In the last 12 years, marketing has been reinvented. No segment has benefitted more from this transformation than startups who have both created the new marketing and leveraged its skills to transform industries. These new marketers creating this wave have been so effective they can delay or even obviate the need for outside sales teams.
Historically marketing has been pseudoscience - an undisciplined hand-wavy concoction of story telling and a “throw stuff on the wall and see what sticks” mentality protected by unmeasurable results and three martini lunches.
Unlike cash-rich enterprises which bankroll unquantifiable marketing bets, miserly startups can’t afford to gamble. For startups, unit economics are king. A dollar invested must return more than a dollar, much much more. If not, the business simply won’t survive. And this discipline must be applied across the company: engineering, product, sales and marketing.
Startups' relentless focus on unit economics compels their marketing departments to invent and discover. Scarcity is the mother of invention. As a result, startups have created every major inflection point in marketing progress in the last decade.
In the early 2000s, Google’s AdWords punctuated the wave of real-time quantification of internet ad performance. A few years later, AdSense and others brought performance marketing to the internet broadly. Next, social media marketing blossomed on Facebook and Twitter. Meanwhile, mobile apps created a fundamentally new customer acquisition channel. And of course, email marketing was reborn with Groupon and Fab.
With search, web, mobile and social distribution channels built, other startups like Amazon, Zynga and ngMoco were the first to test them, understand them, benchmark them and ultimately exploit them.
In addition to advances in advertising performance, these new marketers began influencing product to drive distribution. Rather than intuition, rigorous multivariate testing drives product decisions, yielding small daily optimizations which compound into huge growth. Dropbox mastered the referral campaign for its consumer storage product. Zynga and Branchout built proficiencies in viral triggers. And LogMeIn perfected the freemium model.
The new marketers are a different breed - tenacious, nimble and deft with numbers. They often have backgrounds in finance or consulting and act more like traders than relationship managers, buying media on the fly based on algorithms and using experimental data to inform product decisions.
New marketers have revolutionized the go-to-market strategies for startups by acquiring customers scalably and cost-effectively through ROI positive advertising and calculated product improvements. And in today’s entrepreneurial environment, these new marketers represent powerful competitive advantages.