Marketing · Startups

Small company with no CMO, how to market the product?

Sudhakar Atmakuru CTO, Director (Business & Marketing) at JT TechnoSoft

April 22nd, 2016

Hello there,

 Ours is a small startup with mostly bootstrapped funding, but no revenue yet.  We recently launched a subscription based product promotion platform, a B2C promotion channel.

With no CMO in the team, it is turning out to be difficult to approach big companies asking them to give it a try on the promotion platform for their brand/product promotions.

Would it better hire a CMO?  Since it is a small company with no revenue, hire a CMO for sweat money/equity (as we currently are not in a position to hire a CMO on salary though)?

Otherwise, without a CMO, but as a small corp, how would you approach a big corp to give it a try on the infancy platform (as their marketing teams target bigger audience on wider platforms with their bigger marketing plans/budgets) ?

What else could be done for a small corp to market the website or build a B2B customer base  (we dont have big marketing budgets though) ?

Could you please share your experience and advise.

Thanks a lot.

Ema Chuku Product Developer. Founder.

April 22nd, 2016

Are you confusing a "title" with "creativity"? If the companies are not responding, I doubt a CMO is the root cause.. While it pays to have an experienced marketing personnel, there's a lot of startups that explore creativity in getting it done. If you are lucky to acquire a CMO on equity basis, then great, otherwise I will recommend keep tweaking your marketing approach until you hit the right note. It's never guaranteed you will get it right the first time. Blaming it on not having a CMO is probably the wrong mindset.

Neil HereWeAre Want To find-close Business Online without competition Before They Google Search? We solve this problem 1(508)-481-8567

April 22nd, 2016

Small company with no CMO, having difficulty getting customers, asking how to market the product?

I'm going to caution you a bit re jumping in and trying to go full speed ahead and try to add a marketing type into your company.

Please honestly ask and answer theses questions before going further:

  • since you dont have marketing folks, how did you research your market and validate it as something folks would buy? You and friends thinking its a good idea is not a validation of it as a marketable and desired product/solution so be careful if thats why you jumped in with this product idea
  • You really need to know all of that upfront before you add any expense or try to go and hire marketing/sales folks.
  • It may not really be the hot product that "everyone needs" that you think it is so backup a bit and validate the idea, the target audience, who they are, why they would want what you sell and where/how do you reach them.
  • Be brutally honest as you take that closer look re the viability of your product and its saleability and how much of it can be sold.
  • You also need to be sure that your product is something folks and enough of them will spend money for your product v what they spend money on now or v competition
  • Knowing that, you can see for sure if its a great product in the minds of your ideal target audiences and something enough of it will spend money on to buy and use.

Please enlighten us a bit so we can offer some concrete suggestions re marketing/sales/positioning/ideal target audiences. Armed with that, we can help you with focused advice on what to do
  • What are the supposed benefits of what you offer v competition that makes your product desirable and saleable-elaborate on that please.
  • We cant help you with a marketing approach until we know that.
With your new product,  instead of targeting big companies because you think they are thticket to the big bucks, target smaller companies
  • Like you, Smaller companies dont often have in house staff to market so they always look for a method or partner who can help them do that and acquire lots of customers and or be a lot better/profitable in key operating areas
  • Smaller companies make faster decisions
  • You can get directly to the real decision maker which is not so easy in the big companies

Suggested Next step re the marketing/sales side that you seem to want at this point:
  • You can use outside marketing consultants/sales folks but the deal must be profitable for them. Its not sweat equity, its actual cash that can be earned via sales and or market development and you pay them as they succeed. Manufacturer's reps fit that model quite well. Maybe its a compeitive edge for them as part of a line they offer. THey also already have the ear of prospects, are well known and respecte amongst your target audiences and they can bring their established "go to" reputation to open lots of doors for real sales fairly quickly.
  • You can with the right person sweeten the deal with equity offerings but remember, you cant spend or cash equity until the company is sold or goes public so sweat equity is not really a motivator on its own
Get help form a good marketing/sales consultant and then you can use what they taught you to do markting-sales on your own
  • Buy 2 hours of time from a good marketing consultant who can in that 2 hours 
    • show you how to understand your market, what they care about, how to tie what you offer to what they care about so the sales approach actually works and gets business
    • uncover, find, reach and close hot ideal "I need what you have now" prospects online before they google search
    • concurrently create a go to guru status for you amongst that ideal target audiences so they now know you, respect you and will actually call you  or take your calls.
  • The 2 hour consultant cost is more than coverd when you get your 1st sale usoing what they taught you.
  • It can empower you to actually do your own marketing/sales without having to hire anyone nor spend a ton of time and do it with results but not a ton of time consumed.
  • You dont have to be a marketing type to do this if your consultant can give you the right roadmap and path for doing this yourself.
  • What they show you, if done right as a consulting contract for 2 hours, can give you a path to market, direct you to be in front of a lot of hot "i need your product" now people and you then can get lots of sales.
  • Best yet, you dont need to spend money doing marketing and sales, just your time and you will able to acquire these folks as paying customers without facing competition.
I hope these suggestions helps you understand what to do next to go and get customers and perhaps some good ways to do so without breaking the bank.

Its OK to reach out to me and talk a bit about how to do this. Neil Licht, [removed to protect privacy], USA, East Coast time. [removed to protect privacy]

Liz Philips Tech Marketing ♦ Strategy ♦ Product Marketing ♦ Social Media ♦ Connecting

April 22nd, 2016

I agree with Ema, too. No need to rush to hire a CMO; in fact, it would be interesting to know if you have a strong business development/sales team in place - closing business will ensure there is a "there" there (i.e. good product) that is worth more of an marketing effort to get more business.

As an interim step, hire some freelancers to put some fundamental marketing pillars in place aimed at aiding the sales process (i.e. white papers, case studies, testimonials) and worry about hiring the marketing lead when you have a clear indication there is a market there. Good luck!

Rob G

April 27th, 2016

Sudhakar,  this is likely not what you want to hear, but i think you need to back up here and approach this as if you are starting from scratch.  I am a bit confused, and your prospects may be too, in that your title includes "Director (Business and Marketing Strategy") and what you have apparently built is a marketing platform - "product promotion platform, a B2C promotion channel",  yet you apparently did no product/market fit work prior to building your product and you have no marketing expertise on your team.   That's a heavy lift.  I would suggest that rather than continue trying to sell/market what you have already built, i would approach this as though you have built nothing. Identify your ideal prospects and go talk to them and learn in detail what their needs are - what pains they feel.  Then either modify what you have already built or scrap it and start over and build a product that is responsive to the genuine needs of your prospects.   

David Albert Founder & Principal at GreyGoo

April 22nd, 2016

I agree with Neil and Shams. It's all about product validation and inertia in the early going. Get user feedback and make sure the product is valid. Offer to do pilot programs with brands for free--that's how you approach them--you don't need a CMO for that. Show them a compelling value proposition with very low risk. If they have a positive outcome/experience, leverage that into testimonials and case studies you can share with other brands. If you have a good product and early adoption, your growth can be exponential. Consider a CMO after you have momentum and some clients.

Shams Juma

April 22nd, 2016

Hello Sudhakar,

Based on what you described, I don't think you need a CMO. And even if you did, I don't think building a channel partnership would be an appropriate use of a CMO's skillsets. Instead, ask yourself, why should a bigger firm accept you as a channel partner? What value can you provide to them? If you can't land the whale, can you land a shark? Smaller firms may be give a ways into make the partnership initially, until you have enough inertia to approach the bigger companies.


April 22nd, 2016

I agree with Shams. Unless you are shooting for an (acquisition strategy) I'd stay away from the "Big Whales" at this juncture. You are not going to have the necessary financials they will require for them to do business with you. The only way you come out on top is a take-over. Your platform had better be disruptive in some way. All it will take from there is a powerful sales strategy to get you past the gatekeeper(s). It won't take a CMO to pull that off, just one really good and tenacious sales person. Your financials are critical. Get some solid backing and a bit more success before you go harpooning for whales.

Sudhakar Atmakuru CTO, Director (Business & Marketing) at JT TechnoSoft

April 23rd, 2016

Hi Neil,

Thank you Sir. I really appreciate your time and detailed advice.
It is really insightful and a great guideline with what and how to do next. Yes, I agree that I dont need to be a marketing guy, given a clear roadmap and strategy I could hit the marketing road and meet the target audience.

Coming to validity of the product, it is actually built based on what we see in a customer perspective and expect from brand companies from their products and product promotions. It is just like Apple's 'Think different' concept. It does not need to be same as an existing one or something is already known to the audience. For instance, there is no promotion channel that connects with consumers what actually expecting, why (or why not) they love a product, what factors drive they purchase decisions, etc consumer-centric opinion tracking. Rather we see many brands going after reading social media posts (intrusive or privacy-invasive manners) or other data analytics without users knowledge. With the same thought and consumer perspective, the interactive promotion channel is built to connect with consumers asking their consumer-centric opinion on a product why they love or not a product being marketed, what features the product is more loved or hated, what else could influence better to win consumer heart, what factors really driving their purchase decision, etc. in an interactive image oriented fashion. It opens a communication channel with consumers helping brands for their product promotions, trials, samples, home tests, etc.
While no marketing study is done for building this kind of marketing/promotion channel, it is built totally based on what believed consumers and brands are expecting one from another. It is a great product, but, I agree with you, until the core idea is sold and proven it is really useful for what it is built for, it can not be sold as a business. That is the reason, the website is built as a viable product to show how and what it is for as a first-phase product.

Another point you raised, why target the bigger whale first itself. You are right, and I agree. While I am targeting smaller sharks where they dont have bigger marketing teams/budgets and decisions are faster, bigger brands appearance on the site would attract more web traffic thus the channel to grow faster. So, the bigger brands are not pushed to back-burner either. As you said, sounds better to target the smaller ones first and work with them in a collaborate manner (by offering free or trial subscriptions) to increase the footfall or traffic on the web.

Sounds right that I better need a consultant rather than a CMO or marketing personal.

May be I could share with you more details for an expert advice.

Will be in touch with you soon.

Thanks a lot,

Fo'ad Shams Founder and Co Founder of DealzPk, Adventuravel, The Kreative Desk Consulting

April 23rd, 2016

You have:
Product: B2C Promotion platform.
Target Audience: Local/International - Categories?
Total footfall on your platform: ??

You Dont have:
Businesses: B2B interlinkages to put their product on your platform.
Personnel: Business Development Execs
Strategy: Marketing and Sales strategy.

So, there is a basic question. Would you put your product on a seemingly "non existent", "unknown", "unsubscribed" portal?
Some would. Just for fun.
But those biggies you are talking about. Unfortunately, they would rather involve their digital agencies to decide the Impact and ROI for each such placement.
Just remember one thing.... Footfall!.
You can be a super unique idea in the market. But I wouldnt place my product with you on payment basis. Maybe for free, just for fun.

If you need any advice on marketing strategy and how to go about your product. drop me a line. Lets see what can be done.

Manoj Thakur MD at O Digital Marketing

April 23rd, 2016

Hey Sudhakar :

After a quick look at your website, it looks like you have a product too many for a bootstrapped startup. First suggestion is to aggressively push the easiest one.

Unless you already have research and list out the top pains of your target group (which is likely B2C CMOs & marketing teams). Please focus on their top pains at this time even if your product is not fulfilling them.

That should be your opening pitch. Next is of course how your product relieves those top pains. I assume you're through with your digital strategy & plan. If not please do it rightaway. And you don't need a CMO to do that. So many digital agencies can be engaged on a need basis.

First do your keywords; finalize your easiest to rank keywords.

Then work up your content, your pitch. Spend some time at LinkedIn and you'll soon have hundreds & maybe thousands of leads. Have it done by an agency if it takes you too much time.

Reach out to them. If your product holds value to your target group you will have conversions soon.

You could also boost your posts on LinkedIn, do ads (through Google may work cheaper for you). If you haven't already get all your employees on LinkedIn and your company page in good shape. Get into all relevant groups, post, comment in a way that doesn't appear as outright selling.

Next get your SEO in place; that is the only thing that will always help your product; you need that even to get good ad quality scores on Adwords & BingAds (Bing will give you better ROI if you're bootstrapped). Don't spend on FB & Twitter in the beginning.

Considering content is the main thing you'll need to keep creating engaging content around how your product is a must buy.

And you should be set. That is if your product generates value for your targeted customers.

If all of the above makes you call a CMO or a marketing guy, consider a performance based full service digital marketing agency; and go with them. All my best wishes to you!