Last week I participated in the Tel-Aviv-Yafo Entrepreneurs Meetup I organized. The meeting presented a panel of three, Danny Arazi, Ouriel Ohayon, Yaniv Golan and was moderated by Avichai Levy (about the participants). The debate was around the question “How early should a company begin to establish its brand and marketing strategy?”
It’s an interesting question and rather an emotional one. It is always emotional when you get to marketing. Being a marketing person myself I am lacking some objectivity. However the panel presented people like Ouriel Ohayon – a VC and tech oriented man and Yaniv Golan – CTO of Yedda, alongside the multifaceted Danny Arazi, and the more marketing oriented Avichai Levy, so it was a good opportunity to get a more comprehensive impression of the situation.
There were three of us when we prepared for the panel. Esther Loewy and Avichai Levy joined me. Esther is a Kellogg-Recanati graduate and a marketing communications consultant. We started with the gut feeling that the main problem the Israeli market is facing is either total disregard for marketing, or the opposite, “know-it-all” approach.
We felt encouraged by the discussion developed with the entrepreneurs from the audience, because it became clear there is a growing awareness of the importance of proper marketing strategic planning. However, the “know-it-all” approach seems to be leading the way even to this blessed result. VCs and angel investors are examining the marketing strategy of startup companies. It is rare that a startup will raise funds without any marketing planning.
However, some expressed their opinion that being marketing-aware is a needed requirement from anyone who wishes to establish a startup. Since at the beginning entrepreneurs are lacking the funds to hire a marketing function, they are required to work out their marketing strategy by themselves. And the general belief is – that if you can’t do it, than you can’t build your startup company. The result is – that more computer engineers or electronics engineers are doing marketing. It is not their specialty, nor their forte. But it is a necessity, driven by the market.
Quoting one of the panelists, Ouriel Ohayon: “But if your service is all about seducing, attracting and understanding the user, the marketing is a key competence of the company. Even more: the whole DNA of the company should be imprinted with marketing. From the CEO to the product team. Marketing is not a function or a title: it is the company. Marketing is about having a great product, a great user experience, a good logo and brand identity, a good customer service, a good distribution road map, a good customer acquisition program and even more important a good customer retention program.”
It is encouraging to think that investors hold marketing so highly. Repeating the DNA phrasing, Ouriel has rejected the idea of outsourcing or consulting. This has to be an internal value, he believes, outsourcing can come later.
But do all entrepreneurs have the marketing knowledge and qualities? People may be brilliant developers, but when it comes to marketing, a whole new set of tools, knowledge and …. well, eyes is required.
I think the solution might lie with cooperations and partnerships. And if you don’t want “to marry” a partner, there are ways to outsource tasks or get specific help or guidance from marketing professionals in many models: deferred payment or payment with equity, or an hourly based payment, which isn’t the same as a salary for a full time hi-level marketing professional. Using an outer source doesn’t diminish or belittle the entrepreneur’s initiative. If anything, it is a growing experience. The entrepreneur gets to learn of marketing and practice marketing thinking, since he must take and active part of any marketing strategy creating process. In other words, if you weren’t born with this DNA, why not use the available tools to acquire it?