Why Traditional Marketing Will Turn Your Startup Into a Garbage Fire

No one wants to buy something they don’t understand

The difference between branding and education

There are two scenes from the sitcom Silicon Valley that distinctly explain the difference between branding and education when marketing a new product.

Strategic vs tactical marketing

Marketing is a tricky thing. It means different things to different people. But at its heart, marketing is the first step to closing the sale. When the product has become a known commodity — or when it’s well on its way — strategic branding becomes a crutch.

How strategic and tactical marketing get misunderstood

Strategic marketing is traditionally described in simple terms like increasing market share, decreasing the cost to acquire the customer (CAC), or increasing lifetime value (LTV). These are not strategies. This is like saying a strategy for starting a business is to make money instead of losing money.

  • I’ve seen tactical marketing defined as developing plans for SEO, ads, content and so on, based on the aforementioned strategic goals. This is not tactical marketing, this is advertising.

Start with a tactical approach

The misunderstanding of strategic and tactical marketing has turned startup marketing into a tale of two camps: branding and advertising. This excludes about 90 percent of what can make marketing effective in selling a new product.

Some tactical educational scenarios

Education also means different things to different people. There are a number of paths you can take to get your customers to understand, quickly, what you are and why they need you. Here are just a few of them.

  1. If you don’t have a new type of problem, you may be able to address a new type of customer. Uber didn’t just replace airport taxi rides with independent contractors, they defined a new type of customer that would hail a ride more often for different reasons than the traditional business traveler. They began marketing to the young, affluent urbanite who was ready to ditch their own car if they hadn’t already. This tactical approach not only worked brilliantly, it spawned the entire scooter industry, for better or for worse.
  2. The entire SaaS segment was built around an evolution in process. Instead of software being developed and sold to huge companies that needed thousands of licenses perpetually, the messaging around most SaaS software, to this day, is the ability to buy only what you need and when you need it. The educational messaging around SaaS focuses on pricing, convenience, and portability — not quality, massive feature set, or being a “one-stop-shop,” tenets of marketing messaging that used to be required in traditional software.
  3. It also helps if you can pick on a stumbling incumbent. But this can be tricky. Direct-to-consumer companies have had varying success trying to educate the consumer on the benefits of subscribing to everyday products or skipping the retail purchasing model for high-dollar purchases. But the approach is correct — educate the consumer, change their habits, replace the incumbent.

I’m a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. Sold ExitEvent. Building TeachingStartup.com & GetSpiffy. Former Automated Insights. More info at joeprocopio.com

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