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Who "Gets" Marketing?

A CEO of a high-tech start-up recently lamented to me:

I was told I needed marketing, so I hired a PR firm and after 6 months and a lot of money, I got nothing.

Paraphrasing, a local venture capitalist admits:

Most CEOs lack marketing skills.  They need marketing help.

Yet his portfolio is dominated by companies without dedicated executive marketers.

According to the uninitiated,
PR = Marketing = Advertising = Branding = Logo + Slogan = Lots of $$ and yet, sales suck.

Both the initiated and the uninitiated think sales suck because so does the web site, and the collateral, and the webinars, and the white papers, and the demo, and there are no leads, and they're attending the wrong trade shows, and there are neither counterpoints to the competition nor answers to buyer objections, and the product is missing this feature -- no that feature -- well, really, both features.

Is this really what's wrong?

In a seminar on venture financing we put on the other night, one of the presenters rightfully stated that the amount of money the entrepreneur is asking for will be important in determining the type of capital investors willing to fund the opportunity. $3M, for example, is often considered to small for many VCs. While true, I'm not sure the entrepreneurs got the point.

Typically, they've already decided they want VC money. So they pick the sum of investment based on the type of money and build their plan around that.
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Process-Driven Sales and Marketing

A couple of years ago, a colleague and I began developing a process-oriented way to lead companies toward gaining market traction.  The idea was born out of a conversation my colleague had with a partner at Sequoia Capital about how to significantly reduce, if not eliminate, the classic high-burn, low return tactics of typical B2B software start-ups.

So to oversimplify, the classic failure might look like:

  1. Build financial model based on revenue and go-to-market assumptions and present to the Board;
  2. Develop product;
  3. Hire VP of Sales w/ relevant contacts;
  4. Build sales plan based on promises to the board;
  5. Hire field sales team;
  6. Hire marketing person to support sales;
  7. Burn cash, miss milestones;
  8. Go back to board with new assumptions;
  9. Build sales plan based on new promises;
  10. Rinse. Repeat.

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The San Diego Marketing Scene

Since moving (returning) to San Diego from the San Francisco Bay Area in June of 2007, my running joke has been:

In the Bay Area I was a small fish in a large pond.  In San Diego, at least I'm a small fish in a small pond.

bah-dump, bump.

The San Diego market for marketing professionals certainly is different and has, not surprisingly, both its ups and downs.  Clearly, fewer opportunities exist for software and Internet high-tech marketers.  There are just not as many companies as in the SF Bay Area, including Silicon Valley.  San Diego has a strong bio tech industry, but the cross-over is not simple (or at least that's the perception).  Wireless technology is big here, led by, of course, Qualcomm which has resulted in a number of wireless/telecom start-ups.    There certainly is some crossover into this market.  It's my view, however, that a mini-bubble exists in that there are serious business model issues with some wireless start-ups, and I'm guessing the current economic downturn will expose these.  (I talk more about this in a separate post.)

Generally, I'm not feeling a lot of marketing love in San Diego.  Perhaps it is simply the natural evolution of a technology ecosystem.   First a region must build a strong technology base and then a demand for marketing expertise will emerge.  Despite the fact that San Diego-based WebSideStory was instrumental in leading the marketing ROI trend through its web analytics products, and the fact that there are several marketing related start-ups here, e.g., JuiceMetriQs, Island Data (now Overtone, I see), and Certona, generally, the idea that Marketing doesn't mean Madison Ave, appears to me to be poorly understood.

(BTW, I don't know the motivation, but Overtone moved its marketing organization to the Bay Area.  Aside from founders, until recently the entire Ortiva Wireless management team was from outside San Diego.   The same goes for Paraccel. Trend or merely emblematic of the state of San Diego resources?)

There is upside:
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