It seems that many startup founders think that if you make an insanely great product and you don’t need to spend money on marketing. Sorry, but that’s just not true.
If you read online tech mags and blogs with any regularity, you’re bound to run across an article or post that’s talking about how Company X didn’t do any marketing and grew exponentially.
Nope. Just because you don’t see ads, billboards, or other traditional forms of advertising from a company doesn’t mean they don’t value, nor spend money on, marketing. It also may not mean that they are not advertising. They just may be doing it where you’re aren’t looking because you are not in the target audience.
Marketing ≠ Advertising
The “build it and they will come” mindset is rooted in “product-centered” thinking. To be clear, you should strive to make the best possible whatever-it-is-you-make. But you should also be passionate about sharing how great it is and why everyone in your target audience should use it. To do that you have to tell people about it. Your amazing product or service will go nowhere without some form of marketing.
Of course, if your product or service has issues that negatively impact the consumer, spending any money marketing is akin to setting that money on fire. What they are buying simply has to work as promised first.
But once it works, it is time to market it. What’s that? You’re product or service is so good that you shouldn’t have to engage in marketing? Like Tesla? About that…
A lot of people assume because they don’t see ads, the company they like is not marketing itself. This is almost never the case. One of my favorite, oft-cited examples is Tesla. You never see a billboard or a banner ad for Tesla. They clearly don’t advertise, right? Yes, but they do market.
Elon Musk ensures constant press coverage by making bold claims and hosting seemingly over-the-top product reveals. All of that is marketing. It may not have the familiar face that advertising has but it still marketing.
Oh, and if you still think they don’t do marketing, ask yourself, why would they have, let alone be hiring for, a marketing department?
And they’re not the only ones who have taken a different approach to, but still engage in, marketing.
Take Double Insight. They’re the ones behind the massive success of the Instant Pot. They didn’t do it via advertising but via influencer program outreach to bloggers and Amazon search optimization. Again, that may not be traditional, it is marketing.
Even startup sneaker company Koio, with little-to-no advertising is participating in marketing. In fact, they’ve grown 400% in the past few years by way of partnerships, not advertising
Advertising = Advertising
Advertising (noun) the business of creating advertisements
Advertising, like social media, community building, or even PR is a subset of marketing. A tactic. The reason ads are run is to get people to buy or consider buying a product or service. And yes, advertising can be painful to suffer through. But when done right, it introduces to you something that you would derive value from.
What about Word of Mouth?
To be sure, word of mouth is probably the single most effective marketing channel. And it is largely driven by experience with the brand. But it is rare, outside of apps like Facebook and Instagram, to have network effects kick in such that it happens organically. Even then, it is highly likely that Facebook and Instagram used App Store Optimization which is, you guessed it, a form of marketing.
Remember, that at its best, marketing connects consumers to a product or service that will benefit them in some way and drives growth for the company. Which combination of channels you use is going to be determined by your target audience, budget, KPIs, etc.
But there is no such thing as a successful company that does “no marketing.” If you want your company to grow, you have to tell your target audience about why what you have built is going to be beneficial to them. To do that you have to engage in marketing.
If you thought this provided value, do me a solid and share. Disagree? Let me know by commenting.
Big thanks to Dr. Joel Mier for the feedback on this.