Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hard Knox Life: Why should a Brand Manager care about the Venture Capital industry?

On Sunday, I picked up a tweet from MeetUp CEO Scott Heiferman, who took notice about one of the subjects I tend to write / tweet about:

Interesting that a P&G marketer (@daveknox) tweets about venture capital. A snapshot of 2010s. http://bit.ly/bU1fuMless than a minute ago via webScott Heiferman

Conveniently on that same day, Mitch Joel wrote a post about the fact people had been asking him similar questions such as: “why do you Blog about journalism so much?” and “why do you even care what’s going on in the newspaper industry?“.

I loved Mitch’s response on why he pays so much attention to the media industry:

… for me to be a better Digital Marketing professional, I have to know what all of the media channels are, what they can do, the trouble they’re facing, how they’re surviving, where the opportunities are, and who the recognized and experienced voices are within the channel. The media landscape is changing in such a rapid and dramatic way, that the only way to stay on top of what the potential outcome for Marketing will be in the coming years is to be tracking what they uber-smart media pundits are thinking, pushing and collectively hoping for.

I feel the same way about the world of start-ups and Venture Capital. It’s the reason that last week I took the time to attend the General Catalyst Entrepreneur Forum and this week I’ll be attending Landmark’s Media Technology Showcase in NYC. I have written before about the importance Brand Marketers to start acting like Marketing Technopologists. For me, staying close to the world of start-ups and Venture Capital is an important way to do so.

If you look back 20 years ago, Brand Marketers only had to be concerned with a handful of forces in their day to day business. Most of their day was spent working with their company colleagues, advertising agencies and occasionally media partners from TV and print. Start-ups and Venture Capital frankly did not matter because few of those companies would make a material impact on their business. But today is different. We all know the facts about how fast change is happening.

* In just over a decade, Google has gone from being a thesis project to a company with a market cap over $120 billion.
* In just over 5 years, Facebook has gone from a dorm room in Harvard to a service reaching over 400 million users.
* And in just 18 months of existence, GroupOn is rumored to be on track for $350 million in revenue in 2010.

Personally I think one of the single biggest issues facing the Marketing industry right now is that not enough Brand Marketers are paying attention to the speed of change taking place under foot. Not enough marketers are taking the time to personally use tools like Foursquare, Aardvark, or uStream. And not enough Brand Managers are taking the time to form relationships with (or even return the phone calls of) entrepreneurs and Venture Capitalists.
For me, the start-up world is my canary in the marketing coal mine.

Not every company I meet with is going to be one that I end up working with. In fact, I probably only end up doing work with 5 to 10 percent of the start-ups that I meet with. But I learn something from each and every meeting. And if I am doing my job right, hopefully they learn something from me that helps as they build their business.

Just like many VC’s, these meetings help my pattern recognition so I can have a feel for the trends that will impact my brands and my business. And most importantly, I have a chance to build a strategy around these trends well before competition that only pays attention to companies they read about in the Wall Street Journal or Advertising Age.

If a Brand Marketer wants to be a Marketing Technopologist, I cannot think of a better place to start than having a foot in the world of entrepreneurs...Hard Knox Life

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