Opinion

Why marketing should be business critical for startups

For too many startups, marketing is an afterthought, which Employment Hero's Cat Prestipino says is a mammoth mistake.

Last week #StartupAus released its StartUp Talent Gap Report. In the report, it identified a number of professions which have critical skill gaps right now including startup focused sales roles (like business development and account manager). It surprised me that a lack of sales talent in startups was highlighted without any mention of marketing.

The report also highlighted the shortage of data scientists and product managers, stating that startups need people who understand the customer and can work with the coders to develop market fit. Skills I consider key for marketers, but again, marketing was not mentioned.

The pervasive thought that marketing does not create a big impact on businesses, especially in startups, has been reflected in my own experience. I’ve made my career working with brands who are ready to scale up, however, this has usually meant that I was hire #10 or #15 after a full sales and account management team was in place.

Earlier this year when I was talking to a number of tech players and startups looking to expand into Australia, they loved talking to me, but they saw marketing as an investment for 12 to 18 months time – after they had a sales team on the ground.

#StartupAus’ research reflected this notion, arguing while many businesses consider marketing important, marketing skill sets could be easily transferred from bigger companies into startup environments. The general consensus seems to be that marketing is a “later thing”. But I disagree. A marketer, particularly a marketing generalist able to juggle multiple marketing disciplines and thrive in a startup, is unique. The right marketer can help grow your business exponentially right from the get-go.

Here are my top three reasons why you should prioritise marketing in your business:

1. Brand is Life

Apple popularised the idea that great marketing is about values and it’s doubly true today as millennials, who preference companies that stand for something, increase their buying power.

Brand is the public representation of those values. It is your personality and your DNA. It is hard to explain because essentially it is intangible and it’s even harder to measure. But a great marketer will be able to capture it, with all the dreams and potential, and distill them into a brand. What’s more, they’ll be able to train your the team and build interactions so those values come through every interaction someone will have with your brand.

Your brand will be why people will buy from you. It will be why they recommend you to other people. It will be why they continue to stand by you (even when the product is falling apart). It will be why your customers love you.

If you need more convincing read Connor Keppel awesome case study about how brand influenced Phorest Salon Software.

2. They will help you keep and understand your customer

Traditionally, marketing was the dumping ground for things that didn’t fit anywhere else like social media and website. This has meant that we have ended up owning the vast majority of customer data and communication channels and, as a result, marketing has become one of the most powerful hubs in a business for understanding and communicating with your customers.

A good generalist marketer will be able to pull through the data and look at the trends. They will be able to able to help brand truly understand their customers, not just with what they want from the product, but what their end goals are, what their expectations are and how they want you as a brand to communicate with them.

What’s more, marketing are able to use those communications channels to foster a community around your customer base. When 80% of business decisions rely directly on peer influence, that’s a big opportunity for any startup.

3. Marketing helps sales become efficient AF

After reading Foundation Capital’s Decade of the CMO, I joked that sales was really just a bottom funnel marketing tool. It’s not completely true but it’s also not entirely wrong. While marketing can never replace the value a skilled sales rep can offer, they can make them incredibly efficient.

A sales rep can only make a certain number of calls and send a certain number of emails a day (not allowing for research). Ad tech can source thousands of leads a day and martech can nurture those leads until they’re ready for the close.

Marketers are to develop and run these campaigns, as well as provide sales with the right information to make their pitch as tailored as possible. Imagine how efficient your business would be if the only time a person ever spoke to a sales person was when they were ready to sign on the line?

While not all marketing generalists are as strong in all these areas (brand marketing and performance marketing skill sets are rarely found in the same person), a good marketing generalist will know how to bring the right people or agencies in and how to manage them to get the best results for your business.

Cat Prestipino is chief marketing officer at Employment Hero, and was previously marketing director at AdRoll. This post first appeared on LinkedIn.

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