What we offer

Build Your Marketing Engine

Discover and engage your target audiences with strategic and tactical plans that reflect goals, priorities and the competitive landscape.

Tell Your Story, Better

Messaging and positioning that articulates what does your product does, the value delivered and who it serves.

Reach Your Audience

High-quality content for Websites, videos, blog posts, infographics, newsletters and media pitches.

Product Marketing

Strategic and tactical insight on how your product should be positioned, priced and promoted.

Startup Marketing Success is About Priorities

startup priorities

For startups excited about marketing, one of the biggest challenges is having a focused approach.

It means being disciplined, rather than running around like an excited puppy because there are so many things to explore. In other words, it’s about quality over quantity.

This is a hurdle for startups because marketing is a big world with plenty of options. There are probably too many options, which makes the marketing landscape confusing and, at times, overwhelming.

This is why establishing priorities is important for marketing success. A startup needs to focus on the marketing activities that will achieve its goals – be it sales, leads, brand awareness, new financing, or attracting employees.

Once an objective is established, it becomes a matter of deciding on the best marketing activities to make it happen.

Let’s say, for example, a startup wants to nurture more leads. From a sales funnel perspective, it has to rank its marketing activities to achieve this goal. This takes into account target audiences, buyer personas and marketing and sales resources (people, money).

The next step is prioritizing the marketing initiatives using two variables.

1. What are the most effective marketing tools to get prospects into the sales funnel? The options could include sales sheets, white papers, case studies presentations, demos, videos and a Website.

2. How much money does a startup have to invest in marketing? Remember, each option has a cost: people, time and/or money.

Once the two variables align with goals, a startup has the insight to decide on the marketing that makes the most sense from a cost and opportunity perspective.

For some startups, it makes sense to have a good sales sheet and an effective Website so its salespeople have tools to reach out to prospects. This is a “basic” package, but it a startup may not require a lot of ammunition to drive the sales funnel.

For startups with more resources, the marketing bundle could include more options. This makes sense as long as these options align with how customers make purchases. After all, it makes no sense to launch marketing programs that don’t move the needle.

The bottom line is marketing is about driving sales or, at least, setting the stage for sales to happen. With limited resources, startups have no choice but to focus on the most promising marketing opportunities that generate the best return on investment.

Without establishing priorities, startups are running madly in all directions. They embrace marketing activities that have lower sales potential than other options, which is a crucial mistake.

So how are priorities established? It begins with developing a marketing plan that includes target audiences, buyer personas, channels and the competitive landscape. Then, you create a well-defined roadmap that aligns with goals and resources so the right things happen the right time.

It begins with developing a marketing plan that includes target audiences, buyer personas, channels and the competitive landscape. Then, you create a well-defined roadmap that features goals and resources so the right things happen the right time.

This provides a startup with the discipline to drive marketing efficiencies and, hopefully, success. At the same, it reduces the chances a startup wastes time, money and effort by marketing based on quasi-educated guesses or intuition.


For start-ups and fast-growing companies looking to jump-start their marketing, I offer strategic and tactical services. Everything from building marketing engines to telling better stories through messaging/brand positioning, and reaching audiences by developing engaging content.

Five Reasons Startups Are Afraid of Marketing

startup marketing

For all the talk about startup marketing, many startups have a difficult time with marketing. It is something, in concept, that has appeal but pulling the trigger is a challenge. From my experience, it is like forcing a child to take medicine – they know it is going to help them, but there is still resistance.

Here the five reasons why startups are afraid of marketing:

1. Not willing to spend money on marketing. For many startups, marketing is a luxury, rather than a necessity. Why spend money on marketing when you can spend it on product development and sales, right? Unfortunately, this attitude is alive and well, but it’s certainly not healthy.

Sure, marketing costs money but it is an investment in the business. Like any operational exercise, the cost and benefits of marketing must be explored. If marketing meets your goals and needs, it is well worth the money.

2. They are not exactly sure about why they want to do marketing. The funny thing about startup marketing it usually involves a point of pain. A startup is struggling with low brand awareness, slow sales and leads, and competitors with a higher or better profile.

It means startups think about marketing as something that will solve a problem, but they are not quite sure they need it. Frankly, this is the wrong way to approach marketing. Instead, you need specific goals for how marketing is going to drive your business forward. Think offense, rather than defense.

3. Not enough knowledge about marketing. Most startup entrepreneurs are smart, driven and passionate, but they don’t have marketing expertise or experience. There is nothing wrong with that; you can’t be all things to all people.

The lack of knowledge is why some entrepreneurs are hesitant about marketing. They don’t know how it works and the rules of engagement. And it doesn’t help that marketers talk a different language and operate in subjectivity.

4. They are unclear about deliverables and return on investment. When a startup spends money on anything, it is important to know what they will get. If they hire a developer, they can tell if enough code has been written. If they hire a salesperson, they can assess whether sales are happening. But when it comes to marketing, the same rules don’t always apply.

In many ways, marketing does not generate instant results. It can take time for a marketing campaign to gain momentum so it achieves strategic and tactical goals. In some cases, marketing success is intangible and challenging to measure – e.g. higher brand awareness.

As someone who has struggled with articulating marketing ROI, it is important to have clarity from beginning of how marketing works, as well as everyone’s expectations.

5. It is challenging to find the right marketing person. Marketers come in difficult shapes and sizes. They have different skills sets, experience, and approaches. Someone is a good marketer but perhaps not a good fit for a particular startup because they have the wrong skills. For example, they have good writing skills but they are not  savvy with social media.

For many startups, one of the biggest marketing challenges is they are not sure about the marketing person is needed until a marketing roadmap is developed. It often takes time before a startup knows target audiences, and how to effectively engage and communicate with them. It means a startup needs time to understand the kind of marketing that works. Until they know, it is a challenge to hire the right marketer for the job.

What do you think? What the biggest hurdles faced by startups when it comes to marketing?


For start-ups and fast-growing companies looking to jump-start their marketing, I offer strategic and tactical services. Everything from building marketing engines to telling better stories through messaging/brand positioning, and reaching audiences by developing engaging content.

Startups Need To Be Transparent, Not Mysterious

contact page

I was doing research recently for a client that involved looking at dozens of startup Websites. In particular, I was looking for contact information – straightforward stuff such as email addresses, phone numbers and location.

It was surprising and puzzling that so many startups veiled themselves in mystery and intrigue. Some startups had no contact information, not even an email address. Some only provided an email address, while others didn’t disclose their location.

Why the mystery?

There’s nothing intriguing or smart about hiding contact information. If anything, it triggers an alarm. If a startup is trying to attract attention, it makes no sense to make it difficult to touch base. In other words, it causes more harm than good.

Transparency is important for startups about what they do and how to contact them. Why would you deter a potential customer, partner, employee or investor by making it difficult to connect?

Maybe a startup is operating out someone’s basement. Maybe, it’s a part-time gig or side project so there is no office. Maybe, people don’t know any better, which is troubling.

Truth be told, we live in a fast-paced world. People are looking for instant gratification and quick access to information. They have no appetite for guessing games or playing hide and seek.

So here’s the deal: If, in fact, you want people to contact you, make it easy and, as important provide lots of options. Here are a couple of examples:

Built by Buffalo uses simple design to provide different options:

contact page

Another good contact page is Combadi, which provides a user-friendly form to send a message, along with an email address, Skype ID, telephone number and address.

contact page

When creating a “Contact” page, here are some best practices:

1. Provide a variety of ways to get in touch – email, phone, address and social media. It reflects that people use different communication tools for different purposes. It’s about their needs, not how you want them to contact you.

2. Make it easy for someone to send a message by providing a form. Forcing someone to write an email makes them do work, rather than making it easy. Even better, create a form that lets people quickly tell you why they want to get in touch. A dropdown with several options is magical.

3. Avoid email links that activate someone’s email client. It drives me crazy when Apple Mail suddenly comes to life after being dormant for months (I’m a Gmail user).

4. When someone hits submit on a form, make it clear the message was sent, and what will happen next (e.g. you will respond in X number of days). If you decide to auto-reply by email, thank someone for their interest and, as important, give them some options to learn more about your company.


For start-ups and fast-growing companies looking to jump-start their marketing, I offer strategic and tactical services. Everything from building marketing engines to telling better stories through messaging/brand positioning, and reaching audiences by developing engaging content.

Want To Be Successful? Learn to Say “No”

Attracting customers is difficult, so bending over backwards to please them is easy.

As a result, we say “yes” to many things. We agree to add more features, hiring people who are not the right fit, meetings that have no return, and spending that makes no sense.

Why? We want to please and, as important, we are afraid to say “no”.

But “no” is one of the most powerful things you can say on the road to success. Saying “no” lets you be disciplined and focused on what’s important. Saying “no” is an effective way to allocate your energy on the right things, rather than someone else’s agenda.

The need to say “no” happened to me recently when I turned down a marketing consulting opportunity. It was a project where I could have provided a lot of value because the  company’s needs were pretty straightforward.

The problem? I wasn’t sure that I could effectively work the executive team. They had lots of idea but were not focused. I had concerns about conflicting agendas and approaches that would cause the project to lurch forward.

In other words, I was afraid of getting myself into a situation where success was a tenuous prospect. This is the biggest lesson I learned from consulting with startups last year. As much as working with startups is exciting, success for both parties is critical. Otherwise, everyone gets disappointed because they don’t achieve their goals.

I think this is the biggest reason to say “no”. It is important to position yourself for success. Whether you are a startup marketing consultant or a startup, success happens when it falls into your sweetspot. It is doing and making things that are true to who you are, rather than getting out of your comfort zone.

It sometimes means staying away from opportunities that are financially attractive, but may not deliver a good return on investment or be good for your business. It is hard to say “no” because business is frequently about saying “yes”.

In many ways, business owners want to please, not disappoint. Saying “yes” means you’re hungry, motivated and aggressive.

But I think businesses should say “no” more often. It allows a business to move ahead with a defined plan, rather than jumping around to capitalize on every opportunity.

By saying “no”, it opens the door  for when the right opportunities come along. As important, it means less stress for an entrepreneur because what you’re doing feels right, not forced or stressful.

For more on the power of “no”, Satya Patel has some advice for startups, while Holly Weeks looks at how to say no without burning bridges.


For start-ups and fast-growing companies looking to jump-start their marketing, I offer strategic and tactical services. Everything from building marketing engines to telling better stories through messaging/brand positioning, and reaching audiences by developing engaging content.

Should Startups Blog?

startup blogging

In my last post, I explored whether blogging has reached a fork in the road. Today, I want to look at whether blogging makes sense for startups.

I think the answer is “Yes, but…..”

From the outside looking in, blogging is an attractive proposition. It gives startups a platform to demonstrate thought leadership. These are important considerations for companies with little brand awareness or credibility. By creating value content, startups can appear smart and insightful. And, in many cases, perception becomes reality.

Writing a blog also provides opportunities for startups to become a vibrant member of the community to drive brand awareness and brand personality. As well, creating a steady flow of content is good for search engine optimization, especially if it attracts inbound links.

For startups that embrace blogging, it establishes competitive differentiation. Good examples of startups using the power of blogging include Buffer and GrooveHQ. Groove is so enthusiastic about blogging it has three blogs: Startup Journey, Customer Journey and Product.

When I look at startups with good blogs, there are a few key characteristics:

1. The content is customer-centric. There is a focus on providing potential or existing customers with information that is relevant and helpful. It is classic “soft selling” that wins over consumers, who could one day turn into customers. The startup rarely puts the spotlight on its products.

2. There is a steady flow of content. The blog has new posts on a regular basis, sometimes even daily. This provides more opportunities for the content distribute, share and consumed. After all, the more horses in the race, the better the chances of winning.For most startups, however, creating content is the biggest challenge. There are so many competing priorities and limited resources that writing blog posts on a regular basis is difficult, if not impossible. This is probably the biggest reason why startups stay away from blogging, or blog badly.

3. They have a well-oiled social media machines that amplifies blog content on multiple platforms. This is not only posting content on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., but engaging people on social media, as well as leaving comments.

When you look at the three characteristics, it is easy to see why many startups are not able to leverage blogging. In simple terms, blogging takes time, effort, creativity and commitment. It is difficult for startups to invest in blogs given other priorities such as product development are bigger priorities.

So what should startups do with blogging given the pros and cons?

In many respects, it comes down to deciding on the best ways for a startup to establish a market foothold. In a competitive landscape, startups need ways to stand out from the crowd. Given few startups are good bloggers, startups that dive into blogging have the potential to carve out a unique position.

Another consideration is determining how a blog ranks among the marketing options. For startups, I’m a big believer in establishing marketing priorities that best drives the sales funnel.

Depending on a startup’s product and market, a blog can rank higher on the marketing food chain than social media, case studies or sales sheets. It comes down to knowing how customers make purchases, and how they consume information before pulling the trigger.

Truth be told, blogging doesn’t work for all startups because it is an activity that consumes resources (people, time, energy). It is important for startups to decide if a blog can drive the sales funnel and, if so, it will do whatever it takes to make the blog successful.

What do you think? What are the key decisions before a startup decides to jump into blogging?


For start-ups and fast-growing companies looking to jump-start their marketing, I offer strategic and tactical services. Everything from building marketing engines to telling better stories through messaging/brand positioning, and reaching audiences by developing engaging content.

Has Blogging Reached a Fork in Road?

For people who still read or write blogs, the big news of the week was Andrew Sullivan plans to stop blogging soon.

While I have never read Sullivan’s blog, he is a super-star within the blogosphere. His soon-to-be-departure from blogging sparked a flurry of commentary and debate about the future of blogging. One guy decides to pack in it, and it seems like the end of the world.

As someone who has been blogging for 10 years (man, that’s a long time!), my first reaction was people were over-reacting. I mean, we’re talking about one blogger, albeit a high-profile blogger. It’s not like Sullivan’s exit stage left will spark a stampede out of the blogosphere.

So why did Sullivan’s decision get everyone so agitated?

I think it reflects people taking a hard look at blogging from two perspective:

1. Writing blogs is hard, particularly if you are doing it on a regular basis. Coming up with ideas is a challenge. And blogging is often less than rewarding because it is difficult to attract an audience amid fierce competition from other blogs.

2. Reading blogs is hard. People are time-strapped and overwhelmed by the amount of information available. There is so much content (aka content marketing gone mad) that people are more discerning about what they read. I have seen more people talking about being more selective about content consumption.

As someone who loves blogging, I can honestly tell you I’m less enamoured with blogging these days. Don’t get me wrong, I love writing and how a blog lets me indulge by interests and curiosities.

But I’m no longer sure blogging delivers a solid return on investment. I question whether the time spent blogging is better spent somewhere.

Over the past couple of months, I have been working with a business coach. One of the key themes has been focus. We have spent a lot of time talking about where and how to allocate time and energy.

The changes are slowly happening – things like doing telephone calls rather coffee meetings, and spending less time on social media.

This exercise recently put the spotlight on my blog. I believe the content is valuable and offers insight but traffic on a good is day is 300 visitors.

To me, this is a disappointment, although you could argue it is a quality versus quantity proposition. I see lots of crappy blog content getting shared a lot on social media, and wonder what I’m doing wrong.

Another way of looking at things is maybe there are activities that have higher ROI than blogging. For example, I have thinking about writing e-books about specific topics – e.g. a 15 to 20 page guide on how startups can attract media coverage.

An e-book is the equivalent to five or six blog posts with much higher return on investment and, as important, return on energy. As well, I’m thinking e-books will deliver more value to readers because they have more depth, insight and guidance. It is like making dinner, rather than serving dessert.

With e-books on the horizon and a startup consulting practice rumbling along, something has to give. While I’m not probably going to abandon blogging altogether, it is likely that I will blog less – e.g. once a week, unless I’m inspired.

After a decade of writing a blog maybe the end is near. After all, even the best things come to end.

What will fill the void? I’m not entirely sure but I have lots of ideas around creating content. Maybe another book after my current project, Storytelling for Startups, is published in April. Maybe it will be e-books, podcasts or videos, or maybe I’ll find a new and interesting way to write a blog.

Is blogging dying? I don’t think so because good content is always valuable. But I think it comes down to focusing on what delivers the best returns on your time and energy.


For start-ups and fast-growing companies looking to jump-start their marketing, I offer strategic and tactical services. Everything from building marketing engines to telling better stories through messaging/brand positioning, and reaching audiences by developing engaging content.

 
 

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