What I’m Looking To Invest In First
Technologies that simplify sales and marketing
Despite hours of VC experience, people keep asking me what I want to invest in.
The usual G20 Ventures filters apply: Inspiring East Coast team, intimate relationship with a big-ass enterprise technology problem. Early market traction, with a product I can personally get excited about. That’s my sandbox. But beyond that, beyond the current Venture Holy Trinity, where should I focus on finding the next big thing?
Starting with what I know best: Sales & Marketing
While there are lots of problem spaces I’d like to explore, sales and marketing is the one I already know more about than most, and the obvious place to begin. I understand how CMOs think, having been one last week. I get the pressure the whole go-to-market team is under to deliver more with less, and the frustration they have with the overwhelming volume of “platforms” out there who promise to make things better.
As proof, here’s the latest Marketing Technology Landscape, courtesy the good folks at ChiefMartec.com:
Stop it. Really, just fucking STOP.
I don’t want to invest in something that goes on this slide. I want to invest in something that makes this slide irrelevant.
The current model of sales and marketing innovation is broken, and there’s a massive opportunity to fix it. Out of the gate here, I’m going to be actively looking for businesses that break with the current state of affairs, in three important ways.
Simplicity, not complexity.
First off, I’m interested in technologies that reduce the number of point tools sales and marketing teams need to buy, integrate, learn, operate, and troubleshoot. The next generation of winning products will need to eliminate way more tedious, low-level administrative tasks than they create. They’ll need to use good design to illuminate the demand funnel, to make it easy for regular human beings to make better decisions about what to do more of, and what to stop doing.
In the end, that’s 80% of what marketers want to know: What’s working, and what’s not. For all the state-of-the-art marketing technology I’ve seen — and I’ve seen a lot of it — I have yet to see anything that answers that question in a one-page report everyone on the team can accept as the truth.
Accuracy, not precision.
Speaking of which… People tend to confuse accuracy — which is the extent to which a measurement reflects the objective truth — with precision, which at least in scientific terms is the extent to which a measurement is consistent when performed again. Accuracy and Precision are independent variables: an individual measurement can be accurate but imprecise, or very precise and entirely inaccurate.
Precision is way easier to achieve. Precision means you can be wrong, so long as you’re wrong the same way every time.
Most MarTech solutions today direct a firehose of confidence-inspiring precision at their users, to hide what is often a desert of real-world accuracy.
Good CMO’s don’t care how well they can be wrong. They care about how close they can get to right.
Results, not metrics.
The fault in all this is not entirely with the vendors. Marketing people are often complicit in burying qualitative truth beneath a mountain of quantitative fact. The Growth Hacker Cult has spawned a cottage industry of directionally valuable but practically useless sub-metrics, manufactured by marketing professionals primarily to prove just how professional they really are.
There is too much math and too little meaning in what the vast majority of marketing people are focused on right this very minute. And it’s their own damn fault.
Executives care about results. A handful of simple metrics can help point the way to those results, but what I’ve seen over the last decade is a generation of marketers fixated on metrics as an end unto themselves. They’re always ready to bury you in slides about what a great job marketing is doing, regardless of whether the business is winning or not. That’s not what executives do.
I’m interested in solutions that measure the effectiveness of marketing in the context of the tangible business objectives marketing supports. Marketing is not an island unto itself. Marketing exists to improve sales productivity — measured as Revenue / Sales & Marketing Expense — by bringing the leverage and scalability of brand building, demand generation, and customer relationship management to bear in making products better and sales more effective.
That’s what I think, anyway, where I’ll be looking for opportunities.
What do you think? Is the criticism fair? Can anyone deliver what I’m looking for today? Who’s most likely to down the road?
I’m certainly not going to figure out this VC thing in a dark room myself. Let’s start the conversation, and see if we can get someplace better together.
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