What is entrepreneurial marketing and why should I care?

April 24, 2014 by Joshua
in Education, Entrepreneurship

I’m teaching Entrepreneurial Marketing and Sales at NYU. People ask me what entrepreneurial marketing means as opposed to any other kind of marketing.

The disciplines didn’t arise out of the blue. They arose out of what works. If you want to run a company or lead a group that wants to influence others, you’ll benefit from knowing what works, so you’ll benefit from understanding marketing in general and entrepreneurial marketing in particular.

For most people marketing means advertising—that is, one-way communication from a company to its market. The business world views marketing as the two-way communication between a company and its customers and potential customers. Marketing from the company includes advertising as well as pricing and other forms of communication. Marketing to the company includes research about users, their behavior, competition, alternatives, substitutes, and so on. Marketing also includes product development.

Traditional marketing

Business schools have traditionally taught non-entrepreneurial marketing or at least Columbia did with me. Non-entrepreneurial marketing works great for big, entrenched organizations—think Proctor and Gamble, Johnson and Johnson, Microsoft, or a big political party—with big budgets, big teams, big product launches, control over distribution channels, and loads of time. A big, entrenched organization can create teams of people to research markets, form focus groups, collect huge amounts of data, analyze the data with experienced expert statisticians, and so on. When they introduce a product, they can use existing relationships with media partners, distributors, suppliers, and so on to control their launch and so on.

The entrepreneur’s advantages

Entrepreneurs have no resources for this. They have other great advantages. Entrepreneurs are

  1. Nimble: fewer people can decide faster
  2. Flexible: less history and existing relationships allows them to change faster
  3. Close to the product: people in sales, engineering, and executives all know each other. They’re often the same person.
  4. Close to the market: people in the company know their users and customers. Sometimes all of them.

I guide my class’s marketing section with two overarching themes:

The idea of a lifetime comes once a month


Better than a great idea is a good idea plus taking it to the market, listening, and flexibility

These themes promote the core practices of entrepreneurial marketing based on the entrepreneur’s advantages.

Product development in Entrepreneurial Marketing

The best way to a great product is starting with a good product and iterating based on what you learn from the market

  1. Identify unmet needs in the market
  2. Think of how to meet it
  3. Ask a lot people their thoughts about the idea
  4. Improve the idea
  5. Introduce it to the market
  6. Iterate steps 3–5 as often and quickly as you can

Entrenched companies can’t compete with this quick iteration, at least not in some markets. My class’s marketing unit mostly focused on this process. Although its outcome is a developed product, you end up making a lot of headway in market research, creating relationships with suppliers and distribution channels, operations, and so on.

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