is a joy-ride, essentially sales without a quota. One test when hiring a marketing veep is to tell him/her that 20/30/50% of their comp is variable on revenue — say it even if you don’t mean it — and then see how they react. It’s usually instructive as heck.