When Jill Soley was a 9-year-old living in Scarsdale, it was the late 1970s and the internet was in its infancy. Though the tech industry was still far from being filled with smartphones and virtual reality and Soley was far from being old enough to become an entrepreneur herself, she watched studiously as her mother started her own tech company, Dator Corp. In a time when real estate listings were distributed through handwritten notes and potential buyers and sellers had to make calls to access the market, her mother wrote a code that allowed internet users to post listings online.
“That code is the reason Zillow and Redfin can exist,” said Soley. “That is really what got me interested in tech and entrepreneurship.”
Following her mother’s early example, Soley recently published her first book, “Beyond Product: How Exceptional Founders Embrace Marketing to Create and Capture Value for their Business.” Described as a marketing book for nonmarketers, Soley wrote it as a guide for entrepreneurs who haven’t quite mastered the important aspects of business beyond the product itself.
“I was getting frustrated seeing businesses fail for all the wrong reasons,” said Soley, who at the time was doing consulting for startups in Silicon Valley. “There are all kinds of unforeseen reasons that a business might fail. But this is something I felt like I could tell people things about.”
As she continued to notice the same common errors, such as not giving marketing enough credence, pushing into aggressive promotional strategies too early or a lack of understanding about audience, she realized she had plenty of fodder to run an advice blog. And then, as that continued to bloom, she realized she had enough to write an entire book.
Long before Soley wrote a book meant to advise small business and high-end clients alike, however, she was a student at Scarsdale High School’s Alternative School, earned a bachelor’s and MBA from MIT and then launched into a career that included marketing, consulting, advising and managing for notable tech companies like Adobe.
“All of my classmates went into engineering, I actually went into documentary filmmaking and then sort of ended up where I did,” said Soley. “Back then was sort of the Wild West of the internet and I found my way through making websites for public broadcast stations and working at a consulting company building out streaming media and communications solutions for companies. Then I went back to business school and discovered managment stuff and fell in love and the rest is history.”
As far as writing the book, Soley started the same way students are taught to start an essay in school — make an outline. The book contains interviews with more than 50 startup leaders and industry veterans, interviews she conducted during breaks from her full-time job as VP Platform at company Cloverpop. She boiled down the content to a precise understanding of what marketing is and how to establish a good system. And, 161 pages and a book deal through a mutual friend later, her years of working everywhere from small business to major Silicon Valley players were memorialized on the written page.
“I think it’s really relevant for not only people who work in the startup tech world, which it was kind of written for, but I’ve realized talking to small business owners it’s pretty widely applicable to everybody,” said Soley. “You’ve got any kind of product already and [the book] is just helping you in a very practical, jargon-free way, how to approach taking your product or service to the market.