How important is the role of marketing when launching a startup?
That was the central question that more than 50 YU students considered on Tuesday, March 8, 2022, when they gathered at the Yagoda Commons on Beren Campus for “A Fireside Chat with Ariella Shoham: Startups, Marketing and Everything In-Between.”
Shoham is a seasoned marketer whose 25-year career spans a range of industries across public companies and startups. Since 2018, Shoham has been vice president of marketing at AIDOC, a provider of artificial intelligence solutions to hospital-based radiologists to improve diagnoses and quality of care.
Her talk was the second in a series of workshops presented by the YU Innovation Lab Challenge, a six-week learning intensive in which teams of fledgling entrepreneurs, mentored by YU faculty, have less than two months to generate a viable business plan and pitch it to a panel of experts and prospective investors.
Under the capable questioning of Dr. Maria Blekher, director of the YU Innovation Lab, Shoham offered the packed room a fast-paced primer on the state of marketing today, underscoring its importance as a driver of business growth. More than ever, marketing is seen as having “top of funnel value in that it serves to spread awareness, educate prospects and create a buzz around a product, service or brand,” all critical steps in creating startup success and underscoring the importance of having a marketing professional on staff.
“When is the right time for a startup to bring a marketer on board,” asked one audience member. “After proof of concept,” Shoham replied. She then went on to note that hiring a “marketer who understands strategy is worth the necessary investment even when funds are tight.” Startups are known for their can-do, all-hands-on-deck approach to solving problems, “but rarely do they have the expertise in place to manage marketing strategy and tactics.” That expertise can make the difference between success and failure.
Over two hours, the discussion also touched upon understanding a target market through its pain points; techniques for customer engagement, online and in person; and how to create a marketing strategy by formulating the right questions.
When asked to identify the qualities essential to every marketer, Shoham listed curiosity, focus and the stamina to multitask. “Marketing is at the center everything. It holds a pivotal position between product development and sales. It drives the business and, in the long run, to be successful at it one must be resilient and thick-skinned.”
Following the Q&A, Challenge participants spoke individually to Shoham about their specific startup projects. For her, the evening proved to be an “energizing and enriching experience to meet so many rising entrepreneurs with such innovative ideas.”