“Marketing First” Startups – How to Stun Investors and Reduce Risk in your Startup

Our scheduling software was a complete failure!

We were so sure it would be successful, we threw $12,500 on a premium domain name.

Don’t get me wrong, it worked. And it looked like a million bucks (we spent almost $10,000 on the graphic design). But we failed miserably when it came to marketing.

We had a customer acquisition cost of almost a $1000. Which would have been spectacular if we could charge $100,000 for the damn thing. But unfortunately similar products were priced at $100/Year.

A complete failure!

Eventually we discovered that when people Google ‘Scheduling software’, they didn’t all look for the same thing…

  • Some of them were looking to manage shifts at restaurants.
  • Some of them needed a scheduling tool for hospital wards.
  • While others were looking for a way to manage their computer technicians.

And every one of those people needed a specialized solution. A solution that matched his exact problem. We, of course, produced a one-fit-all scheduling software.

Google search, our main source of traffic was a dead-end. And at that point, after spending MANY months and quite a bit of cash on development, we were out of fuel.

Our little scheduling tool has joined the ranks of the working yet unmarketable products in the sky.

The sad truth – and the secret to success

The reality is … you will probably be able to build the product you imagine. But building it is not the problem. Most startups die of starvation when they reach the ‘great wall of marketing’.

And contrary to popular opinion – you WILL find customers for most products.

If you are persistent enough and spend enough time and money, you will make a sale. You will probably make several sales.

But in order to create a successful business you need to create a mechanism that generates sales continuously and profitably.

It’s not enough to be able to make sales. You need to be able to do this on a regular basis and the cost of each sale needs to be lower than the price of your product. And this is where most startups fail.

So let’s see how to make sure your startup can cross the ‘marketing wall’ before your money runs out…

What is ‘Marketing first’ and how to go about it

The idea is very simple. ..

Build the marketing/sales machine before you build the product!

There are many many advantages to this approach, but the two most important are:

  1. With a working marketing machine it’ll be 10 times easier for you to convince investors to part with their money. Investors also know that it’s easier to build than it is to sell.
  2. If you find out you can’t build the marketing machine, you avoid wasting years of your life (for me this is the most important reason).

And while it’s true every startup has a different marketing plan, in most cases you can build a great part of the marketing machine before you develop the product (or at least simultaneously).

In the next articles in this series, I’ll show you a ‘Marketing First’ example by taking apart a startup I worked on – a social network for weddings. But before we part I’d like to offer you this final thought:

It takes 2 hours to write a Google or a Facebook ad. It takes 2 years  + 2 hours to build a product and then write the ad.

If your marketing fails, how quickly do you want to move on to your next idea? How quickly do you want to succeed?

For more… follow me on twitter.

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