By Andrew Malcom
Chief Marketing Officer
Evernote

 

Having inherited early marketing organizations at Skype and Evernote and advised even earlier stage companies on how to set-up marketing as a function, I see start-ups make the same three mistakes:

1. Hiring Marketing Pros too Late

Start-ups spend the majority of their early funding on the hunt for product-market-fit. Finding that fit requires not only building a purposeful product experience but also understanding the potential target markets. Most early stage companies are founded with a product vision, but that’s only half the product-market-fit equation. Choosing the right market can be as impactful as the product experience and introducing marketing early ensures that customers, competitors and industry dynamics are as understood as the product vision. That’s what marketing in an early stage company should do: understand and test the product with potential markets. If you don’t have an expert running these tests, it’s extremely hard to know if the problem is the product, the position or the go-to-market strategy.

That’s what marketing in an early stage company should do: understand and test the product with potential markets

2. Believing that Marketing Builds Brands

A lot of companies add marketing because they want to build a brand. Having run marketing for two companies with users in every UN recognized country on the planet, I can tell you confidently that marketing alone won’t build a brand. Brands are comprised of what you believe in and what customers believe about you, not logos and color palette. (Note: Google’s logo changes every day). A start-up is unlikely to have money to spend on above the line marketing (e.g. TV) for brand building, so the best way to establish a brand is by having all your customer facing functions (sales, product and customer support) share the same values whether that is driving for the sale or ensuring customer happiness. They will convey your brand essence much more than a color palette, so ask your marketing person to increase awareness of your values internally, not your brand externally.

Ask your marketing person to increase awareness of your values internally, not your brand externally

3. Separating Product and Marketing

Finally (and this is probably true of most tech companies regardless of size), not enough emphasis is put on the relationship of the marketing and product leads. Many start-ups hire a PR person to drive mentions and someone for demand generation who focuses on the number of leads coming in the door. But what happens with those mentions? Where do those leads go? Optimizing just one function is much less effective than optimizing the system. Marketing won’t succeed without a product that fulfills the brand promise and product won’t succeed without marketing getting the product in the hands of the right customers, at the right times, with the right use cases. If these two people share incentives and complementary approaches, they can optimize the entire process of customer adoption.

Marketing won’t succeed without a product that fulfills the brand promise and product won’t succeed without marketing getting the product in the hands of the right customers

Andrew Malcolm brings over a decade of experience leading global SaaS businesses. His approach marries big data insights with compelling content to lead users to get the most value from apps, build brand love, increase engagement and lead to paid conversion.

Andrew has created an organization using an approach that delivers just the right message at just the right time through owned and earned media. This strategy has doubled the number of paying users and led the company to cash flow positive operations.

Previously, as Vice President of Product Marketing Mobility at HP, Andrew developed and launched the company’s mobile solutions strategy, resulting in a 400% increase in year over year revenue. Andrew was also Head of Marketing at Skype where he led 44% registration growth and similar revenue growth during the company’s acquisition by Microsoft.

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