An Open Letter to Technology Startup Marketers

Dear technology startup marketer,

There seems to be a refrain as of late amongst a great many of you, and that refrain is “caution.” You’re “cautious” about the economy. You’re taking a “wait and see” approach.

I say to those of you doing this: shame on you.

Your job as a marketer is not to be “cautious” and it’s certainly not to “wait and see.” Let your CEO be cautious (that’s fine). Let the Board be cautious. But any marketer caught being “cautious” should be fired on sight.  As a marketer your purpose in life is two-fold: 1) find pools of demand and funnel that feedback into product management so that they can respond (ie, respond to market demand); 2) GENERATE demand (innovate and then land new sales). You are, in short, an outbound sales person with a budget for initiatives. And if being in sales makes you uncomfortable, you need try a different career.

You cannot afford to take a “wait and see” approach. I mean, wait and see WHAT exactly? How the Dow performs? Where the CPI numbers come in? What the President’s approval rating is? If you think that you (sitting in your little ole startup office) will actually *know* when the economy turns, you’re being foolish. You’re not gonna know until AFTER it has already turned. In the meantime, you’d better get your butt out there and land some business. If you “wait and see,” you’ll most likely just be waiting around to see exactly what date your termination notice is gonna come on.

Now, okay, your budget has been cut by your cautious CEO — I get that. That’s cool. But I guarantee your CEO didn’t say, “go in your office, cower in fear, pray that we get a ton of inbound sales leads, but above all else be cautious and wait and see.” Nope. Your CEO probably said something like, “monitor your spend as if every dollar was your own; and make sure we’re getting the maximum bang for our buck.” Of course, this freaked you out. And you got cautious. WRONG.

[sidenote: If you have a VP title and you need your CEO’s permission to spend “your budget,” you’re not a VP and you should ask to be demoted to “director” so that you can enjoy life more via being scrutinized by the board less.]

How do I know these things? Experience. I was a VP of marketing at a startup that was founded during the dotcom bust. We raised money. We landed customers. We raised more money. We landed more customers. Now that startup is kicking every single competitor’s butt.

Here’s what you don’t wanna be: the Celine Dion of marketing. Here’s what you do want to be: the Kid Rock of marketing. People may hate Kid Rock and his music, but they damn sure know who he is. Why? Because he’s never been cautious a single day of his life. He left the office, got out, and made himself larger than life.

Want a more down to earth example? Sam Lawrence (late of Jive).  Sam’s “go big always” philosophy is a large part of the reason that Jive is where it’s at today. Want a second example? Jason Calacanis. Their methods might not be your methods. Hell, you don’t even have to like either of them. But you simply cannot deny that they’re doing what marketers are supposed to do.

So, what are you doing being cautious? Leave caution to the CEO. Get sales-minded, get passionate, but most of all – get out there (in the field).

Let me close by saying that this is not some disguised plea for you to sponsor Glue. I could care less, as I’ve got 1 gold, 1 silver and 1 tabletop left and I’ve basically stopped actively selling sponsorships anyway. What this is about is removing your wait and see attitude. I’ll discuss why you should sponsor Glue (or Defrag) ALL DAY LONG (and I’ll persuade you), but I simply will not listen to you use the words “caution” or “wait and see” any longer without introducing you to a good job placement service.

You’re an entrepreneur for tech’s sake! Caution?!? Your whole life should be about risk and failure and massive successes. Playing it safe is for the other losers. And if you think that your business needs to “wait and see” how the economy’s doing? Well, as I said in the beginning, shame on you.

Marketing is not about order-taking. That’s what they get paid minimum wage at McDonald’s to do. Marketing is about creating and satisfying marketplace demand. Get out of your chair, get out of your comfort zone and go do it. Go do it, or start re-writing your resume.



P.S. Quite obviously, this post is not aimed at those of you that are either A) working marketing in a BigCo (different game) or B) out there kicking ass already. Cheers.