Why those American startups aren’t so stupid when it comes to marketing



I recently got in touch with a couple of start-ups from both sides of the Atlantic. The difference between European and English-speaking companies’ approach was very obvious; the Europeans would spend all their money on product development, whereas the Brits and Americans pay a lot more attention to promotion from the very start.

We Europeans don’t generally have it in our nature to run promotional campaigns so efficiently. Our approach still seems to rely too much on hoping a product will sell itself.

Those to the west of the North Sea seem to be much more nonchalant, in a certain way. There’s still plenty of time to get the final product finished and perfected, so let’s get on with making sure enough people know about us, and put ourselves in a unique position.

But promotion isn’t just about attention; it’s about budgets, and specialists, too. And this is another area where the continental (*) and English-speaking ways of working differ. In Europe, small and medium enterprises often spend a long time deliberating whether or not they need someone for their marketing communication.

And if they do decide to hire somebody, that person has to be a generalist, so someone who can easily organise all sorts of events, make PowerPoint sales presentations with a smile, get the website high up in Google searches, write convincing mailshots, and take care of all the graphic design. If possible, please could they also sort out the photography, translations, commercial whitepapers, monthly newsletter and press releases?

Again, the Americans aren’t so stupid. They prefer to work with specialists, and not get too distracted or caught up in side issues. Their website might not be fantastic, but their events are absolutely amazing, or vice versa.

They prefer to concentrate on two things and do them really well, than do ten things half-heartedly. It’s strange that more European SMEs don’t consider specialising when it comes to marketing communication; they do, after all, specialise in sales, which is surely also a part of the promotion.

(*) The European Commission has a couple of billion euro for subsidising innovative SMEs, but more than 90% percent of dossiers submitted are not approved. This is largely because of the tedious procedure involved, but it is largely the second part of the submitted dossiers that scores poorly. A subsidy dossier has to describe the product (part one) and its promotion and commercialisation (part two). Supply is structurally greater than the demand in the European market, so you need both good products and good promotion.

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About the author

Frank Van den Bossche

Frank Van den Bossche (45) set up Quadrant Communications in 2001. The company wanted to take care of marketing communications for technology companies and it still does. Before establishing Quadrant Communications, Frank already had 10 years’ experience in business-to-business marketing, PR and copywriting. Meanwhile, he has racked up more than twenty years of experience. More recently, he got his teeth into B2B websites, communication planning, training and audits. You can follow Quadrant on Twitter.

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