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Marketing vs. Substance: People, Not Ideas, Lead to Entrepreneurial Success


Marketing vs. Substance: People, Not Ideas, Lead to Entrepreneurial Success

I love working with entrepreneurs. They are generally exciting and passionate, have great ideas and work intensely to bring their ideas to fruition. But sometimes, entrepreneurs and investors can leave you scratching your head. Introduce, the $400 juicer.

The juicer (which was originally $700) received the jeers of many when it was realized that to get juice, it’s both faster and much less expensive to not use the juicer. In the words of Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park, “We were so preoccupied with whether or not we could, we never stopped to think if we should.”

It’s a funny example of an entrepreneurial and investor miss (which happens all the time). But it brings up an important distinction that should be discussed when approaching new businesses, ideas, strategies and the like: Marketing vs. Substance.

Marketing vs. Substance

The marketing vs. substance point is easy to make in the tech world, because it has to move at an incredible speed. But I see it in all kinds of businesses, ranging from project management to strategic direction.

What I mean by marketing vs. substance is that we are focused on the shiny “what” something can do, not “why” it is doing it. Think of a refrigerator – I can now get one that’s connected to the internet, has a Twitter feed and a YouTube channel. Shiny marketing. But if it doesn’t keep my milk cold, then it’s ultimately worthless. That’s substance.

“We don’t invest in ideas, we invest in people.”

So said the angel investor I had dinner with recently. Finding the substance can be a challenge for entrepreneurs and business owners. So I will help you out and save you the challenge: It’s your people.

Most entrepreneurs and businesses don’t have a new idea. I’ve heard people pitch on creating the “LinkedIn of parenting” almost a dozen times. I’ve heard of companies trying to be “the Uber” of something at least two dozen times. It’s important to recognize that your idea is not going to be original. And that’s OK.

Entrepreneurs should be focused on showing not what their idea is, but why their idea will win. And that comes down to people. Your trust with your partners and team, and allowing them to leverage their expertise to make you successful is what matters. As all entrepreneurs know, nothing goes to plan, and it takes a well-oiled team to be flexible enough to respond.

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