The fatal flaw for most start-ups is marketing

marketing for startups

by Merav Chen, {grow} Community Member

When talking to startup founders, I’m always surprised to see how many don’t consider bringing a marketing function on board until a very late stage in the company’s and product’s life cycle. There’s much evidence suggesting that lack of marketing input is one of the main reasons startups fail. And yet …

Why do startups overlook marketing?

There are five reasons start-up chronically overlook marketing until it’s too late.

  1. The Founder’s Angle – many founders come from an engineering background, and they don’t always see the value of marketing. They don’t understand or “speak” marketing– and as a result, they don’t like dealing with it. Someone once told me it’s hard for marketers to converse with developers because it’s tough to explain the concept of a “forest” to someone who sees “tree+tree+tree+tree” (no offense to my developer friends, I’m pretty sure you feel the same way about us marketing people, perhaps even worse).
  2. The Funding Dilemma – Startups usually allocate their limited resources to make product advances (which they can show their investors) and to ensure a timely launch.  VCs, for their part, don’t push founders on the marketing front until the product launches and gets no traction. At that point, the investors suggest the founders hire a marketing person.  For budget reasons, the startup may recruit one marketing person and expect him/her to do everything single-handedly. We all know that’s nearly impossible.
  3. “Everybody’s a Marketer” – Many startups don’t see marketing as something which requires professional capabilities.  Ever heard a variation of the following before? “Hey, my neighbor has some great ideas on how we can market our product.  She watches a lot of commercials, and she’s always posting on Facebook. I think we should listen to her.”  I exaggerate, but only slightly.  It’s a perception that I’ve also encountered at bigger, more experienced and successful high-tech companies. They tend to attribute their success to the product, and rarely to marketing. Maybe that’s why some marketing people rebranded themselves as “growth hackers.”
  4. Too little too late – Some companies view marketing as something to activate once the company is ready to launch. However, marketing should be part of the product building team upfront – talking to customers, analyzing their needs and preferences, tracking competitive activity, constantly checking proof of concept, managing user feedback are only some of the functions marketing can bring to the table.
  5. This will sell itself! – Many founders truly believe a great product sells itself. Believing that “if you build it, they will come” makes the company’s already product-oriented thinking become even more so, and neglects to take into account the ever-evolving market situation and the need for customer input and dialog from the very beginning.

Tech entrepreneurs like to quote Linkedin founder Reid Hoffman who said “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.” True as that may be, your first version of the product still needs to reach potential customers and get their feedback if you want to have a better second version. If you don;t have customers, you don’t have a company!

The most effective way to do that is to include marketing at each step in the journey and devise a marketing strategy from the moment you start working on that great idea.

Merav ChenMerav Chen is an experienced marketer and the co-founder of, a digital marketing firm, shouting out to the world from Tel-Aviv, Israel.  Find her on twitter @meravchen

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