Global Themes

On Globalization & Venture Capital

“VCs Are Marketing Geniuses”

David Hornik wrote a great post on Marketing last week: “VCs Are Marketing Geniuses” (!)

Of course, they are not…but as Dave McClure says, “truly genius to write a blog post admitting you’re not a genius.”

I loved Lance Weatherby’s comment on the post: “Marketing is like sex. Everybody thinks they are good at it and wants to do it.” So true.

Here are some excerpts from David’s post:

“VCs like to think that they are marketing geniuses. We really do. We meddle more in the marketing of our portfolio companies than any other area. If you have a chance to sit in on a startup board meeting, you can see this in action. The CFO gives a finance update and a few cursory questions are asked. The VP of Engineering talks about development and board members sit around the table nodding appreciatively. Then the VP of Marketing gets up and suddenly everyone around the table has a point of view. Poor VPs of Marketing. Their role at board meetings is to be diplomats and pretend that we investors are marketing geniuses. Frankly, the reason investors have so many opinions about marketing is that we can fake it far more convincingly than in other areas of the operations — faking it when it comes to scalability issues, or which technical standard to endorse, or revenue recognition for term licenses, etc. is a lot harder. But show us a proposed product name, web page layout or advertising slogan and we are full of suggestions.

The best marketing often springs out of the characteristics of the product or service being promoted. In some instances, those viral characteristics have been designed into the product itself. For example, the viral nature of Evite or Tickle or LinkedIn were carefully calculated to maximize their infectiousness. Other times, however, a product or service becomes viral by virtue of how it is used or talked about. Such serendipitous marketing can take the form of really great word of mouth (the power of Walt Mossberg, Slashdot, Boing Boing, TechCrunch, Digg, Reddit). Or it may take the form of some unexpected use of a product or service that does a particularly good job of highlighting its usefulness (YouTube got great early exposure — and still does — as a result of the wildly viral content made available on the platform).

What has become clear to me over the years is that great marketing is not purely about science. It is not purely about art. It is not purely about intuition. It is a powerful combination of art, science and a little bit of luck (perhaps driven by intuition). I have incredible respect for marketers who can combine both disciplines with a little bit of intuition to deliver results. Despite my natural VC tendencies to meddle in marketing’s affairs, I will do my best to stay out of the way of the professional marketers. They are the geniuses, not I.”

Well said.

September 24th, 2006 Posted by | Miscellaneous, Venture Capital, What VCs really do | no comments

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