There are three things that niche startup teams need:
- Sales & marketing
- Product development
- Industry knowledge
When we’re talking about founding teams with this skillset, a fantastic combination is a product co-founder with deep industry expertise, and a sales/marketing co-founder with baseline-to-intermediate industry knowledge.
In a niche business, the founding team presumably has some level of expertise within the space. We’re talking a top 10% operator in some way.
But, for one person to attain the level of expertise in product, sales/marketing, and industry takes a lot of time and learning. And for two founding partners to both have deep industry knowledge is a much rarer occurrence than just one.
So in this team dynamic, only one of the founders needs to have the deeper industry knowledge. And, there are two founders split between product and sales/marketing.
Note – there is a baseline level of requisite jargon and industry awareness that all founders must have, but splitting business functions allows for specialization of deep industry expertise within the team, and deep knowledge is not necessary for everyone.
Second Note – for a niche business, I think it makes the most sense for product development to have the deep industry knowledge if only one founder will have this knowledge. A good marketer or salesperson is able to use discovery, research, and questioning skills to extract useful information from a product person, but a product person is not necessarily going to know how to get the right knowledge from a marketer or salesperson.
Why this dynamic works:
- You need to actually create a product to sell
- And in order to?sell it, you need expertise in getting?customers who will pay you
A team of 100 developers without sales & marketing is?a nice product that no one will use.
A?team of 100 sales & marketing pros is a consulting company with no product and an unscalable business model (in most cases).
Each half of the equation generates crucial insight into more context for developing the other half’s work.
Marketing & sales are able to pull research and analysis in order to determine a direction for the product that aligns with getting to market.
They are also more likely to engage in crucial conversations with prospects or customers and know how to ask the right non-technical value discovery questions that drive product functionality.
On the other hand, product people are the engine of the business and know way more about the niche upon which the product is based on (as well as the realistic limitations on what the product can do).
Their knowledge is critical for marketing and sales efforts.
Think content marketing insights and technical pieces of sales conversations.
I’d like to highlight 3 ways in which this dynamic creates strategic benefits for founding teams:
- Marketing influencing product development
- Utilizing product co-founder industry knowledge for technical educational marketing
- Contextualized benefit statements
Marketing influencing product development
When it comes to knowing what to build, marketing insight is key.
Any modern marketer should have the skills to do basic keyword research.
And any good salesperson should have basic discovery skills to uncover needs, pain points, and obstacles from prospects.
So with this technical skills dynamic, our marketing co-founder can use keyword research for product development to understand how to best build a product that fits people’s needs.
They can also use techniques like surveys and paid testing via CPC/CPM channels to discover what messaging connects with people.
For sales, having conversations with customers is a great way to gain more insight into what people are looking for in a solution to their problems.
They are also able to, with a highly personalized touch, get to the ultimate validation: pre-sales &/or verification of purchase intent.
Fundamentally, business is about solving people’s problems.
With a mindset of delivering value and discovering pain points, customer conversations and lead generation activities become product development conversations.
Utilizing product co-founder industry knowledge for technical educational marketing
In a team where most of the deep industry knowledge lies with the product developer, marketing can use these insights as a starting point for keyword research around a content strategy or PPC strategy.
It’s the audience filter that shapes messaging and channels before even putting together some semblance of a plan.
And even more than that, it creates a core content strategy based on useful, educational knowledge. In my opinion, this is one of the most powerful types of content marketing.
Technical “how-to” posts are powerful because they speak directly to solving problems of your target audience right after they are?actively searching for a solution.
- Joe Schmoe has a problem?working with envelopes in Xfer’s Serum VST synth (It’s okay if you don’t know what this means. You don’t have the industry knowledge!)
- He searches for “how to use envelopes in Serum” in Google
- He comes across our article aptly titled “How to Use Envelopes in Serum”
- He figures out his problem, and in the process he banks some trust with the brand that gave him that info
- 6 months later, he buys an eBook, “Serum Sound Design Secrets”, from the same company after remembering how they helped him before
Classic content marketing, albeit with a few steps taken out for nurturing and post-awareness funnels.
Technical product co-founders are able to go deep on?how-to content like this because they give marketing insights beyond long-tail keywords.
I like to think of this as semantic long-tail industry insights.
Without this knowledge, a marketer may not even be aware of these topics of conversation.
Contextualized benefit statements
In the end, people buy products for what they can do. If you have a product that is either highly technical in nature or niche in terms of application, you need to connect with the end user by speaking a language they understand.
This is the difference between “Save time and money” and “Save time by speeding up your DAW’s latency, without spending money on expensive external soundcards”.
Contextualized benefit statements are key to imparting the value of a product or service offering in the language of your target customer.
Marketers?need to have an advanced understanding of their target customer in order to use this information in their?copy. With intermediate previous experience in the space, marketers and salesmen have a great starting point and can craft a benefit statement that is probably 75% of the way there.
With the input from the product co-founder’s industry expertise, however, we’re talking about a unique, competitive, marketing edge that differentiates the company from others in the space without this dynamic.
Your product person legitimately needs to be a top 10% expert in the space
Your marketing & sales person needs to have communication skills to interpret the other cofounder’s expertise and relay it in a 5th grade vocabulary
Thanks for reading! Stay elevated, my friend.