One of the startup mistakes to avoid is getting something fundamentally wrong with revenue growth.
Startups are supposed to be selling. Not marketing.
This WSJ article by Jessica Livingston points out why selling, not marketing, is crucial for startups.
Sales and marketing, while closely interlinked, sit at the opposite ends of the revenue growth continuum.
Marketing’s reach is broad and shallow. In sales, your outreach is narrow and deep. Especially in B2B, where you have a finite audience.
Startups need to be talking to a small number of serious prospects about their needs; not an apathetic large audience.
Sales gives you a kind of harsh feedback that “marketing” doesn’t. You try to convince someone to use what you’ve built, and they won’t. These conversations are painful, but necessary
Even Pinterest and Airbnb, both mass consumer products perfectly suited to digital marketing, the founders approached users individually to get them to sign up. Airbnb needed more hosts, and for the existing hosts to convert better; this was all done in person.
Another famous example: you’ve heard of Nespresso, right? That beautiful coffee George Clooney drinks? Well it took Nestle years to get Nespresso off the ground. Nestle, a traditionally a mass consumer, one-to-many marketer, were failing with Nespresso. So to get Nespresso off the ground they adopted a completely different approach; they started direct selling, one-to-one selling, by approaching hotels, first class and business class lounges, airline operators and big companies, to get them to buy the machines and coffee. This tactic got a wide audience to test the product first. And the rest is history.
Focus on growth rate rather than absolute numbers. Then you won’t be dismayed if the absolute numbers are small at first. If you have 20 users, you only need two more this week to grow 10%. And while two users is a small number for most products, 10% a week is a great growth rate. If you keep growing at 10% a week, the absolute numbers will eventually become impressive.
Sales gives you the feedback you need to iterate and get your product or service to meet your target customer’s need. And one-to-one selling to companies gives startups the opportunity to sell to a wide customer base with relatively less effort.
Over to you. Pick up the phone and find out what your potential customer’s pain points.
Any thoughts on this article? Do you think marketing is more important or equally important? Comments below. Would love to hear your thoughts.
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