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While I have been out in the world of start-ups and early-stage companies of late, I have been struck again and again by the lack of attention to branding and marketing. So just to test my assumptions, I informally surveyed a number of ventures that have received $1-$7 million in funding in the past year and found, to my shock and surprise, that relatively few of them have any senior marketing talent involved in their businesses.
Actually, I’m not surprised.
We all know the profile of archetypal entrepreneurs–driven, committed experts focused on using their scarce resources to build their products and services. And of course, if they are really worth their salt, they ARE creating products and services that everybody wants, so why would they need to concern themselves with branding and marketing?
The truth is, upon closer examination, that driven, committed personality often reveals a kind of blindness or arrogance. It’s the if-I-build-it-they-will-come mentality that dismisses the need to do anything other than hang out a shingle and wait for customers to line up.
You can see where I’m heading with this….It’s a principle I call Minding the (Marketing) Gap.
The Marketing Gap is that narrow space that exists between your business and your customers, and it’s just wide enough for them to trip or stumble or lose their balance on their way to/from your brand. Metaphorically speaking, it is the place where you can (and should) provide a secure foothold and safe passage to your brand by helping the consuming public understand what you do, why you do it, what you stand for, and what’s in it for them. That secure foothold and safe passage is your brand experience, and your single best way to establish an authentic connection with customers. Give people an easy way to climb on board your brand and the ones who choose to, will. If you leave the gap open, you increase the chances for people to simply avoid your brand, for fear of falling, or taking a risk they aren’t prepared to take.
So here are some pointers for all of you emerging entrepreneurs. Don’t assume that branding and marketing happen magically on their own. Don’t assume they are simply tricks to get people to buy things (specifically, your things). Don’t assume that because your resources are scarce you can hold off creating an intentional brand until your pockets are deeper. Don’t assume that branding and marketing are a waste of time because you already know everything you need to know about your customers. And most important of all, don’t assume that the world is waiting on the platform for your train to pull into the station, and everyone will jump on when the doors open. If they don’t feel comfortable traversing the gap, they will simply wait for your train to leave the platform and another one with a more manageable gap to arrive.
And one more thing. If you don’t have the expertise on your team, get help. Early. Bring inspirational, inventive, seasoned marketing expertise into your venture as you are creating it, so the spirit of the brand becomes an integral part of the business, rather than trying to plaster it on after the fact.
Home Photo Credit: Mind the gap