Hey Startup Marketers, Let’s try not to Suck. OK?

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Interesting chain of posts this week. First off, Fred Wilson started it with two provocative articles challenging marketing and its effectivness in startups. Fred is obvioulsy taking this very personal:

I believe that marketing is what you do when your product or service sucks or when you make so much profit on every marginal customer that it would be crazy to not spend a bit of that profit acquiring more of them (coke, zynga, bud, viagra)….I’m angry at the marketing profession for these transgressions over the years and it spilled out into my post. I’m not proud of that but it is what it is.

As expected, the marketing pros were not pleased with Fred’s analysis. One of the best responses I read was from SEOMoz,

I’m not a believer that a market will simply flock to a great product. Many great products have died due to obscurity; only a few great products have succeeded in spite of rejecting marketing. Fred uses the examples of Twitter and FourSquare; Google could be another reasonable example. Those are outliers, and while they might be the types of companies Fred is seeking to invest in, they’re the exception, not the rule, and thus I worry that the advice and perspective will have the wrong impact.

April Dunford also had an interesting take on the challenges of hiring good marketing people for the startup world. April’s point revolved around some of the misconceptions on the definition of marketing and the challenge of finding the right person for the specific need. April writes,

I refuse to believe that there are more bad marketers out there than there are bad programmers or sales people. But I also believe Fred’s right that the failure rate in senior Marketing positions at startups is high (I’ve certainly mopped up after a few). Why? I think companies often hire the wrong marketer for the job and marketers sometimes accept the wrong job. Both problems stem from the fact that “Marketing” means many different things.

April brings up a great point of all the different tactics that may be needed to build your marketing strategy. From building campiagins, to contenet marketing, to messagaing, to product management – there is a lot of know how and know when that a startup marketer must bring to the table.

Even more challenging is the fast paced nature of a startup – there really isn’t much time for experimentation. Pick the wrong path and the wrong time and you can either be out of a job or even worse, out of business.

As luck would have it, Advertising Age (yes, I am aware of the irnony here) also had an article this week addressing the skills needed by a successful marketing organization – strategy, analysis, program design, and technology. From the article,

It’s a major transition from the hub-of-the-wheel organization in which the brand or product manager is at the center, to the Rubik’s Cube structure that requires all functions to be interlocked with one another as they rotate around a core — the brand — in perpetual pursuit of the winning pattern. Successful interactive marketing demands collaboration and cohesion.

In a large marketing organization, you can build out all these competencies and work on the processes to align. At a startup, you may be required to do all these things at once and have it done yesterday.

The challenge of us in the marketing world is to be a better job learning the strategies and tactics and understanding when and where to use. The challenge of those hiring startup marketers, make sure you find one that understands that marketing is not a “one-size-fits-all” problem and one that can address not only where you are now but where you want to be.

That’s my two cents. What do you think?

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