Andy Abramson has an interesting post about marketing. Because I’ve been in marketing and communications for more than a quarter of a century, this hit home for me. His point should be a no-brainer, but it’s not.
To sell you need to market, and to market you need to communicate. And, I would add to Andy’s formula, to communicate you need to be able to express your value proposition in plain English in 30 seconds.
Technology businesses — of all sizes, mind you, not just startups — often don’t get this. They’ll spend money hiring sales reps because the value proposition of a sales rep is clear. But when it comes to marketing, there’s a whole lot of nitpicking going on.
I once worked in product marketing for an enterprise software company that gave me zero dedicated budget to promote its software into an industry segment the company had targeted as key in its strategy that year. Go figure.
Working as a marketing copywriter, I encountered the communication problem head on.
Products were so ineffable they defied description with mere words — something like the nature of God. No one, it seemed, wanted to identify with conventional monikers. They all wanted to be category-creators. Just like genius, being a category-creator is vouchsafed to few.
Not surprisingly, most of the startups are long gone. Many had good ideas, but none could discipline themselves to communicate their value in terms that prospective customers would have patience or time for.
These days I read a lot of websites. And many, quite frankly, are poor in terms of communicating or using the medium effectively. The Web is more like a billboard than a brochure, but many businesses still treat their websites as brochure-ware.
A friend of mine recently started a business as a book proposal consultant. “I realized that publishing isn’t about literature,” she told me. “It’s about marketing your proposal effectively.” That goes for the technology industry, too.