Why you have to be marketing from day one to avoid the startup gap: “This is why a large number of startups still fail”

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Startups all around the world should be marketing their product from the get-go – as soon as they have decided that they are going to form a startup. Start marketing it.

 

Why isn’t this already happening?

 

Most startup theory revolves around Paul Graham’s Startup Survival Rules or Eric Ries’ book The Lean Startup – I’ll show you why this is dead wrong. I respect both Graham and Ries tremendously; however they are both missing one key ingredient.

 

This has nothing to do with validation, surveying your users or getting feedback. Plenty of other thought leaders have written on this and I don’t feel the need to. This article is based on the assumption that you have already done that.

 

The reason why I’m sharing what I’ve done with shushnote, and why you should care – comes down to this: What I’ve accomplished in six weeks, would take most startups over one year (from build to launch) to achieve.

 

shushnotegraph

 

Our domain name was purchased in December – not long after, our site went live. The image above shows shushnote’s web traffic since mid-December. The curve is biased; it was not online during November.

 

The line should be a ‘vertical bar’ starting from December going up to 3K visits.  For just a landing page with no value proposition or product that’s online for less than six weeks – this is a very good result.

 

If shushnote is marketed for around six months before launching what do you think might happen to this web traffic? We are about to begin content marketing – suggesting that in six months’ time this growth will be much larger.

 

Even if a startup follows the principles of The Lean Startup theory, this does not guarantee their success; likewise, if an accelerator teaches these lean principles it does not guarantee their success.

 

Why is it that most startups are still failing? I call it ‘The Startup Gap’ – the absence of early-stage marketing and strategy in lean thought.

 

Put simply, early stage startup marketing is crucial – but missing in lean theory. This is why a large number of startups still fail, since they follow these lean methodologies too rigidly – a common flaw with most lean-verbatim accelerators.

 

The first founder, whether albeit technical or non-technical, should start marketing from the very beginning – after, they have validated their idea.

 

The startup gap is when founders totally miss any kind of early-stage marketing or strategy – a major flaw in our current understandings of startup theory.

 

By marketing your startup right from day one, every day, you will have the opportunity to attract better co-founders, more page visits, more sign-ups and a higher chance of raising an investment – not to mention a longer runway.

 

Startups are often focused on the build-measure-learn process and validation. I do not disagree with this; I disagree on how it’s being taught and the lack of strategy and innovation within most startup accelerators.

 

The problem I’m seeing is the absence of early-stage startup marketing, regardless of running lean or not.

 

In less than six weeks, my website shushnote went from 0 to 3000 page visits, 52 sign-ups including an Australian government official, Comcast etc. Not to mention, over 6K + fans spread-out across our social media channels. All achieved within six weeks by focusing on the startup gap.

 

sfvg

Infographic: Made with love on Canva.

 

Startups should spend at least six months marketing their product before they launch. In the infographic above, each month is set as a rough guide, adjustable to your situation.

 

As soon as a startup has validated their idea and purchased a domain name, start marketing. A solo founder should set up a landing page, social media, start content marketing and guest posting on sites with the aim to be covered in the media at least 20 times before the official launch of their product – whether that be by press features or guest posts.

 

This rarely occurs. Often non-technical founders are trying to persuade a programmer to join their startup and waste precious time doing this.

 

A common flaw with technical startup founders is that they only get on board a marketing cofounder after they have already released their product.  There is so much to do beforehand.

 

Quite often, a technical founder will just build it and ship it – a one-man dream team with no early stage marketing.

 

What often happens? The realisation that there is little-to-no interest in your startup’s product – coming to this one defining moment: “Oh, we need a marketing co-founder.”

 

At this point, the hastily signed up marketing co-founder will not be pushing forward – they are actually doing the complete opposite, working backwards, fixing up small things that should have been done right from the start – and achieving minimal to modest results at best.

 

A marketer and a programmer do not think on the same wavelength. A programmer is looking for instant growth due to the way they think.

 

A lot of startups, not just in Australia but globally really should begin marketing from the beginning. It is my belief that if startups incorporate early-stage startup marketing into their strategy, not only does it improve investor confidence, it also may minimise startup failure rate and give you a longer runway.

 

Luke Fitzpatrick is the founder of Shushnote.com and an expert in early-stage startup marketing. You can get in touch with him via  luke@shushnote.com.

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  • https://www.reesio.com/ entrepreneurSF

    I agree with quite a bit of this. However, the one potentially (major) downside of doing this is that once investors “hear” about your product, the clock starts ticking on when they expect to see traction. That’s especially true here in Silicon Valley. They don’t care if you were pre-launch or in beta, if they hear about you too soon, and then there’s a long gap as to when you actually have traction and are fundsble, they may feel like your growth is too slow and will pass.

    • http://www.localizer.co Luke Fitzpatrick

      Great point. I’m using this strategy in Australia. In SF, it’s definitely going to be different.

      Typically, Australian investors take a while to make a decision & are very cautious. I’m looking to raise Series A pre-launch with an MVP. No Series B. Time-frame from now, around 4-6 months.

      I’m also using this strategy to attract a top-notch team.

  • Chris Morancie

    I love the concept behind this approach. But what about IP and someone else beating you to market ?

    • http://www.localizer.co Luke Fitzpatrick

      IP / someone beating to the market depends on your situation. For my product specifically, I chose to run it stealth. There are some positives, and of course drawbacks.

      Positives – I can create buzz, test it and release it in small batches and release it to the full public when we’re ready. It fits well with our brand name ‘shushnote’ & marketing strategy. The word ‘shush’ – feels secretive. The website changes each month, slowly leaking more information. Ex. Our website explanation:

      In Jan: Something cool is coming soon.
      In Feb: Software for celebrities, investors and the media.
      In Mar: (Wait and see).
      +

      Drawbacks – A lower conversion rate on sign ups. Since, shushnote.com is in ‘stealth’ it is harder to validate it. We are fixing this by finding our potential users, visiting them in person; get feedback, and build it for them. Whilst in stealth, it can be unclear regarding ‘general mass adoption & sentiment.’

      • Chris Morancie

        Luke, these are some things to think about.