What we offer

Marketing Strategy

Discover, identify and engage your target audiences with well-defined plans that reflect goals, priorities and the competitive landscape.

Messaging

Creation of compelling brand stories featuring unique value propositions and leading benefits to attract customers and drive them down the sales funnel.

Content Marketing

High-quality content for Websites, videos, blog posts, infographics, email newsletters and press releases delivered on a subscription basis.

Product Marketing

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

Seven Marketing Must-Haves for Start-ups

In my last post, I talked why start-ups need to focus on marketing activity that drives the sales funnel. It’s all about doing these that make an impact with target audiences, as opposed to keeping themselves busy.

I did a presentation (embedded below) at HIGHLINE yesterday looking at seven things that a start-up needs in their marketing portfolio. There is nothing terribly surprising on the list but it’s surprising to see start-up drop the marketing ball by not following best practices.

The biggest takeaway within the presentation is the importance of being customer-centric. It means marketing that talks to the needs and interests of customers, rather than what a start-up wants to say about its product.

It is a subtle, but important, difference that needs to be reflected within messaging, Websites, case studies, sales sheets, etc.

The Key to Startup Marketing is Focus, Not Being Busy

The headline read: “Startup Marketing on a $0 Budget.

As someone who does marketing for startups and fast-growing companies, I had to check it out. Imagine that, marketing with spending a dime!

The list compiled Ashwin Ramesh includes activities such as answering questions on Quora, leaving comments on blogs, participating in forums, blogging, building a free tool , and monitoring mentions of competitors on Twitter.

At first glance, most of the items either struck me as busy-work or non-marketing activity. Building a free tool, for example, is a wonderful idea but it’s not really marketing. The same goes for monitoring social media activity. Is that “marketing”?

There are many, many things that startups can do to wave the flag but what falls into the marketing bucket?

One of the biggest challenges for many startups is marketing is, in some ways, a nebulous activity for them. With expertise in engineering and development, marketing is a strange creature that uses a different language. And, even worse, marketers are slick-talking beasts that promise the world….at a price.

For startups, this is a confusing landscape. It’s like going to the Mandarin for dinner with a buffet featuring dozens of choices. Everything looks good but what do you pick to eat?

For startups, marketing is everything and anything. The options listed by Ramesh are, in theory, marketing because they can spread the word.

But the key question that startups must answer is whether marketing is going to move the sales needle. At the end of the day, marketing has a job to do: raise awareness to consumers move into the sales funnel.

If a marketing activity isn’t doing that, it’s not worth doing.

While there are some items on Ramesh’s list that have good marketing potential (e.g. blogging), I would argue there are many items that will not deliver a return on investment for the time and effort required. They will keep a startup busy but that’s about it.

Instead, startup marketing is about focusing on things that resonate, even if means have a limited marketing program. For example, I would much rather see a startup focus on having an active, insight blog that drives thought leadership and brand awareness, rather than trying to multiple marketing tactics.

In other words, you are looking for bang for the buck. As a startup with limited resources (time, people, money), it’s about marketing that matters.

In many cases, it’s a quality versus quantity equation, or less being more. Startups can get more awareness and traction by doing well at a few things as opposed to mediocre at many things.

The most important consideration about startup marketing is having a strategic plan, regardless of whether a startup is bootstrapped or well-financed. It’s about knowing your target audiences, and then aligning strategy, tactics and resources to connect with them.

This is a better approach than doing this, that and everything. From the outside looking in, it looks like a startup is actively marketing, but they really doing is spinning their wheels by spending time on things that have no ROI.


 For start-ups and fast-growing companies looking to jump-start their marketing, I offer strategic planning, core messaging, product marketing and content development.

Forget About To-Do Apps; Use a Moleskine Planner

Is it me, or does a new “to-do” app launch every day. They claim to make it easier to create and manage “to-do” lists. But after checking out a bunch of them, I think they create as much work as they purportedly save.

My recommendation: Forget about digital “to-do” apps. The best, easiest and most user-friendly “to-do” list “app” is a Moleskine. They’re easy to access and, as important, provide a tangible, visceral connection to the things you need to get done.

Moleskin


For start-ups and fast-growing companies looking to jump-start their marketing, I offer strategic planning, core messaging, product marketing and content development.

Bad Idea? No Problem for New Startups!

Just before the global economy melted down in 2008, I read a story in the New York Times about a bank extending a huge mortgage to a couple in Los Angeles that were barely making ends meet. Looking back, the alarm bells should have started ringing.

For the last few months, I have been uneasy about the exuberance for startups. It seems everyone is doing one given the barriers to entry are so, so low.

But I think there are strong signals that startups have jumped the shark with the launch of a new startup, Morning Person. (I discovered it on Product Hunt, so it must be real, right?)

Morning PersonMorning Person is a service that has a “real person” call you in the morning, go through your schedule, and hold you accountable for yesterday’s to-do list. It costs $20/month for non- native speaker and $30/month. But if you sign up now, there is a 20% discount!

This startup must be someone’s idea of a joke because the service seems so unbelievable, it can’t be the real deal. If it is a joke, I say “Well played!” as it does a great job of illustrating the increasingly bizarre world of startups.

I’m a big fan of startups, entrepreneurship and innovation but not every idea should spawn a startup. Simply because your idea is vaguely plausible or, frankly, implausible doesn’t mean it should come to life.

But startups are irresistible creatures because the barriers to entry are minimal. Armed with an idea, you can hire a developer and a designer, and launch a service in no time.

That’s the easy part. The hard part is attracting customers (always a good thing!) and having people pay for your service (also a good thing!).

But getting customers and generating revenue are entrepreneurial after-thoughts these days because it is more fun to create something to become join the startup community.

We’re definitely living in interesting times given global economic volatility is a fact of life. Startups provide people with hope, motivation and goals. And trying something – even if it has absolutely no chance of success – can provide valuable experience.

In that regard, there is an upside to the tsunami of silly startups being created. A positive from the carnage of bad, half-ass and stupid ideas are entrepreneurs with battle scars and hard-earned lessons. Some of these entrepreneurs will hopefully embrace better ideas, and have valuable experience to enjoy more success.

In the meantime, we will continue to see startups that are doomed to fail from the time they appear on the scene. Unfortunately, there is no startup “governor” to throttle or regulate activity, which means Product Hunt will have lots of content for months to come.


For start-ups and fast-growing companies looking to jump-start their marketing, I offer strategic planning, core messaging, product marketing and content development.

Love Your Startup Customers? Here Are 10 Ways to Reward Them

For startups scrambling to establish a foothold, customers are precious commodities. After all, no customers equals no business.

But aside from delivering a great product, what are the other ways that you can reward customers for, well, being customers? For start-ups looking for ideas on how to go the extra mile, here’s a list of 10 approaches:

1. Give them a little bit extra: To encourage customers to invite other people to sign up, Dropbox offers additional storage for each new person who joined. Someone with a free account can add as much as 16GB in storage space through referrals.

2. Break bread with them – On its way to the SXSW conference in Austin, Freshbooks rented an RV, and arranged to meet customers along the way. The 12-day “Road Burn” tour involved breakfasts, lunches and dinners with existing and potential customers.

customers3. Put them in the spotlight – To generate case studies, Shopify asks customers to send them stories about how they’re successfully using the e-commerce platform. The case studies are then featured on Shopify’s blog.

4. Thank them – Pressly: When customers register for Pressly’s content curation platform, they receive a welcome email from the CEO, Jeff Brenner, who also asks if they need any help getting going. It’s an automated process but it works.

5. Ask for their ideas and feedback: To get a better idea about the customer experience, Groove CEO Alex Turnbull spent 100 hours talking with 500 customers over a four-week period – a process he described as “mindblowingly valuable”

6. Sell their stuff: From its roots as a place to share your best photos, 500px has become an e-commerce platform that lets users sell their photos through a licensing marketplace.

7. Send them pizza: To test its customer service, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh had someone phone customer service to see if they would deliver pizza to their hotel. The rep gave them a list of local pizza places that would solve their late-night needs.startup customers pizza

8. Make them mayor: Foursquare (aka Swarm) makes customers feel special by making them “mayor” of particular location. In some ways, being the “mayor” of a restaurant is silly but people clearly like the different stature.

9. Drop by for a visit: It took awhile (a year) but Close.io decided that building relationships with customers would happen if they visited them.

10. Educate, engage and entertain: In the early days (before its acquisition by Intuit), Mint used its blog to not only attract customers but provide them valuable content. When the U.S. economy, for example, was struggling, Mint published a post on how to do home-made jam.

It is important to remember that none of the approaches above will cost you a lot of money to embrace. Instead, they require creativity, focus and a willingness to invest the time and people to make it happen. The upside is treating your customers well has huge benefits. It creates customer loyalty and drives brand personality and valuable word of mouth.

What are some of the other ways that startups can reward their customers?


For start-ups looking to jump-start their marketing, I offer strategic planning, core messaging, product marketing and content development.

Time to Climb on the Entrepreneur Bandwagon?

The idea of becoming an entrepreneur is seductive and sexy. And there’s never been an easier time to do your own thing so why not get in the game?

For people who attended the Art of Entrepreneurship earlier this week in Toronto, it was difficult (impossible?) not to believe that being an entrepreneur is the thing to do.

gary vaynerchukListening to Gary Vaynerchuk and Alexis Ohanian is like taking entrepreneurial crack.

Tweet: Listening to Gary Vaynerchuk and Alexis Ohanian is like taking entrepreneurial crack.

Upon getting the first hit, your excitement grows. If you’re not an entrepreneur, you want to jump on the bandwagon. For entrepreneurs, it only gets them more stoked about to do more.

Ohanian’s talk include this beauty slide:

“Entrepreneur is just French for “has ideas, does them.”

Vaynerchuk, meanwhile, is a talk-mile-a-minute poster boy for entrepreneurship. He grew is family’s wine business to $60-million in sales from $3- million, and now has a digital agency with $50-million in sales.

I’m fascinated by the rise of the entrepreneur. Maybe it’s a sign of the economic times where volatility and job insecurity are a fact of life. Maybe it reflects a growing need for people to control their destinies. Maybe it’s just sexier than working in a cubicle.

As someone who became entrepreneur by accident after I was let go from a start-up in 2008 (remember the global economic crisis?), I think there is an entrepreneur in everyone.

Sometimes, it is easily unleashed – e.g. people like Vaynerchuk and Ohanian. Sometimes, people get pushed into entrepreneurship. Sometimes, people don’t have the courage, flexibility, energy or financial resources to make it happen.

As much as being an entrepreneur is sexy, it is also a lot of work and there is a lot of stress.

How are you going to pay the bills? What happens if no one buys your product, or the competition gets fierce? What happens if you fail or the business struggles? These are questions asked on a regular basis by entrepreneurs.

To be honest, there are times when being an entrepreneur is overwhelming. I wonder whether have a “regular” job would be easier and offer more security. Then, I take a deep breath and remind myself about the benefits of being entrepreneur – flexibility, doing something you love, time with family, etc.

As much as I’m a cheerleader for being an entrepreneur, it is not for everyone. As Ohanian said, if entrepreneurship was easy, everyone would do it.

Being entrepreneur is consuming. It takes a lot of time, energy and conviction, as well as sacrifices. For some people, getting a paycheck every two weeks and three or weeks of vacation makes them happy. It provides professional satisfaction and financial security. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

People who become entrepreneurs aren’t necessarily smarter or work harder than non-entrepreneurs. They just have a hunger, drive, opportunity or encouragement to dive in. If it doesn’t work out, they can dive back in or go back to the cubicle. To many entrepreneurs, there is no downside.

And it has never been easier to embrace entrepreneurship, particularly when it comes to starting an online business. If you’re thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, it’s probably the perfect time to scratch that itch.

For start-ups looking to jump-start their marketing, I offer strategic planning, core messaging, product marketing and content development.

 
 

inbox