StartUp Tip #135: You don’t need a bigger marketing budget


If you think your startup needs a bigger marketing budget, maybe you just need to be less average instead.

Average is just another word for mediocre.

Maybe if you are not mediocre, you won’t need that much budget.

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StartUp Tip #134: Bad poetry


There is a lot of bad poetry.

One reason: it is easy to become a poet.

Easy to announce you are a poet, easy to get a pencil and a paper, easy to publish your work online.

There is a lot of bad tweeting, bad marketing, bad facebooking, bad emailing and bad music now as well.

Easy to announce you are an entrepreneur, easy to register a business with the CIPC, easy to open a bank account.

There is a lot of mediocre entrepreneurs, writers and innovation ideas.

No barrier to entry certainly leads to a lack of selectivity.

Surprisingly, though, amid the bad art, we actually find more good art, good ideas, and good books.

A barrier to entry is not the only thing that improves quality.

Sometimes opening up the gates to welcome everyone, great and bad poets, you are likely to get great poets.

Sometimes it is sufficient to let artists do their work without a gatekeeper.

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StartUp Tip #133: Belong to a community


People have a need to belong and have always belonged to various tribes.

Traditionally, people belonged to a work tribe, school tribe, religious tribe, or community tribe.

If you think about the tribes you belong to, most of them are side effects of experiences you had doing something slightly unrelated.

We have friends we worked together on the book writing project, or a network of people from university or Sunday school.

There is also that circle of people we connected with on a killer project at work a few years go.

These tribes of people are arguably a more valuable creation than the book written or the physics that were learned, right?

And yet, most of the time we don’t see the obvious opportunity, if you intentionally create the connections, you will get more of them, and better ones too.

If the hallway conversations at a conference are worth more than the sessions, why not have more and better hallways?

What would happen if trade shows devoted half a day to ‘projects? Put multi-disciplinary teams of ten people together and give them three hours to create something of value.

The esprit de corps created by a bunch of strangers under time pressure in a public competition would last for decades.

The community is worth more than the project.

Going around in a circle saying everyone’s name does not build a tribe. But neither does sitting through a boring powerpoint.

Working side by side doing something that matters under adverse conditions, that’s what we need.

Whether you are an aspiring startup founder, an investor, a corporate, an app developer, or even a student, there is much to learn about joining a startup community.

Entrepreneurship is a very lonely journey.

Belonging to a community of like-minded people makes the journey bearable.

If you want to effect change in the community, you are not going to do it alone.

If you want to walk far, walk with others.




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StartUp Tip #132: Now it’s your turn

Your Turn

Usually when we say “it’s your turn,” we mean that it’s your turn to be picked, to be the next one, the person who fits in more than any other.

The next Idol on the cover of Destiny Magazine, the next news anchor, the next plant manager. Or the next customer at the supermarket.

This is the model in which you wait for change to happen to you. You wait your turn to be picked.

Another model of “your turn,” though, is the model of the person who makes change.

We seek the change that is interesting, the change for the better, the change that matters and most of all, the change that connects us to someone else.

This is the freedom to make change, and the willingness to seek out the tension it brings.

In today’s connection economy, you have the chance to pick yourself. To make the difference, to start a tribe, to start that magazine, that event, write that book, record that podcast etc.

Unfortunately a lot people still wait to be picked, to be recognised and promoted, to be selected.

Either you are the operator or the architect.

Either you are the creator or you are the audience. Either you are waiting your turn or you are taking it.

It’s your turn, it has always been your turn.

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StartUp Tip #131: The statesman, the lawyer and the marketer


There are not so many statesmen in the world.

People like Nelson Mandela, Wangari Maathai, Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks are statesmen and women who come once in a long while.

These are people who speak truth to power.

Leaders who describe what they see, whether or not it serves their short-term interests.

They say what needs to be said, do what needs to be done, as long as it serves the long-term needs of their constituents but more importantly the long term needs of the world.

No wonder we like them so much.

On the other hand lawyers are sworn to be advocates.

It is their duty.

They take a side and they argue it.

They are not supposed to tell the truth, they are supposed to argue a point of view.

Guess who has a better reputation between the lawyer and the statesman?

The statesman.

Which leads us to entrepreneurs and marketers.

Have you noticed that most of us act like lawyers?

We take a position [that our businesses and products are the best] and we punt them against the other side [competition].

Perhaps, just perhaps, someone would be better off with a competitor’s product instead of yours.

Or perhaps the world does not really need what your factory just rolled out.

If you are a lobbyist, it is hard to act like a statesman and keep your job, or if you are a pharmaceutical sales rep, or a PR firm , or a brand manager at a software company.

Entrepreneurship and marketing culture has become a culture of lawyers.

Apparently, marketers are now advocates sworn to argue on behalf of an entrepreneur.

This attitude leads to spam [hey, it is not against the law and it helps my client] and dicey product claims and awful side effects like obesity, shoddy products and massive debt.

If your job is to represent a company, or a product and to ensure its short-term sales, that is exactly what you are sworn to do.

I believe that anyone, regardless of situation, deserves the best possible lawyer.

Our advocacy-based justice system depends on it.

But does every product, service and business deserve the best possible marketer?

What happens when entrepreneurs and marketers stop arguing on behalf of their businesses and start arguing on behalf of the customer instead?

What happens when entrepreneur or marketers become statesmen?

This is a very practical hypothetical question I’m asking.

When a sales rep says, “You know, after hearing your situation, I think you would be a lot better off with my competitor’s product instead, here is her number,” This actually creates positive word of mouth and long-term growth.

When a bank official says to a client, “actually just hang tight for another month, don’t take our credit card, the interest rate on it is not worth the wait.” it actually creates a client that is not bankrupt.

When a brand manager says to the product development people, “I’m not proud of this design, we are not going to market it, so you better make something else,” it actually creates market share growth.

And when a CEO says to parliament, “our industry relies on chemical X and we are going to keep using it as long as our competitors do, so please ban it,” she creates a long-term path to stability and growth.

The lawyer works with constituents who fully expect him to be an advocate.

The judge, and the clients [hopefully] understand that he is making a case, not telling the truth.

Entrepreneurs and marketers work in a different world.

As marketing has transformed from a specialised subset of business to an ever present element of society, entrepreneurs and marketers still have the chance to be believed, to transcend from a lawyer to a statesman mentality.

At the moment trust still belongs to statesmen, not lawyers.

People don’t say, “I trust her, she is the lawyer for the other side.”

The real question, I guess, is this: as a marketer, who is your client?

Who’s best are you advocating? The entrepreneur who pays your salary or the customer who buys your offerings?

Mandela was able to transcend from a lawyer to a statesman.

I believe entrepreneurs and marketers can and should transcend as well.

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StartUp Tip #130: One hit wonder


These are artists who gave up too soon, or lost their nerve when it came to making another leap.

A one-hit wonder is a legend who stopped early.

Don’t allow your business, project, relationship or art to be one hit wonders.

You are a legend, keep going.


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StartUp Tip #129: Be in it for the long haul


We are so busy celebrating the hit of the moment that we forget that the real profit often comes from the long trail.

It is easy to persuade yourself to shortchange the design of a product, or your investment in its engineering, or to manipulate the launch to maximize the short-term appeal of opening launch.

But the long haul proves you wrong.

We invest so much on product launches.

The launch might prove to be a hit, but over the long term, the product might not be successful.

A website might spike with short term traffic hits, but a great website builds on its traffic, rises in its search rankings and continues to bring in traffic, year after year.

The long trail explains why so many unprofitable movies turn a profit when the DVD comes out.

The Shawshank Redemption got seven Academy Award nominations when it was released, but disappointed when it was released at the movies.

The Shawshank Redemption was not a big bells and whistles, drum majorettes fanfare, loud noise opening night movie when it was released.

Now, after more than 1.3 million reviews, it is one of the most enduring DVD hits ever.

The long haul is a reminder to invest like your product might just be around in ten years.

Building a business might take you a life time, you have to be in it for a long haul, because that’s how long it might take you.

Do the launch, but commit to the long haul.

Don’t build a product for the launch, build a product for the long haul.

Commit to your business, project, relationship or art for the long haul.

Building a business is a marathon not a sprint.

Pace yourself, this is a long journey.

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StartUp Tip #128: Quiet customers quietly walk away


Most partnerships don’t end up in court.

Most friendships don’t end in a fight.

Most customers don’t leave in a huff and puff.

Instead, when one party feels under-appreciated, or perhaps taken advantage of, she stops showing up as often. Stops investing. Begins to move on.

Yesterday I went to a restaurant, went in, sat down and started to do some work.

15 minutes into the restaurant, I wasn’t attended to. No waiter came to me to ask for an order.

No, it wasn’t busy, it was just after the breakfast traffic.

Quietly I shut down my laptop, packed it and quietly walked out.

No, I’m not going to shout poor service, complain or sue anyone.

Didn’t have the energy to pick a fight and complain.

It takes a lot more energy to complain.

Quietly I left the restaurant and probably will put my best efforts somewhere else next time.

Just because there are no drama kings and queens as customers in your business does not mean you are doing okay.

A customer who does not say anything can be a far more dangerous threat that the one who screams and yells.

Quiet customers are not going to complain and give you feedback on how to improve, instead they will just leave and not come back again in a long time.

For such customers, walking away is not only the wisest thing to do but also the kindest thing they can do for themselves.

More likely, there are relationships out there that need more investment, quiet customers who are unhappy but not making a big deal out of it.

They are worth a lot more than the angry ones.

Just because customers are not complaining, doesn’t mean they are happy.

Sometimes they quietly vote with their feet instead of making noise.


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StartUp Tip #127: Easy vs. Hard


Saying yes is easy. Saying no is hard.

Keeping slackers onboard is easy. Cutting slackers loose is hard.

Talk is easy. Action is hard.

Finding an idea is easy. Turning ideas into reality is hard.

Spending all day at work is easy. Finding time for family is hard.

Hiring people is easy. Firing people is hard.

Criticising is easy. Showing empathy is hard.

Cutting corners is easy. Doing things properly is hard.

Doing everything yourself is easy. Delegating is hard.

Getting attention is easy. Keeping a low profile is hard.

Positive feedback is easy. Negative feedback is hard.

Panic is easy. Calm is hard.

Temptation is easy. Staying loyal is hard.

Revenue is easy. Profit is hard.

Opening doors is easy. Closing deals is hard.

Talking is easy. Listening is hard.

Over-promising is easy. Under-promising is hard.

Spending is easy. Saving is hard.

Chasing all opportunities is easy. Focus is hard.

Claiming credit all to yourself is easy. Sharing credit with others is hard.

Sitting behind your desk is easy. Visiting your clients is hard.

Pessimism is easy. Optimism is hard.

Hope is easy. Strategy is hard.

Taking credit for wins is easy. Admitting mistakes is hard.

Going with the crowd is easy. Going against the crowd is hard.

Going into debt is easy. Living within your means is hard.

Doing the wrong thing is easy. Doing the right thing is hard.

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StartUp Tip #126: “Tweet” and “Like” buttons are not word-of-mouth.


In the past [especially during the TV Industrial complex] average products could survive and thrive merely on distribution alone.

A bad product, backed by a large television campaign and retail distribution, could find growth and profits for the company, regardless of quality.

Today [in the connection economy] this is no longer the case.

Today, mediocre products can still be launched in this way, but their longevity and returns quickly crash as word of mouth spreads and demand dries up faster than ever before.

Give people a reason to talk about your stuff, and make it easier for that conversation to take place.

If you want to get more word-of-mouth, you first need to understand it well.

All word-of-mouth, or “people talking about your product”, can be understood as a 3-part phenomenon:

  1. Discovery: Somebody encounters an idea.
  2. Wow: This person is convinced that the idea is worth sharing.
  3. The Share: The person shares the information with others.


“Tweet” and “Like” buttons are not word-of-mouth.

Rather, word-of-mouth comes from content, thoughtfulness, solved problems, and ease of use, in short, the whole experience of a product or service.


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