It Must Be a Marketing Problem is a cautionary tale about a company that continued to scale up without knowing the needs of their customers.The problem with hiring an arsenal of top sales and marketing executives when you don't have a proven customer model is that you're likely to burn through all that funding you worked so hard to get. Steve Blank's latest post entitled,
Blank describes being called into a company for "a marketing problem" only to find that neither the company's marketing department nor sales team had left the building to find out the needs of consumers.
He writes, "Missing the sales numbers had nothing to do with marketing...Neither the CEO, VP of Sales or VP of Marketing had any idea what a repeatable sales model would look like before they scaled the sales force."
Between the 10 sales and marketing staff, the company had made decisions based only on site metrics and early audience research that consisted of feedback from friends and family. In other words, they were developing their strategy in a vacuum.
To ensure that you know the needs of your customer, Blank suggests you test your customer problem hypothesis through real world observations. Once you have real world observations, customer demographics and a firm knowledge of the competitive environment, then you're free to begin experimenting with new tactics. Tactics are validated through concrete sales. When you determine what is driving your growth and you make those new sales, the idea is to map the process and hire others to help you execute.
For a more complete look at Blank's model for customer development check out this article.
As for the idea of having a "marketing problem," sometimes the biggest question isn't how to position your product, but determining its value to the end-user.