Founders Confess

Founders have more war stories than some combat vets.

SandHill.com and Silicon Strategies Marketing recently co-sponsored a survey of founders. We were intent on discovering what founders did and did not know about marketing when they launched their first company. The results were interesting though predictable. Most of the mistakes to which founders confess are well known to me and amply illustrated in the Start-up CEOs Marketing Manual. Yet the survey nicely summarizes those places where even founders clearly see how their lack of marketing strategy savvy caused them harm.

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Unrealistic markets: Founders admit that they knew the size of their total market and planned for selling to everybody instead of smaller addressable and realistic markets. This led many survey respondents to misallocate promotion resources, span to

Buy influencers: Most founders entered markets not knowing that many people influence buying decisions, and worse yet not learning their clustered motivations. Fulfilling positive motivations and avoiding negative ones is the essence of selling, but surveyed founders often failed to learn them, document them and compose field messages for them. “Wish we would have done much better understanding the different segment influencers — they were all different.”o many segments, or to go without funding because

investors don’t trust founders who pitch unrealistic market size numbers. “The gap between the addressable market and the realistic was so much greater than expected,” was a typical response.

Communicating: Most startups have lousy communications, and the reasons for this are many. That founders report not being able to codify their brand essence and their field marketing messages is an admission to a basic failure point – letting buyers know why they should do business with you. “The translation of messaging to sales guide failed.” “Selling and in particular argument/response was actually different for segments.”

Trial, error, pivot: Many founders went to market on a trial-and-error basis, assuming that testing and pivoting would lead to market success via groping. This is never wise but none the less popular here in Silicon Valley. “Still evolving the product,” said a typical founder. “We lost momentum after first-level launch and have never regained it.” “While it would have been better to have been all-knowing from day one, we did not have the team ability to do that. But our toronto seo services and awareness have been hurt by the pivots.”

Key to all these mistakes are the matched notions of insufficient education on the basics of go-to-market strategy, the inability to focus intently on a narrow, realistic market segment and communicate to it thoroughly. Step one is to read the Start-up CEOs Marketing Manual. The second step is to know your market before building a product. The third step is to know your buyers motivations so your product becomes the obvious solution.


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