Should you spend more on technology or marketing?

Andrew Neitlich

Here’s a tough question for many tech-savvy web developers: Should you spend more on marketing or technology?

Here’s a story for you: When I was growing up, my father spent time at the local YMCA working out with a shoe salesman. This guy always had new ideas for shoes, and my father and friends got a kick out of hearing his ideas. One day, he bought a small sneaker company called Reebok. The rest is history.

His name is Paul Fireman, and one thing people also said about him in his early days was this: If he had only $100 to spend, he would spend it on marketing. Maybe Reebok isn’t Nike, but Mr. Fireman managed to bring in $11 million per year for himself for a long, long time.

In web development, the question gets a bit more tricky. Here is my take on it:

You are either a technology play or a marketing play. But be careful. Many people who think they are a “technology play” really aren’t. Their technology is nothing new or different, and doesn’t change the world. Really they should be a marketing play.

A marketing play means that, with good marketing and by knowing your customers, you can create and provide unique products and services.

I’ve learned the hard way that a good venture that is a marketing play should spend on marketing vs. technology by about 5 to 1 or more.

This sounds obvious but isn’t. Too many people get enamored by technology. They end up creating huge technological bohemoths, and run out of money for marketing. Or they keep investing in technology that nobody really wants.

If in doubt, spend money on marketing. Then build your solution when you prove that people want it.