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Five marketing beliefs that hold start-ups back


Five marketing beliefs that hold start-ups back

Launching and scaling a start-up is fraught with challenges. Not least, marketing your business on a shoestring. But it’s entirely possible for start-ups to do great marketing that drives growth and inspires audiences. To do so, you need to get over the five beliefs about marketing that hold start-ups back from achieving better growth and profitability.


Some of the world’s worst marketing programs sprang from multi-million dollar budgets. Having worked in ad agencies and corporates for 20 years, I’ve seen a few. On the flip side, some of the best marketing campaigns in the world ran off the smell of an oily rag. Don’t believe me? Here are two examples that prove my point.

Bad marketing – big budget

Burger King Wake UP

Burger King – Wake Up With The King

Click the image to play the video.

This weird big-budget ad campaign delivered a drop in Burger King market share from 15.6 per cent to 14.2 per cent, while McDonalds market share rose in the same time period.

And just for its sheer awfulness, check out the promotional video for the Burger King / King Kong movie tie up.

Good marketing – small budget

Start-up marketing

BlendTec – Will It Blend?

Click the image to play the video.

This genius campaign was delivered for $50 – the cost of a web domain, a lab coat, a pair of safety glasses and some weird stuff to blend. The CEO of BlendTec, Tom Dickson, grew famous by blending stuff that just shouldn’t be blended – such as a garden rake – thus demonstrating the sheer power of the BlendTec machine. The result? Blender sales up 500 per cent.


You lie away at night thinking you should be posting more blogs. Your friend told you Google Adwords get great results – and you definitely should be on Facebook… and Twitter… …and Pinterest…. and SnapChat. Content marketing seems to be sort of a big deal, and it would be great to do a video that goes viral?

Whatever the marketing solution du jour, there are a million suppliers offering a dizzying array of services. Before you head off down a particular track, it’s time to stop and take a deep breath. Think about your target customer and what you have to offer them. If your most important prospects aren’t on Facebook, neither should you be. Ask yourself – where do they gather? How can I be there too, with something helpful to offer? What problem can I solve for them? Start with first principles – not with the latest marketing fad.


If your business cards, website, social media channels and brochures all look different, then you look like an amateur. End of story. It doesn’t matter how good your offer is, because nobody’s going to take you seriously enough to find out.

First things first – get a designer to build you a brand ID and guide. This will form the basis of your brand look and feel, and ensure you get a consistent, recognisable look across all your channels. A good brand ID should include, as a minimum; a logo, a font (or two or three), a colour palette, and your style of photography. It may also cover your tone of voice and any written styles you adhere to.

Here are some good examples of brand guidelines – bear in mind that yours won’t have to be as sophisticated as these to start off with.



Jamie Oliver


How do you demonstrate credibility when you’ve got no case studies or testimonials from happy customers? This is the same catch-22 faced by graduates seeking their first employment. If no-one will give you a job because you lack experience, how will you ever get experience?

Luckily, while your company may not have runs on the board, you do. Every person in your company (and maybe that’s just you!) has a track record that’s brought them to where they are today.

Capture this experience, record it, and identify its relevance to your customers – drill down into industry and sector experience if possible. Then make sure you’re communicating this on your website, in your presentations and through your blog and social media posts. It’s all about your people and the deep experience they bring.


For a business owner there are so many competing priorities that marketing may take a back seat to seemingly more urgent tasks. Of course, it makes sense to get money in the bank before investing in marketing… or does it?

If you do it right, every dollar you invest in marketing will help you a) bring prospects through the door; and b) convert them to customers. If your hot prospect goes looking for your website, your media coverage, your company LinkedIn profile or your peak body membership; and draws a blank – you just lost the deal because your credibility can’t be verified. Make sure you have the basics in place to look like a professional operation that can be trusted.

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