So when a startup finally is able to raise a few million dollars, they’re ready to do some marketing.  But sometimes, even oftentimes, they want to start with an “agency or two” instead of hiring a real VP of Marketing.

These agencies are everywhere.  What they are good at:

  • Making nice explainer videos
  • Writing up your product strategy
  • Writing a few press releases
  • Maybe writing a few mediocre blog posts
  • Doing “audits” of your SEO strategy

Look, some of this stuff is nice, and some of it is worthless, but none of it is what you really need in the early days.

You need leads.  You need sign-ups.  You need customers.

I’ve never seen a marketing agency actually deliver real leads for customers.  Although many are great at making slick decks to convince you they’ll help you get off the ground and build awareness.

Now to be fair, agencies have their place, and the best ones are gems.  But they supplement a head of marketing — not act as a placeholder until you decide to hire one.

Even I got snookered into this a little ways back.  When we launch the first edition of our book, Impossible to Inevitable, I was convinced to hire a great PR agency good at promoting books.  We have indeed sold over 100,000 copies.  But all this agency did for $25k was write a press release no one saw, mark-up our Amazon listing, and give us advice on a marketing site we had to build ourselves.  They didn’t sell a single copy.  I pushed back, but I gave in.  Shouldn’t have.  I still haven’t even gotten the $25K back. 🙂

Don’t waste time and money on too many agencies once you have even a little product-market fit. Use that energy instead to go hire a real head of marketing.  I did at just $20k MRR.  And it wasn’t a week too early.

Put differently, agencies are a tool, not a solution.  Use them as such.  And you’ll probably need a real head of marketing that knows how to use these tools.

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