The Three "Foundational" Stories That Can Clarify Your Vision, Align Your Team, Ensure You Launch Your Brilliant Products Brilliantly, And Alert You To Potential Pitfalls That May Curtail Your Growth.
The Origin Story. The Stories Of Transformation, and The Epic Vision: These Foundational Stories synthesize the most "timeless" strategic wisdom of the last 100 years with the the storytelling principles that reflect themselves in the journey's of the most impactful entrepreneurs and companies.
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I've Seen Too Many Promising Founders, Products, And Companies Fall Short Because of Their Weak Marketing Foundations
Spend a few hours exploring the landscape of tech startups and many big tech cos alike and you’ll discover a wasteland of mediocre marketing.
- Big launches for new products or major features that explode in mid air.
- Websites full of vague and feature-driven messaging and weak calls-to-action
- Blogs whose articles have few social shares, zero inbound links, and unconvincing reasons to opt-in.
- Landing pages with undifferentiated headlines presenting boring offers and forms with too many fields.
- Email campaigns that ramble on about a company's products before asking for a sign up or phone call.
- Ads that point to a homepage, sending clicks that cost $1-15 EACH straight down the drain.
- New user experiences that leave the majority of new users dissatisfied, confused, and lost
- Pricing strategies that go unchanged for months, leaving insane amounts of cash on the table.
Against this wasteland backdrop, you see tech marketers giving each other virtual high-fives for the huge spike in traffic their sites got from a corporate practical joke that went viral, or the awesome open rates and click-throughs they saw on their last email campaigns.
You see eight blog posts on the latest tactics and hacks for growth through customer acquisition for every one post about activation, retention, or monetization.
And for the hundreds of posts on startup marketing and growth that tell you how to get more people to try your product, there are only a handful that offer insights into building a lasting, defensible business.
And if you're looking for clear strategies for identifying your market’s most painful unsolved problems and unmet needs, ensuring your product actually solves and addresses them, and creating marketing messages and selling systems that reliably generate qualified leads, sales, repeat sales, and profits?
Across The Tech Ecosystem, The Consequences of Weak Marketing Foundations Range From Crazy Expensive to Utterly Brutal.
Let's walk through them, one-by-one:
Keystone tech companies (like Google, Facebook, Netflix, even Amazon) regularly spend millions of dollars and years of collective engineering time on big expensive products that fall flat.
Here's are just a few examples from recent years:
These products were all planned, designed, and engineered by extremely intelligent people. The people who scripted and coordinated their launch announcements (remember the parachuters with Google Glass?) were all highly creative and competent.
Yet despite the substantial brainpower, time, and money then went into these launches, each of them exploded in mid-air, vaporizing massive quantities of money, time, and technical brilliance right along with them.
So what went wrong? All of these products failed in different ways, but the core reason behind every failure was the same: they were built and launched on weak marketing foundations.
For venture-backed startups, the first and most obvious impact is total company failure.
Silicon Valley’s acceptance of failure is one of its most admirable and valuable qualities. But when a venture-backed startup implodes, ends its life in a fire-sale or gets “acqui-hired,” it’s not just the millions or tens of millions of dollars of venture capital that burns to ash.
Sure, that money could have created more impact somewhere else, but the biggest loss here is the vaporized time, energy, brainpower and sacrifice of the people involved.
For founders, who walk a lonely, exhausting road even when their startups are doing well, the total failure of the dream is merciless. In the pursuit of their dreams, they often relegate their families, friends, and even their physical and mental well-being to the backseat.
And in the end? After enduring brutal hours and the burdens of leadership for years, neglecting friends and loved ones, they let down their team, their investors, and everyone close who made sacrifices in the name of the dream.
For employees (especially early ones), who work harder hours and more frequent weekends and nights for less cash compensation than their big company counterparts, a startup’s collapse turns those long hours and promises of upside into dust.
Angel investors lose whatever personal money and time they spent investing in, advising, or helping a failed startup.
And when a general partner at a VC firm puts millions of dollars into a startup and that startup finds its way off a cliff, that partner loses more than just the funds’ money. Sure, losing bets are part of the game. But when you take millions of dollars entrusted to your fund by the firm’s LPs and vaporize it, your credibility in the partnership takes a hit.
Take too many hits like that, and the most promising founders start going elsewhere for cash. And eventually, even a partnership with a decades-long legacy of excellence can find its reputation falling apart.
But startups fail all the time for all kinds of reasons...
What do weak marketing foundations got to do with it?
Yes, startups fail for many reasons that have little or nothing to do with marketing.
Sometimes, founders go too big too fast, prioritizing explosive growth before the economics make sense. Other times, they get too high on traction, hype, and buzz, let their egos spiral out of control, and make terrible decisions as a result.
And occasionally, founders just blow their Kickstarter money on strippers and sports cars.
But check out this chart, which a research company called CB Insights put together from an analysis of 101 “post-mortem” essays from founders of failed startups:
Of the top 20 reasons startup founders cited for their failures, weak marketing foundations account for 8 of them.
- No market need
- Got outcompeted
- Pricing/cost issues
- Poor marketing
- Ignoring customers
- Mistimed product
- Pivot gone bad
- Failed to pivot
Of the remaining 11, another 3 are connected to weak marketing foundations in various degrees:
- Need/lacked a business model
- No financing/investor interest
- Lost focus
To recap: when you break it down, 40% of the fatal issues that lead startups to fail sprout directly from weak marketing foundations, while another 15% connect to weak marketing foundations in meaningful ways.
Of course, paving the way to total catastrophic meltdown is not the only way mediocre marketing drains the tech industry’s blood.
Here are three more:
1. Burning cash with massively wasteful advertising practices.
While plenty of venture-backed startups don’t spend a ton on paid ads, way too many of those that do send way too many expensive clicks straight into the toilet.
The most common way to do this: Sending paid clicks from Google and Facebook straight to a homepage. I once watched a Series C company with a$250M+ valuation apply this “strategy” to throw between $25-30K of their investors’ money in the trash EVERY MONTH.
And this company is far from alone. It’s not even the worst example I’ve seen!
In fact, for a full year (I checked!), a well-known tech unicorn was sending $5-8 clicks to a page with literally nothing on it but its logo and a signup form.
2. Blowing a big part of the marketing budget on PR.
Look, I am fully in favor of going all-out with PR when you have the sophistication and systems in place to make it pay off.
But a good PR agency runs anywhere from $15-30K PER MONTH.
And yes, getting positive write-ups up in TechCrunch, The New York Times, and their ilk feels great for you and your team.
Even when you don’t have the right systems in place, a solid PR campaign can generate awareness, create a a few good leads, and bring in potential recruits.
But it’s worth asking yourself: is that $45-90K per quarter you’re spending on PR reliably turning into at least $100-200K per quarter in returns? Sure, it’s possible that it is.
But very often, it is not.
3. Leaving millions of dollars in potential revenue on the table with every big launch.
The losses from less-than-stellar launches are harder to measure than a $20K monthly PR budget and $30K in Google and Facebook Ads that never come close to recouping their costs.
But more often than not, I see venture-backed startups launching awesome new products and features without an equally awesome campaign behind them.
For now, I'll just say that in the last six months alone, I’ve watched three different entrepreneurs in markets outside of tech execute product launches that brought in $2-3 million dollars in five days or less.
A significant percentage of these sales came from first-time customers, many of whom will go on to buy more of these entrepreneurs’ products. And here’s the real kicker: most of these entrepreneurs were RE-LAUNCHING slightly-modified versions of products they’d already launched before.
So if these entrepreneurs–who have less than 20 full-time employees–can bring in 7-figures in 5 days with a single product, imagine how much cash most venture-backed startups leave on table every time they launch something new.
After watching so many promising companies and products fall short or fail because of weak marketing foundations, I decided to do something about it...
I love tech. I love startups. I admire the founders who start them and the maverick employees who join them.
It makes me angry and sad to see super-smart, ambitious people spend months and years of their lives building products and companies on weak marketing foundations, only to have all that hard work and sacrifice burn to ash in a fire-sale, acqui-hire, or outright shutdown.
But until a few years ago, I didn't think I could do much about it: "marketing" is a dirty word in this industry, even though its definition is widely misunderstood.
But then something in me shifted: what if there was actually was a way to reverse the negative perception AND low average quality of marketing in the tech industry? If I could move that needle to even a small but meaningful degree, the impacts might be massive.
If more tech leaders and startup founders understood the dramatic positive impacts that strong marketing foundations could have on their success AND knew how to build those foundations:
- WAY fewer products would fail because there wasn't a big enough market to support and sustain them.
- A LOT less money, time, and technical ingenuity would go to waste building these doomed products.
- Startups might stop burning $15,000-45,000 PER MONTH on advertising and PR campaigns that will never produce positive returns.
- More great marketers would focus their energies and talents on tech.
- More promising young marketers in tech would have access the mentorship they needed to become great.
- The tech industry's destructive feedback loop of mediocre marketing would slow down, and maybe even come to an end.
Of course, to reverse a long-standing negative bias and make marketing in the tech industry as brilliant as its tech is a big, audacious goal.
To do it right, I knew I'd need WAY more than just a starry-eyed dream. I'd need to develop a new strategic framework...
And this couldn't just be any "framework."
If I wanted to have any hope of making marketing in the tech industry worthy of its tech, the framework I developed had to be a simple, accessible concept with both broad and deep applications.
It would need to work brilliantly for nearly any team inside a tech company, building nearly any kind of tech product and marketing and selling it to nearly any kind of market.
And so I went back to the beginning, spending hundreds of hours researching the best product, marketing, and sales systems and strategies of the last 75 years. I started with Claude Hopkins, whose insights into the science of direct response marketing in the 1920s still apply almost 100 years later.
I moved on through the 1960s, when David Ogilvy built his billion-dollar advertising empire around a simple insight that his competitors ignored: direct response copywriting is the foundation of effective advertising.
I read everything I could find by Eugene Schwartz, who understood that every market moves through different stages of sophistication, and that the products and messages that delivered amazing results in one stage will fall completely flat in the next.
From the Mad Men era, I moved into the 90s and 2000s, where strategists like Geoffrey Moore, Clay Christensen, and Steve Blank developed their own frameworks and brought them into the business mainstream, and absorbed everything I could find.
Lastly, I scoured the internet for the most successful marketing and product minds working right now OUTSIDE of tech. Whenever I found a great one, I would try to reverse-engineer their marketing and sales systems. For the best, I'd spend thousands of dollars on their online courses and mastermind groups.
And over the last year, I took the best of everything I learned, distilled it, and turned it into a new strategic product, marketing, and sales framework of my own.
So I created The Foundational Story Framework: The 3 Stories That Allow You To Align Your Team, Launch Great Products Brilliantly, And Create Systematic, Sustainable Growth.
In a nutshell, The Foundational Story Framework uses three "foundational" stories to give you and everyone on your team clear, compelling, and consistent answers to the most important strategic and tactical questions anyone (including YOU) might have about your startup.
These stories are:
- The Origin Story, which clarifies your product, marketing, and sales strategies and helps you get your whole team on board. It also helps with building culture, hiring, fundraising, and making sales
- The Story Of Transformation, which perfects your marketing and sales messages and focuses your near-term product roadmap on the most critical and impactful new products and features.
- The Epic Vision, which sells the BIG dream to everyone whose support and perseverance you'll need if you're going to follow through on your ambitions: loved ones, co-founders, key hires, investors, etc. It also helps prevent "shiny object syndrome" from stealing your and your team's focus, slowing you down, or even sending everything off the rails. ]
When you craft these stories the RIGHT WAY and roll them out across your company, you and your team will experience more clarity and focus. More importantly, you'll be way more confident that every new product and major feature you build, every launch you execute, and every marketing or sales campaign you run will deliver major positive impacts on your business.
The end result of all this? You and your team will have A LOT more control over your own destiny.
There's a lot more I'd like to tell you about The Foundational Story Framework, so when you're ready to hear it, click the big green button below and learn about the free online workshop I've put together around it.
Here's what a couple previous clients have had to say:
Three big things happened after we worked with Dan: 1) Our sales are way up. Now 166% month over month growth. 2) We have customers that are self-service converting, just from reading the site. That's huge! About 1 in 5 are purchasing without ever speaking to a sales person. This did not happen before Dan's revamp. 3) We receive quite a bit of feedback on demo calls where people say "I've read the site and I get it." This also never happened prior to Dan's revamp.
In the course of working with Dan, we increased sales by 150%. This allowed us to start using paid acquisition channels that were previously not profitable. This was a BIG win, and we continue to use the building blocks that Dan created for us.
Ready to start building marketing foundations that can support and sustain your ambitions?
Good news! I've put together a free live online training that walks you through it, and I run it twice every month.
The next trainings happen on Tuesday, February 21st at 9:30 AM PST and Thursday, February 23rd at 1:00 PM PST.
Want in? Follow these 4 simple steps:
- Click the big green button below.
- Select the time that works best for you.
- Enter your contact info.
- Show up at the scheduled time ready to take some notes!
It's that simple.