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Starting a business is 100 percent marketing
All you do and think about is marketing. How you tell it is communication

I remember very well picking up the gauntlet to start for myself. Starting my own business. The motives were crystal clear, searching for boundaries, exploring your possibilities. Testing your talent. Of course also being autonomous and on the way to independence. The year prior to that decision, we made a round trip. We visited successful regional marketing agencies because, yes, Leeuwarden wasn’t exactly the epicentre of the world. You needed a point of reference. I remember most of the conversations. The openness with which we were met.

Today you consult the Internet, Google, Twitter and LinkedIn. There is no shortage of success coaches and strategists. Because success is what it is all about. You have to be successful to stay afloat. In my view, the core of success is that you manage to remain autonomous. Whether it becomes a company or whether you want to grow year after year are different definitions of success.

Holy Grail
The answer to the question of how to become successful is the Holy Grail. Fortunately, there is help. People are waiting for you with books, seminars and how-to’s. Scientific studies, with what to do and what not to do. Everyone is waving his or her own right. But that right does not exist.

There are no scientific studies that guarantee success in advance. There are no strategists who guarantee turnover or profit. Successful marketers in one company are seldom, if ever, successful in another.

Successful marketers in one company are seldom or never successful in another company.

In spite of everything that has been written and conceived, you can state with 100% certainty that there is no universally reproducible formula for success. There are no seminars where you can achieve success. There are no magic books. What does exist is inspiration. Inspiration like water on fertile ground. But that’s pretty much what it is.

Success a data point?
Thanks to advancing digitisation, we have come to think that success is a data point. That success is achievable. Establishing a business, building a brand. That a company is nothing more than a funnel. There is no reproducible success story. Not for entrepreneurs, not for marketeers. Because that became my area at the intersection of entrepreneurship and marketing. What can you do and what can’t you do? What works and what doesn’t? After years of observations, I can say that what does work for one person does not have to work for another and the longer you look at it, the clearer it is that there are no certainties to be seen. No matter how hard you shout that you know it all, no one gives any guarantees beforehand.

Seen in this light, we now have one million marketeers in the Netherlands.

Indeed, for me, setting up a business is one hundred per cent marketing. All you do and think about is marketing. How you tell it is communication. Seen in that light, we now have one million marketeers in the Netherlands. Or perhaps better said one million marcom people. People who work for themselves and try to find out what works for them every day. Everyone tries to do something different in his or her own way.

That’s also the beauty of the profession: that you don’t know. Imagine if everyone did the same thing then you would get nowhere. We all drove the same car, we all drank the same beer. At the same time, the uncertainty that you don’t know is perhaps the most underexposed subject in the marketing profession. That the client who doesn’t know for sure gives an assignment to a marketer who doesn’t know for sure either. That you know about each other but that it remains undiscussed. That you both play in the same play, in the same theatre.

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Marketing is oxygen
Marketing is oxygen. You can light a smouldering fire with it. But you can’t make a fire with it. That fire is the entrepreneur himself. That is the idea that arose at the kitchen table. That is the will to do something that has never been done before. Against the current sometimes, but often also with the tide. Simply because it can be done.

There are no marketeers who could tell Steve Jobs that there had to be an iPhone.

There are no marketers who could tell Jobs to have an iPhone. Nokia, with all its billions, was working on a smartphone at the same time as Apple. Nokia had the market, knew exactly what everyone was buying.

Is there a marketer or a success coach who put Bezos on the path of first piling up years of loss until he eventually became the richest man on the planet in online retail because cloud hosting was going to break through? Impossible, after all, it was unprecedented. Were they marketers who pointed out to Zuckerberg that there was room in the market for a platform on which people would simply share things that were strictly private until then? That two billion people worldwide would be queuing up in front of you. Why is Musk’s car company worth more than Volkswagen?

What applies to Bezos applies to every entrepreneur on the corner of any street.

Of course they are the familiar names, but what applies to Bezos applies to every entrepreneur on the corner of any street. You try it your own way.

Don’t let anything talk to you. Go your own way and look for people who can blow oxygen into your fire. Don’t look for guarantees or certainties. There are no such guarantees. Make your own tour, talk to people who can bring in experience. Not to carry out what is being said, perhaps not exactly, but mainly to test your own ideas, to fine-tune them. Make choices based on your intuition, your gut feeling and don’t let yourself be distracted. The entrepreneur himself makes the difference. The rest is happiness, coincidence and yes: also timing.