My Thoughts on Marketing and Advertising

Seth Godin says about Marketing:

Marketing is the name we use to describe the promises a company makes, the story it tells, the authentic way it delivers on that promise.

Fred Wilson wrote a few pieces on ‘Marketing’ this weekend and it set off a meme and some great comments on his blog. I will link to them all at the end of the blog post, but here are my deep thoughts on marketing.

If you have a physical product, remember the 4 p’s. In today’s global world, I would add an H and an S, ‘Speed’ and ‘Hustle’ because things just move faster.

In my first investment/entreprenuerial job out of grad school, we sold Gripps and this old blog post has the story.

We had a product that needed to be sold by the touch and so it was years of tradeshows and free samples. A freaking grind, but we were young and the experiences I would not trade for anything. The product sold itself for a long time, but you had to put it in people’s hands and let their imagination do the selling. Our customers came up with the ‘private label’ market for us and the rest was history. Today, 27 million plus units have been sold. For a while, price did not matter. Than it DID.

The ‘idea’ of marketing has changed a lot in the 7 years of heavy internet investing I have been a part of. My first large investment was in (acquired by Comcast). GolfNow is the Expedia of tee times. I argued with the management team daily about marketing, promotion and even price. We had the capital, why not go faster into new cities and social features? Management was very conservative and did not want to spend on these line items. I had stumbled onto TechCrunch and thought the world had changed. In my frustration at the lack of community efforts by GolfNow, I started Wallstrip.

Wallstrip sold before GolfNow and we could argue all day about nuances but I felt that in 2007, web properties were being bid up on community value than financial metrics. One could argue that in today’ startup world, network effects are where the real valuation power remains.

At Stocktwits, we have just begun to have line items for marketing, trade shows and advertising. We are starting our third year. It is scary to spend hard capital on advertising on marketing. To me SEO is a casino and so I am skeptical but it must work for some businesses. Radio seemed the silliest, but our audience is very easy to find and the initial radio tests brought in the most users for the dollars spent.

We are testing, not blowing our brains out. I will continue to report on the progress of our marketing and advertising efforts as we test and learn.

Most importantly, in the era of the web, one can’t underestimate the power of having the talent at the company that can create, deploy, test and measure your marketing and advertising efforts. The good news is the tools to do all this are at most start-ups fingertips.

PS – Here are Fred’s Posts and on from SEOmoz:

Marketing and the Bubble

Marketing – The Bug Report


I disagree with Fred


  1. Me says:

    This is more about self promotion than marketing. Most blogs are like that. Look at me me. Where’s the beef?

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  3. Jevon says:

    Sales, Marketing, Support and PR all have to be baked in to the team EARLY. This is painful for a founder/CEO because it means making mistakes and it also means exposing your own weaknesses. You have to expect that you and your team learn PR even though you yourself have not clue as to what that means.

    Over time you get there. Lots of pain but you keep momentum. It’s the definition of HUSTLE.

    The same goes for SEO. Keep it in house and LEARN.

    Be arrogant. It’s YOUR money and those are your customers.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    As the adoption of Facebook and Twitter become mainstream, marketing became a double edged sword. The communities opinion was able global seconds. Line items for marketing are a waste until your website works and your community is built. Focus on product and community first and your fans will forever be the best marketing department that you never hired. As an early adopter of Stocktwits, I know this first hand.

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  14. Josh Morgan says:

    I think Fred’s theory fits with who he likes to invest in, not business as whole. Just because it is a sucky product in Fred’s mind might mean it just isn’t something that he would invest in…not necessarily that it isn’t a great business.

    Fred might have thought GolfNow was a sucky product because they did need to advertise, but it’s really more about where your customer is than anything. If they are on the radio, you gotta be there. A company that Fred would invest in typically finds their customers on the internet. If you have to pay gobs of money to find initial customers for your consumer web app over the internet, the writing might be on the wall (key word: initial).

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  19. William Mougayar says:

    Marketing is certainly a start-up’s greatest challenge, especially in the growth phase, because there is no cookie cutter to it. It does take some experimentation and a dead focus orientation on understanding your customer segmentation.

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  22. Max Zeledon says:

    When I read Fred Wilson’s post on my rss feed I got his point immediately. I also thought of Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing The Chasm. Maybe it had to do with my IDG days as a research analyst and talking to all those tech vendors selling shit to Asian customers in the late 90s. The success of a product depended on its features and benefits, but now it has more to do with experience and identity. Then I thought about all those dot.coms that burned their way through tens of millions of dollars in marketing and advertising. Kind of silly in retrospect. I also think marketing is the ultimate commitment. By that I mean, at some point you will have to pursue a niche or sector. Like Wilson says–early on getting people is easy, an organic process, but eventually you will need to pay for new customers. It’s a bit like men and dating. In college we don’t have to try that hard to get a girl to sleep with us. A movie and cheap Chinese will do the trick. Try doing that in your 30s or 40s. lol

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  26. Allan Schoenberg says:

    I tend to think marketing/advertising/PR is all about relationships. Where I think most campaigns fail is that they think it’s about getting a message out so people remember it (e.g. repeat it enough and people will remember it). I like what Jevon has to say about making mistakes — great managers learn from them; good ones just try something else; poor ones give up. The best part of StockTwits and other social media platforms is that they have the relationship part built into them. Unlike a print or direct mail campaign where you need to invest in research or guessing, today’s platforms let you see almost immediately what’s working and what’s not. Companies (marketing executives) that adopt this point of view clearly have an advantage over those that are stuck in the old world of eyeballs and messages.

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  29. Ad Agencies says:

    That’s what you have to do Seth, test and measure to see what works and then know what doesn’t. There are many things a marketing agency can do to help boost a sites position. Brand strategy, case studies, web site content among many others can all lead to a stronger presence.

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  58. Anonymous says:

    Marketing is certainly a start-up’s greatest challenge, especially in the growth phase, because there is no cookie cutter to it.
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