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  • Writer's pictureTyler Harman

Marketing Is Not A Last Resort

Marketing is not a last resort. Yet, it seems like so many founders and filmmakers treat marketing like a fire alarm, “In case of emergency, break glass.” Of course I’m a little biased, after all, this is my world, like a dentist who tells you to brush after every meal. But this is America, you can do whatever you want, they’re your teeth, and I’m not your mother.

Founders, and especially filmmakers, are far too busy to think about marketing. There are plenty of more urgent tasks to attend to, fires to put out, fundraising calls to jump on, people to hire, etc. About the only thing they do consider when it comes to marketing, is the launch date. Only at the 11th hour do they start to think about the advertising campaign, and it shows. It shows in the ads themselves, in the slow growth, and on the profit/loss statement.

One thing I can promise you, if you don’t make the marketing of your product/service a priority, nobody else is going to. Just like you, everyone else has their own problems and urgent matters they deal with day to day, and they don’t have time to go out of their way to help you with your problems–especially when you never asked.

So they never came up with an actual marketing plan. Do you think that’s going to stop companies from spending all their money on advertising? No way! They’re going to waste that money so spectacularly! All the way down to their last dime, then they’ll blame the economy, the competition, the government, the weather!

OK, that’s enough pep talk. Let’s go over a couple topics to get you thinking about marketing.

Build A Better Mousetrap

There's an old–very dangerous–saying, "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door." Not true, not even literally! Years after this saying was mis-quoted and purposefully mis-attributed to Emerson, someone did come along and build a better mousetrap. And it failed fantastically.

This is where our ego comes in and clouds our judgment. We couldn't possibly fathom the fact that people won't rush out and immediately buy your product. My ideas are all brilliant. My kid is smarter and more gifted than yours. My dad could beat up your dad.

There's a great story about Sara Blakely, the creator of Spanx, and her struggles as a founder. She tells this long harrowing story about the inspiration and creation of the product, the patents, the manufacturing, and then finally getting her products into the stores. Only then, did she find out, that wasn't the finish line, but the starting line! Now she had to figure out how to sell her product. Not only did the world not beat a path to her door, the world also didn't beat a path to the stores where her products were beginning to collect dust on the shelves.

You may very well have built a better mousetrap, but you’ll soon realize that nobody cares. It’s up to you to give them a reason to care. And that’s called marketing.

Marketing vs. Advertising

A lot of people incorrectly use these two words as synonyms. Truth is, advertising is one small part under the big umbrella of marketing.

Marketing is how your product looks and feels, the packaging, the store it sells in, the way the website looks, the logo, the fonts, the promotions you run, the discounts you offer or the premium price you charge, the way you bundle products and offers, what you give away for free, the perks you offer for being part of your community, how people perceive your brand, and yes… the ads you run.

A great advertising campaign cannot fix a poorly marketed product. On the other hand, if a product is marketed thoughtfully, sometimes, the ads write themselves.

Slow Down & Think

“The hurrier I go, the behinder I get!” That’s what the white rabbit said in Alice in Wonderland when he was running late looking at his watch. Similarly, because of these self-imposed deadlines and arbitrary launch dates, we’re always in such a hurry to get the product off the ground, and we couldn’t be more behind on considering the customer and building a really thoughtful product and marketing plan.

Here’s a question for you:

Why would someone want to buy your product, use your service, or invest in your idea? Really, this isn’t rhetorical. Why would they take money out of their pocket and hand it to you? What do they get out of the deal? Status? Entertainment? Utility? Peace of mind?

Wait a second. Don’t just spit out an answer.

Slow down, and think really hard about it. Put yourself in the shoes of the people you might want to give you money under the right circumstances. Think about what they’re going to tell themselves why they bought it, and then what the actual reason might be (those might be two different reasons). If applicable, what are they going to tell their spouse and their friends? There’s probably many reasons. Spend some real time thinking about them.

Consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Google it). Let’s suppose someone went to a fancy restaurant in a cool part of town. Why did they go there for dinner? Yes it’s food, they need food to live. But, they also want to dress up and go out for a nice date night with their spouse. It might be a really hip restaurant and they want people to see them as the type of person who eats there. Maybe the food’s all made sustainably and carbon neutral. What story did they tell themselves when they made the decision? Now take some time and do that for your product.

Positioning Your Product

Let’s do a quick thought experiment. Read this list of car brands, and pay attention to how you think about them, categorize them, describe them, etc. Subaru, Mercedes, Toyota, Lexus, Tesla, Ford, Chevy, Cadillac, Volvo, Audi, Rolls Royce, Ferrari, Kia, .

There’s probably several words that come to mind: safety, quality, luxury, affordable, cheap, probably many more. How did you compare one brand to the others? Now think about your own brand. How would you describe it? Fast service, custom made, wide selection, great service, self-serve, philanthropic, environmental, etc. It can be any adjective that comes to mind.

Now take two of those adjectives and put them on an X-Y axis. Like with cars, you might have Price and Quality. So some that are high price, high quality like Rolls Royce, and maybe low price, high quality like Toyota. You can plot all those brands somewhere on that axis.

The great thing is, with your brand, you can play by your own rules. You don’t have to use someone else’s X-Y axis when it comes to price and quality, or service and selection, or whatever. You choose, and now you have just “framed” how people should perceive your brand, your products, service, etc. That’s positioning.

Don’t Chase Magic Bullets

“If fifty million people say a stupid thing, it is still a stupid thing.” - David Severn

Everyone is eager to give advice. (I guess this counts as advice, too.) If something doesn’t fit into your plan, don’t contort your whole strategy to make it fit. If something doesn’t feel right, feels inauthentic, remember to slow down and think.

Take an hour, or two or three and consider what your real strategy is. Taking this time now could save you countless hours and countless dollars (probably tens of thousands of dollars, in fact) by keeping your plan simple.

In my world, this advice usually comes in the form of running ads on a specific platform like TikTok or Pinterest, or paying for search engine optimization (SEO), conversion rate optimization (CRO), influencer marketing, content marketing, you name it.

If you feel like you’re taking a shortcut, odds are, you’re chasing a magic bullet.


There’s no “right way” to market your product, but there’s plenty of wrong ways. The best advice I can give any young startup or filmmaker is, slow down, take your time, be very thoughtful about how to put all the aspects of your product together (physically or in the abstract), put yourself in the customer’s shoes, and then consider what an advertising campaign would look like–hopefully long before you’re on the phone with the person who’s about to spend all your money.

In any business, marketing should be a huge priority, but sadly in most cases, it’s an afterthought–something people just assume will get done eventually. Like the joke about the husband and the mystery laundry basket where laundry just magically gets done and folded if you put dirty clothes in there.

Like Stephen Covey said, “Don’t prioritize your schedule, schedule your priorities.” Make sure you block off time for important things. If you don’t, they will not get done.

Join us for the AMP Filmmaker Meetup in January, I'm hosting!


Tyler Harman

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