Jeffrey Bussgang is a venture capitalist, entrepreneur, and professor at Harvard Business School. In his book, Entering StartUpLand you seek your ideal entry point into this popular, cutting-edge organizational paradigm. It is a practical, step-by-step guide that provides an insider’s analysis of various start-up roles and responsibilities. You’ll gain insight into how successful startups operate and learn to assess which ones you might want to join–or emulate.
When I was head of Marketing at one of my startups, our sales director in Australia came to our annual sales meeting bearing a gift for me: a boomerang. He said it was because I always came back to him with answers to his questions when he was in the field chasing sales opportunities. I keep that boomerang in my office to this day and still think about how much field sales people appreciate it when the marketing team gets back to them in a timely, responsive fashion. For a marketing executive, being customer focused means paying attention to your internal customers as well as your external ones.
When entrepreneurs discuss with me the reasons they need to raise money for their startups, the focus is typically placed first on building the product and then selling it. The two most expensive functions at a startup are the product team and the sales team. Marketing profoundly affects them both: on one side, it heavily influences product design; on the other, it focuses and supports Sales. So the marketing function is like the productivity engine of the startup. When a startup has a great marketing function, the product and sales teams both look amazingly productive, and nobody knows why. Everybody typically credits the head of Sales and the head of Product, but behind the scenes, it’s Marketing that makes them look good.
Marketing, in other words, is the unsung hero of the startup.
Strangely, startups often hire marketing people too late. First they hire the team required to build the product—product managers or engineers. Then they hire one or two salespeople to sell the product. Remember the organization chart for my twelve-person startup in chapter 1 (figure 1-2)? There are zero marketing people. It’s a common mistake.
Typically, the first marketing person might get hired as employee number twenty or thirty, often after a startup hits a snag. Perhaps the sales force has become unproductive and is idling. So the startup scrambles to get a marketing function installed quickly to help. By then, though, it’s often too late. When a startup misses its sales numbers, the sales people get blamed. But the problem, typically, is not that the salespeople are incompetent; it’s that the startup lacks marketers who can generate leads and acquisitions for those salespeople. As a result, Sales is either getting bad leads or no leads at all. They’re lacking the good, competitive weapons that skilled marketers can provide, so they’re struggling to win.
That’s when the company needs Marketing. It needs Marketing to provide support for Sales.
Grab a copy of the book: Entering StartUpLand