Jake Finkelstein is the founder and President of Method Savvy -- a data-driven advertising agency that works with growth-stage and enterprise class companies to build repeatable processes for revenue growth. Jake began his career in the music industry, most notably working with artists such as Johnny Cash, Incubus, Modest Mouse, Ben Folds Five and The White Stripes. When not working with entrepreneurs or playing music, Jake can be found cooking, reading and writing. You can catch up with him on Google+.
I like to imagine that there's a person somewhere who keeps a book with a long handwritten list of the dumb mistakes that entrepreneurs make (even though we should really know better). Mixed in among valuing ideas over execution, giving up too much equity to seed investors and hiring bad employees there's an entry, written in all caps, that reads: HIRE AN ADVERTISING AGENCY.
Repeat after me: Don't. Do. It.
Advertising agencies are good at many things, but like trying to drive the Autobahn with a learner's permit, hiring an agency as an early-stage startup does little more than set you up for disaster. That's not to say that advertising agencies are all bad (disclaimer: I own an advertising agency and have worked in the industry for nearly 15 years, so admittedly I may be a bit biased), but spending what monies you have in the bank on agency retainer fees and advertising media is about as far from smart as you can get.
Here are five reasons your early-stage startup should run, not walk, from advertising agencies. --Read On
One of the more alluring qualities of startups is the optimism that permeates every bit of the company culture. I'm a sucker for the take-over-the-world attitude and nothing is more exciting to me than tackling big and complex challenges. Yet no matter how large the idea that is being brought to market, we all know that there are learnings to be had... and this is especially true when it comes to marketing.
As a grizzled veteran of more than my fair share of failed startup marketing campaigns, allow me to highlight some of the surprises that lay ahead for your first-timers.
1. You're probably not selling to who you think you are.
Every marketing campaign starts with the best of intentions, but then you get out there and start asking people to actually pay you money for what you've created. Quite often you'll discover that the people you think should be interested in buying your product either aren't interested or aren't yet ready. Don't be afraid to chase the low hanging customer fruit. It'll fund your growth and give you some great learnings as you continue the customer development process.
2. Your customers won't act as rationally as you might expect.
This one always gets me. It goes something like this:
You: "If you buy X from me it can [save you money, save you time, make you money].
Them: "Nah, thanks, I'm good. I'm using Product Y right now."
You: "Yes, but isn't Product Y [hard to use / expensive / not giving you what you want]?
Them: "Well, yes, but its what we've gone with and changing now [is too expensive / makes me look bad / would make me do extra work]."
At the heart of Nashville's historic Cannery Row District, something's brewing. Part South by Southwest, part Southeast Venture Conference... with a little bit of something totally new - Southland is mixing startups, investors, a little bit of rock 'n roll and southern hospitality this week in Tennessee.
Slated to run June 12th and 13th, Southland is a "southern culture and technology" conference that is drawing handpicked startups, investors, musicians, makers, chefs and distillers (yes, distillers!) for two days of talk about technology, innovation, investment and early-stage entrepreneurship.
Bookended by the CMA Fest and Bonnaroo the conference is working hard to show attendees first-hand how Nashville is a great place to build a high-growth startup.
And its off to a hell of a start. In addition to concerts and BBQ dinners, Southland has over 50 startups from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia lined up to showcase at the conference. --Read On