I’m a big fan of Dharmesh Shah’s OnStartups blog, and his company HubSpot, I’ve used their capable and elegant service to improve businesses I’ve worked at and consulted for. I’ve had the privilege to see Dharmesh speak on a couple of occasions as well as talk to him personally. While I can appreciate the founder-focused perspective of OnStartups, I was disappointed to read his latest post which had elements that displayed a far too stereotypical technologist slant against advertising, and therefore marketing.
Technologists (with blinders on) have the view that anything that isn’t contributing to the actual production of their product or service is a negative. They tend to look at money spent on anything other than production salary, equipment, and software as money down the drain. They seek to eliminate all that “wasteful” spending. Obviously they are making a product so good, that is should sell itself. Any adjustment to features should result in the same customer base coming back to the cash register to fork over more money because the product, by its very nature, telepathically communicates to all parties who have either the interest or the potential interest, that this is the product they need right now.
Dharmesh states, “I still don’t like advertising. I really don’t. I can see why it’s important in a lot of industries — but I don’t know that software is one of them.” The irony here is that, a. Dharmesh’s company does advertise using Google AdWords among other tools, and b. that Dharmesh’s company, HubSpot, is 100% dependent upon advertising in order to survive. HubSpot’s platform helps businesses by improving their websites using search engine optimization and keyword strategy under the premise that a company should attract potential customers using these inbound and permission marketing techniques rather than “interruption” and attention exploitation of standard marketing and advertising.
The problem is that all of the search engines, with the partial exception of Microsoft’s, are 100% advertising-driven. Without advertising, there would be no search engines, and therefore no HubSpot. Advertising is what changed the world from agrarian societies to what we have today. While it isn’t perfect, no one has figured out anything better – they’ve only proposed refinements. There are plenty of producers, and particularly software developers, who think that their products need no advertising because they (Dharmesh again) “solv(e) a user’s problem”. The user has a need, the software addresses the need, a sale is made.
Dharmesh, it’s time to read some Paco Underhill. People don’t buy based on “need” – they buy based on “want”. There is also the false notion in B2B sales that you are working to sell to “companies”, “organizations”, and “business entitities” (my quotes). Sorry, those are all manned by people who still buy based on “want” and other emotional reasons. Advertising is a method to communicate to people reasons, attitudes, positioning, and availability in order that they should want to buy your products. Some of this is non-quantifiable (at this time). We don’t have enough data and understanding to make this coldly scientific enough for some technologists to grasp. I tend to think it’s part of the fun of being a human being.
If I may loosely quote Peter Drucker, “successful entrepreneurship is the combination of innovation and marketing” – advertising is a tool that should not be denied the marketer. Inbound marketing is extremely effective but it can’t do everything. Even noted Google AdWord wizard, Perry Marshall, was forced to admit last year in a podcast that it can’t all be done with SEO and AdWords – those are just two of the legs of the stool.