I work with a lot of web startups. Often, when I see their financial model or discuss their growth plans, the “Community Manager” is the first hire they plan for in terms of goto market. Maybe I’m old and I don’t get, but this just seems wrong to me.
Generally speaking, startups are founded by creative / product people. People that can build and code. Most startups don’t have marketing strength in house. So, when it comes to making your first hire in marketing, shouldn’t you be thinking about more than community?
What does a young, promising startup need in terms of marketing fundamentals?
- Clear, simple value proposition
- Clear features and benefits
- Complete website copy that can effectively sell your product or service
- In house or subcontracted SEO
- Active blog
- Clear outbound communication with users tied to usage flags in your database
- Periodic newsletter to keep users up-to-date
- Someone who understands the landscape and can support partnering / business development efforts
I’m missing some stuff for sure, but you get it. And when you look at this list, it should tell you that you need a good, and relatively senior Marketing / Communications person. Not a Community Manager.
The Community Manager is a recent phenomenon. Community is important, but thinking about it before you have your basic goto market messaging and building blocks in place is misguided.
I also question whether most users consider themselves to be part of a vendor’s “community”. I use many freemium services. I’m a user, not a member of a community. I don’t really care about other users except that their presence helps ensure that an app that I love sticks around.
So, the receipe is simple: Give me a great application. Make it easy for me to understand and use. Drop everything and solve my issues if and when I have them. If you are a community manager don’t try to be my friend. I didn’t sign up in order to get another friend. Just provide me with a kick ass product and back it up with similarly kick ass service and support. And if you’re a startup entrepreneur, walk before you run. Get the marketing essential in place before you think about staffing for community.