Ever notice the confident presence many startups display on the web? Unlike large organizations, promoting breadth and depth of products and services, today’s entrepreneurs shine on minimalism and visual boldness.
This polished exterior may say “we’re fresh and contemporary” but doesn’t address important marketing basics. All too often when product innovators establish their web presence, many cross marketing off their list. “No time,” “no money,” “no need,” they say. “We keep everything inside The Family,” often meaning that the founders perform all because the work is anticipated to be relatively simple or the investment not a priority.
But a peek behind the curtain, by way of research conducted for our service provider network, revealed a set of marketing challenges young businesses at first didn’t know they had but were actually holding them back. For this study, we focused on health science and technology companies with an employee count ranging from 4 to 50 but the findings may apply more broadly. Interview subjects who had eventually tapped experienced independent marketers, often as a stepping stone to a downstream marketing program, revealed their learnings about the early value of such resources. They concluded that developing awareness, preference, and leads would take more than sales finesse and a marketing intern.
The hidden benefits of leaving DIY marketing sooner rather than later
What was the “Aha!” that changed their thinking and accelerated their business results? Here’s the question posed and a few stories from the interviews.
How would you describe the most unexpected function played by your external marketing resource that helped you advance your business?
Other themes included “weaver,” a person who would integrate and optimize the tactics being pursued already, and “reality checker,” someone unencumbered by peer pressure or the fear of a bad evaluation who told it like it was when it came to outlining the steps that could not be skipped for product launches or campaign development.
How to know when DIY is over?
For these former DIY marketers, a jack-of-all-trades approach all too quickly ran out of steam. What advice would they give up-and-comers for recognizing the winds of change?
“The time to act is rarely recognizable from the inside,” said one new venture leader who is on his third startup. “And it’s particularly hard to take a step while products are in development, although that’s the best time to seek outside perspective that will challenge you before you start making mistakes or missing the train.”
Many say they held back because they couldn’t justify allocating funds for agencies. “A reason that doesn’t add up,” said a founder who changed his mind after understanding how to find affordable expert help that did not reside in agencies.
The advice offered most often? A conversation with an outside resource is a safe start because there’s no commitment. More often than not, outsiders enjoy being tapped as sounding boards and don’t expect a service agreement will always follow. A business relationship will fall into place if the fit is right.