Survivor’s Guide to Tech Startup Marketing Stage 3 and 4: Scaling Effectively and Marketing as a Central Nervous System

Stage 2 of tech startup marketing blog was the do-it-yourself phase. In stage 3, startups find that they need some very specific help to scale their marketing: someone who deeply understands their product and can help them define its personality. Stage 3 as outlined here is informed by a role Mark Lorion, CMO of Apperian, calls the marketing architect, as well as Catherine Juon’s book, Internet Marketing Start to Finish. In the final stage, marketing becomes part of your organization’s central nervous system.


Stage 3: Scaling Effectively

If your product has taken off and you have all the sales you can handle, your marketing may not need more work right now. Scaling what you are already doing is just fine. Marketing may be about the product, branding, and handling all the attention, not about getting the word out.

But let’s face it: that’s not the most common case. For every Twitter or Facebook, there are a thousand companies that need to find clever and affordable ways of consistently getting attention and generating sales.

The Goal—and Downside—of Stage 3

The goal of the third stage is to build an organization that understands the market, creates and refines the right messages, and finds ways to get those messages out so that the right buyers are engaged.

In fact, for most products, the content, the message, and the way it is communicated is a crucial part of the product. What would Apple be without the 1984 commercial (which recently made headlines again because it almost didn’t air)? Where would Apple be without the Think Different campaign, without the carefully orchestrated events that pop a balloon of secrecy to unleash innovations on the world? If you read the Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs, you find out just how much Jobs focused on both the product and on marketing. Apple succeeds because both its products and its marketing are top notch.

It’s in this stage that the most money is wasted on marketing. The easiest recipe for wasting a bunch of money on marketing is to outsource marketing and have them run their playbook without really understanding your product.

You cannot outsource defining the personality of your product. Companies can help you get it right, but only in collaboration with you. The key to not wasting money is to hire a marketing professional who can help draw out the true nature of your product, capture it in a message that resonates, and then run various tactical playbooks to systematically engage with prospects and help the sales staff turn them into customers.

Finding a Marketing Architect

Mark Lorion suggests that the term “marketing architect” may be the best way to describe the role.

“Would you agree that there’s a big difference between someone who knows how to code and an exceptional software architect? Both individuals may understand language syntax, but the architect is a true pro who operates at a higher level,” says Lorion. “Believe it or not, the same analogy holds true with marketing. The ability of someone to buy AdWords, write website copy, or get coverage in VentureBeat does not a marketing architect make.”

This is the point where you work your networks: yours, the board’s, your sales teams, and more. Find a marketing architect who will create a marketing machine designed to drive growth and generate an exponential return on your equity. Nothing boosts a valuation like revenue growth. Nothing.

At this stage, you’re likely to benefit from hiring this kind of marketing architect, even if the startup is growing like mad. While that may sound counterintuitive, if you have figured the product and the market, your marketing and sales need to scale.

“This is where a marketing architect can make a significant difference. Bad marketers who jump from company to company running the same old marketing playbook give marketing a bad name. These folks perpetuate the notion that marketing equals advertising,” said Lorion. “Real marketers—marketing architects—operate at a much higher level and ensure alignment with the business and appropriateness of marketing tactic. They are relentless in their pursuit of growth and measure and analyze looking for signs of breakthrough. There is no silver bullet here… a true marketing pro will determine what is needed and architect a strategy, team, and process to attack the opportunity unique to the particular startup.”

The marketing architect might be a company you partner with or might be your CMO.

The technology, the content marketing programs, the demand gen all must be used expertly and prudently so you can get the most bang for the buck. Catherine Juon wrote Internet Marketing Start to Finish to explain this integrated process. Other resources for understanding truly integrated marketing comes from the growth hacking community, at sites such as GrowthHackers. What you’ll find there are essentially case studies on what has worked—and what hasn’t—to create rapid growth in various kinds of startups.

Stage 4: Marketing as a Central Nervous System

In the fourth stage, marketing becomes the eyes and ears of the company. Everyone in the company is—and feels—a part of the marketing machine. That’s not to say they are not doing their jobs in a focused manner or are constantly tweeting and writing blog posts. Rather, people understand the story of the company and how it creates value and delivers on its promises in a detailed and sophisticated way. The personas that have been developed provide a way for the entire company to intimately understand the buyer. The marketing team is leading the company’s journey toward a deeper understanding of customers needs. Everyone is involved in the information gathering and learning process. Such analysis will uncover new directions for product development.

This is truly the highest level of value for marketing in a company. Not everybody gets there, but when you do, marketing helps drive strategy and pushes revenue to new levels.

Moving a company through these stages is no small trick. But growing a company that appreciates the positive role marketing can play is far better than ignoring it or thinking you can outsource it without much thought.

At Evolved Media, we believe that the b2b marketing content you create to explain your product is a crucial part of success, especially for tech B2B products.

Mark Lorion

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

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