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How to determine your startup's marketing needs from a bowl of ice cream

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

startup marketing

Startup founders, picture this scenario. You and your team are happily developing your business. You have some loyal customers and are feeling good about your product market fit. You know you need to spend more time focusing on business growth, so you sit down with your leadership team and ask the question, “Who do we hire for marketing?” One person suggests you bring on a VP. Someone else suggests hiring an entry level marketing assistant. Then outsourcing gets tossed around and now you’re no closer to making a decision than you were before the meeting. Sound familiar?

I will help you solve this dilemma by explaining how a bowl of ice cream can help you determine the marketing needs of your startup.

Marketing and Ice Cream

Ice cream is amazing. Quite possibly the perfect dessert. I prefer my ice cream in a bowl, but a cone would work just fine for this analogy (you could even get crazy and eat out of the carton). The point is your ice cream needs to be contained in order to eat it without making a mess. The container has its role, and so does the ice cream. The same is true in marketing. In its simplest form, marketing is comprised of two roles: strategy and tactics. The bowl and ice cream.

Investigating your options – The Bowl

A Head of Marketing or VP typically brings with them years of experience, poise, and the expectation of a large salary and benefits package. They will also be expecting to focus on strategy, growth, and business development. You should be prepared for the fact that they will want to hire a team to handle the day-to-day tactical work that needs to done because they are your bowl. It is their job to be the container and come up with the strategies that will drive growth for your startup.

But, on their own, they are the bowl without the ice cream- no fun!

Investigating your options – The Ice Cream

An entry level or less experienced marketer will likely be more tactical in their thinking and should be implementing your strategy through necessary tasks and tactics. They are your ice cream. They fill your bowl (and hopefully your pipeline) by bringing your strategy to life. If they have no one to create a strategy, they will make a mess, performing tactics with no plan, direction, or goal. This will not get your company where it needs to be or wants to go.

Ice cream with no bowl- an avoidable mess!

The Solution

By now you should understand that your startup needs both marketing strategy (cone/bowl) and tactics (ice cream) to create growth. But this does not mean you must hire a large marketing team (right away) to achieve success. Early-stage startups should be protective of their capital and a large marketing team can blow through the funding you fought so hard to earn.

Which is why outsourcing your marketing initially could be the best solution. A fractional CMO or experienced consultant who understands the unique challenges startups face can provide the strategic guidance you need to lay the groundwork for marketing success. Hiring too experienced too early might break the bank and the exec won’t have enough of the right work to keep them happy. Founders, you’re now at risk of investing too much too soon and losing a resource. Alternatively hiring a junior person to figure it out is often more expensive and time consuming than expected and sometimes (like ice cream) they just make a mess. Outsourcing allows you to scale up and down resources you need at the right price point for your business without the risk or commitment; flexibility is essential. Plus outsourcing provides easy access to your bowl/ice cream scenario which means business growth, happy board members, and hopefully happy customers and employees.

Anne Laffin is the founder of Fin Marketing Management. She created this consultancy out of her experience watching startups try to navigate marketing during their foundational years. She has been the bowl and the ice cream many times and created a solution that gets you where you need to go without the mess (and the cold headache).

Want to learn more about how Fin can help with your startup marketing needs? Schedule a free consultation today.


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