Note to (VoIP) Innovators: Market Thyself

Over the past eleven years I have been providing consulting services to startups related to business plans and business development activities. If there is one major sin of innovative startups, and roadblock to their success, it is their refusal to accept the need to involve experienced assistance with the development and growth of their markets, especially in the consumer space. Amongst the excuses:

  • I don’t want to give up control; [insert an statement about vulture capitalists here]
  • My product/service should be obvious; why doesn’t everybody just “get it”?
  • My revenues don’t allow me to spend on marketing.
  • Research? I know what my customer needs!
  • I just need a few more months and this thing is going to be a blockbuster!

Rick Segal can do this type of summary much more effectively than I; he sees many “innovative” ideas every day. “Today I had 9 no harm/no foul meetings, …” But you get the point — technology without appropriate marketing does not a successful business make. I personally got to a point where I would not consider a client if they did not want to include marketing in their plans and budget for marketing appropriately — gets the freebie seekers off your back in a hurry.. And certainly I have never heard of any of these ventures becoming successful.

Andy at VoIP Watch attended DEMO 07 last week in Palm Springs; he obviously found frustration at the lack of consideration of the role of marketing amongst several of the presenters.

…. let’s start with where the problems actually lays. A fundamental lack of knowing how to market to consumers that exists in so many companies that are trying to bring consumer products and services to market today.

He goes on to provide one of those rare reference posts listing nine key discussion points that are overlooked by innovative entrepreneurs when it comes to marketing considerations. Amongst the lines I like:

  • …. And marketing requires real dollars. Demand either exists and that need can be satisfied, or demand has to be created.
  • …. It’s not about selling in. It’s about selling through, ,,,,
  • …. to sell through means you need to know thy customer. To know thy customer means to conduct two types of research.
  • [About the lack of consumer centricity] .. It’s not that consumers wouldn’t want to buy and use them, it’s just that they have too many challenges learning how and just give up.
  • Distribution—the web is a lousy distribution outlet. I repeat. The web is a lousy distribution outlet.
  • Retail is still important.

While at CES last month, I heard more than one vendor of Skype hardware express their frustration at the effort required to market their product into the North American retail channels. I think Andy’s post is required reading for anyone who wants to be a significant player in the North American market. He makes some excellent points. Read it; then read it again! Good reading for Skype’s internal marketing team also; more in a subsequent post.

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About Jim Courtney

Bringing over thirty years' experience in the sales, marketing and management of cutting edge technology businesses.


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