I’m not the first to say it, and I won’t be the last: Silicon Valley is a special place. Sure it’s where most of the world’s leading-edge technology was born, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a culture, it’s an organism — and dare I say, it’s a convergence. Where top brains meet smart money in an entrepreneurial petri dish that keeps reinventing itself (and spawning new petri dishes) every day.
It’s a rich environment for marketers and communicators — where big ideas, interesting personalities and compelling stories abound. Unfortunately, Silicon Valley has lost an important part of its economy — native Silicon Valley born-and-bred marketing agencies — that not only “get” the rhythm, pace and innovation here but also can lead the way with specialized, Valley-forged marketing approaches.
It’s ironic that while CMOs now rival CIOs as technology decision-makers, and many Valley companies are fusing marketing and technology in powerful ways, most of the marketing and communications agencies that serve Valley companies are led (or “parent-ed”) from outside the Valley. Major holding companies have bought up most of the pioneering Valley agencies over the past 25 years, leaving Valley marketers with four options:
- Hire a holding company agency that may have a Valley/SF office or Valley/SF staffers, but the firm is ultimately managed with a New York or London or Chicago mindset;
- Hire an acquired Valley/SF agency that now operates “under” a holding company banner, but has likely lost its soul at some point during or after the earn-out process;
- Hire one of the legacy Valley/SF agencies that didn’t get acquired and continues to carry the independence flag — perhaps now less ambitious, but still very client focused; or
- Hire one of the upstart Valley/SF agencies that have smart people but may not have the scale, skills or relationships (yet) to deliver against mixed marketing needs.
It’s time to change the landscape. Silicon Valley deserves more. To that end, I’m today launching a new firm — Big Valley Marketing — that will strive to put the Silicon Valley back into Silicon Valley marketing. What does that mean? It’s pretty simple actually…
Valley companies have their own rhythm, their own pace, and their own expectations. Valley companies need their agencies to understand the technology, their audiences and their use cases — in a much deeper, more “native” way than most agency marketers do today. Valley companies need marketers and communications experts that are aggressive, proactive and know how to lead. Valley companies also need specialized capabilities that were cultivated or refined by the best Valley marketers: market development, category creation, competitive positioning, thought leadership, executive casting, etc.
It’s a big, bold mission — and like most Valley companies, we won’t be able to deliver fully against it right away. But like most startups here, we’ll scratch and bootstrap and shape-shift our way to building a great company that delivers high value to our customers, fueled by a world-changing ambition.
Lest I get accused of being insular, I should reinforce that I’m using Valley in the “Big” sense of the term — not limited to companies between San Jose and San Francisco near Highway 101. I’m thinking of the broader Valley — more concept than place — where technology innovation, entrepreneurship and startup mentalities thrive. Whether it’s Boston, Austin, Beijing, Helsinki or Sao Paulo, the “Valley” spirit exists in many pockets of the world — and all of those “Valley companies” need something different from their agencies.
As I launch Big Valley, I’m excited to announce our first strategic partnership with my former employers at W2O Group. Founder Jim Weiss and President Bob Pearson have fostered a strong entrepreneurial streak at W2O, building a powerhouse firm along the way, and I credit them for helping “unlock” my entrepreneurial instincts. I’m very thankful that they not only support my personal interests — but that they will support the new venture itself, and we will continue to collaborate as strategic partners to deliver for current and future clients.
Stay tuned for more details about Big Valley and our plans. In the meantime, please share your thoughts on the state of Valley marketing — either here for the world to see, or privately to me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I’m listening…