Are you a technology company or a sales & marketing company?

About 6 months ago I attended a workshop given by the great Boris Mann of Vancouver.  At one point we were talking about growing your startup and he asked something that really hit home.   

"Are you a technology company or a

sales & marketing company?" 

Think about this for a second.  Everyday it seems a new app comes out just to compete with another app that solves the same problem.   It's less about who has the best technology, than who can reach customers the fastest or secure partnerships before the other guy does. 

If you build a great app no one will beat a path to your door.

I've worked for over 30 companies now, many of which who've had some amazing tech and it's true, no one was beating a path to their door.  We took it one customer at a time building on our base of loyal early adopters.  We spoke to as many users as possible trying to understand their problems and translating their feedback into features and improvements to the product. 


Developers and designers, you'll need to embrace marketing  to be successful

As much as that sentence may have pained you to read, it's true.   You can't solve a lack of customers problem by; 

  • Adding new features to the app. 
  • Refreshing the interface. 
  • Giving your website a redesign. 

That said, I see this behaviour all the time.  Have your ever heard the old saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different outcome?   The quicker you face the fact that you have a marketing and sales problem not a technology problem the better off you'll painful as that will be to accept.  

I say painful because it's no fun accepting the fact that your current set of skills can't help your company, or realizing that you're going to have to do things that are really uncomfortable for some of  you. (cold calling strangers sound like fun to anyone?) 


you have 2 options to solve your problem

You can either learn to be a marketer or hire one who know's what they're doing.  Having witnessed this scenario enough times I recommend the second option.   DONT! cheap out on this person, all too often I see some startup hire a "junior" marketing person to tackle a senior level marketing problem.  This is a waste of time and you're better off not doing it.  Would you let a junior coder hack directly on your app?  Of course not, so why would you risk the future of your company on someone with very little experience?  Good marketers will come with lessons they've learned from past clients, they'll hit the ground running, come with useful contacts and easily pay for themselves.

The question of course is, where do you find these people and how do you know they are the real deal and not just selling you, after all that's what they do for a living?   That my friends will be answered in my next post, How to hire a marketer or salesperson for your startup.