Plan to Scramble

Sadly, go-to-market strategy planning has fallen out of vogue in Silicon Valley, for all the rightly wrong reasons. The untempered M.O. of startups today is growth hacking. This is a work- and risk-intensive system that is, according to Wikipedia, “A process of rapid experimentation across marketing channels and product development to identify the most effective, efficient ways to grow a business.” The key word is “experimentation”. Experiments are conducted to discover the unknown. Hence, the goal of growth hacking is to discover the best way to grow your company when the path to growth is vague. The problem is that the right paths are often known, or at least 90% of the bad paths can be eliminated before the first marketing dollar is spent. Traditional strategy development never picks the perfect plan on the first try, but it does typically find a low-risk path with very probable results. Silicon Valley … Continue reading

Startup Marketing Mistakes

Guy Smith speaking at Draper University on the marketing mistakes that kill startups

How do founders kill their companies? Most often by not understanding the basics of marketing strategy. I spent a pleasent hour at Draper University speaking to students about the top three ways Silicon Valley startup founders crash their own companies. Draper kindly provided video from the event, and you can watch the whole presentation.   For a full course on the basics of marketing strategy, get a copy of our book The Start-up CEO’s Marketing Manual at (if you have technical difficulties watching the embeded video above, it is available at YouTube at … Continue reading

Hierarchy Hell

The seven level hierarchy of marketing strategy stack

While contemplating the content for my upcoming lecture at Draper University (April 20, 2016 at 1PM for any interested Silicon Valley types) I thought long and hard about covering the entire marketing strategy hierarchy. It is essential for startups (and you can learn more about them in the Start-up CEO’s Marketing Manual) but a bit too meaty for that crowd. Why hierarchies are hip The concept is simple, the application rigorous, and the outcomes always positive. This is why most startups crash. They don’t do the Tough Things First and build their marketing strategy from ground-up. They instead assemble them sideways, beginning with their native knowledge of a market, and trying to slide a foundation in under a clapboard shed of a marketing plan. There exist seven layers in the marketing strategy stack. The end goal of marketing is to … Continue reading

Buzz Kill

Why is everyone talking about Kim Kardashian’s rump and not your disruptive, world-changing app? So many startup marketing plans are based on building buzz, yet achieve none. The reason is that founders believe their own hype. They see the intrinsic usefulness and beauty of their products and believe that everyone else will too. Based on little more than this borderline egocentric outlook, startups rarely get people talking because they missed the point about why people talk. People talk to one another out of personal motivations. Seth Godin once presented a monstrous list of why people share ideas, which gives you a clear idea of why the motivations of your communications conduits are more important than your features and benefits. People talk about products because … Continue reading

Handling Influencers

A guest post by David Greer and excerpted in part from his book Wind In Your Sails. Buying power has shifted from companies to purchasers. There is too much information available today on the Internet for anyone to think they can hide information from buyers. While buyers always had a process, in the past marketers could get away without knowing those processes in exacting detail. Today you cannot market and sell without knowing how your prospects buy and what are the key drivers for them to make a change. In the middle of the sales process, strategic thinking has an incredibly important part to play. In order to understand a prospect’s buying process, you must start with the numerous stakeholders. Many of them have veto power in the process. In my book, Wind In Your Sails: Vital Strategies That Accelerate Your Entrepreneurial Success I feature the strategies that Guy Smith (head … Continue reading

Startup Kick-start

Launching a startup is like flying a small turbocharged airplane … blindfolded. Frankly, I am surprised that more founders have not ripped out their hair by the roots, which would be an unfortunate fashion choice for the growing set of female entrepreneurs. Starting a company, creating new markets, pushing viable yet brain-bending differentiations into the market can be perilous. Since marketing strategy is the topic most entrepreneurs understand the least, it is the one place they need the most help. This is why I wrote the Start-up CEO’s Marketing Manual, to provide entrepreneurs with a leg-up – to make them as smart on go-to-market strategy as they can rightfully be. I was surprised by the personal feedback I received. Though the book generated compliments, and the real-world examples in the book helped many, there is that disconnect that comes from monologue and not tying the lessons to the project at … Continue reading

The Investing Game

Venture investing is all too similar to the Dating Game (and if you got that reference, you might be old enough to be an investor). The Dating Game was a loathsome television product of the 1960s whereby a single woman would choose from three likely suitors through a blinded question and answer process (though occasionally a man would select from a trio of ladies). Being Hollywood, the show’s contestants were frequently publicity seeking entertainers, some of whom later actually made it in the business (Sally Field appeared one year before becoming a religious aviator). Mostly the program was a demonstration of showmanship over substance as several men attempted to sound suave enough to be datable. Much like an investor pitch session. The start-up/investor match making process remains a relatively unorganized mishmash, where waves of undesirable and ill prepared entrepreneurs seek the favors (and fortunes) of investors. For a match to … Continue reading