Survivor’s Guide: What Tech Startups Absolutely Must Know About B2B Marketing

There is a lot of confusion about when need marketing (or whether they need it at all!) and how to make it work.

At Evolved Media we believe that marketing is crucial for the success of technology startups, especially those in the B2B market. That said, not all marketing tactics are appropriate in every business setting, and not all marketers have the right stuff for B2B technology startups.

So how can B2B technology startups develop effective marketing programs? We turned to two experts in B2B , Catherine Juon and Mark Lorion, so we could ask the right questions:

  • What are the key marketing activities in the early stages of a startup?
  • How should marketing tactics evolve as a startup grows?
  • How can startups avoid wasting money on ineffective marketing?
  • When do dedicated marketing resources become a must-have?

In this series, we will talk about the evolution of marketing in a tech startup. There are four stages:

  • We Don’t Need No Stinking Marketing (or Do You?)
  • Do It Yourself Marketing
  • Time to Start Scaling Your Marketing
  • Marketing as a Central Nervous System

Tech Startup Marketing Stage 1: We Don’t Need No Stinking Marketing

Many people confuse marketing with advertising, and some just don’t believe in it. See Fred Wilson’s blogs (this post in particular) for some well-informed skepticism. Here’s a more recent Dilbert cartoon.

You’re Doing Marketing Even Though You Think You’re Not
Unless you are building your product secretly in a hermetically sealed box, you are doing marketing in some form. “In the first stage you are doing marketing by building your product and selling to your first customers at the same time,” says Catherine Juon, author of Internet Marketing Start to Finish.

There are many businesses where the product itself is the best form of marketing. It’s easy to believe that even though you are developing a product, observing people use it, and reacting in ways that improve their experience and encourage them to recommend it to others, you are somehow not doing marketing. But in reality, that actually is marketing.

Marketing— A Brief Definition
In response to Fred Wilson’s skepticism, marketing guru Seth Godin defined marketing this way: “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.”

Startups need to understand that marketing is not just advertising. “Marketing for a startup is about deeply understanding the market, determining how the market is organized and segmented, and determining which segments to target and how to reach them,” says Mark Lorion, CMO at Apperian. “Whether or not you’ve employed someone with a marketing title has nothing to do with the reality that market-oriented activities already are (and must) occur in your company—even at its earliest stages. This is when marketing is mostly about understanding the market and helping the company understand how to serve it and, eventually, how to reach it.”

Day 1— You Need a Market
Juon suggests thinking about this first stage in marketing as “market investigation” or “market proof.”

“Having a product 10x better than the status quo doesn’t matter one hoot if you don’t have a market,” said Juon. In technology and life science especially, she sees a tendency for companies to become so focused on the awesomeness of the technology that they can’t see the forest through the trees. Juon’s advice: “Make sure you’re talking to people outside your bubble to truly understand how broad the applicability of your solution is—or isn’t. For example, is the status quo good enough, so that customers won’t change before you run out of equity, even if your product is demonstrably (even significantly) better?”

One of the most broadly accepted methodologies for understanding your market is the Business Model Canvas. Created by Alex Osterwalder and popularized in part by Steve Blank, the canvas outlines a lean and iterative process for testing your product against the market. During this process, you’ll learn what customers appreciate most about your product or service. As Juon says, “These customer insights are pure gold. When you harvest these insights and tweak your messaging to reflect what the customer values most, you reduce friction in the buying process and increase the rates at which prospects become customers.”

Talking to your customers is the essence of any successful marketing program. Maybe marketing doesn’t stink so much after all.

Learn more about how Evolved Media tackles the challenges of b2b technology marketing. Come back to read about the next riveting stage: Do it yourself marketing.


 

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Does scalability matter to startups? In a word, no, by Catherine Juon

Mark Lorion is CMO of Apperian, a company that sells solutions for securing and managing mobile applications for enterprises. Mark has led marketing at a variety of other companies including the analytics and data visualization provider, TIBCO Spotfire. He also blogs on startup marketing challenges and techniques.

Mark LorionCMO, Apperian

Catherine Juon coauthored Internet Marketing Start to Finish, launched a digital marketing agency, and is now an independent marketing and growth consultant for startups and life science companies.

Catherine JuonSEO and Marketing Coach for Second Stage Companies