Radical Advice for Startup Founders, Entrepreneurs, and Investors

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You’re Marketing like a Mad Man of Madison Avenue and it’s wrong.

I know you think you’re on top of the world, and you’ll be shocked that someone would tell you otherwise, but I have some important advice for you.

You been going about Startup Marketing all wrong.

Most every other aspect of startups has changed radically over the years.

You get products built with a lot less capital.  You’ve learned about network effects and lock-in.  You think your 5 step dotcom get rich quick scheme is all it takes and that you’ve revolutionized startups from top to bottom.

But you’re wrong, because you still market like an old-fashioned Mad Man from Madison Avenue.  It’s expensive and it doesn’t work well any more.  It’s wrong.  

Let me explain.

You Advertise and Cold Call.  You’re an Outbound Marketer.

outbound marketing meme

Those things are all Old School.  Very Old School.  So Old that they’re dead.  They don’t work very well any more.  They are what’s called “Outbound Marketing.”  These techniques are straight out of Madison Avenue Mad Men.  And it’s time to give them up , no matter how hip or cool they seem.

Most of you are still spending a fortune on them.  You think marketing and lead generation are this tactical thing that you can turn on or off at will to make your monthly numbers.

Running a little short of sales this quarter?  Get out your can of gasoline and pour it on the fire by purchasing a bunch of advertising.  Except ads this day aren’t gasoline.  The fuel barely burns at all and put out the fire as easily as make it grow.

So you miss your numbers and wonder, “Why?”

What Little Content You Produce is All You, You, You.

The new way is all about giving your prospective customers control.  You give them content that’s valuable to their needs and they gradually develop respect for you.  Reciprocity is alive and well and they will do something for you if you do something for them first, like join your mailing list.

Eventually, they may even listen to your sales pitch.  But, 96% of visitors aren’t ready to buy anything from you when they first visit.

Your Old School VP of Sales isn’t interested in that 96%:

Why are we wasting any time on them at all?  Why can’t you give me more qualified leads?  What do we pay you marketers for, anyway?

Despite all that Salesey Swagger and Bluster, she doesn’t even begin to understand that the 96% are still in your funnel if you can get their email.  They may not be ready to buy today, but if you manage the contact right, they can be nurtured into buying.

lead nurturing

Those not ready to buy today can be nurtured into tomorrow’s paying customers…

None of this can happen until you start thinking about producing content for your customers instead of for your sales people.  What value does each piece give the prospect?  How much value do you give away without ever asking for anything sales wants you to?

The best sales people know how to get into and account and listen first before trying to close the business.  They know how to qualify a deal too.  Why wouldn’t they think about doing this valuable work beforehand?

Because they don’t know customers before they’re prospects.  They don’t know what they’re like or how to treat them.  Somebody better learn, and fast.

Do You Hire Technical People Who’ve Never Written a Line of Code?

As a software company, would you hire a techie who couldn’t write code?

Here’s the worst thing you do in marketing.

We live in a world of almost limitless and friction free contact with prospects.  A single individual can literally influence millions of people.

I know, because I get over 4 million visitors a year to come to my blog from the valuable B2B CNC Manufacturing space.  I beat almost every VC startup out there’s performance until they’re very late in the game if not publicly traded.

I do this with inbound content marketing.  But it takes a particular set of skills, and here’s where I come back to the question I raised above:

Do You Hire Technical People Who’ve Never Written a Line of Code?

Would you back a technical co-founder who hadn’t written a line of code in 20 years?

I hope the answer to either is a resounding, “NO!”

But you do the equivalent in marketing all the time and don’t even realize it:

Do you hire marketing VP’s and Director-level people who don’t have a successful blog they’ve written?  Is there anyone in your entire marketing organization who has a successful blog at scale? 

Most marketing experts agree that video is hugely important these days:

Is there anyone in your entire marketing organization who has a successful YouTube Channel?

Investors, let me challenge you openly to declare that you will not invest a single dime in a startup that doesn’t already have a successful blog with decent traffic metrics.  That should be table stakes these days.  Prove you can do content marketing by getting it done.  Be at least a minor influencer in your space.  Or pound sand.

Because you’ll be wasting your capital if you think you can figure out how to do that on the company’s nickel or by hiring some agency to figure it out.

Startups, let me challenge you to openly start screening incoming candidates.  Why would you hire a single person into your marketing department if they don’t already have a demonstrated successful personal blog, YouTube Channel, or other content outlet?

For all of you who think you can outsource this, think again.  You can’t rely on some bunch of PR Flacks or hired gun writers to figure this out.

Nobody knows more about you, your product, your company, and especially your audience than you!

Without that knowledge, any content you produce is going to be crap.

Launching a wildly successful Inbound Content Marketing program is the single most important thing any startup should be doing today.  

Every single one of the Top 15 Masters of the Digital Marketing World I monitor gets the vast majority of their traffic this way.  These are the experts.  They know how to do ALL forms of marketing.  Yet this is what they choose to use when it comes to their own businesses.

So why not make sure the people you bring in who will develop and embody that knowledge can actually create the content themselves?

A Tip If It seems Too Late for Modern Inbound Content Marketing

You’ve reached a level of scale, or you’re about to.  You don’t have much time to develop a new strategy.  It may seem like it isn’t worth it to even try.  But here’s a tip–you can jump start Inbound Content Marketing more easily than you think.

Do an Audi-Quire.

By now, you must have heard the term “Acqui-Hire.”

It’s where a big tech company acquires a smaller one to get the talent.  Not the company, product, or even the customers–it’s the talent they’re after.

An “Audi-Quire” is acquiring a company to get the Audience, and also the Talent.

Go find one the biggest independent influencer in terms of publishing content that you can possibly afford to buy, and acquire them.  Plug their content into your blog, 301 redirect everything to your website, and make sure the people responsible continue creating great content for you.

And please, don’t let sales dictate what that content will be!  Give them a high degree of independence.

You may find it makes sense to acquire more than one of these, or to go right on acquiring them year after year.

Noah Kagan says acquisitions like this are one of his 7 big marketing strategies for 2017.


White shark.jpg

At least one of your competitors already gets this.  They will eat you alive if you can’t catch up.

I hope I’ve gotten you to start thinking along different lines.  I hope you’ll modernize your marketing just the way you’ve already modernized many other aspects of how startups work.  I hope this has been an intervention.

Because I can promise you one thing, if nothing else:

Your competitors, at least one of them, whether VC or Startup, already know this.  

They’re already moving in this direction.  And if you don’t catch up pretty quickly, they will eat you alive.

It isn’t that you have to stop all of the old ways completely.  There are times advertising has a decent ROI.  But if the Old School is all you’ve got, you better get started changing.


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