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 your product does, the value it delivers, 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.

Not Investing In Startup Marketing Makes No Sense

startup marketing

On a regular basis, there are stories about startups claiming to spend no money on marketing or not investing a dime on advertising. It comes across as a point of pride, but it’s a misguided and often inaccurate depiction.

Then again, this cavalier attitude about marketing is not a surprise. Too many startups don’t understand or fully appreciate the benefits, tactics and realities of marketing. They believe marketing is an evil necessity, rather than a solid investment in the business.

As a result, they get a kick from suggesting that they don’t spend money on marketing. They’re declaring, “We’re not marketers, but we know what we’re doing anyway so there.”

But here’s the thing: startups may, in fact, spend no money on marketing, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t investing in marketing. While startups aren’t spending money, they are spending time, energy and resources on marketing. Whether it’s social media, blog posts, handling questions on Quora or offering discounts, they are investing in marketing.

And the reality is startups need to invest in marketing if their businesses are going to succeed. Marketing is as important as sales and product development. You can have an innovative or valuable product, but it doesn’t matter if no one knows about it or the competition has a much higher profile.

Many startup entrepreneurs struggle with marketing because it is not part of their DNA or professional toolbox. Marketing is an alien concept that requires them to invest time, energy and money. And, as important, they need to think and behave differently. This isn’t easy for startups who are focused on developing and selling products, rather than telling stories (aka marketing)

But marketing helps to establish the foundation for a startup’s sales and product development. One of the key elements of marketing is understanding the needs of your target audiences. It’s about knowing who they are, their interests, goals, motivations, points of pain and fears.

When you have this much insight into your target audiences, it is so much easier to develop and sell your product. You are operating with lots insight, rather than within an information void. You are telling stories that connect and resonate with target audiences, which is a powerful proposition.

Investing in marketing – whether it’s money, time and people – is a key ingredient in running a business. When a startup claims to spend nothing on marketing, it suggests that marketing has no value, which far from the truth.

More: For additional insight into how startups think about marketing, Profoundry asked 55 startups about their digital marketing plans. Among the survey’s results is that startups are interested in investing the time and money in digital marketing, but lack documented strategy or planning.

As well, only 8% used an agency or consultant for marketing – a quarter said they had marketing expertise in-house, while 37% said they did most of their marketing themselves, even though they weren’t marketers.

To learn more about how startups and fast-growing companies can embrace the power of storytelling to drive their marketing and sales, buy my new book: “Storytelling for Startups” at www.storytellingforstartups.ca

Six Big Lessons from A Two-Year Book Project

storytelling for startups book

During the (original) dot-com boom, I co-wrote a book about investing in technology stocks. Unfortunately, the book was published just as the dot-com boom was going bust. Suddenly, there was little demand for a book about technology investments.

I thought it was the only book that I was going to write – been there, done that, ticked it off  the bucket list.

So why did I decide to write a new book, Storytelling for Startups?

In many respects, it snuck up me. There wasn’t a master plan to write a book. Instead, the idea slowly, but surely, unfolded.

It started two years while we were driving through the U.S. on the way home from a five-week road trip. After seeing a lot of consultants write books, I began to sketch out what a book about storytelling would look like. It was a straightforward exercise because it followed the marketing work that I do for startups and fast-growing companies.

At the same time, I was getting more engaged about using storytelling as a key part of my approach to marketing. Personally, I believe good stories are the foundation for a company’s marketing and sales activities.

To be honest, one of the reasons that I initially thought about writing a book had to do with industry stature. Within the scheme of things, people who write books seem to get more respect for their expertise. I figured that if I wrote a book, it might let me get higher on the proverbial totem pole.

But as I wrote the book, some other things became more interesting. As things started to take shape, I realized there were many businesses that could benefit from the book’s strategic and tactical guidance, as well as insight from dozens of industry experts.

I also realized the book could fill a gap in the market. While there are lots of marketing books, there did not seem to be many about startup marketing, particularly around the importance of storytelling. This was an exciting proposition because it meant I could cover new ground.

As important, it has been an educational process. Here are some of the highlights:

1.     It takes a long time to write a book. I initially thought it would take a few months. After all, I’m a professional writer so how hard could it be? I realized that writing a book is challenging when you’re also running a consulting business and busy with family. Books also need time to evolve and crystallize.

2.    You need to do a lot of research and interviews to get the required insight. When I asked Jay Baer how he wrote books, he talked about interviewing many people, which contrasted with my belief a book could be done with few interviews. I was wrong; Jay was right.

3.    It is difficult, if not impossible, to self-edit. I tried it, but I painfully discovered that you’re not able to edit your own work. You spend so much time working on the project, you have no perspective. And when you look at the text, you imagine words on the page. It means you need external editors.

4.    Writing the book is the easy part (relatively speaking). Selling it is the challenge. When you write a book, it is a focused activity. You write, research and interview, and then you write some more. Selling a book means heading off madly in all directions so you can raise awareness and, of course, sales.

5.    In addition to an editor, it helps to have people who can help with production and promotion. I was lucky to discover Doris Chung and Leigh Fowler to do a lot of the important block and tackling behind the scenes. Doris helped to create the print and e-book editions while Leigh focused on promotions.

6.    You need the support of your family to you motivated. Writing a book is hard work. It’s also frustrating when there is slow progress. And it can be an obsessive exercise, particularly when you are heading down the stretch run. Having people willing to listen to your ups and down makes the process much, much easier.

So what do I hope to get from writing the book?

First, it would be great if lots of people get value and insight from it. That would be extremely rewarding.

And second, I hope it raises my industry profile, particularly around storytelling, which I think would be a new and exciting professional journey.

The most important thing is I’m proud of the book and the work that I invested. I have a newfound respect for people who write books because it is not an easy thing to tackle.

More: Check out Mark Sherbin’s Convince and Convert post on the content marketer’s guide to writing a book.

To learn more about the book, visit “Storytelling for Startups”. When I’m not writing books, I run Mark Evans Consulting, which helps startups and fast-growing companies tell better stories (aka marketing).

What Startups and Storytellers Can Learn from Ron Popeil

Storytelling for Startups book

Many of the most successful entrepreneurs are also excellent storytellers.

One of the best storytellers is Ron Popeil, who pitched Ronco products for years on late-night television. Anyone who ever saw infomercials for the Showtime Rotisserie (“Set it, and forget it”), the Electric Food Dehydrator (“How easy is it?”), The Smokeless Ashtray (“For the smoker who cares about his family”) or the Pocket Fisherman (“The biggest fishing invention since the hook”) can appreciate Popeil’s storytelling skills.

When you think about it, Popeil was selling household products that were mostly nice-to-haves, rather than need-to-haves. I mean, does anyone really need a mini-fishing rod or a food dehydrator?

But Popeil had an uncanny ability to capture your attention by telling stories about each product – how they could be used, how they made your life easier or more productive, how they were better than other products….and how affordable they were.

Popeil’s trademark storytelling phrase was “But wait, there’s more”, which only increased the anticipation. The more you watched Popeil pitch, the more your interest grew.

What made Popeil such a good storyteller? It probably had to do with how he understood the importance of creating tension, drama, excitement and expectation.

Rather than asking someone to make a purchase right away, he would start by telling a story, talk about the product’s benefits (not features), and only then ask people if they wanted to buy it.

There was no doubt that Popeil was selling at all times, but he camouflaged his pitch with storytelling that took you on an emotional journey, even though you knew how things were going to end: Popeil finally disclosing the price of the product and how you could order it – usually in “four easy payments”.

And you know Popeil’s stories resonated when his products and sales pitches became an ingrained part of pop culture. Who, for example, can forget Dan Ackroyd’s Bassomatic spoof on Saturday Night Live?

So what can startups learn about storytelling from Ron Popeil?

  1.  The way to get people interested in or engaged with your products is creating a narrative that highlights the benefits for them (aka what’s in it for me?). It is important to create stories that drive the benefits of your products to the people who could use them.
  2. Driving people down the sales funnel can be subtle and comfortable process. You don’t have to tell people to buy right away. Instead, let them ease their way into the product and how it might deliver value. Give people the time to embrace the idea of a purchase.
  3. Make it easy for them to make a purchase. Popeil used the “four easy payments” approach to eliminate any vacillation about the purchase. For startups, a similar approach might be offering packages (e.g. bronze, silver, gold), rather than a one-size-fits-all proposition.To close the deal, offer incentives. Sometimes, Popeil would throw in some extras (e.g. a set of knives) to get consumers to pull the trigger on a purchase. A startup could offer a discount if someone buys an annual subscription, or extra service if they refer a friend.
  4. To close the deal, offer incentives. Sometimes, Popeil would throw in some extras (e.g. a set of knives) to get consumers to pull the trigger on a purchase. A startup could offer a discount if someone buys an annual subscription, or extra service if they refer a friend.

To learn more about Ron Popeil’s storytelling expertise and how you can embrace the power of storytelling, purchase my new book: “Storytelling for Startups” at www.storytellingforstartups.ca

Pulling the Covers Off My Book: “Storytelling for Startups”

Strange things happen when you’re driving through South Dakota during a cross-country road trip. There isn’t much to see or do, other than drive for hours and hours.

Storytelling for StartupsWith lots of time to think and reflect, the idea for a book, Storytelling for Startups, materialized. To be honest, I didn’t have a burning desire to write a book. I had already struck it off my “bucket list” during the [original] dot-com boom when I co-authored a book on how to invest in technology stocks. Unfortunately, the book was published just as the boom went bust. Timing is everything, right! (Note: You can buy the printed version of the book now; and pre-order the Kindle version).

But I did have an itch that needed to be scratched. In doing marketing for startups and fast-growing companies, one of their biggest challenges was the lack of good stories. They had innovative or interesting products, but lacked narratives that engaged, entertained or educated.

It was like these companies were fighting with one hand tied behind their backs. As someone who has been telling stories for my entire career as a newspaper reporter, startup entrepreneur, and marketing consultant, good storytelling is a no-brainer.

In an increasingly noisy world, stories are how brands can stand out from the crowd and establish a completive edge. As much as social media and content marketing are powerful communication tools, I believe storytelling is the new “killer app” for marketing and sales.

Storytelling for Startups is a user-friendly resource for entrepreneurs to embrace the power of storytelling. It gives them  strategic and tactical guidance to create their own stories, or have the confidence and knowledge to oversee the storytelling process.

In some respects, Storytelling for Startups offers a roadmap for storytelling. It is a book you can read in its entirely, or use on a regular basis to get storytelling tips, ideas, and inspiration.

Storytelling for Startups begins by exploring the value and benefits of storytelling. It looks at why startups and fast-growing companies need to tell good stories, and it provides examples of some of the best brand storytellers (Steve Jobs and Ron Popeil)

Then, it provides insight into the steps and processes that let brands discover how they can stand out from the crowd and create stories that establish personal and emotional connections. And it explores who should tell your stories – e.g. founders, employees, customers, influencers, etc.

The last section is focused on best practices, case studies and tactical insight into how you can create stories using different channels – everything from Websites and case studies to video and infographics.

You might be asking: If storytelling is so important, why do many companies struggle with it?

Storytelling can be challenging because brands have traditionally been product-centric, which means they are focused on talking about what is important to them. Storytelling is about meeting the needs and interests of target audiences. It is about how your products make their lives more profitable, convenient, easier, etc., not about your products.

And here’s an important thing about storytelling: The barriers to entry are low. It does not depend on a company’s size or marketing budgets. It comes down to commitment, creativity, agility and being opportunistic. This lets David effectively battle with Goliath.

As important, storytelling is a state of mind. It is an approach grounded in trying to tell stories that appeal to target audiences, rather than telling stories about your brand or products. People care about stories that are relevant to how they work and play.

Good storytelling is driven by the ability to see things in a different way. It is about putting things in the spotlight that your target audiences find interesting, intriguing or valuable.

Storytelling for Startups is a valuable way to embrace the power of storytelling. It oozes with insight from dozens of entrepreneurs that I interviewed over the past two years.

It’s accessible and offers plenty of examples of storytelling in action. It is a practical and tactical guide to storytelling that can get you started on the storytelling journey. You should read it!

To learn more about how to embrace the power of storytelling, you can purchase Storytelling for Startups at www.storytellingforstartups.ca. You can also follow me on Twitter at @markevans.

A Startup Marketing ROI Framework

marketing framework

In the last post, I talked about the challenges in measuring startup marketing ROI. A lot of goodness takes place, but there are elements that can be difficult to quantify. For example, how do you measure the success of effective messaging or strong value propositions?

Today, let’s focus on how to tell whether a startup’s marketing efforts are heading in the right direction. I have created a framework to assess startup marketing ROI.

The framework looks at a variety of marketing activities and the metrics used to measure success. Some activities have hard metrics (e.g. pageviews, subscribers, comments, downloads), while others use soft metrics (e.g. value propositions that people understand). In a world obsessed with data and growth hacking, the reality is there are different ways to assess if marketing is working; some of them don’t involve numbers and metrics.

In a world obsessed with data and growth hacking, the reality is there are different ways to assess if marketing is working; some of them don’t involve numbers and metrics.

Truth be told, marketing is quasi-science and quasi-art. Sometimes, marketing works because it is well-planned and executed. Sometimes, marketing works due to luck and being in the right place at the right time.

For each activity within this framework, there are also questions to determine if the marketing activity is working, as well as tools that can be used to drive and measure success. You can use the framework as a rough guide to get a handle on success, but it may not meet the needs of every startup.

You can use the framework this way:

1. Metrics: There is marketing with hard metrics, and marketing with soft metrics. They are measured in different ways. Some measurements are precise, while others are based on feedback from a variety of sources..For each type of marketing activity, the questions set the stage to have an informed and engaged discussion about marketing goals and objectives.

2. Questions to ask: The questions set the stage to have an informed and engaged discussion about marketing goals and objectives. Given marketing is a subjective and objective exercise, it is important to scrutinize, explore and test each marketing effort to ensure strategic and tactical changes occur when needed.

3. Tools: By no means is the list of tools comprehensive, but it should provide some good options to measure marketing success.

Another important consideration when striving for marketing success is ranking and prioritizing activity. While there are many options, startups have to recognize each activity consumes valuable resources (people, time, and money). As a result, startups should embrace marketing that drives the highest ROI – be it brand awareness, demos, leads, sales, etc. This could mean doing a minimal amount of marketing, but it is better to do a few things well as opposed to lots of things in a mediocre way.

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Startup Marketing ROI Framework

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.

Canadian Financing Landscape (2015 Edition)

Who’s backing Canadian entrepreneurs? Where are they getting support to incubate and accelerate their ideas and products, or financing for angel, seed, series A or series B deals?

Here’s the third edition of my Canadian financing landscape infographic. There are a few new players (e.g. Two Small Fish, Hatch Brands and L-Spark) but, to be honest, there has not been much change in the landscape.

And here’s the disclaimer: This infographic is certainly not exhaustive, but it’s an attempt to identify the leading players in each category. If anyone is missing or I have put a player in the wrong category, let me know by leaving a comment.

Canadian Financing Landscape
Canadian Finance Landscape
Canadian Financing Landscape

Update: My new book, Storytelling for Startups, has been published. It shows entrepreneurs how they can embrace the power of storytelling to drive their marketing and sales efforts.