Agency 101: How to Cash in On Start Ups

This post was inspired by a recent conversation I had with a former employee of AdMob, the mobile ad network that Google acquired in November 2009.

As we recently brought a SaaS start up onto our client roster, we began to examine whether there was a niche market of start up companies based here in San Francisco / Sillicon Valley that we could assist with the lead generation & nurturing process.

To help guide this conversation, I tapped into an old friend to get her opinion on the matter.

For the sake of organization, I broke each discussion point into it’s own mini-section.

Who are you marketing to?

This is the first question that you should lead with in the conversation with a potential start up client.

Is the start up focused on acquiring B2C clientele or B2B? This is important because …

  • B2C Marketing: Do they want to focus on acquiring customers using heavy digital lead generation tactics?
  • B2B Marketing: Do they want to acquire leads that need to be funneled through to a sales team, who will do the heavy lifting of closing said leads?

Who is driving the 'big wins'?

Make sure to ask these start ups where their long tail wins are coming from.

Next, ask them where their big wins are coming from.

In her experience at AdMob, she saw …

  • Many paid marketing wins were long tail victories: These were larger in quantity but weren't necessarily the biggest ticket sales wins within the organization.
  • On that note, the sales team was closing the 'high touch point' wins through traditional sales tactics of lead nurturing. Companies like Marketo help convert paid marketing wins into larger sales victories.

How are businesses being started in Silicon Valley?

She noticed a trend in the life cycle of start ups in the valley:

  • Company founded around a genius technological idea / product
  • Idea / product is put through rigorous proof of concept stages
  • Sell the damn thing --> are they able to convince people to pay for this solution?

Is the start up focused on users or paying customers?

Take Instagram for example: they were a free product with millions of users. Unfortunately, not a single one of those users was a paying customer.

When approaching start ups as a marketing agency, you need to ask the following questions to understand their positioning:

  • Do you have a sales team in place or will you use our efforts as the primary lead generation driver?
  • Do you need users (non-paying like Instagram) or paying customers?
  • On that note, are you looking for a volume of users or a quality share of paying customers?

What is your agencies point of entry?

This focuses on the time during the startups life cycle that your agency enters into the marketing conversation.

For example, will you report to …

  • CEO?
  • CRO?
  • CMO?
  • VP of Marketing?

Or will you come in and act as a full service marketing arm, essentially eliminating the hiring need for a full time marketing director & team?

Company life stage will dictate the acute need points and provide the opportunity to determine who your agency will be reporting to.

Help us out here -- What points are we missing here?

Mike Krass | CEO & All-Around Nice Guy

Aside from being the CEO of MKG Marketing, Mike is a dark beer aficionado with a healthy appetite for travel and pushing personal boundaries. A proud graduate of the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication at Washington State University, Mike currently calls San Francisco home. Feel free to contact him via Twitter & Email:

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