Great Marketing Is Not The Enemy of Great Product

IMG_3323In some circles, “marketing” is a four letter word.

For some, it’s as if marketing is the enemy of product, and they believe a great product will somehow find a way to sell itself. The implication is that marketing is needed only when the product isn’t good enough.If you need marketing, you’re doing something wrong.

While it’s true that good marketing won’t go far in helping a bad product, I think the product-marketing distinction disregards the value that can be created when the overlap between product and marketing is realized and exploited.

This false dichotomy happens for a few reasons.

First is that the term marketing is too broad to be instructive when working with early-stage companies. Discussing the constituent parts of the process is much more useful. Distribution strategy and user adoption, branding and naming, messaging and copywriting, pricing strategy—these are much more meaningful than “marketing” as a category.

In a similar vein, product is dangerously broad as well. As marketing has constituent parts, so does the concept of product. User stories, back- and front-end code, UI design and copy, transactional emails, the overall look and feel—these are all constituent parts of product.

In startups, as in most companies, there’s a portion of product and marketing activities that bridge the gap and live in both worlds.

Elements of marketing can augment elements of product, and vice versa.

Real value can be created in the cases where facets of marketing and elements of product overlap.

There are many examples of this overlap. Here are a few:

  • Copy in the UI: does it align with the voice and tone of the brand as established in the brand platform, on the marketing site, and on social accounts?
  • Transactional emails: are they sensitive to the realities of user behavior as seen within the app?
  • Overall aesthetic: is there design consistency between the personality and texture of your name, logo, marketing assets, and user interface?
  • Blog posts, white papers, case studies, and other marketing assets: do they reflect the attitudes and beliefs of users? do they account for data about usage and allow that data to influence the direction?

In a world where the earliest interactions between user and product occur within the context of an app store–first with app icon and name, then with screenshots–the separation between product and marketing is an increasingly false distinction.

Couple that with the necessity of building in effective viral hooks along with other growth hacking techniques, and it’s clear that the monolithic categories of product and marketing are rarely meaningful.

Thinking in separate product-marketing silos, then, e.g. “we need to start thinking about marketing now that the beta is live,” is harmful to the growth of your product.

So take time to dig a bit deeper past the abstraction of high-level categories. Proceed with caution when you hear someone waxing poetic on the notions of product or the dangers of marketing. And take advantage of the product-marketing overlap to strengthen your experience and further endear yourself to users.

Still need help? I’m offering free 30-minute Google Hangout office hour sessions to take questions about startup branding and messaging. No strings attached. Get in touch if that interests you.

Patrick Woods is a hybrid ad man/startup guy. As director of a>m ventures, he connects startups with awesome branding, PR, and marketing strategy.

*Nibletz is an a>m ventures portfolio company.

**This post first appeared on Medium.

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