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I have been in the start up world. I know what’s it’s like to start something out of nothing. I remember the feeling of working on a seemingly nonexistent budget with many interested investment partners. I struggled through the age-old problem of struggling to get investment until you can prove you don’t need it anymore. Sound familiar?

Many entrepreneurs struggle with raising capital, using limited resources to keep up with over-funded competitors and trying to maintain a positive perception. After all, perception is reality, right?

This comes down to a marketing problem.  Many start ups come to me seeking help in marketing, but marketing seems to be the least funded or nonexistent department (if I can even say that) in a classic start up with just a few employees.  After all, it’s hard to put anything into a large budget when so many of these dedicated entrepreneurs are foregoing their own paychecks. But, marketing doesn’t need to be as complicated as we all think. It’s not all or nothing.

Here are a few tips on how to better utilize limited funds and staff to organically grow the perception and brand of your business!

1. Stay away from “Simply too many notes” (Amadeus)

Carefully pick your feature set and stick to marketing them well. Don’t try to be the master of everything, choose what you want to be known for and do it well! You have limited resources, keep your eye on the ball. Remember, you can always expand the product offerings and services later. Stay away from the temptation of wanting to be everything to everyone. Pick your take aways and focus ONLY on those. Can you explain your brand in just a few words?

2. Pick a TARGETED target audience

I was helping an organization write a go-to-market strategy and I noticed that their target market was 3 distinctly different market segments. This means that they would need 3 go-to-market strategies with varied brochures, web materials and messaging.  I always think it’s a good idea to have an immediate plan (who are we marketing to now?) and then a future plan too. It’s good to know that your product is versatile and expandable, but if you seem to lack focus it will difficult to acquire investment and hard to keep the company team members and message on target.

3. You can’t buy me LOVE

It’s difficult to even buy anyone’s attention these days. Don’t spend/waste all of your money on paid marketing/advertising campaigns. Note, I am not suggesting you shouldn’t spend money on marketing, I’m simply cautioning you to be very select on how and what you spend on.  If it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.  Most likely a paid TV campaign isn’t going to answer all of your revenue needs. I would encourage spending money on a good person that is willing to get his/her hands dirty and do the hard, grunt work of branding, social media and guerilla marketing.  Throwing dollars into paid advertisements can go dry very quickly, especially if you have not really honed your message and positioning yet.

4. Your TEAM is everything!

I have met individuals on both sides of the generalist vs. expert argument. A start up means that everyone needs to be good at a variety of things. Everyone must wear several hats. “That’s not my job” is rarely heard at a successful grassroots start up. Avoid hiring too many extremely specialized (and costly) people, and instead hire hard-working and smart generalists that can do a number of tasks. You will be glad when your customer service person can also do some social media, answer tech support calls and perform training. Once you start to grow, that’s when the departments get honed in.


In a start up environment, everyone works equally hard. It’s an easy mistake to become a top heavy organization by hiring the best of the best. It’s also a much higher burn rate with too many chiefs at the top. The difficulty with this scenario is that it becomes a very unhealthy work environment. Everyone needs to operate as a cohesive team, all worker bees and striving towards the same, defined goals. Think of your start up team as an equal rights team with your founder/CEO as an equal coach.

6. You don’t have to be good at everything!

Remember, you can always outsource very specialized things. If you don’t have a team that is good at graphic design, hire an outside party to create your brochure or website. Stick to what you can do well and find reasonable help that you deem is mandatory towards you brand success.

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