Monday, November 21, 2011

When Innovative Isn’t Good

As more and more start-ups focus on advertising and marketing dollars as their tickets to profitability, it seems appropriate to provide some texture into how one goes about attracting and growing relationships with marketers.

The first thing that’s important to know is that a relatively small number of companies make up the “first wave” of sponsors for many of the web’s most promising ideas. The reality is that a relatively small number of marketers have both the “innovator” spirit AND the freedom to allocate significant resources to unproven platforms. For these visionaries, seeming “innovative” is a tremendous asset for a start-up anxious to partner with them.

For innovator marketers, the promise of great or at least buzz-worthy results is sufficient to garner a first investment. They hope to be early movers in transformative platforms that will have a profound effect on how people interact with each other and with brands.

The challenge is in what happens next. For a company to generate significant revenue from marketing programs, it needs to quickly move beyond an insular sort of innovativeness. This is because most marketers take a wait and see attitude toward new platforms and tools. They want to see both results and a sustained commitment to these offerings from the first movers.

In the crucial months after first advertiser commitments, it is critical that such companies achieve six things:

1.      Building of the rudiments of a service and support structure for marketers. In general bad service leads to bad sales
2.      A change in brand equity from “first” to “leading” – a shift that achieves a perception of size and importance
3.      Creation of business stories and case studies that provide the business results for marketers. People in the next “ring” of marketers want proof, not promises
4.      Vertical solutions – how the platform can fulfill needs in leading business sectors including CPG, Auto, Finance, Health, etc.
5.      Integration with leading reporting and analytics tools. While specialized reporting can be valuable, achieving scale generally requires that people be able to use tools they are already familiar with to analyze and optimize programs
6.      Proactive efforts to drive awareness through marketing trades and events

So many great ideas die on the vine because they fail to cross the marketing chasm. Perhaps even more critical than winning the first customer is laying the foundation for the next ten.

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