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The Dangers of Marketing Creep in Startups and Launching New Products

In product development, you have to look for and avoid feature creep. It happens to most entrepreneurs, designers and developers. Feature creep is when you keep adding features in order to make the product value proposition just perfect. Feature creep can come at any stage of the product development cycle. At some point, you have to be disciplined and freeze the specs so you can get closer to the time-to-launch phase.

Feature creep is not good for any business but one area that is not discussed is marketing creep. Marketing creep is when you spend too much time perfecting the marketing brochure, business cards, TV ad campaign, direct mail piece, website graphics, product shots, sales brochure, radio spot and any other marketing activity.

Marketing is part science, part art and part voodoo. I wish it was more scientific, but it’s not. Marketing is striving to become more of a science, through various tracking mechanisms on the Internet, but we still have a ways to go. You will always have the need for some innovative marketing voodoo to create that magic marketing campaign.

Marketing creep can suck up the resources of your marketing department in a hurry—if you have a marketing staff obsessed with making everything perfect. If you’re designing a retail package for your product, I am going to tell you that you’re never going to make it perfect.

When I worked for a software company in the consumer sector, there was a VP of Marketing who was obsessed with making that Madison Avenue, award-winning retail package. He had the Director of Marketing and the entire art department working halfway through the night making it just perfect. It got to the point, where he was telling the artist to move a few millimeters to the right on the particular graphic so that it would feel just right for him. He almost caused mutiny in the marketing department—until one of the marketing people quietly informed him that the rest of them were forming a lynch mob, should there be any other graphic changes.

How much of the marketing resources are wasted by unnecessary activities of marketing creep? If marketing people looked at marketing creep from a sales perspective, the reduction of marketing creep would be substantial.

In my younger days, I was under pressure to create a few marketing materials for the distribution channel in order to place additional sales into the retail channel. After I heard that the marketing department couldn’t address my marketing needs, I got up at 5:00 a.m. and slipped into the marketing department to fire up their graphics tools. Because I knew Adobe Illustrator, I was able to do my own marketing brochures for my distributors. It took me a few hours to design all the marketing materials, but I wasn’t worried about perfection. I was making it good enough. Just as I was printing out my last marketing piece, one of the graphic artists walked in on me. I looked at him and he knew he just caught a kid with his hand in a cookie jar.

“Good morning, Damir. What are you doing?” he said, surprised to see me.

I looked up nonchalantly said, “Ugh, just printing out some marketing materials for my distribution deal.”

I quickly scurried out like a rat because I invaded the art department without anyone’s permission. I was hoping he wouldn’t say anything to anyone. Within a few hours my boss informed me that the word was out that I had broken into the art department and designed my own marketing materials.

“I needed the marketing materials to get a huge distribution deal done,” I said to him excited. He shook his head, laughed, and as he was walking off said, “Calm them down.” I took the entire marketing department out to lunch because they were about to form a lynch mob against me.

Were the marketing materials perfect? They were good, but not as good as the marketing department would have done them. I did close the huge sale because of them, so, even though they weren’t perfect, they were more than good enough to make my revenue numbers.

Marketing creep can drain the resources of your startup or company if you're not careful. Making it perfect, a good portion of the time, just doesn’t matter.

© 2012 entrepreneurdex

Damir Perge, author of Entrepreneur Myths: The Startup Reality, is the founder of entrepreneurdex, a venturcelerator using complexity science to fund and launch startups.

An entrepreneur and investor, with more than 25 years experience, he's worked with ventures in the technology, internet, media and publishing, entertainment, energy, and manufacturing sectors raising more than $300 million in capital for various companies and investing more than $50 million into startup and emerging ventures. He's sat on the boards of 11 companies, served as editor-in-chief of Futuredex, a private equity magazine. Follow 

Pre-order Damir Perge's upcoming books at damirperge.com >

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Tags: damir perge, launching a product, marketing creep, new business, startup

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