By Hillel Fuld
I recognize that many people who are far smarter than me will totally disagree with this, but I will stand my ground and argue this point with anyone.
If you are starting a company of any kind—whether it’s a startup or a venture capital firm—in stealth and remaining “under the radar,” you are starting off on the wrong foot and making a very big mistake.
Anyone who has ever told me that they don’t want to do any marketing because they want to stay under the radar has been the victim of this rant.
Let’s address the points or the reasons companies think staying under the radar is a good idea.
1. “I am not ready for launch, and I don’t want people copying my idea!”
You are not ready for launch? No one is ever ready for launch. Your product will never be perfect, and if you wait till it is, you’ll never launch. What’s that thing called? Analysis paralysis? Stop analyzing and start shipping.
People will copy you? First, if someone can so easily copy you, you have a bigger problem on your hands. Your product needs to have some sort of defensibility.
Second, let them copy you. Who cares? Every big company you know wasn’t first—they just did it better. So let them copy you. It’ll only help you work harder on making an amazing product that squashes the competition.
2. “I don’t even have a product, so how can I do marketing?”
Well, that’s just silly. Once you’re ready to officially launch, you need to have already built an audience, a brand. If your app is ready and you only start to build your audience now, you missed the boat.
I wrote more about that in an article in Inc.: “5 Marketing Tactics You Can Do Even Before You Have a Product” (inc.com/hillel-fuld/5-marketing-tactics-you-can-do-even-before-you-have-a-product.html)
3. “I need to focus on (the product/investing/raising money/etc.) and I don’t have resources for content or PR.”
Those things are not mutually exclusive. No one told you, the CEO, that you need to start tweeting (although…) but that doesn’t mean you can’t hire someone junior to start producing content about your industry. Focus on what you do best and let someone else on your team start building the brand while you build the product.
4. “It’s not my personality. I’m an introvert. I don’t really think social media or marketing is for me.”
No one is talking about yelling from the rooftops about how amazing you are or how revolutionary your company is. But my mom always tells me that for every decision you make, you need to weigh the pros and the cons.
The cons here are the points mentioned above. Someone might copy your idea and get to market before you, and the rest of the above points. Those are the cons.
The pros are endless!
Give people a chance to try the product. Get feedback. Gather data. Pull people in. Make them feel like part of the process. See how people use your product. What they love. What they hate. What feature confuses them. What screen they love and spend time on. And on and on.
The pros FAR outweigh the cons.
5. “We don’t need it. We have enough business without it.”
You do now, but that won’t last forever. And when the day comes and you no longer have the competitive edge over your competitors, what will be left is your brand.
In fact, assuming you do the marketing well, it’ll only increase the business you have now. If you’re a VC, it will drive you more deal flow, more investors who want to co-invest with you, and LPs who want to invest in you.
You might have enough business now, but you can get more than enough now, and in the future, you can maintain your business by having a brand people love.
I get it. You’re nervous. But jump in. Get it out there and see what happens.
By the way, many companies you use and love started this way. They gave the initial product to friends and family who gave it to their friends who gave it to their friends … and the rest is history. Fiverr is one such example.
Anyway, there is almost no justification to stay under the radar.
Build up courage and get this thing in the hands of initial users.
Hillel Fuld, named Israel’s top marketer and “The Man Helping Transform Startup Nation into Scale-Up Nation” by Forbes, is a tech journalist, startup marketer, and technology expert. Hillel’s work has been featured in CNBC, Inc. Magazine, Fast Company, Entrepreneur Magazine, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and many other leading tech publications. Hillel was recently named the 7th most influential tech blogger on the Internet and among the top 100 most influential social media personalities across the globe. You can read more about Hillel’s work at hillelfuld.com.