For all the talk about startup marketing, many startups have a difficult time with marketing. It is something, in concept, that has appeal but pulling the trigger is a challenge. From my experience, it is like forcing a child to take medicine — they know it is going to help them, but there is still resistance.
Here the five reasons why startups are afraid of marketing:
1. Not willing to spend money on marketing. For many startups, marketing is a luxury, rather than a necessity. Why spend money on marketing when you can spend it on product development and sales, right? Unfortunately, this attitude is alive and well, but it’s certainly not healthy.
Sure, marketing costs money but it is an investment in the business. Like any operational exercise, the cost and benefits of marketing must be explored. If marketing meets your goals and needs, it is well worth the money.
2. They are not exactly sure about why they want to do marketing. The funny thing about startup marketing it usually involves a point of pain. A startup is struggling with low brand awareness, slow sales and leads, and competitors with a higher or better profile.
It means startups think about marketing as something that will solve a problem, but they are not quite sure they need it. Frankly, this is the wrong way to approach marketing. Instead, you need specific goals for how marketing is going to drive your business forward. Think offence, rather than defence.
3. Not enough knowledge about marketing. Most startup entrepreneurs are smart, driven and passionate, but they don’t have marketing expertise or experience. There is nothing wrong with that; you can’t be all things to all people.
The lack of knowledge is why some entrepreneurs are hesitant about marketing. They don’t know how it works and the rules of engagement. And it doesn’t help that marketers talk a different language and operate in subjectivity.
4. They are unclear about deliverables and return on investment. When a startup spends money on anything, it is important to know what they will get. If they hire a developer, they can tell if enough code has been written. If they hire a salesperson, they can assess whether sales are happening. But when it comes to marketing, the same rules don’t always apply.
In many ways, marketing does not generate instant results. It can take time for a marketing campaign to gain momentum so it achieves strategic and tactical goals. In some cases, marketing success is intangible and challenging to measure — e.g. higher brand awareness.
As someone who has struggled with articulating marketing ROI, it is important to have clarity from the beginning of how marketing works, as well as everyone’s expectations.
5. It is challenging to find the right marketing person. Marketers come in difficult shapes and sizes. They have different skills sets, experience, and approaches. Someone is a good marketer but perhaps not a good fit for a particular startup because they have the wrong skills. For example, they have good writing skills but they are not savvy with social media.
For many startups, one of the biggest marketing challenges is they are not sure about the marketing person is needed until a marketing roadmap is developed. It often takes time before a startup knows target audiences, and how to effectively engage and communicate with them. It means a startup needs time to understand the kind of marketing that works. Until they know, it is a challenge to hire the right marketer for the job.