Until the mid 80′s most solutions were proprietary and very expensive to design, engineer, develop, sell and support. There were therefore relatively few choices and few methods to disseminate information about them (trade shows, trade rags, sales forces, etc.) This began to change with the introduction and use of open standards (SUN/Unix). So prior to then it was relatively difficult to build a product but relatively easy to market it.
The advent of the web and the proliferation of open standards and openware in the late 90′s, brought different challenges to creating a successful company. With the web, there are now countless ways to get information about a solution or offering. The challenge to an emerging company is identifying the audience they need to reach, finding the correct messaging and then efficiently and cost-effectively reaching them. As there are exponentially more solutions available now than there were 20 years ago, prospective buyers are bombarded with messaging from literally hundreds, if not thousands of vendors. It is challenging for any company to get through all of the noise. Further, buyers are a lot more informed and sophisticated now than they were prior to the web. If your messaging isn’t personalized it won’t be believed. Many great products/services/solutions die on the vine because they can’t get through the noise and to their audience.
The result is that the capital investment it takes to create a successful enterprise has shifted from engineering and development to sales and marketing. The challenge here is that while this may be conceptually true it has not occurred in fact. Most B2B companies underfund and do an extremely poor job of marketing.
1) Generally speaking, the best marketing people go to B2C companies where there are huge budgets and lots of ‘interesting’ things to do. B2B companies tend to scrimp on marketing budgets – what really good marketer wants to work with that?
2) Typical career paths for VPs of Marketing in B2B companies are System Engineer-to-Product Manager-to-Product Marketing Manager-to-VP of Marketing. Often the people performing marketing in B2B companies know little about customer buying processes and have little customer empathy. Regardless, they are not funded sufficiently to successfully accomplish their missions. You want a good B2B marketing person? Find one that came up through the ranks in sales.
3) Many technical entrepreneurs still have a “build it and they will come” mentality and have to go through a painful learning process to discover that this is not true. It is almost a rite of passage that they move from CEO to CTO and then leave “to pursue other interests.”
A fundamental shift in how capital is allocated to build a company is required. It needs to shift from development (which is now relatively easy) to marketing and sales (which is now relatively complex).