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I’ve been toying with names for my advising services that would capture the value I’m offering to startups… In a nutshell this value is “helping startups more quickly achieve traction and efficient growth momentum.” Startup-Marketing.com clearly positions me as a startup marketer, but it’s very generic and says little about what I’m trying to do for startups.
On my drive from Palo Alto to San Francisco today I was pondering how I discovered the need to help startups gain traction/momentum – and the name 12in6 struck me. Before I explain what the name means, I’ll describe how I came up with it. My “self – how did I get here?” reflection began by remembering the period when I was planning my next move following LogMeIn. I was reflecting on 10+ years of startup life and wondering “what was the most important marketing activity we did that led to these two NASDAQ IPO filings?” I realized that the first 6-12 months were the most critical marketing contributions to the long-term success of each company. I also realized that what took 12 or more months at Uproar.com took only about six months at LogMeIn. A solid go to market process was the primary difference. And finally I realized that this go to market process had a ton of room for improvement.
I had my next move figured out. I would specialize in helping companies plan and execute their go to market strategy. My process would improve with each startup experience. I quickly switched my blog from metricsdrivenmarketing.com to startup-marketing.com and continue to evolve/improve the go to market process with each new startup marketing project.
So today (as I was going through this “self – how did I get here?” exercise) I figured out the name. It’s 12in6 – reflecting that I’m helping startups achieve 12 months of marketing progress in 6 months. This is a powerful promise since this period generally has a very high capital burn rate – and getting through it more quickly preserves precious capital. The name is a great conversation starter (based on the WTF factor). It is also numbers, which highlights my data driven marketing approach. Even the logo is a no brainer with a 12 inside the 6.
I’ll continue to post to Startup-Marketing.com since it gets a lot of search traffic, but I’ll eventually transition to the new domain 12in6.com. Fortunately the move will allow me to switch to a better blogging platform too.
In the last couple weeks I’ve met with CEOs at nearly a dozen well-funded startups desperately in need of a marketing leader. Many of these companies have expressed a strong desire to work with me on their go to market execution, but one of my key requirements is that they have a marketing leader in place. This ensures strong knowledge transfer and reduces the need for a long-term engagement with me.
The challenge many of these startups have faced with their hiring is that they were seeking a seasoned marketing leader. Having led marketing in both early stage ventures and in more established companies, I tell most that they don’t need a seasoned marketing vet. Experienced marketing execs haven’t rolled up their sleeves and executed for a long time. The majority of their skills are completely irrelevant in the early go to market stage of a truely innovative startup. So why pay their required high salary and give up multiple points of equity?
The good news is that for about half the salary and a fraction of the equity they can hire a qualified candidate to be trained and mentored to successfully execute this early marketing stage. In fact it’s probably easier to train someone with no marketing experience than someone with years of the wrong type of marketing experience.
Of course the right candidate must be dynamic and possess the essential soft skills. They must be analytical enough to execute a data driven marketing approach and have the discipline to follow a proven go to market process. Most importantly they must be very curious about discovering how your solution maps to the needs and the buying process of prospective customers.
When the role is positioned correctly, the right candidate will leap at the opportunity. Nothing is more exciting than being on the ground floor of a hot new startup. For the next several months they will have the critical responsibility for the planning and execution of the company’s go to market strategy. And (by working with a go to market specialist) they will have guidance and training from someone who has taken multiple companies to market. It’s important to be honest with them that they may not become the long-term marketing leader, but they are in pole position to get the role. The ideal candidate will understand that they have everything to gain from this opportunity and nothing to lose.
But how do you find these candidates? While it would be tempting for me to set up a recruiting business to help startups with this crucial hire, my hands are full with startup marketing advising. So I’m exploring other ways to address this need/opportunity. These include working with existing recruiters, partnering with someone who could specialize in filling this type of role, setting up a training boot camp for aspiring startup marketers or some combination of each. Stay tuned.
Update: The above recommendations are for startups that have an opening in the marketing leader position. I know many marketing vets, particularly those with strong online marketing skills, that have done exceptionally well with startups.