Mission Critical: Why Startup Founders Must Understand Digital Marketing in 2021

You just started a company? Perfect – it’s time to go back to school. Here’s why: As a founder, you’re responsible for wearing many hats: communicating with customers, improving your products, hiring team members, building financial projections, and, of course, paying taxes. And while all of those aspects in the day-to-day life of a startup founder are indeed important, perhaps no responsibility is ultimately more important than being able to sell your products and services to your target market. One of three things happens to most startups, which can result in the ultimate demise of the company:

  1. The company builds a product or service without first validating the idea with the market – in other words, there is no product-market fit and no one wants to buy the product.
  2. The company builds after validating the idea, but the product or service is ultimately marketed towards the wrong target audience– there is no product-marketing fit.
  3. The company builds on a validated idea and targets the right audience but doesn’t send the right message to that audience– the brand positioning is wrong.

All of these pitfalls are painful. The good news is that they are also avoidable. And that, my friends, is why it’s important for startup founders to develop and maintain their understanding of marketing strategy and tactics.”

You don’t need to go get an MBA to strengthen your education in marketing. Dedicated marketing Resources like Savvyeur and any number of marketing-specific podcasts can provide you with the information you need. And regardless of whether you plan to handle your firm’s sales and marketing efforts yourself or outsource them to an employee or an agency, building your understanding of key marketing principles will give you the ability to do the following:

  1. Validate new products and services in the market by sourcing the right feedback from early users;
  2. Identify the right target audience which derives the most value from the solutions you provide; and,
  3. Craft the right message to help your target understand how exactly you solve their pain points and needs.

Fundamentally, you put yourself in a position to get your products and services in front of the right customers.

And if you still think all of that is just a summation of some nice buzzwords pulled from The Lean Startup and other books on entrepreneurship, then here are several additional reasons why it’s so important for every startup founder to build a strong foundation in marketing:


1. You must understand your target and how that customer interacts with specific tactics.

The ultimate goal of your marketing efforts is to inform, persuade, and guide a prospect in the course of his or her customer journey to ultimately result in a purchase. You can’t guide a prospect along the journey to become a customer if you don’t truly understand who that customer is at their core; what their needs are, what their motivations are, and even what keeps them up at night. For your marketing to be effective, you must utilize this thorough understanding of your target to craft a focused marketing strategy specifically designed for that customer. This strategy, in turn, dictates the specific tactics and platforms you use to connect with and appeal to your target customers. It also dictates how you communicate with, test, and source feedback from your prospects.

2. You can’t afford to waste time and resources.

Every startup founder is all too familiar with the fundamental idea from Economics 101 that resources are scarce. There are no unlimited budgets (unless you’re Uber). There are more than 7,000 digital marketing tools available in today’s marketplace and arguably an even greater number of ways to use them. This is incredibly overwhelming for most entrepreneurs, especially when they are first starting their entrepreneurial journey. The more you know, the more efficient you can be, and the less likely you are to get lost in the multitude of tools and tactics.

3. The market moves quickly; you can be left behind and lose your brand’s credibility in the process.

People want to buy from companies they trust. When you’re a startup, you don’t yet have brand credibility, so you need to establish an initial foundation of trust by marketing yourself in an authentic way. And you need to do so relatively quickly. Experimentation is great (and necessary), but simply piecing together marketing tactics without a coherent strategy behind them can result in a brand image that feels patched together and inconsistent rather than clear and effective. This inconsistency hurts your company’s momentum and leaves prospects feeling confused about how you can truly meet their needs. By strengthening your understanding of key marketing principles, you can execute a focused strategy and cohesive set of tactics that allow you to paint a complete and credible story for your brand.

As a founder, your job is to put your company in the best possible position to succeed. Take the time to invest in ongoing marketing education. Your customers, investors, and employees will thank you for it!

john hayes

John Hayes is the Founder of MarketTrust and a Partner at MarketLeaf Solutions.  He is passionate about taking the complexity and confusion out of marketing for founders. He would love to hear your questions.