Raw startups, especially if the founders are technically inclined, have this notion they need to pay for expensive marketing. Probably this comes from them knowing nothing about marketing thus feeling personally insufficient in this area. Perhaps this makes them want to overcompensate.
Marketing for a raw startup is the equivalent of taking your money, leaving in in the street and letting strangers have a great day with it. Expensive marketing for a raw startup is not necessary—it is evil because it sucks time away from product and from core activities and it wastes money and time.
What is marketing? For the raw startup, it is finding exactly what your ideal customer looks like, finding out what messages motivate that prospect, and then finding where that ideal prospect hides. It is positioning right in their solution path.
Later in life, marketing will include branding, experience, trade shows, SWAG and other big company nonsense, but by then the founders should be cashed out. So let’s focus on what a raw startup needs.
100% of your “marketing” comes from your first customers telling you things you could never know by yourself. How did they first learn of your product? What was their experience when they used it? What did they like and not like? Where did they find the wow factors?
This is simple stuff but marketing for the raw startup needs to be simple—but simple is not necessarily easy. Even large, quite stupid and very expensive marketing departments today do not know this foundational information.
The goal of this inexpensive but quite informative marketing analysis is to find the next customer—then the next—then the next. Each customer should take you to the next both literally and figuratively.
Who is your best marketing resource? It is your ear and your eye. Do you personally (no Survey Monkey stuff here) interview everyone who touches your product—at least the first customers? Do you sit with your customers and ask them what they read, where they technically hang out, what tech events they frequent?
Do you then crystallize a couple of user stories, even if you have to put several together, into storyboards, so you can always explain your product in terms of how someone used it?
For the raw startup, this is all you need and more than this is wasted. Be aware, if you take in money, the VC investors will want to waste your equity (their money = your equity, think about it), on marketing and fancy web sites that nobody reads but their partners and your employees parents.
Wasting money is frittering away equity and any activities you undertake to do so are against your best interest.
Start with intelligent marketing, knowing who your early adopters are and how to find them. Then find them. Speak to them with story boards. And keep your equity.