“If We Build It, They Will Come” Is Not A Marketing Plan

“If we build it they will come” marketing plans doom many entrepreneurs every year. Startup founders often have so much on their plates with product development and searching for prospective funding that developing an initial marketing plan often takes a backseat to just about everything else. Most founders are savvy enough to gather basic demographic and sales data, which helps prove to themselves and their future investors that there is a need and market for their product or service. But once the initial data is gathered it can be filed away and forgotten. Selective amnesia then sets in until a few weeks before launch.

The “Uh-oh!” moment always comes abruptly. One recent story involved a couple of interns who were tasked with cleaning up their company’s Google drive. While they were clicking through some random folders they found half-finished messaging and marketing plans. Knowing that the product launch was in six weeks, one intern asked the founders about the plans. The founders’ responses involved sweating and a blank stares. Some finger pointing and scrambling ensued as they finished and implemented the marketing plan. After all this the company somehow launched on schedule.

This is an extreme example, but many founders spend only days planning and implementing marketing, not the weeks or months that a coherent marketing plan needs to be successful.

Marketing Is Not Voodoo

Professional marketers tend to sell themselves as sorcerers with mystical powers that quickly convert the lead of products into gold. This myth is perpetuated by⏤guess who⏤marketers. Between shameless self-promotion and the relentless use of catchy jargon like “growth hacking,” “gamification,” “thought leader,” and many more scary words, marketers make people afraid of something they should embrace. Marketing is not easy, but most founders and their teams have the skills to produce a marketing plan that is viable. Don’t hire professionals before you are ready. Remember that over 60% of professional marketers don’t have a college degree in marketing. This doesn’t mean that a company won’t need professional marketing help at some point before launch. It is always a good idea to have a pro read through your marketing and messaging plans, but that’s much more affordable than having your plans built from the ground up. Your team can do this!

Discipline Drives Success

If you ask most successful founders and entrepreneurs what the hardest part of marketing their product was, they will likely tell you that it was being disciplined. Marketing discipline means different things to different companies, but when distilled to its base components it boils down to team commitment and execution. Commitment is the process of everyone in the company buying in and sticking to the plan.It’s that simple. Commitment is important for early-stage startups because most everyone is involved with some facet of marketing. In football terms, if players believe in the game plan they are much more likely to execute their plays effectively.

New companies sometimes fall prey to the belief that their marketing plan will be easy to execute and in turn, be successful. This belief can cause the initial marketing plan to be overly complicated, most likely because the team has overestimated how easy a plan will be to implement. A simplified example of this is a plan stating there will be two blog posts and 20 social posts a week, when in reality the team can only publish one blog post every two weeks and make 10 social posts a week. By making your tactical marketing goals achievable, it is much more likely that you and your team will be able to execute fully.

The second issue is one that kills more marketing plans than anything else⏤the lack of instant success. This is where discipline should become a priority for your team. Startups have limited resources. Time is money, and if there is no perceived ROI (Return On Investment) most members of a startup lose the will to continue. Marketing takes time to gather data, gain traction, and see results. Give the marketing plan time to take root. In most cases, if the company’s tactical goals are met the marketing plan will be a success.

Data Drives The Bus

Get data, use it, and continue to gather data after the plan is put into action. Lather, rinse, and repeat! Having as much information as possible to draw from as a marketing plan is put together seems like common sense. The problem is the amount of data available now can be overwhelming. Small teams should develop a small list of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) most relevant to their company and its marketing goals for their first plan. Teams that do this prevent themselves from going down the “data rabbit hole” that is easy to fall into in our era of extremely granular data. By focusing, valuable time and energy will be saved.

Just Do It

A company’s first marketing plan is just that, the first, so don’t overthink it. Paralysis by analysis is far too common for entrepreneurs who are more comfortable developing their product than a sound first marketing plan. Putting together a marketing plan should not be intimidating. Instead, founders should be excited about finding the best method to tell people about their company and its product(s) or services.