Startup coach and CEO mentor Dave Bailey knows what Founders get wrong about the scale-up process. After all, he’s watched hundreds of entrepreneurs get it wrong (and a few get it right).Marketing is one of those areas that too many get wrong, and it starts early.In a recent post on Medium, he walked through the 5 myths he’s seen too many Founders (himself included) fall for when it comes to the importance of hiring a marketer early on (like day one).I get it. I’ve been there.And I like to think I’ve finally taken Dave’s myth-busting to heart. That’s why I’ve had marketing support plugged into Bigfoot since day 180 (thanks Jordan and now Tim!). Days 0-179 were just me, which I quickly realized resulted in little more than me emailing myself ideas / half-baked deliverables and creating a checkerboard of stickies I’d, of course, never move down the creative process to delivery.It just didn’t work. That approach clearly didn’t get me where I wanted to be. Now, I just drive other people crazy doing that to them : All that said, here’s my take on Dave’s 5 myths. When to Start Your SaaS Marketing Engine
Myth 1 – Great Products Don’t Need Marketing
Dave’s Take: “I believed that if you had a great product, it would market itself. It would be awesome if that were true. But it’s not.”
My Take: I’ve never bought into the “build it and they will come” theory, so I don’t have much to add here other than don’t believe in this myth whatsoever. Every product / experience needs to be wrapped with marketing, even if it doesn’t feel like “marketing.” Otherwise no one will ever know about it.
Myth 2 – Marketing Starts After Launch
Dave’s Take: “How much can a marketer achieve before having a product to market? The whole premise sounded inefficient to me, futile, even. Looking back, the list of critical activities that I postponed unnecessarily makes me cringe.”
My Take: Dave lists 9 critical marketing activities that are required to build an engaged audience that’s primed to support a product launch. This is hard work that needs a framework to deliver consistently. You need a marketer to do all that work for you; otherwise, you’ll launch with a thud and muddle along with slow user growth and a lot of anxiety, thinking “Sh*t, why have I not been doing these things!”. At that point you’re starting from scratch working to dig yourself out of the distribution hole for the product you’ve already invested your precious time and money into.
Myth 3 – Most Marketers Don’t Get it
Dave’s Take: “During the first year, I interviewed dozens of marketers… I was waiting for someone to tell me how to generate a huge amount of high-quality traffic to my website, for free, almost immediately. To me, most of the marketing plans looked boring… I wanted growth immediately! I didn’t have funding for ‘many months.’ There had to be a hack. There is a hack… but it’s not what most founders think. Hire a marketer months before product launch and begin marketing development activities early.”
My Take: Been here. Frustrated with marketers planning rather than executing. We need an audience now! Not in 12 months. Well, guess what: You should have been executing on it the past year, then! If you couldn’t find a marketer, be your own marketer, realize how hard it is and find your marketer!To a degree, planning be damned. Just start doing the work or hire someone to do it (not plan for it) for you. SEO is long-tail, you need a good library of content out there before it’s going to do anything for you. Building an email list takes time; see SEO statement above (which is how you primarily get people to your list sign up). Argggh, this is just how it is.Like Dave said, there’s no overarching hack to be had. Unless you have a proven one, in which case, send it my way (email below); I’d appreciate it.
Myth 4 – Marketing Too Soon is Deadly
Dave’s Take: “What if users signed up early but the launch was delayed? What if they came to the website and it crashed? What if everyone in the world laughed at me and said, ‘Dave, you quit your $150,000 job to build that piece of shit?’ this fear of not being good enough stopped me from trying to attract too much attention. In retrospect, the product was good enough.”
My Take: Been here as well. Same concept as when to launch the product. There are plenty of cliches: “Done is better than perfect.” “If you’re not embarrassed by your first launch, you’ve waited too long.” That kind of thing.I don’t think you have to go full bore on product marketing 12 months pre-launch, but you absolutely should be audience building and warming them up well ahead of time. We talk about the absolute necessity of customer discovery; how about the associated necessity of strategic, pre-launch audience building so you’ll have a group of people to expose to all the great discovery / product work you’ve done when the time comes?
Myth 5 – Hiring a Marketer Takes Too Much Time
Dave’s Take: “I used to believe that effectively communicating a product required comprehensive knowledge of all the product’s features — and the entire business. I figured it would demand a lot of my time to transfer this knowledge to someone else. This is a flawed assumption. Someone with less understanding of how a product actually works is often better equipped to communicate what it does than someone stuck in the weeds. It takes just a few hours to sit with a marketer and answer their questions, and that’s enough to get started.”
My Take: Hiring a marketer really is not that hard if you go about it correctly. That is, run a process and be specific with your expectations and limitations. Tap your network. Find great marketing, find out who’s producing it and reach out. Just hustle it. And, if you’re early on, like Dave here, outsource it. No need to bring on anyone full-time. In fact, I think it can be dangerous to do so. In summary, I pretty much agree with what Dave has put forth here.So, Founders: Get yourself some dang marketing support and get to it! Do not wait. You (I hope) know that you’ll eventually need to market your product.What you need to appreciate is that you need to market yourself and your views starting on day 1 to establish why you’re worth listening to (engagement) and why you may actually have a product worth eventually buying (conversion).That’s my take. Agree? Disagree? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.