Seed Startups Should Avoid Early Marketing Team Members!
It was obvious in hindsight, but now that is clear to me, from the last startup I was involved with, that marketing team members and marketing execs should be mostly avoided by a new startup. They should avoid real marketing team members at all costs until product-market fit occurs. That is when a product is ready and able to be sold to the market. I am talking about digital marketing agency folks, marketing execs, and other fabulous people from the digital marketing world. They are the worst on day one of an idea-stage startup, especially a bootstrapped, non-funded startup!
And this has been true of almost every startup I have been involved with.
That’s because real marketing people, I mean digital agency runners, are not the kind of people to sit around and wait. They are action-oriented and want to get sh_it done. It just happens that sh_t costs money! They are great at spending on PPC and social spend. They are great at analyzing that spend, and that’s what they mostly do.
As a startup tries to figure out what it is actually going to do, having a real marketing person on staff will not go well without budget, unless they have been through a startup before.
That’s because real marketing people are all out ROI (Return On Investment) oriented, and ROI can’t happen without spend. Spend is all real marketing people care about.
Quite frankly great marketers, especially digital marketing gurus, will virtually never fit into an early-tech startup because they are doomed to become depressed and unhappy with the venture just boot-strapping away and doing little marketing activities.
This is what we have learned in several startups over the years. These Marketeers always love to sell themselves as yes, yes men, but in fact, they are no can-do men or women.
If you have a real sellable product or service on day 1, that’s a different story. With a viable and sellable product, the marketing person can go hog wild, spending to their delight. A real marketing exec and digital agency person is all about budget. If you don’t have one, you are nothing to them. But don’t blame me if they spend it all, because that is in their DNA!
They will tell you to go and get a budget. That’s because they need one to make a difference. And if they are a real jerk, they will blow your money indiscrimanently, while you are boot-strapping your little heart out. They don’t care, well they do care, but not about your little startup!
Now if the marketing person is a Marcom person that’s different. The word Marcom is a combination of marketing and tech. A Marcom person is a technologist disguised as a marketing person, like me. These are guys great at CRM, CMS, Mailchimp, Sendgrid, connectors for salesforce, hacking, APIs, and applications in general. Turns out that most marketing people at a high level are not typically experts in CRM and CMS systems. They are good at marching tech people around. And there is the rub when it comes to marketing execs and startups. The more amazing the new marketing guy/gal on the team is, the more likely they got a guy in Mumbai for that. I doubt most really successful marketing people actually do much hands-on stuff, less web analytics login duty. They are great micro-managers though. But is that what you really need on your little startup team?
And typically most successful digital agency owners can sell ice to Eskimos, so they will completely sell you on their value. [They know how to make amazing decks, and drink you under the table] You will be completely sold on them. They are fantastic and their beautiful presentations will wow you. But when it comes time to do regular monthly blogs, write Twitter posts, or send out emails or texts, (all hard-core work) they will seem to disappear unless you write them a check. So what good were they in the end? Realistically people joining a startup have to understand that they either get equity and starve or they get a check. If they get a check, then are they really just looking for a job?
And in the end, typically the marketing person either gets ejected from the startup or ejects themselves. That’s what happened at multiple startups I have engaged with, from what I can see from a 10,000-foot level, several times over.
I could be totally wrong in many cases, but often your marketing guy/gal is that guy I am mentioning, you just don’t know it yet. Just make sure an early team member like this can do hands-on work and wants to do it! Startups are a sacrifice, dedicated, never-ending series of ups and downs, not a wayward home for hotshot marketing execs looking for supplemental income streams. If the marketing exec wants that, tell them to fix up a condo and rent it out!