Don’t do marketing. Focus on becoming a thought leader in your space. Talk every day with your customers, prospective customers, partners, and the world about why you do what you do and why you think it is important. The reality is you can only talk about what you do one or two times before people think ‘got it’ and stop listening. But, if you talk about what you believe and point to countless examples that exemplify your beliefs, you can build real engagement with people who care/believe the same things.
Brad Feld, A founder at Foundry Group, used to come off as “anti-marketing.” He would regularly talk about how if a product or service wasn’t great, then no amount of marketing could save it. His perspective was that companies should focus on evangelizing their mission and keep their products and services in tow to deliver the real results. If the mission was valid and the business was good, it would take hold. If not, the business would rightfully die. It’s a powerful (and unforgiving) message.
But, can we really just throw marketing out the window? Every business needs some formal approach to framing what we do in a way the world can understand. Our missions and products are intertwined at some point, otherwise, we wouldn’t have a business, right?
Chris Moody, a COO Feld was working with in 2011 and now a Foundry partner, called him out on this point. Moody helped Feld repackage the argument. The whole email he wrote is online and worth the read, but here is the big idea (think about how this relates to what we do):
We can summarize that down to:
1. Have a belief,
2. Engage with others around that belief,
3. Deliver products and/or services based on those shared beliefs.
What this is NOT:
1. Have a product or service,
2. Tell others about it,
3. Sell it to the people you talked to about it.
Feld’s problem with marketing is where the focus is placed. Instead of just talking about a product or service, he encourages us to be bigger – to be a thought leader around a big idea. Marketers might focus too much on the value of the product or service, while thought leaders focus on aligning the values between the makers and the users of them. When companies and their customers connect on shared values, they create sustainable and durable relationships. This is the gold standard we are all aiming for.
Call it marketing or whatever you want – but be a thought leader. Put the values first – not the product – and people will notice.