Marketing Without An Edge—Disaster for the Raw Startup

Lock Horns – Confrontational Marketing

A raw startup has a very different goal than a mature or semi-mature tech company. The raw startup must find that early adopter/innovator who can launch it as both a customer and non-equity funding source.

Often, the raw startup gets hooked up with the brain-dead marketing types who try to help it “establish a brand” or go to market with some other marketing message where the homogenous, feel good, marketing message is of zero value. One can universally identify if that messaging is in place if the press releases (who nobody reads but the author and his or her parents) starts with “…..we are the leading, global technology for……”

Edgeless (marketing that has no edge to it) marketing is a financial disaster for the raw startup. First, it is expensive because those people think they are worth a lot of dough. But more importantly, all the dollars spent have zero value add in finding the early adopter or innovator.

There is a much better way and it requires getting away from edgeless marketing (marketing messaging that has no edge so as to appeal to almost everyone).

The raw startup needs to craft a marketing message that has not only an edge, it is best if it actually compares and contrasts with all known terrain. A great example is to come out with a product that obsoletes an entire family of market-dominant products.

Now the marketing types, who are always keeping a keen eye to their next gig, will tell you never piss off the market. Never attack anyone. Never say mean things.

Well, really?

Fast contrast is what marketing is all about. And contrast is pretty hard when we have so many technologies chasing the limited firms who can buy them.

Differentiation is the absolute key.

You can try to establish differentiation by doing endless, geeky white papers (which nobody reads) contrasting your offering against the market leader. Good luck!

Or, you can show why their product is obsolete, why using it continues to lead to non-value results, and why the people supporting it are probably doing so to protect lucrative jobs.

Nothing starts a fight like going after the mediocre minds who continue to foster and support a dying technology. These people can be counted on to attack you and make the fight really public. For that action, you should love them, embrace them and forever sing their praises. There is no better ambassador of your value than the person who protects the status quo against YOU. And if they attack you publicly, they are generating massive value for your proposition.

When our team was building what later became the EBAY fraud detection engine, we had a dozen employees and we were self-funding the company.

We could have built brand marketing and death would have followed. Instead, we built a web site with a home page proclaiming “Neural Nets Are Obsolete.”

All our press comments were around why neural nets, a major source of all fraud detection technology, were entirely unable to find many kinds of fraud with a roadmap.

Fortunately, the leading neural net company took us on.

Bad move.

We drew massive attention and we regularly held demonstrations showing how neural nets were “legally blind” to many kinds of fraud. We received well over a million dollars in free publicity. Everyone likes a fight and we brought them one.

Then, when EBAY was in real trouble because it could not stop fraudsters from getting on their site, taking money and not delivering goods, then when kicked off they would change their names and get back on, neural nets were useless.

So EBAY brought in the leading neural nets, and they failed.

When they went to our web site, they saw the ALTERNATIVE—and a Forbes article later, our value went to over $100 million.

And the neural net company? With $40 million in revenues, they were sold for scrap.

marketing without an edge is a waste of money and time for the raw startup.

Take a stand, contrast the terrain, and get into the fight.

Confrontational marketing.  Works every time it’s tried.