Then came the stage wherein the founders' vision was laid out and the startup had to be given flesh. Minimum Viable Product or MVP was the goal at the quickest possible time. Thus the urgent need to partner with a good Chief Technology Officer. Those who were good at coding and building the product, the inherent tech guys, did not have a problem with this. They just simply built their product the best way they could.
Fast forward to today, with thousands of apps and platforms built, the natural hurdle is taking the entire idea of the startup to the market. Three to four years after all the fanfare first took place about tech startups, the fledgling tech enterprises are now beginning to realize the real role that marketing plays in the operation.
With investors showing some signs of impatience with the young leaders who pitched the fantastic idea to build the next "Uber of something", the startup founder now realizes that an emphasis on a Marketing Guy should have been given as much emphasis as the Chief Technical Officer. Note that I have not referred to a title of Chief Marketing Officer. Real marketing guys know a marketing job that needs to get done without having to embellish themselves with such a title (Sorry, I'm quite old school and I'm only used to VP for Marketing).
As a person who comes from the mainstream advertising, there is an old saying that goes, "Selling a product without advertising is just like sending smoke signals at night. You know what you're doing, but no one else does". I think this encapsulates what a lot of startups are doing.
Yes, it is good to develop your product with all the bells and whistles, but remember not to overspend both time and finances on that. You'll need to take it to the market. This is where the marketing guy comes in. If he is a co-founder, he will be the one to temper the executive team with the realities of budget and timelines to take your product to the public.
What To Look For In A Marketing Co-Founder
In the same way that there are varying levels of proficiency among CTOs, so it is on the marketing side. There are levels of proficiency in terms of handling the marketing efforts of a startup. Offhand, here is a basic checklist of what you need to look for in your marketing person:
- Thorough knowledge of marketing principles, brand,
product and service management
- Superb analytical skills
- Demonstrated ability to lead and inspire a team
- Outstanding communication and interpersonal skills
- Passionate customer advocacy
- Well rounded knowledge of media and audience contact
- Deep understanding of changing market dynamics
- Entrepreneurial spirit
If you are a startup founder, a lot of these have to be in you as well. Some though can rest heavily on your Marketing Co-founder. His or her responsibilities will have to include overseeing the planning, development and execution of the startup's marketing and advertising initiatives. Reporting directly to the rest of the executive team, the primary responsibility is to generate revenue by increasing sales through successful marketing for the entire organization, using market research, pricing, product marketing, marketing communications, advertising and public relations.
Where to look
In the same way that the startup ecosystem is huge and can be narrowed down to alleys of FinTech, HealthTech, IoT, Media, Games, etcetera, so is the world of advertising and marketing. You can't just pull in anyone to be your marketing co-founder just because he has a "marketing background". Even someone in MLM and Network Marketing has a "marketing background".
Just because someone came from an ad agency does not mean they came from one that has a defined method of creating the marketing plan. There are people who come from graphic design studios and there are those who come from boutique agencies. There are those who come from creative agencies and those who come from media agencies.
It is nice to have someone from the creative agency. Creativity is cool. However, if the order of the day for CTOs are the MVP, the equivalent delivery of the marketing co-founder is traction. Creativity is not a main multipier in creating traction. This is where the guy from the media agency comes in.
The guys from the media agency have a different discipline. Their emphasis is on a valid and relevant contact point for the message to be delivered rather than the message itself. Channels not content. In comparison to the guys in creative, they are the less flamboyant and can be perceived as boring for they are the number crunchers. The ones who deal with statistics and ratings. They are the ones who dealt with consumer behavior, media consumption habits, and demographic profiling long before the startup revolution gave birth to a fancy word called "Big Data". Charts and graphs are really their domain.
Adept knowledge of the media landscape and media consumption habits could spell the difference between saving or wasting your investor's money. Simply put, a marketing guy with a level head about all media because in the final analysis, your marketing budget may be split 3:1 or even 4:1 in favor of media costs versus production/creatives.
With these kinds of skill sets, it would be wise to look for them among those who work (or used to work) for media agencies, brands and product management, or even media research companies.
The writer, Lloyd Tronco, is from Negros Island, the Sweet Spot of the Philippines. The principles he uses in Digital Marketing and Tech Startups, were learned in the sugarcane fields of Negros. He is the COO of Medix.ph and does consulting for startups in the area of marketing.