Start-Up Marketing (Guest Post – Five in a Series)


My good friend Jeff Berman has agreed to contribute a series on marketing for startups to the Scratchpaper community. This is the fifth in the series (table of contents here). Stay tuned for more.

How to Botch Marketing #4: 

Start By Telling People How It Works

The whole point of marketing is to get your prospects to pay attention to your message, to sit up in their chairs and turn on the front part of their brains and take in what you have to say. You need to constantly remind yourself that most people are actively trying to tune you out.

Marketing is getting people pay attention to you when they would rather not.

The Problem With How-It-Works Messages

In the beginning of this series, we talked about Early Adopters. These are the ones who understand their problem, can imagine a solution, and so may be receptive to your How It Works message. The issue is that these people make up just a small fraction of your audience.

Your Early Adopters are the audience equivalent of the Free Trial, or the drug dealers’ come-on: The first hit is free. Early Adopters allow you to sell your thing with not much effort, and fool many entrepreneurs into thinking that marketing is easy. But it’s a short-term high. Early Adopters are few in number, typically buy in small quantities, and so can’t sustain your business.

Where Market Success Comes From

To make your thing successful, you have to attract people from the Early Majority, and they are an entirely different set, with entirely different needs. They understand their problem but don’t have the imagination or desire to picture a solution.

Because they don’t know what a solution would look like, your How-It-Works message is invisible to them. They simply don’t make the connection between how your thing works and what their problem is.

Positioning Your Thing as the Solution

To get your thing moving among the majority of your market, you have to frame it as the solution to their problem. That’s how to get them to pay attention to you. And that’s hard work, beginning with understanding how the problem looks to them.

This is what good marketing does. There is discipline and expertise involved, which is why people pay money to do it well.

Jeff Berman is the founder and principal of Berman Creative, a creative agency focusing on brand strategy and marketing solutions for early-stage and redirected companies. You can reach Jeff at We’re grateful for his contribution. 

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