The Misconception of Marketing Problems

The problem lurking beneath the surface

It’s not obvious and it often shows itself in seemingly odd ways.

Like the patient presenting an array of unrelated symptoms; their leg hurts, they have an ear ache and every time they lift a heavy item their left arm muscle spasms.

Convinced it is three separate issues, the patients asks for three separate diagnosis's and appropriate meds.

But the doctor knows better.

She’s seen this, hundreds of times. The diagnosis isn’t as simple and although hard for the patient to hear, if the patient listens they can solve all their symptoms with one cure. But the cure will take work and time but pay long run dividends.

High growth companies are no different. I talk to founders everyday and hear a my-raid of problems:

“It’s our marketing, it’s our sales, it’s our UX, we don't have enough dev resources, etc..”

The more I dig the more I learn... these problems aren’t as disconnected as they seem and what they came to see me for isn't often what they need.

Is it product-market-fit?

They point back to a core issue —> lack product market fit.

The bad news?

There are often are a lot of issues.

The good news?

If you can address the root of the issue you can solve a lot of problems with one core fix.

So how do you know if your marketing problem isn’t just a marketing problem?

3 signs it's not your marketing but a product-market-fit issue

A misaligned product vision

When you have product market fit there is a sense of momentum that naturally creates a cohesive product vision across the team. The market is “pulling” the product in a certain direction and the team can feel it and falls in place accordingly. Priorities are obvious, not trivial.

If your team is running in circles and can’t agree on features, it’s a sign there may be bigger issues lurking beneath the surface. If board members are suggesting features, that’s when you know you’re really in trouble.

Backed up product roadmap

Every startup has too many features and not enough resources but startups lacking PMF sees this as a major issue.

A roadmap littered with features that don’t tie across a single theme signal the team is struggling for direction, building features in hopes one will stick and become the core of their product. This is a bi-product of my first point.

Competitor cloning

Looking to competitors for feature inspiration. You rationalize your largest competitor implemented a feature, so you must too. Every week a new team member recommends a feature they saw over the weekend and before you know it you've built snapchat features into your digital health app.

Diagnose the issue

First ensuring you understand the root cause is critical to solving the right problem, if you don't, you'll run in circles.

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