“If we build it, they will come.” I heard it again recently from a technical entrepreneur who should know better than to believe the old “Field of Dreams” sports fantasy movie theme in today’s Internet information overload environment. These days, building a new business is all about visibility and marketing, no matter how great or innovative a solution you bring to the table.
In fact, having one marketing guru on the team alone won’t get you very far. You need to make sure that everyone on the team, from the clerical assistant to the chief financial officer, knows your vision and product, and doesn’t hesitate to actively engage and be an effective proponent with anyone who might be of value to the business.
I recall a good summary of how to motivate and train a team to accomplish this in the classic book, “The Business of Creativity: How to Build the Right Team for Success,” by Keith Granet. The author’s focus is the world of architecture and design, but I’m convinced that the principles and strategy outlined are equally important to every new business or entrepreneurial effort:
- Instill pride. This is a positive culture created by an atmosphere of trust and confidence in the solution, as well as other members of the team. People are proud to represent their business when they feel that they have a voice and a recognized contribution to the effort. The best way to do this is to share and celebrate small wins, together and often.
- Empower engagement. The best startups give everyone business cards and encourage team members to talk about the business with anyone who should be interested. That means rewarding feedback from outside, both good and bad, rather than being closed. It also helps to create office events for family members and local community groups.
- Encourage networking. Team members need time, and your support, to attend conferences and professional organizations to stay in touch with colleagues and peers. They need incentives to investigate market trends and competitive actions, as well as continuous communication of the bigger picture of the business and current objectives.
- Give credit. It doesn’t take a huge marketing budget to provide public recognition in team meetings for individual initiatives that can benefit the company. These might include anyone bringing in a new customer, representing the company in a good social cause, or participating in a video or social media campaign on their own time.
- Reward success. The best executives make it clear by example that all team members who help the business expand will be compensated, by awards, special bonuses, or career advancement. Team members who see others rewarded for their “marketing” efforts will be motivated to consider what they can do to share the wealth.
This approach, with you leading the effort, and everyone empowered to advance the visibility and message of the business, also has the great advantage of minimizing the size of the dedicated internal team for marketing and public relations. A single marketing coordinator can accelerate your efforts by being the coach and mentoring key members of the team on soft marketing.
If you have a diverse team, the value is even greater, since each member can use their contacts and perspective to spread the word effectively and attract the attention you need for success. The common focus on marketing across the varied interests of your team also has the potential of improving peer communication, comradery, and improving working relationships.
The most effective teams, through sharing and common interests, develop leaders at all levels. The most senior leaders then become coaches and mentors, rather than the source of all decisions. The emergent leaders are not hesitant to take charge when they see business growth opportunities, thus multiplying your visibility and impact.
Thus, even if the value of your solution is universally obvious in your field of dreams, don’t count on customer initiatives to find it amongst the thousands of alternatives fighting for visibility on the Internet. Mobilize the total power of your team to not only build the product, but also build the market.