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Hey Startups, Stop Putting Rookies In The Driver’s Seat!

02 Mar 2017 | 2 MIN READ

You’ve invested millions in building the car, you’re not going to let a bunch of inexperienced people have at it. Well, that’s exactly what startups are doing. They are putting rookies behind the wheel of their multimillion dollar race car (aka product). Then they wonder why they crash.

I have the pleasure of working with a lot of early to late stage startups across a variety of sectors. Everything from Networking and Artificial Intelligence (AI), to the Internet of Things (IoT), Cloud Storage and more.

In most cases the company has done a great job building and validating their product, and market fit. Significant portions of their funding have been spent on those endeavors, as they should. Because without it, they aren’t getting very far.

Now they transition to sales, marketing and revenue. In most cases they have underspent in terms of talent and systems. They are in no way prepared to generate, capture and close qualified demand. In other words, they aren’t race ready.

Much of the early sales are the result of the Board, conferences, and spamming target accounts via LinkedIN, Twitter, Facebook, Community Forums, etc. Their websites typically look like single page brochures, and to make matters worse, they look similar or identical to their competition in terms of font treatment, color, copy and layout.

The experience gap between senior management, and revenue generating headcount can be significant. Frequently, it’s their first, maybe second sales or marketing job…..ever.

This puts the company in a precarious position. Spamming can only get them so far, and growth begins to flatline. The other side of the coin is the company is growing revenue but not at the planned or market rate.

If the company has maintained good cash flow, and with the right guidance, they will work their way through this. If they have to raise capital in this environment, it’s going to be painful.

Not investing adequate resources in sales and marketing is costing these startups millions in revenue and valuation. They end up spending an inordinate amount of time and resources playing catch up.

My advice is to hire the single best sales and marketing leaders you can find. In fact, I would tell you to overspend, and overspend early.

You are paying for experience. Someone that has been where you want to go. Someone that has won a race or two.

Top 10 Attributes of Your First Marketing Leader

  1. Great addition to the culture.
  2. A deep and well rounded understanding for the importance of content.
  3. Can work cross functionally, across a diverse skill set.
  4. Has lead a small team, has experience supplementing a team with third party contractors and agencies.
  5. Can show examples of successful execution.
  6. Heavy focus on outcomes as opposed to tactics.
  7. A passion for the customer and the customer journey.
  8. An excellent communicator, both written and verbal.
  9. An appreciation for design beyond just a pretty wrapper for content and campaigns.
  10. Storyteller.