Early Community and Business Building is About One Thing: Communication

Great marketing doesn’t need to explain itself — it just works, right?

You and I know what good marketing is because we’ve experienced it many times over!

For instance, can you remember the last time when that commercial or that advertisement managed to elicit emotions that you could have sworn were generally inaccessible; the out-of-left-field and random tear or choked-up feeling after watching a… commercial for a designer handbag for men?!?

Every… single… time…! Check it out below:

It hits me even harder now that I have a son.

I used this video in a presentation more than 5+ years ago as I shared tried my best to communicate how important it is that we tell stories about our work, the progress that we make, and the effort it is to bring something to life:

I like telling stories, that’s for sure. I love hearing about them just as much.

I’m not a marketer and I’ve never held an official role as a marketing professional but I have been very fortunate to have worked with some skilled marketing team members and have learned a thing (or two) myself after having built and shipped a handful of projects into the public market.

But what, exactly, is “marketing” in today’s digital economy and how does an early stage startup effectively market its product, its brand, and its very existence into a relatively small (but growing) and niche industry that is community?

The definition of marketing, according to the American Marketing Association is:

… the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.

Or, in other words, it’s most-simply the process of getting people interested in the thing that you’re selling.

And our job, as entrepreneurs, community and business-builders is this: Figure out the best way for the exchange of value to happen, where the customer is now thoroughly convinced (through effective marketing!) that what you have to offer is worth the price.

Engineering messes everything up.

And if you’re just starting out, it’s incredibly important that you can deliver this promise quickly. I will often times say that one should endeavor to find the “smallest piece of meaningful value that you can deliver to the customer quickly” — and the only way you can do this is through a ton of customer interviews!

Create that tight and effective feedback loop and you’ll become data rich as a result! This means you will continually have more precise information in and around your customer so you know how to execute and deliver (e.g. ship) a product and/or service that will solve their problem!

My Rule of Thumb is simple: When it comes to early community and business-building, you’re going to have to spend at least 50% of your time talking to users (i.e. “marketing” and communication) and the other half building a great product and service. You’ll need both.

In fact, I go as far as telling folks to spend 100% of their time building community (e.g. talking to users) in the beginning and I don’t ever stop! Tactically, I spend the vast majority of my time in communication with my community, my team, and all of the supporting cast in and around the project.

If you stop talking to users… you die. If you don’t have an effective communication channel to get feedback from your early-customers and community… you die. If you can’t communicate effectively to your team and partners… you die.

If you stop communicating… you die! Complete and total asphyxiation for your business and community! Communication is literal oxygen for your project, so you should never, ever, stop.