How Your Startup Should Make its Mark in Business

Shama gives her tips for how startups can get the momentum-ball rolling and make their mark in business.


Hey, guys, Shama here. I hope you’re having a great Friday. It has been a long week, and I’m in Dallas, actually, which is nice, nice to be home for a little bit. I thought today’s episode, and this is really cool, I realized that we’re one of the only Facebook Live shows on business, and I’m excited. The last show we did, just Friday, I really appreciate you guys tuning in. Just so you know, we had 123,000 views on the past Facebook Live episode last Friday. I really appreciate it, thank you so much for tuning in. This is the fun stuff about Facebook Live.

I got a question from Kaylin said that she is working at a startup and wanted to know how to apply the momentum principles in the book to startups. Her question was, you know, I get it once a company has some traction, but how can a startup really make their mark? Especially if, as most startups are, you’re usually tight on resources, you’re trying to be efficient, regardless of whether you have VC funding or not, or outside funding or not, but you’re constantly, of course, trying to make the most of your resources.

I thought I would talk a little bit about how a startup can make their mark when it comes to the world of marketing, the world of business, and what that looks like. Here’s my best advice for a startup, hands down, when it comes to marketing it, when it comes to getting your name out there. The short answer is “a lot of hard work.” It’s amazing to me how many startups think that they can get out there and that people will just come flocking because they have a great product or a great service, and unfortunately, that’s just not that true. You really have to work hard, and there’s no substitute for that, so I will say that.

The other thing I’ll say for startups, and again, this is more strategic, I’m not even getting into the tactical side of things right now, but strategically, it’s also really important to stay consistent. Whatever you’re doing, do it consistently, so if it’s a newsletter that goes out every week to your customers, to your audience, make sure that you do that every week consistently. If you are on social media, if you’ve got a Snapchat presence, Instagram, whatever it may be, just make sure that you are executing consistently, because that’s what’s going to drive your results. I don’t care where your startup is, there’s still so much opportunity out there that you can leverage.

I’ll tell you my story. When I started Marketing Zen, it’s so funny now to think about it, because we’ve been around for what, almost seven, eight years, up to thirty people, so this is before we had our Fortune 500 clients, and all the people that we get to serve today and stuff, but when I was first starting out, nobody knew who I was in marketing, no one knew Marketing Zen, no one knew Shama, no one knew that we existed. Entered a field, of course, that is very competitive, there’s a lot of great players in the field, and so I had to find a way to provide value to the audience. That’s my number one tip for a startup out there. Find a way to provide value to your audience, if it’s investors, if it’s customers, and it may be both. I mean, as a startup, if you’re trying to get funding, you may think about “how do I provide more value for my investors?” and then “how do I provide more value for my customers?”

For me, for example, one of the most simple things I ever did when I got started was I would go to conferences … I actually remember going to BlogWorld before it was this mega-conference on two coasts, but I remember going to BlogWorld and taking copious amounts of notes in sessions, and then sharing those notes on my blog, and offering other people who were in the audience, conference attendees, and said, “Hey, if you give me your card, I’m happy to send you all these notes I took,” and people were ecstatic. You’ve got to find a way, no matter what your startup, if you’re B2C, B2B, I don’t care, doesn’t matter, you have to find a way to deliver value for your audience and figure out what it is they care about, and then execute on that consistently.

The other thing I would say is, if you are also trying to get investor attention, there is something to be said about PR, and good PR, because success breeds success. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, success breeds success. Investors want to invest in something that’s already looking hot, so it’s really up to you to make sure that you’re getting that initial traction by being consistent, by providing value, by knocking on doors, by talking to people, by creating buzz. Figure out how your startup can tie into whatever’s relevant right now. Pokémon GO, for example. The political season. Find what’s timely, what’s newsworthy, and figure out an angle that ties into your product or service, because the more you’re in the news, the more your name’s out there, the better chances, honestly, of investors finding you and investing.

One of the questions that I get a lot about startups, too, is how do we get media attention when we’re on a budget, when we’re really trying, when we’re just starting out, and we don’t have a PR budget? I would say when you do have the PR budget, first of all, invest in PR. It makes a difference, you want to get your brand out there. But, you know what, editors love to hear from startup entrepreneurs, they do, but you’ve got to have a good story, and you’ve got to have a good angle.

For example, when I’m not running the agency, I also have columns. I have columns with Inc., I have a column with Forbes, and I get pitched stuff all the time, and I’m amazed at how many times the things I get pitched, I don’t write about, I don’t talk about. Guys, I talk about business, technology, marketing. Tie in whatever you’re doing into that. Pitching me about shoes? I’m not going to write about that. I may think it’s great, I may even become a customer, but I’m not covering that, because that’s not my expertise, that’s not what I cover. It’s very important to figure out who your reporter is, who the media is, what’s the audience they write for, who do they cater to, and then pitch accordingly.

I will tell you, you know, a great example of this, by the way, it applies in every field. Mitch Jackson, who is watching right now, is an amazing attorney, he’s out in California, and I just love everything that Mitch does, because he’s very entrepreneurial in his field, which I think is rare in the legal field. It’s rare to see lawyers being that active in that way and engaging, but I know his clients love him, and he’s attracted massive attention, international attention, because of his efforts. His efforts include rolling up his sleeves, messaging people, building those relationships.

Look, guys, building startups is hard work. I mean, the world glamorizes it, but there’s 2ams where you’re sitting there, and you’re working on your laptop, and you’re finishing out a blog post, or you’re talking to your team. I mean, it’s hard work, and you have to be willing to put that in, so while there’s lots of strategies out there and things that you could do to grow your business, just remember that at the end of the day, it is sincere hard work, rolling up your sleeves, and trying things, and finding what works and amplifying it. That’s the other thing I’m a big fan of.

Even if you’re not creating your own content as a startup, start curating it. I talk a lot about this as a third principle in my book, Momentum. Check it out already if you haven’t, by the way. I’d love to see what you think. Yeah, curate other people’s content, do anything you can. Put on a monkey suit and dance, if that’s going to make your audience consider you valuable, and make them laugh, and make them pay attention. That’s my advice for you, Kaylin. Thanks for your question. Guys, if you have more questions, leave them in the contents. You can also go to and submit a contact form. I promise I try to read them all. I may not be able to respond to everything personally, but I try to do that here. All right, catch you next Friday. Bye.


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