Start-ups: here’s why you should invest in marketing expertise early

Short answer, because of your customer

Long answer, because the function of marketing is to act as the ‘voice of the customer’ within your business and this should be a driving force from day one.

Growth hacking is a fantastic marketing ideology that has launched many a start-up into a given market, propelled them to the top, and helped them disrupt the space. According to Ryan Holiday’s book, Growth Hacker Marketing, the first important step is Product Market Fit. In other words, ensuring that your product fits the needs of your customer, your market. To do this you need to understand the ‘voice of the customer’.

Enter Marketing. This customer-focused expertise is needed from the outset, from the point of product development. Often a misunderstanding arises where the function of marketing is being restricted to communication. Effectively sharing the message of your product or service to your target market is a huge component of the role that marketing plays within a business. But it’s also more.

The ‘voice of the customer’ should not be overlooked. From the outset, as an entrepreneur you need to invest in consumer insight, gaining a marketing advantage over your competitors.

When I say invest, I don’t necessarily mean spending thousands on a marketing consultant or hiring a marketer from day one.

Eventually, as your company takes off you will need to hire a trained marketer. That is a fact. However, in the early days adopting a few basic marketing principles will help guide your product launch and get your business safely off the ground.

  1. Start with customer personas.

Who are your customers? Sounds like a simple question. It is. Writing down the answer is often overlooked for this reason. It’s not enough to say, “Millennials who use mobile apps”. You need to note down:

  • Demographics – age, gender, income, location.
  • Psychographics – personality traits and preferences.
  • Behavior – what do they like? What do they dislike?

B2B business should also take note of characteristics pertaining to the ideal business, in which their ideal customer works.

  • # of employees
  • Product or service
  • Revenue
  • Geographic scope
  • Type of business
  • Leadership structure
  • Budget
  1. Make S.M.A.R.T. goals and map the steps needed to hit each one.

There is a difference between a target and an objective. In this target fearful world, it’s important not to forget to set clear, well-defined, and measurable objectives. As your business starts to grow, these objectives need to be decided and defined by the entire team, so they are engaged and invested.

I have always favored the S.M.A.R.T. principle. All goals must be Specific, Measurable, Agreed upon, Realistic, and Time-related.

  1. Create your brand by telling an authentic story.

Authentic marketing is more powerful than anything else. Start to define your brand by telling your story. Don’t skip out the failures. Talk authentically about yourself and your reasons for launching.

Your brand identity will grow from here.

  1. Understand that your website is the shop window of your company.

Do not take your website for granted. It is the more important marketing tool you have. Your website will adapt as your business grows, but should always be the platform from which you disseminate information and a point-of-contact for your customer.

When creating your website, think about how your customer will navigate through the website, and make it easy to do so. I do this by brainstorming the questions I think my target customer will want answers to inform their buying process. Your website must be mobile friendly. In this day and age, having a non-responsive website is business suicide.

Write concise copy that guides the customer to the information they need, and ultimately how they purchase.

When I say invest, I also don’t necessarily mean spending hours a day on an online course, gaining additional qualifications.

Again, you don’t need to invest hours a day into gaining marketing expertise. Read, listen, and learn from the abundance of free publications and podcasts out there. Find some specific to your industry vertical as well. The way healthcare markets to patients is different to how retail markets, despite both industries being forced to leverage digital platforms for the on-demand consumer.

Here are just a few marketing specific portals to help you on your way:

  • GrowthHackers – get tips on the latest growth hacking principles, to drive fast growth for your business.
  • MarketingProfs – fantastic portal for newbies and veterans.
  • HubSpot Marketing Blog – Inbound Marketing or Content Marketing experts.
  • Six Pixels of Separation – fantastic read that cuts through the jargon.
  • Grow – great read for marketers, but also provides unmatched leadership advice.
  • Chief Marketer – help you understand how to leverage data in marketing.
  • com – watch out for what seasoned CMOs are keeping their eyes on.
  • Jeff Bullas – self-made social media tycoon.
  • The Marketing Companion Podcast – easy to absorb insight into the latest marketing trends.
  • VentureBeat Podcast – MarTech discussions, interviews with digital leaders, all packaged in a light-hearted podcast that is perfect for the subway ride.
  • Social Media Today – best practices to utilize these free platforms.
  • – technology is changing marketing. Keep this in mind.

Also, network at local events. is a fantastic resource for start-ups. Marketing events are a dime a dozen, so why not attend a few. Ask pointed questions about the challenges you’ve been facing to seasoned professionals over a glass of wine or two.

Marketing New York


How to grow delegate revenue by 53%

H1 results are in! We have officially grown delegate revenue by 53% – H1 2016 versus H1 2015.

So, how did we do it?

  1. We went back to basics

You got to get the fundamentals right. From there, you can experiment.

Marketing is about communication. Getting your product in front of the right people. So the first step is to ensure that you understand your target and that they are in your database. We revamped our ‘marketing briefs’ to make sure that we as marketers understood our events and who they are for. We then conducted a thorough data audit, and created a data acquisition plan to fill gaps, to also clean our existing data and add more data in our strength areas.

Working with data companies such as Dun & Bradstreet allowed us to target our spend and our efforts.

Next we took a look at the channels we were using. I labour this next point with my team constantly! I cannot tell you how frustrating it is to me when I hear marketers talk about ‘traditional marketing’ versus ‘digital marketing’. They work together. Our marketing campaigns are integrated. The channels we use work together, flow together, evolve together. We time our activities. You might receive something in the mail from us, which is followed up by a targeted email sent to you or social activity around a keyword aimed to get on your twitter newsfeed. What we work towards is communicating a cohesive message on a variety of platforms, giving our customers multiple touch points to talk to us, engage with us. Closing that loop between us and them. Not always achieved – I admit!

First channel to change – our websites. This was a global strategic change that looked to take our website (quite literally) from the stone age into the 21st century. We now have mobile optimised, user friendly and extremely attractive websites. These websites are effectively SEO’s, searchable and targeted to our customers.

Next, we boosted our digital marketing. We used tools such as Evvnt to effectively and efficiently list our events everywhere. Targeted campaigns on Facebook and LinkedIn helped boost our website traffic. We have a long way to go to ensure that we are engaging effectively on social media, but we are building strong networks that are beneficial to us and our customers.

Email is a vital tool for any marketer. In this day and age, cutting through the noise of our targets’ inboxes is a challenge. With our significant investment in data, we were naturally keen to nurture; not spam. We worked to tailor our campaigns by job title, industry, geo…etc. It’s not always easy, and it’s not always 100% fool-proof! But, we noted a significant increase in our open and click (up by 4.6%).

This is just a taster of how we have gone back to basics. But despite the brevity, it’s clear how ensuring the fundamentals are done right leads to higher revenue.

  1. Experimenting

Now we have the fundamentals, we can experiment! We can look to the new channels, we can explore new ideas.

For example, content marketing for us has evolved. We see this as a tool of influencer marketing. Shouting out about the influencers, the change agitators appearing at our event, encouraging them to share our event and leverage their networks adds credibility to our products. This is a new area for us and something that I see as the future of our marketing strategies.

We are also experimenting with social media. We have looked to network marketers to employ their tips, their tactics to grow our networks. To position ourselves as thought leaders, to positions our events as the platform to influence industries.

  1. Customer Experience 

At the beginning of the year, I predicted that customer experience would be a huge talking point for event marketers in 2016. Customers experience the event, that’s a given, but they also experience your marketing. They experience every email. An email that is tailored to their needs will deliver a more positive experience than one that doesn’t – in fact, one that doesn’t delivers a negative experience, one that ends with the delete button.

The way customers experience events is also constantly changing. Gone are the days of death by powerpoint. People want to be engaged, they want their opinions heard. Digital platforms have made this possible – and provided yet another opportunity for marketers. The idea, or dream, of creating FOMO.

  1. Aligning Marketing with Sales

Never easy. And in all honesty, we are not yet 100%, 24/7 on the same page. However, what we found worked was demonstrating how marketing can ease the pressure on sales guys. Isn’t it better to have 200 leads handed to you on a plate, then have to go out and find them?

  1. Analytics

Everything in marketing is trackable, measurable. That’s why I love it! It’s a great feeling to go home at the end of the day and be able to pat myself on the back for getting X number of leads or $$$ more revenue.

Of course, with all of our experiments we also had to be focused on data and analysis to ensure what we were doing was working. 

I think marketing’s future success is really in this data driven approach; a customer focus on what they are engaging with.

Beyond these 5, what was key for me as a new leader was to learn to think ahead. To not let the short term objectives overshadow the long term goals. To make time for planning. To think strategically. To think “big picture”. To not let the opinions of other distract me from my goal. This gave me and my team the structure to thrive. The best part – now I get to show off.

The team dynamic was also vital. A lot was asked of my team, beyond the normal boundaries of their job. It involved late nights, long days, exhausting meetings where we tried to convince our internal customers that what we are doing was worth it!

What’s great is we now boast:

  • Increased website sessions by 188%
  • Doubled data
  • Increased leads by 62%
  • Increased delegate revenue by 53%


The #Marketingtrend to watch for in 2016

In my opinion, the biggest trend we will witness in 2016 is the convergence of Marketing and Customer Experience. Traditionally, marketers have been back office, systems focused. Sales have been the front line. The link from marketing to the customer. In recent years this has changed. As marketing has involved from a transactional focus to one of building relationships, we have seen how ensuring high levels of customer experience is vital to setting your business apart from the rest.

The #Marketingtrend to watch for in 2016 – The Convergence of Marketing and Customer Experience 

Staying ahead of your competition is not easy. One of the best ways to achieve this is to ensure your customer experience is exceptional.

“The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.”

~ Jerry Gregoire, former CIO of Dell and Pepsi. Read more at

For us in the events industry, this is often assumed to be limited to onsite/or at the event itself. But what about how our customers experience our marketing?

The Buying Process – ask yourself how easy is it to register for your event? Can you improve the functionality of your website to optimise the customer’s experience? Having a mobile friendly website is one such (very important) way of doing this.

Copy – why is spamming so frustrating? Because we live in a world where business executives receive hundreds, if not thousands of emails a day. And this makes it nigh impossible to filter out those that are relevant. Let’s be totally honest, companies are not going to stop emailing. What needs to change is the message. I am assuming you have received an email from a conference company, probably encouraging you to download a conference brochure. Open it – and I guarantee it will contain a conference agenda that is highly detailed. How do you spot the information relevant to you? That’s where copy can help. Copy should be used to streamline the customer’s experience of your product information. Focus their attention on to what is relevant to them. What will help them to solve their business needs.

Content Marketing – there aren’t many events companies that have successfully used content marketing. In my opinion, this is because we forget to think about the customer experience. We release content that we have, share it across our third parties, and onto our blogs. Is it really the content that our customers want? Is the content in a format that suits the customer? Is a downloadable PDF what they really want? Could the key information be condensed to a blog or an info graphic? Is video or audio an easier way for your customers to absorb the content?

Multi-channel approach – don’t be afraid of using multiple channels to communicate your message. Remember that this message needs to be consistent. It is frustrating for customers who see one message and then receive another. For example, clicking on a ppc advert that advertises an eBook on How to generate high quality leads for sales. But instead of being directed to a download they are taken to a page that talks about your product, that in fairness, can help you to generate high quality leads. This is misleading to the customer. Make sure the message across your channels align. And if you have multiple messages for different target profiles (as we all often do), ensure that the customer is guided through your marketing so that they experience a consistent message.

Internal customers – don’t forget these guys. They are as important as external customers. How do your colleagues experience marketing? I wrote a blog a long time ago about how I felt my job had become one of nagging. Since then, I have tried to change this. As marketers, we need our team mates. We need Sales. We need Production. We need IT. We need Finance. They also need us! But perhaps instead of discussing the nagging – I should’ve looked into how these customers experience marketing.

Instead of focusing on solely on how customers experience your product, think about how they experience your message and your communication as well.


Sorry is not a dirty word in business

In the immortal words of Elton John;

“It’s sad, so sad
Why can’t we talk it over?
Oh, it seems to me
That sorry seems to be the hardest word.”

Never have truer words been spoken.

Why in business do we find it so hard to say sorry?

Is it because we fear looking weak?

Is it because we are programmed to disguise our failings?

When I train my team, I teach them the importance of the word Sorry. This one little word goes a long way with both internal and external customers. Admittance of fault is not a weakness, it actually shows strength. The strength to understand yourself; the strength to admit something hasn’t gone to plan and, most importantly, humility. You can turn a situation from one of anger to one of respect by saying one little word – Sorry. 

Say you’ve run out of time this week and those emails you said you’d write have unfortunately fallen by the wayside by the time Friday comes around? Which of these responses do you think is better?

Option 1 – 

I didn’t do them. Joe didn’t get the information to me this morning, and Steph didn’t follow up with me. I also got to X and you’ve not trained me on that part of the system.

Option 2 – 

I’m sorry, I didn’t finish those emails. A few other matters came up that took precedence. I’ll have written and sent them to you by close of business Monday.

I’m hoping the answer is obvious?

We can’t always control our own time. We have to learn to prioritise. Sometimes that means that something does not get done. Often this can affect whether or not colleague, or even a supplier, can complete their task.

As a manager, it is extremely frustrating when a member of your team hides behind the veneer of being busy when we’re all busy. Or they hide behind a colleague falling back in they time management.

If something needs completing, and by a certain time, it’s important to prioritise and see the bigger picture. I can guarantee that your boss only cares that a task gets done, not how it happens. They are putting their faith in you.  Taking something off their own to-do list. In their minds, that task is now taken care of. It is frustrating to discover that is not the case.

Instead of getting defensive and offering up a myriad of excuses, say Sorry. And offer a realistic timeframe for when the task will be completed. Providing a solution to the situation and ensuring the task does get done. Or if you get halfway through the task and are unsure how best to proceed with the rest, ask for training. Ask for a hand. Your manager won’t be annoyed. They’d rather know of a problem in advance, than find out from you when the deadline has already passed that the task is not complete.

The same principle applies for when dealing with an external customer.

Say a member of your team promised a customer that you would share their case study with your network, but forgot to mention it to you?

Option 1 –

Adam never told me. I can’t do it now.

Option 2 –

I apologise for the delay in releasing your case study. I will ensure that this is released on Monday, first thing. By way of apology, I will also share it again one week before our event to all attendees, in particular those who have registered interest in your session. Sorry. 

Again – obvious I hope.

Your customer will respect you more for owning up! That is good customer service – admitting fault, finding a solution, and going that extra mile.

Sorry is not a dirty word. Sorry is not a sign of weakness. The ability to say Sorry is priceless.

Diary of a Marketer in New York – entry 4.

The convergence of marketing and customer experience

Recently, we’ve witnessed a convergence of marketing and experience. Epitomised by experiential marketing, it is great to see marketing come to life. Check out these great examples here – posted by My personal favourite – the “Best Poster in the World” by Carlsberg.

In events, we often forget that our customers’ experience our marketing. Last week, at America’s Customer Festival I was reminded of the importance of customer experience and how closely linked this is to customer service. Melissa Baird, Director of Product and Operations from Bonobos gave a great presentation about on “The store of the future – Leveraging brick and mortar to increase online sales conversion.” Not only has Bonobos revolutionised their in-store experience, they have taken customer service to the next level. This high level of customer service has enabled them to deliver a unique customer experience.

Melissa gave examples of how Bonobos’ ‘marketing ninjas’ enhanced the experience of their customers using their ‘surprise & delight’ budget. The ninjas are given creative control when it comes to customer service. This creative freedom has led to the ninjas sending a Bonobo to a student. This makes me think about how we thank our best customers, or our best assets. Why not make a fuss over the speaker who helped us to shape our agenda? Why not thank the sponsor who helped us to promote the event? Why not celebrate the social media influencer who made our event hashtag go wild?

Too often we forget to say thank you. As we say in the UK, ‘it’s important to mind your p’s and q’s.’

In an interview on eMarketer back in 2012, Bonobos neatly describes the impact high levels of customer service can have on business:

“We have an interesting stat: If a customer has talked to one of our ninjas, he’s actually much more likely to shop again and he’s much more likely to tell his friends and family about us than if he hadn’t talked to our customer service team. – See more at:”

Great customer service leads to customer retention. Customer retention gives businesses a great base from which to grow. It also leads to referral and “word-of-mouth” marketing.

The convergence of marketing and experience is more than just ‘in-store’ or ‘on-site’. Our customers experience our promotion. 

The best example of this – websites. Why is it vital that we as marketers adapt websites to suit the mobile world? Because customers want to experience our promotion at a time, in a place, from a device of their choice.

Customer service must also be remembered when we think of our promotion. Just like in the Bonobos example, customer service can set your promotion, your product and your business ahead of that of your competition. When you send out an email, are you sending it at a time that suits the recipient? Have you written appropriate copy? Have you used clear call-to-actions? Are the instructions clear and easy to follow? Thinking of your customer and ensuring their experience is positive – this is excellent customer service.

The convergence of marketing and experience is enhancing our relationship with our customers. We as event marketers can learn a lot from the customer service excellence demonstrated by Bonobos.

Face-to-face is always best

In a world of “digital transformation”, we seem to get too easily distracted by the newest this or the fastest that. Daily I see so many articles about the latest digital marketing solution or social media platform that as a marketer I should be using. There are so many out there – how to choose what’s right? That’s a blog for another time!

I’m not saying that digital marketing isn’t EXTREMELY valuable, but in an industry where marketing has the habit of being seen as a support system too reliable on email marketing; my gut says we need to remember the basics.

Once again I have learnt that face-to-face meetings are more effective. A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Chicago to do some ‘grassroots marketing’ for The Trading Show Chicago 2015It was a real pleasure to have the opportunity to meet and network with a new industry. Before moving to New York, I worked exclusively within Lifescience events. Lifesciences will always have my heart, but it is exciting to learn about new industries and see how different customers react to different promotional channels.

Marketing embraces the innovative. Let’s not forget the basics. Getting out there and talking to our customers is the best way to ensure that we deliver.

The Trading Show Chicago 2015 is set to be the best yet! The lessons we as marketing have learnt in the best year have paid off. Want to see how? Pop along to the event next week by registering here > 

Or follow us at #TSChicago.