Things I wish I knew about marketing when we started: six marketing tips for start-ups

We’ve now entered our seventh year as an independent provider of engineering design services.  In that time we have been proud to have contributed to some really exciting products and on the flip side there have been some projects that have not been awarded our way.  Of those that got away, there are a couple that still hurt me as I genuinely believe that the projects would have hit our sweet spot and that we could have made a great job of them.

On reflection the loss of these projects was probably due to a marketing communications failure – I knew that we were just right for the project but failed to portray our strengths and capabilities clearly. Through the recent action of refreshing our website and associated marketing communications material I have been reflecting on what we have learnt over the last six years.  Here is a list of highlights of what we have learnt in the field of marketing – I hope they will prove to be useful marketing tips for start-ups:

  1. Understand who you really are, what it is that you do best and what makes you different. Now the difficult bit: articulate this consistently and clearly to the right people at the right time. Do all this and then hope that the moons align!
  2. Prospective customers expect you to have a professional outward profile, including a quality web site, business card, brochure, LinkedIn profile etc. Without all of these you lack credibility and often won’t make it past the door, as people form opinions from these initial encounters. A decision to opt-out of engaging you can be made after just a couple of seconds so these initial encounters really matter.
  3. We’ve been through four iterations of web site.  Authoring the site ourselves presented us in a manner that was consistent with how we thought we wanted to be perceived. Having someone else authoring the site on the basis of how they actually saw us probably gives a more honest reflection of who we really are and what we stand for.
  4. Our personal networks are the sources of most of our business. There are “old” networks and “new” networks, the latter being formed mostly for the purpose of developing business. Old networks are built on personal relationships whereby your prospective clients already understand what you deliver in terms of knowledge competence, trust and integrity.   As they already know what they can expect from you so you don’t need to sell yourself to the people in your old network – you just need to remind them occasionally that you are still around so that they think of you when they are in need of support.
  5. Customers are not forever. No matter how strong the business relationship is, it will come to an end at some point. Over the course of a year, a percentage of your customers will drop off so you need to gain by at least as much as you lose. The search for new customers can therefore never end else your business shrinks. The individuals with whom you have forged relationships move on … keep in touch with them and eventually they’ll become part of your “old” network.
  6. There are many different ways of marketing a business and hardest single thing is knowing what approach will be most effective for your prospective customers. I don’t believe there is one single answer to this. Ask a SEO guru and you know exactly what answer you’ll get. Ask an exponent of Direct Marketing, inbound marketing, a publisher or a copyrighter and you’ll get a different response to the same question.  My take on this is that they all can potentially benefit you but you probably don’t have the time, resources or the budget to do them all them all.   The key point is that you can’t afford to do nothing so you need to choose somehow.  Set your budget, try something for a reasonable period of time and analyse the results.  If it does not work out as you would have hoped, try something else.

Warley Design Solutions is a provider of mechanical design, engineering and product development services to a broad range of industries.  To find out more contact John.


Contact us

Call us now on
+44 (0)1277 261066 or
Email us