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What to focus on as a start-up

by adrian nicholls

August 24, 2021

You’ve taken the plunge, you’ve re-mortgaged the house, ditched the salary, you’ll all in for equity. You’ve joined (or launched) that start-up.

Now what?

Here’s our view of where you should focus your marketing efforts, based on 20 years of helping start-ups grow, get funding and sell.

First things first, why invest in a developing a brand?

Simply, that intangible assets now outstrip tangible assets.

Strong brands grow faster and deliver better returns.

OK, we’re all agreed a strong brand is good for business. But what to do and when?

Our handy pyramid outlines what you need to do first, getting the internal aligned before telling the world.

Or to put it another way, what you need by way of brand maturity of the business. Today, we’re focussed on the ‘Brand Essentials’.

No 1. Find your story and turn this into your brand.

What is it that you believe in? Why have you chosen to do what you do?

Often you have chosen to do what you do because you’ve spotted an opportunity or want to change things by approaching an old problem with a new solution.

Finding your story:

It’s these core beliefs that will create the difference for your brand, and ultimately, your products or services.

This is the ‘Why’ that Simon Sinek refers to in his now famous ‘Why, How, What’ Ted Talk.

Why is your purpose - start here.

Apple example:

Why - everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo, in thinking differently

How - The way we challenge the status quo, is making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly

What - We just happen to make great computers,
want to buy one?

Now Define your brand:

Once you’ve found your story, you need to filter this through every part of your brand.

Your brand is much more than your logo or look and feel.

We think of your brand as our personality.

It’s this personality that will make people buy your products or services.

Of course, the products must be good, but people buy based on emotions, not just a rational checklist of benefits.

No 2. Landing a unique value proposition

Unique value is what you promise to deliver to your customer.

This promise creates value or loyalty for you and sets you apart from competitors.

Value proposition statements are internal documents, used by organizations as a blueprint to ensure that all the messages they communicate, inside and outside the organization, are consistent.

Here’s some we like.

The 3 components that make up your value proposition.

Is it relevant - must matter to your customers?

Is it believable? Compelling and realistic.

Can you defend it? Proof to back up the statement.

Is it flexible? Room for you to grow without losing customers

Is it emotional? Connects beyond rational.

And does it land with your customers? This is a useful customer persona tool we use to find out.

No 3. Creative Platform

Now you’ve found your unique value you offer customers, build this into an overarching creative idea for the your brand – a creative platform.

What is it?

A creative platform is an overarching creative idea that ties all your communications together.

Airbnb’s ‘Belong Anywhere’

Why do you need one?

Every business needs to communicate.

A creative platform means all comms drive value back into the brand by reinforcing the overarching creative idea.

Without it, you create spikes of interest that are quickly forgotten.

What will it give you?

In a word, agility. Having a creative platform makes creating communications quicker – you already know the direction so you can be much more agile in the implementation.

You can see how it holds everything together.

No 4. Customer communications.

Now you’re ready to tell the world what you have to offer it. The world’s a big place, where do you start? How do you tell your story to the right people?

When we have something new to offer, we face the same problem

– how to move past the innovators and capture the hearts and minds of the early adopters and the mass market?

And a lot make the same mistake - trying to target the mass marketing too soon.

This can result in getting caught in the chasm (see below).

What are these different groups after and who to focus on?


Seek out new products and don’t need or want to be marketed to.
For them the thrill is the finding.

Early Adopter

Need to first and foremost made aware of the product. It’s an education process –don’t try to be overly clever or too cryptic.

Mass Market

Very resistant to change.

Form their opinions based on recommendations from people and sources they trust – often early adopters.

Based on this, our advice is to focus on winning the early adopters and the rest will follow.

And lastly, you need to map your customer journeys.

As example, here’s the ‘typical’ B2B buyers journey.

So that’s it – our 4 things to focus on:

No 1. Find your story and turn this into your brand.

No 2. Landing a unique value proposition

No 3. Creative Platform

No 4. Customer communications.


start ups
B2B Brand Strategy
value proposition
creative platform
Customer journey