Connect – Part 7 – What the !@#$ Does Marketing Do?

One of the inspirations for this series was the Connectors post by Fred Wilson. He often provides “What does a VC Do?” posts and I find that “Product Marketing” is very similar, but not exactly the same. One of the differences is that there is a point where I want to my guys to “Stop talking to the finance guys ❗ (like Fred 🙂 )”

In my mentoring chats a frequent rant that the mentee has to endure goes like this. 👿 “Stop talking to the executive! … they are not the customer … get the hell out of the building … start working on getting the rest of the company on-side … the executive tax (reports/.ppts) must be paid, but that work is not going make you successful … its just a scorecard … get on with your tasks ❗ “

What sets off this rant? – It has been my experience that successful products/projects exhibit “communication & connectivity” far beyond the control of any individual, or team. The Market/Customers link with ones company in a huge number of ways. I’ve attempted 💡 to illustrate this in the “The End Game” below. The point is that the greatest volume of “communication/connectivity” is between the Market/Customer and the departments that deliver the product ( ie “Rest of the Company”. ) The whole thing takes on “a life of its own”. The Customers, Market and the Rest-of-the-Company interact whenever they need to, and the “product sells itself”.


Now focus on the “Start of a project” to see where the greatest volume of “communication/connectivity” is. Surprised? I’m not. At the start of a project the majority of the communication & connectivity is in “getting the product/project financed”. There is limited market interaction ( the level depends on whether you’re an incumbent, start-up, diversification, etc), and the rest-of-the-company is delivering on current products.


This difference in connectivity at the end of a project and the beginning of a project is the basis for my rant. The bottom-line is this: The finance guys know the most about your project & they are on-side … they invested in it. The product team needs to move on to the next phase of the project. They need to focus on the rest of the food-chain.

Movin’ On — A little wrist slapping for both sides 😉 The product team has to understand that once a product/project is financed, the Financial Investor group will change its focus to managing its investment (ie keeping score ). They are looking to you to create all those connections, and they will keep score. They’re not out to hurt you, they are still going to do everything in their power to help you. But they’ve made their investment and need to make sure that they can sleep at night. Which means that they’re gonna keep talking to you until you say, “no, I’m busy, and we have scheduled meetings already on these topics”.

Both sides have to understand that the best way to help the product team be successful is to ensure that it spends ~ 80% of its time on the project. The “finance guys” need limit their “scorekeeping” & “tax” requirements ( like 1-on-1 “I need to understand this” meetings, more detailed forecasts, please talk to this expert, pls do this it will only take a minute, etc ) ’cause they add up fast. Both sides need to let go and move to the next phase.

What’s Next? — The product team has 2 investor groups to get on-side. That is the “Rest of the Company” and “The Market”. Both of these groups are tough. Usually, the “Rest of the Company” takes longer to get on-side. Often, they will not get “on the band wagon” until there is at least one “customer success” story in hand. The more customer momentum, the more internal success you will have.

Thats enough for now. Have fun. The Product Team’s success is dependent on getting those two groups to interact so well, that you can let go, and let the product take on “a life of its own.” Your goal is to do such a great job at connecting such that you need to do “Nothing (but the corporate tax)”. Seem impossible ? … it isn’t … every successful project is like this 😉 It’s what makes marketing 😎

Aside — yes I do get a kick out of Indexed

I’m still not sure that this is very clear. But I’m putting it on-line now. It’s in Beta 🙂