January 06, 2010

Spend Wisely. But Spend!

The first reaction when I say, "Spend Wisely. But Spend." is a sarcastic, "Oh, the marketing guy wants to spend on marketing. Alert the Media!" That’s usually followed by an equally sarcastic, "Well, duh."

It’s one of those "common sense" things—of course we have to spend on marketing, and of course we want to spend wisely.

But—and you marketing folks, especially in young technology companies, are nodding—intellectual agreement doesn’t always translate to action.

From flat out hostility against it to simply thinking it is lower priority than everything else, technology entrepreneurs quite often don’t think they have to do marketing. Marketing lives hand-to-mouth, no budget, trying to get each item approved as it comes up. (Meanwhile, they just hired yet another sales/development/QA/IT/Whatever resource—complete with new laptop, headset, cell phone, travel budget, masseuse, and cappuccino machine—right?)

Very early stage, this view is justified. Your first customers are likely to come from your business connections and through strategic selling. You cannot even handle all the leads marketing would bring in. It will be enough to just support the one or two early adopters you do sell!

Ultimately, though, you cannot grow a business without spending on marketing. Spending Wisely means planning first, allocating a budget, hiring or leasing good talent and then letting marketing execute to the plan. Without the framework of a budget and the freedom to execute, it is hard to create marketing that builds the desired brand and generates compound returns.

For one, your creative thinking is constrained—you cannot plan big, across channels and for the long term. Secondly, you cannot set up a good supply chain without some scale and scope. Going one small project at a time can actually cost more in the end as you lose negotiating power and you often miss opportunities. Agencies and publishers appreciate repeat business as much as employees like knowing they have some runway to take off and airspace to fly in. And you want a consistent team of partners and talent to leverage the learning you all do.

Finally, if all that is not reason enough, know that at least one of your competitors will spend. Big. And then you will be in reaction mode all the time as they set the agenda. This will ensure your desired brand image is never fully realized. Remember, the best technology doesn’t always win. The best marketing—by admittedly circular logic—always does!