Marketing the marketing

Marketing the marketing

Marketing is in the news.

With recent highlights on the social networks more or less started through a rant from Dave McClure on startups not knowing about marketing.

It has since become a hot topic in the startup world, summarized in one short bit : even if you have the best product, you need to market it in order to sell it.

But, back to basics, was it not about time someone question marketing ?

Or the image people do associate with marketing at least.

Once upon a time, marketing. 

Once upon a time, from corporate experience, marketing was the “sexy people’s job”. Those dinosaur ancestors to today’s hipsters. Wearing jeans, looking cool and paid to spend the money sales/technical/admin people were working their ass off to earn.

Spend the money in ads and fancy events like cocktails and parties.

Oh the good ol’ times.

Well that was also, more or less, the big picture drawn in schools as well.

I will hit back at schools later as some do seem to have not been updated since then.

The marketings. Corporations vs startups.

Opposing organizations which are obviously and fundamentally different is an easy move. Especially when building on the basic perceived image of both, I must admit.

Yet, they do provide a good picture of where “marketing” stands.

Corporations : still rely on various marketing departments, with specialized people, and an awful lot of steps, processes, say hurdles, to cope with.

The mindset does also seem not to evolve very quickly as the preferred channels for marketing a product feel like they are from the past (even from my past).

Newspapers, banners on websites, posters, etc … .

That is marketing – and communication overall – 0.0. Almost.

Startups, on the other hand, have, for most, embraced the web, the social tools and do offer a far more dynamic approach.

With a (good) website, propelled by some Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest/blog engines, the reach and adaptability is amazing.

That is a Twitter DM campaign versus the old-fashioned emailing. So what ? Conversion rates are nowhere near each other.

What is marketing ? 

Finally coming down to the point. Certainly where I should have started this piece.

Marketing, is and has never been the action of buying advertising space. Nor is it to throw a party and spend money on drinks.

Marketing, basically, is not even the marketing people’s job.

Marketing is everybody’s job in a company. Be it a startup or a large corporation. Startup Collaboration.thisissamstown

From the sales department to the administrative department, from the CEO to the “coffee machine operating officer” (…), everybody is responsible for marketing.

Any employee speaking about his/her job, be it to friends, family or any random stranger, is marketing the company – and the products.

This person does provide an insight on the company, displays an image, positive or negative, may even sell the products by giving good feedback about them (or not). In the end, everybody markets the whole company.

Beyond that, and back to the marketing job role, it has to be put back in place.

Marketing is not a random department, on the sidelines.

Marketers should be the people with the most complete knowledge of the company, the products, the people and processes.

And even more in our current world where not only the usability of a product is key but also the design, the price, etc … .

Marketers have to be involved with technicians (when applicable) to make technology usable for a standard customer. They have to assist designers in creating the most appealing product for the target market. They have to be involved with the sales department to understand the targets, consult on the positioning, help define pricing and, then, create the most effective materials and campaigns to generate interest and leads.

Marketing the marketing ? 

I heard, some time ago, a CMO ( … Chief Marketing Officer), having been in business for a long time, speaking about something he had recently discovered regarding marketing : “marketing is at the centre of the company”.

The point is so true.

Yet, just discovering that is no bragging matter.

Anybody related to marketing should know that. Otherwise, they are just as useful as party-throwers.

Back to my item on schools (and to keep the rant alive), a recent discussion, with a student in “marketing” made me realise that even the top schools do still not abide by this kind of common sense.

They are still offering (very) specialized courses – and diploma.

In details, one student can graduate in marketing strategy. Another in marketing execution. And anything fancy that might come up in the future.

But, how can you build marketing strategy when not even having a clue about social media tools (not using Twitter, not knowing about WordPress, but the name … ) ?

You have to get the full picture in order to build something consistent.

But the approach of schools, who are actually intended to teach what marketing is and is about, is lacking this consistency. Illustrated by  the way they created marketing “specialties”.

Here marketing needs to be re-marketed.

Concert

The marketing “rock star”. 

Rock stars, gurus, ninjas, all inappropriate names to define someone’s expertise. Yet, I would use such a name to call what true marketers are about.

But I would rather call them swiss-knifes.

They have multiple skills, can assist in almost every part of the business and remain the person they are while embedding an amazing amount of knowledge and skills.

The best example of the true 2.0 marketing expert : a startup Chief Marketing Officer (or whatever name they would give to the job). Especially when the startup is still young and not big on staff.

From chats with startups’ CMOs, the very foundations of their job appear to be :

– Knowing the product/technical specifications

– Interacting with the team

– Brainstorming on design/message/packaging

– Managing the communication/ads/etc …

– Handling the website and every social network account for the company

– Finding partners, resellers, etc …

– Selling the product

– Ensuring everybody in the startup can push the right message out (to family, friends, anybody they come across and speak to about the startup and the product)

– Etc … (please feel free to add your own extra jobs)

Basically we speak multiple skills, multiple tasks, multiple jobs.

So very far from the “specialized” marketing segments like the sole “strategy”. Or “execution”.

This is where marketing should stand.

At the centre of the company, pulling information from all channels available (technical, business, …) and pushing information inside and outside the company through every available network.

Oh and it does also help pushing a consistent message by the way.

Welcome to the real world of marketing!

So, what is your take in the end ? Where does your marketing stands ? Party-throwers or company experts ?

(Images : Samuel Pavin and HubSpot free pack)

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1500 startups – 1000 START-UPs and beyond

Growth is key. And in the startups world too.

500 Startups in the first place and now the announcement, in France, of 1000 Start-Ups.

Image

A startup incubator project, due in 2016, in Paris, aiming at hosting a thousand startups.

The biggest startup incubator in the world.

No wonder now, there is a current push on startups in France.

Yet, there remains to be seen how this space will fit into the current blend of incubators/accelerators – the “Silicon Sentier” population.

The space does look gorgeous … and cool.

However the numbers (30,000 square meters, 1000 startups) sound impressive and that is a huge space to fill.

Looking at the website offering an English version, I would assume that the “filling” may not come from France but rather the space could be targeting foreign startups willing to develop in one of Europe’s capitals.

The end of it remains to be seen but hats off to France and the people behind this project for putting it together.

Now, on to make it work and succeed.

And as growth is key, am wanting 1,500 startups … .

The kid startups and the world-wide World

The World is a wide world. The startups world is as such. As a kid I looked at maps of the world with both envy and fear.

Both based on the same reason : huge and unknown.

What about startups looking at this map nowadays ? When the whole world may be their target (market).

Map of the World

Mea culpa.

As a side note, this article takes roots in my attendance at an event held, months ago, at Spark (Microsoft’s incubator in Paris, France) where UBIFRANCE would present and advise on the matter of doing business in/with the United States. Hence my “French startup” point.

I never took the time to reflect on it – and that is a pity indeed – but a few encounters have, since then, confirmed the fact that startups, overall, still do not know as much as we could think when it comes to what it takes to go abroad.  And this article is finally born.

Welcome to the jungle.

One major take : in today’s hyper-connected world where information are everywhere to be found – and in the startup world where the U.S. are regarded as THE place, the dreamland somehow – so many people do seem to suddenly discover that the picture is just a picture. And what it does mean to set shop in Uncle Sam’s yard.

“Welcome to the real world” said one … . Welcome to the jungle.

It is a business jungle, no different from what any founder would experience in his/her own country. But that is a foreign, unexplored jungle.

I must admit it was quite refreshing, during this event, to see some stunned faces and naive questions asked. At the same time, it could be worrying and raising the question of basic culture level and of how business-ready some founders really are.

Please note, even during the gold rush, not many people would find gold right by their own feet.

The point to keep in mind here : doing business in the U.S. is nothing easier than it is in France or anywhere else. It is just different.

Even if executives, large companies, “rockstars”, etc … can be reached far more easily than they would be in France, they are far not easier to convince. What worth is there in getting 5 or 10 minutes of Twitter’s attention if your pitch is so bad you can only get crushed ?

The outcome could be dramatic. Screwing up is one thing. But screwing up in front of an influencer is bad.

Would you climb the Everest with only your underwear on ? Do your homework, get advice, be as ready as you can to face any situation.

Too many friends ?

And no real advisors ?

Questions questions

As a follow-up of my previous chapter, be prepared, ask your network.

However, not everybody has a huge network of savvy – and capable – advisors. Make sure to get the right expertise from the right experts.

For a basic reason, “surprisingly” enough, in the same way as doing business in countries such as China or Russia does require to have a local partner onboard, so does it when trying to work the U.S.

It sure is not a mandatory requirement to have a local contact but someone with experience of the market and local rules would, at least, allow to overcome some hurdles.

Speaking specifically of the U.S. a lawyer is a recommended asset too. Be it just in order to ensure that all the paperwork (for a visa request for instance) can be filled properly and validated within a reasonable amount of time (months …).

Overall, the piece of advice is quite standard here : be ready and not alone (plan and seek advice).

Just be (real) entrepreneurs.

Indeed, be entrepreneurs. Real ones. Knowing what you are talking about, getting to the point, showing passion and this endless will to get things done and done again until success comes.

Easy to say of course. But achievable as well as some French startups explained during the event.

Some launched in the U.S. Some expanded there. All founders were French with average to limited knowledge of the country specifics.

Yet they worked things out, be it with American associates, lawyers, dedication, etc … .

From their experience, one thing is to be kept in mind : Everything is possible there – including success.

And when we speak dog-sitting-related platform, that is indeed the place where to make it work and find success.

If you fall I be there

Be entrepreneurs indeed.

Though I was speaking about naive French founders, I can, on the other hand, but take notice that more and more French startups make it in renowned U.S. star incubators (like Techstars and Y Combinator).

Kid founders are growing up. Thanks also to the growing number of opportunities to get feedback, advice, basically education, not only from peers but from various experienced experts.

That is where I close the circle of this article. With a salute to UBIFRANCE and Spark/Microsoft for the assistance and expertise they are offering startups. And even if I had known UBIFRANCE for a while, they made me look like the naive kid with an impressive display of experience, assets and expertise they can provide.

In the end, it does seem the “kids” are doing well already or have all tools in hand for success.

Go startups, grow, explore and conquer the world!

Startups and acceleration

Line is coming … and I am happy

Line Logo

Line is here …  .

Or at least on the way as I read in a piece stating that Line is coming to Europe … and France.

I have actually been having it on my phone for a few months already but I must admit I am still facing one of its major issues : users.

I currently have less than ten identified friends/contacts on Line.

On the bright side that feels like a nice private circle.

On the darkest side, it still feels quite lonely.

Outside the 230 millions users Line boast, they still have to conquer the hearts – say the habits – of French (speaking of my direct surroundings) and European populations.
That is apart from Spain where they do already have quite a huge presence (40% of smartphone users having downloaded Line).

Line

The main hurdle to face for Line : getting rid of Whatsapp and being acknowledged as a messaging/social platform rather than just yet another web messaging app.

This is where the true value of Line does lie. Not only in the free calls but in the integration of social and, hence, appearing as a shaken mix of Whatsapp, Skype, Twitter, Facebook, … .

With videos on top and additional options to come (video calls, music, …) the target of 300 millions users by the end of the year seems to be a reasonable one.

I will keep pushing. Will you ? Let me know with the short poll below.

Images : Line’s website

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