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Managing Startups: Best Blog Posts by Thomas Eisenmann

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Chapter 19. Very Basic Startup Marketing

Recently, I was spending some time with an MIT senior who is very involved with the startup community and has spent some time working at venture-funded companies. We were chatting a bit about marketing for early-stage companies. How important is it? Who does it well? Does it even matter? Etc.

She asked a pretty simple question: “What is marketing for a startup, really?”

I was a bit struck by the simplicity of the question. But I think marketing is one of those disciplines that is a bit of a black box to startup founders who come from more of an engineering background. I’ve heard founders think about marketing both as something that doesn’t really matter (since all that matters is the product), and something that matters a lot and requires hiring a fancy CMO or VP of Marketing.

I disagree with both of these paths, but that’s for another post. In a nutshell, here is the basic way I think about marketing for startups.

Marketing as a Funnel

First, I think of marketing as a funnel. It can be a very basic funnel, but you can drill down to much more specific subcomponents of the funnel. At the highest level, I see it as: Awareness –> Conversion –> Raving Fans. Let’s look at a couple examples of each.

Awareness: How People First Hear About Your Company

  • For starters, this usually means a referral from an existing user, PR, or ways that the product talks about itself (e.g., “posted by Instagram” on Facebook).

  • A big part of awareness to me is crisp positioning. ...

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