Marketing is Not Something You Start After the Product is Ready for Launch
This is a typical, and completely normal, pattern for first time and long-time founders.
Product is ready. Let’s christen it with marketing and send it on it’s way! This makes sense if you think of your product as a thing that is created, like a masterpiece, or a boat, that is used for as long as it lives.
Founders work hard with product development teams in head’s down mode to produce the product that they know their consumers and fans want. They respond to questions about marketing positioning and advertising budgets with statements like, “I am so focused on product right now, I am not ready to think about marketing.”
Meanwhile, information hungry consumers, big fans of the field where the product sits, are turning to any platform of content they can find to dig into the industry and find products to love. This is exactly what product hunters do to get that Product Hunt darling on the front page.
Why are founders so obsessed with product and why do they feel they can afford to wait to deploy marketing until the moment the app, product, or service is ready for soft or real launch?
Usually, it is because they really care about the product, and they are really confident that what they are making is real, and good, and needed. Typically they are right. And there is nothing wrong with this.
But it does not afford them the time to create marketing that really helps them secure their dominance in the industry they serve.
The thing about marketing these days is that if you don’t develop the community and create the marketing reasons and rationale before the launch, it’s that much harder to launch and win.
Marketing is the art of creating the ocean for the cruise ship.
Unfortunately, many founders look at the media world as an ocean that already exists, and all they have to do is smash the champagne against the hull and push the product back into the water.
They see marketing as that celebration. The big noise and the crowd applauding their release.
Often, without marketing preparation and marketing development — done in parallel with product development — what they get is a canoe slipping through a quiet Minnesota lake.
Enough metaphors. What’s the point?
Marketing used to be a thing you did at the end. It was a celebration that worked when channels were limited and when it was considered a victory to get press attention for something you worked long hours to complete.
Marketing was access to the reward of attention. Now everyone can run a channel. And nobody has attention.
You have to create attention.
You have to create the ocean.
What you need on your team is a marketing person to walk through the product road map with you, collect data on audience, and on consumer markets, and feed that into how you are building your product.
Hopefully that marketing person is also a good analyst, writer, and community manager. And you are letting that marketing person manage the community, grow it, and build your brand into a place of trust, where members of the community come to get the right information. And where members of the press come to feed their curiosity about what you are doing and where you come from as an industry professional.
Marketing is not ribbons and champagne.
Save that for the funding round.
It’s a total concept arrangement. It’s the navigator that builds your product with you in a conceptual framework that ensures that this product makes sense in the minds of the people who will one day love it. And love you.