I'm the CTO of a SAAS startup oriented towards non-technical internet users in the 40-65 age demographic and we're preparing for our initial launch. Naturally, much of our conversation has shifted to customer acquisition (not that we weren't always discussing it). My team is comprised of two Business school students and myself. The product alpha is essentially done, we're all meshing well, we've won a few startup awards and the funding that comes with them, etc.
But, we're still very concerned about the asbsense of a marketing talent from our team. We're trying to decide what the best way to handle this is. We are all willing to work together to ensure a strong marketing presence, but clearly much value would be had by having an expert come in and guide us as we grow.
Here are a couple of ideas we had, I'd love to know if anyone has any suggestions or comments -:
As background - I'm a 50/50 dev/ux, have started my own company a couple of times, and have worked with marketing folk and a non-trivial number of startups. So salt my feedback appropriately ;-)
I'll take your options in reverse order.
Think of it... as a technical type, we bristle whenever one uses the term "do programming" - as if its that simple. Marketing is the same.
Winning some awards doesn't necessarily mean that the product will gain commercial traction either (speaking from experience here).
What you want is to validate that your product is something that people and / or companies want to use and would be willing to pay for. You have an idea, they have a need.. or more likely you have a hypothesis that they have a need.
Validating that need is what many call customer development. Marketing is taking what you have and increasing its visibility / optimizing conversions. Spending a whole lot of time & money on "professional" marketing is a waste if you haven't validated the need (and their propensity to pay).
Most Lean types would state that customer development cannot be outsourced - it needs to be done by a person in charge. Rationale: its too easy to fall in love with your idea and build something that only you will use. Using a business model canvas forces you to write down your idea, document your assumptions and then validate each one in a sprint like fashion - the results of which helps shape the product offering.
Treehouse (SaaS education) had a good post on getting started with customer development, complete with a bunch of good reference links.
Whether it is done by you, a staffer or an outsider, the biggest challenge is to accept the results which may invalidate your assumptions. Its too easy to simply dismiss it as "another opinion". That's why the results of the sprint(s) need to be as objective as possible and the methodology used in the sprint accepted by all prior to launch.
Yes, it is as hard as it sounds. But its a hell of a lot simpler than trying to sell something you already built that nobody wants.
Best of luck.