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Why every startup founder should learn marketing

Remember Steve Jobs?

He built a few businesses you might know. For example, a computer company called Apple, Inc. and Pixar animation studio. He also was the one who started microcomputer revolution – together with his tech co-founder, Steve Wozniak.

Even though he was fascinated by technology,  Jobs has very little knowledge or experience in engineering or design. In fact, as an employee of Atari in the 1970s, Jobs was asked to design a circuit board for an arcade game that eliminated the maximum possible number of chips. Lacking the technical skills to do it, he went to his friend Steve Wozniak for help, offering in return  a 50% share of the bonus money Atari was giving for a successful design.

Later, the synergy of Jobs and Wozniak created the very first personal computer and many other devices we now use every day.

Why was  Apple so successful? By any means, Jobs was a genius in marketing – he could feel a market trend, come up with an innovative product and present it in a way no one could resist. He also has a great team of people following his idea, designing the product and developing technology to support it. But, could Wozniak and his tech team build what Apple is without Jobs? That’s highly questionable.

Why every startup founder should learn marketing

This is how you build a well-known brand and grow your startup:

Learn  who your customers are and what they  want ->

Create a great product ->

Design and distribute  a message that drives attention to your product ->

Generate leads ->

Close deals ->

Get feedback and improve your product

Of course, you can’t do all that by yourself – you’ll have to hire (and fire) people.

For a startup non-marketing founder, there is no need to learn how Facebook carousel ads work or what is the optimal tweet picture size.  But, understanding segmentation and targeting, marketing personas, positioning, and messaging are the must have for any tech or non-tech startup founder.

Why so? Well, assume, you already know what product you should build. Even before you start doing it, it is a good idea to answer a few questions:

1. How do you know this is what your customers want?

Tech people are tend to expect same certainty from the customer facing world that they have in the engineering world. Well, things very rarely go that way. To learn what your customers want, you need to go and talk to them. This is called ‘market research’ – the very first step for marketing a product.

2. How will your customers  become aware of your product?

This is my favorite one. Do you know how many companies have a great product nobody buys? It is sad to see how they struggle.

To build a successful product, you not only need to hit a  ‘product – market’ fit, but also ‘customer – message’ fit. This means you need to put your product in front of your customer by developing your brand positioning and designing a relevant message to catch your customer’s attention.  

3. How do you know if they like  it at all?

Finally, customers feedback. The goal is not only to sell a product to your customer, but also to impress him so much he will be sending you referrals. Talking to your customers (especially to those who decide not to buy it or didn’t like the product) is a must have – this is how you learn and improve.


Why do you need to learn this instead of hiring someone? Don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting you to roll your sleeves up and become marketing ninja. I suggest you to take some time to understand HOW it works, before you delegate it to someone else.

If you are a startup founder, you are the main point of contact for all areas of your business. You know what you do, how you do it, and for whom. You don’t have to develop your marketing personas, messaging and positioning yourself, but you definitely need to understand how it can be done to ensure the process quality.

On a good note, it is not really that hard, especially comparing to Python or machine learning algorithms. Trust me, I’ve done both.

by Julia Sokolova

April 17, 2019

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