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Start-up experts will start stalking you

Grey cat prowling along a park bench

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Why read this? : We got deluged with advice and offers from start-up experts when we launched our business. Learn the best and worst of what we’ve heard in the last few months. Read this for ideas on how to deal with start-up experts stalking you. 

Most start-up businesses don’t last. 55,000 Australian businesses went bust last year. Different sources suggest anywhere between 60% and 97% of new businesses won’t make it past 3 years.

If that’s the case though, what’s with all the start-up experts out there? If there’s so much expertise out there, why do so many new businesses not make it? 

Our own recent entry into that world has meant we’ve been exposed to a lot of what these start-up experts say and do. 

Grey cat prowling along a park bench

And we mean A LOT. And it seems that it’s easier to say you’re an expert than to show it. Lots of claims of expertise. But not much proof of it. 

Guaranteed success tips to generate thousands of new leads! Winning strategies to drive a mega amount of conversions through your marketing funnel! Top 10 email tips that guarantee customers queueing up at your door! We can bring back Elvis!

OK, that last one’s made up. Obviously. But you get the idea. Any marketing claim which relies on an exclamation mark is one we’d be very wary of (!).

Start looking into start-ups

Do your secondary research on ‘start-ups’, and suddenly these start-up experts are taking up half your social media feeds. 

Yes, we know you can block them. But when you start, it’s not a bad bit of competitive intelligence to see these sponsored ads fighting like pirañas to try and turn you into a ‘lead’.

Because if their tactics annoy you, those same tactics will annoy your customers. If they seem manipulative or wasteful, then they probably are. So use them to learn what NOT to do. 

Here are 3 digital marketing-related examples from our social feed today. We won’t name names. But if you’ve looked at anything start-up-related recently, chances are you’ll know who they are.

The “Just Pay Shipping” Lead Magnet

You’ll have seen copy like this on a social feed …

Limited Time offer! 25 guaranteed tips for content marketing / search marketing / improving your Facebook ads / landing 000s of quality clients (pick any one).

Valued at $999 or some crazy high number, your’s for just $9.99 shipping.

Because we’re such good guys.

A subscription model box branded with three-brains on a doorstep

Yeah, we’ve all read Robert Cialdini’s Influence. We know what reciprocity is. You give something that seems to be valuable. The customer feels obliged to give you something in return. Usually their time or attention. Or their email address.

As a principle and used properly, it can work well to build consideration. (See our behavioural science in marketing article for more on this). 

But, it only works if what you give is of value. And almost all the lead magnets we see are disappointing. Of little or no value, other than as a way to get your e-mail address. 

Stuff we can find elsewhere online for free. E-books knocked up with graphic design tools like Adobe InDesign, which anyone could have done. No genuine and valuable insights or tips at all. Definitely not the bargains these start-up experts make them out to be.

You don’t have to do the complicated stuff, we’ll do that

If they’re not offering this generic advice, then they’re offering to do all the “marketing” and “e-Commerce” work you need.

For a fee of course. 

No real idea of whether you need that kind of service. Or whether your customers will benefit from it. 

You need to work out your marketing plan before you decide if you need any of this. 

Person holding 6 hundred dollar bills in front of them which have been set alight

So, be wary of all those companies offering to build your website. Or book your digital media. Be wary of the ones offering you free SEO audits, and offering to do your social media content.

Beware the ones who say they’ll do it all for you, while you sit back and watch the money roll in. 

Er, no. 

Because in our experience, the money often rolls the other way. Into their pockets, not yours. (See our marketing agency checklist for more on what to look out for).  

Plus, if you don’t know why you need it, then don’t do it until you do.

Genuine marketing experts can explain in simple terms why you need a particular service and what it means for customers.

Yes, some of it might sound complicated to start with. But, if you avoid complicated stuff, how will you ever learn how it works? And if your agency can’t make complicated stuff easy to understand, they’re not doing their job properly. 

Sign up for this incredible business success model

This simple piece of software / selling system / email template list works for thousands of businesses, of which we’ll mention 3 or 4, but without knowing anything about YOUR business, we’ll make it easy for you to earn millions in no time.

Sit back, and relax. Don’t do the hard work. Just hand over some cash, sign up for a webinar or an event and watch the money roll in.

What’s that about basic marketing skills? Market research? Brand Strategy? Customer experience?

Being profitable?

Boy with short hair shouting into microphone in a plain white room


We could easily go on. But it’s got to the point where it’s become like a tsunami of marketing bullshit. It all starts to sound the same, doesn’t it? None of these guys stand out.

The really annoying ones stand out the most

Well, apart from the ones who really annoy us.

The smug and the arrogant ones. There’s the guy who says he chucked his job because he hated all the people there. Now he makes millions by working a few hours a week.

We’re sure your ex-colleagues loved you.

And another who seems to constantly paste pictures of himself drinking beer with all his mates. All 3 of them. Yeah, like we’re going to believe someone who spends most of his time at the pub. 

Man in a red T-shirt looking frustrated and angry

And urgh, the ones who look like they just graduated last year? And suddenly they can tell you how to run your whole life and business.

Um, life experience, hello?

So, given we also peddle our services to try and win new clients, where do we think these start-up experts get it the most wrong? What marketing mistakes do they make, which we can all learn from?

Mistake #1 - talking about customers as ‘leads’

We know “leads” is a common term used by salespeople. But, for us, “leads” always feels a bit disrespectful to customers. 

Like they’re some herd of sheep, just waiting for you to guide them down your sales funnel. 

It sets the wrong tone and way of thinking about customers. Don’t do this. As per our first-ever article, customers are the most important thing in marketing. Treat them as people, not as leads. 

Four sheep in a field staring directly at the camera

Mistake #2 - ours is the only way to win

We get that advising people is a competitive market. But some of the advertising copy we read to make agencies sound better than competitors is crazy. At best, it’s naive and at worst incompetent.

Talk up your own successes by all means. Share what worked. But don’t dismiss everyone else out of hand. Marketing is context-specific. What worked one time, may not work the same way next time. 

Customers aren’t stupid. If you constantly dismiss other ideas in favour of your own, you come across as close-minded and arrogant. No one’s buying into those values in a start-up expert. 

Mistake #3 - You need the agency ‘experience’

Urgh, the ones who talk up the “agency experience”.

You need what agencies can do for you, not the agency experience. 

We don’t need flashy offices you rent through We Work, a decision you now regret.

We don’t need everyone looking like they’re under 30, spending the whole day on Instagram, and all wearing Beats headphones, funky T-shirts and trendy Converse trainers. 

None of those things matter all that much. 

Close up of Converse Chuck All Stars shoes, person lying on ground with feet in the air

We do need someone who can help us grow our business. Talk to us about that, and we’re all ears.

Conclusion - start-up experts

It’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous out there in the world of start-up experts.

For every expert we’ve found offering good advice (usually the ones honest enough to admit their mistakes), there are usually half a dozen half-assed stalkers also lurking around.

When you get going with selling online, you’ll have plenty of e-Commerce issues to deal with. You don’t want these bozos to be one of those issues. It’s worth checking out this Reddit chain on ‘fake gurus’ for more examples of bad e-Commerce “experts”. 

Check out our how to tell how good your e-Commerce expert is article for more on this. Or get in touch, if you need expert advice on growing your e-Commerce business. 

Photo credits

Prowling cat : Photo by Harry Cunningham on Unsplash

Doorstep delivery : Photo by MealPro on Unsplash

Money on fire : Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Shout Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

Frustrated Man (adapted) : Photo by Usman Yousaf on Unsplash

Sheep : Photo by Judith Prins on Unsplash

Converse Shoes : Photo by Camila Damásio on Unsplash

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