You And Your Cofounder Are Smart So, Why Not Do Your Own Marketing?

If you’re a starter, entrepreneur, or founder and you’re reading this – with zero experience marketing and an open mind – you’re actually not in a bad spot. If you’ve got notions about how marketing works, deprogramming you might be more difficult, and you might do better leaving your marketing to experts.

There are a bunch of reasons founders and heads of companies – particularly tech startups – don’t always do so well when it comes to marketing. They figure that, since they’re smart, they can learn marketing.

It’s actually this assumption that can be the greatest hurdle to overcome. Nerds are smart, and famously do terribly with women. Intelligence in one area doesn’t translate to other areas, and this is particularly when the new area doesn’t work the way it seems to work.

If a founder weren’t familiar with the ideas put forth by Gary Vaynerchuk, or Marcus Sheridan or Mark W. Schaefer, they could, honestly, do at least as well as the middle 1/3 of marketing agencies – who also aren’t aware we’re in the middle of a paradigm shift, in marketing, caused by Internet search.

The problem is that doing as well as ‘marketing professionals’ who on average enjoy a 2% click-through rate when there’s perfect keyword alignment, is not doing well, in our book. And this is a key distinction because most startups fail from an inability to generate profits, and this would have been directly aided by good marketing. 

With marketing, a founder’s intelligence and spirit of ‘jumping in and figuring it out’ – the traits that lead him or her to create a startup in the first place – actually work against their chances of success, because marketing, which is determinative, no longer functions how it used to, when it’s done correctly. 

Below is where/how founders of companies – whom we think the world of – can go wrong.

They can often do as well as average marketers, but not the top 5% of so. And since their fledgling company can go under if sales and market traction aren’t achieved soon enough, being so-so can mean death for a new company.

  • Founders aren’t ‘naturals’ at sharing or opening up. The bulk of good marketing happens with content, and company founders are in a unique position to generate content. But most don’t. 
  • Founders, like all companies, are ‘inside a wine bottle, trying to read their own label’; unable to be achieve the indispensable objectivity about their differentiation, messaging, value, or positioning. This is self-explanatory. Basically, it’s often a messaging problem that happens where founders or starters know too much about their product, or cannot be dispassionate about it, or how it comes off. Everybody thinks their baby is beautiful, and that others regard their interests as they do. We always find missing pieces in the messaging when small companies do their own marketing. It doesn’t flow and doesn’t make sense to others the way it does to the founders.
  • Starters and founders have an inclination to buy visibility (‘Push’ Market), with investment money, not knowing the option of creating content placed for people to find during search, exists. This is a problem of not considering how starters themselves – like everybody else – actually buy something. They have a pain-point, embark on search, and encounter materials they find helpful. Instead, founders and starters use their ad budget – which can at times be substantial, through VC or other funding – and give it directly to Google, Facebook or other ad platforms.
  • Your website talks only about you, rather than being helpful (is seller-centric rather than buyer-centric). This is a very human mistake. When we engage other people, part of getting to know them is a dialogue of back-and-forth talk called ‘disclosure’. But on the Internet, a) hundreds of companies are doing that – talking about themselves. b) buyers intuitively know that such copy is biased. It amounts to not being helpful, even if it’s not meant to be bragging. A better option is to put yourself in the shoes of your customers and help them with content that’s as objective as you can muster.
  • Not just messaging, but the actual product lacks a Unique Sales Proposition. Starters often pick a generic or otherwise uninspired product. Fear not – you can pivot or retool. But this is not a problem that marketing can really fix. Even with lots of money, or doing the same things a little better, if you enter a competitive market, it’s an uphill battle from the start. Given startups’ other challenges, this often results in failure -r rendering them unable to achieve a positive ROI, even with a massive war chest. 
  • Founders’ ads (along with their website) lack helpful content offers, and are seller-centric and not buyer-centric. Like their website, founder’s ads aren’t offering help. They’re trying to sell people.
  • Besides lacking objective-value content, a founder’s self-made website looks unprofessional. Many websites for even VC-funded companies look like someone on the team knew WordPress or html and took a shot at it. From their colors to your fonts to your logo, they don’t look like the team cared, or – arguably worse – didn’t know the importance of first impressions. 
  • It’s not clear what the company selling. This is a problem not of being unable to properly message because you can’t be objective, but simple information organization and UX/Information Architecture standards. Unless you’re a seasoned expert at design and messaging, getting them to culminate on the site might prove challenging.
  • Founders often have technical issues with their website that cause them not to rank well in search. Slow page load speed, missing H1, H2, tags, robots.txt, sitemap; missing internal links, not playing well with Google. These are relatively easy problems for an expert to fix, but still, quite common.
  • Access to, and the relative ease of, powerful marketing tools leads even smart people believe they understand marketing. We’re not trying to say what we do is rocket science. Once you how it works (this blog does a good job trying to demystify actual marketing for the masses), it’s not that complicated. But it’s a matter of going through the looking glass; the way marketing works is entirely not intuitive. The first thing new companies do is build a marketing stack or operation, and start spending money, but marketing doesn’t work the way it looks like it works. It’s simple to understand, but not easy to grasp. And in fairness, FlashPointLabs considers itself in the top 5% of Internet marketing agencies in the world. So, we’re really speaking to people who want extraordinary results, not people who are happy going from ‘zero to one’.