Building your startup with marketing in mind — from day one.

Most startups build a product first. They focus on a development or product team to create something great, and then hire sales people to get that thing into the hands of customers.

With a little luck, this kind of startup can grow.

When external circumstances are perfect and the timing is just right, this kind of startups will find customers, build partnerships, and start moving the revenue needle.

But, this approach will only get our lucky startup so far.

Via AdobeStock

At some point, they realize that they never nailed their branding. The language they use to describe who they are and what they do is confusing, and the storytelling built around the product is too hard for customers connect with. This small startup team will look around and realize there’s no clear path to generate more leads or draw in more customers, and that they don’t know how to expand as fast as they’d like to. Growth starts to decline.

When growth declines, the founders of this startup go out to find marketing help to bridge that gap. Since revenue stalled out early on and the coffers are low, they prioritize budget over quality and expertise. They put warm bodies in the seats that cost little and deliver less, and watch ideas bounce off the office walls about social media and target markets. The limitations of this quick fix are revealed when the founders realize that junior marketers don’t have the chops or the experience to drive numbers and secure results. Founders and C-level managers find that they don’t have the time or resources required to mentor a junior team into a developed, effective marketing department.

Growth is going nowhere. Revenue is negligible or nil. This startup is running out of luck, out of hope, and out of time.

The reason most startup teams don’t bring on founding CMOs from day one has to do with cost and resource commitments. Long-term, full-time CMOs are expensive to find and difficult to retain. Traditional marketing agencies and consultancies are set in their ways, slow to produce, and often miss the mark. While these concerns are legitimate, they still do not justify the kind of quick fix, band-aid approach to marketing we just described. Neglecting expert-level marketing for the sake of savings is a death sentence on your startup.

But, there is another way.

In the balance between the gig economy’s focus on low-cost work and startups’ desperate desire for immediate exponential growth has left a huge gap in the marketing department. Wisely, more and more startups are realizing that there is indeed a middle ground. Working with an interim CMO is a temporary engagement in that the timeline is built based around your startup’s specific needs — branding or re-branding, content marketing and audience building, sales and revenue goals, or even fundraising and acquisitions.

An interim CMO collaborates within your startup’s existing structure, no matter how far along you find yourself in your business journey. We work fast, and iterate with your existing team along the way to cut out costly mistakes and unreasonably long delivery periods. Bringing on an interim CMO to tackle your specific business challenges means packing your team with temporary (read: low-commitment), top-quality talent, backed by a proven track record of success using marketing to help startups grow.

Your product team may be your priority, but working with an interim CMO is actually a powerful way to strengthen that focus on product and the overall company offering. Don’t splinter attention at the top by tasking C-level executives and managers with marketing projects that aren’t in their wheelhouse. An interim CMO swoops in to help your startup kick off with an eye on marketing from day one, or from the start of any critical growth phase.

The results of this suggested approach are clear and holistic. Ignoring marketing while the rest of your business patches together makeshift solutions to branding, sales, and overall growth does not work. An interim CMO draws together every element of your startup, unifying the efforts of otherwise independent departments and presenting a cohesive company to your soon-to-be-adoring public.

It’s in the nature of a startup founder to be proud of your product. But, that commitment does not have to come at the expense of your startup’s long-term success. If you want to have it all, work with an interim CMO.