When you’re the founder of a young startup, it’s always very difficult to gauge the right amount of effort to put into marketing. If you screw it up, you risk looking unprofessional. Hire a traditional agency and you could be wasting time and money.
Australian Growth Marketing Agency AmmunitionRather, you want to make sure your customers don’t over-or under-invest. Aimed at tech startups, it boasts of having “supercharged the growth of more than 200 innovative companies,” from fintech and SaaS to hardware.
Ammo is based in Perth and is an active member of the Western Australian startup community, where he is “highly regarded”, in the words of the respondent who recommended him to TechCrunch. But if that person decided to work with Ammo, they said it’s because “their results spoke.” (If you have growth marketing agencies or freelancers to recommend, please fill out our survey!)
After reading this, we contacted the director of Ammo. Cam Sinclair for information on early stage branding, marketing readiness, and more. Check out our interview below:
Editor’s Note: The interview below has been edited for length and clarity.
Can you give us an overview of ammo?
Cam Sinclair: Ammo is a growing marketing team based in Perth, Western Australia. We work with startups and innovative companies to help them set and achieve their growth goals.
We’ve been in this community for seven years and we have a small, lean team with a variety of backgrounds, none of which is traditional marketing.
When I was a nerdy kid, I loved technology and was fascinated by how business works. I always knew that I wanted to find some way to help founders and innovators bring their great ideas to the world. After working on political campaigns, I realized that many of the skills overlapped with what startups need: move fast, be lean, communicate well, be adaptable, and stay flexible.
That inspired me to develop an “anti-agency” where startup founders could genuinely feel that they had someone on their team who understood their challenges and the risks they were taking.
How do you collaborate with startups?
Our services are tailored to all stages of the founder’s journey. When you start, you’ll need a brand, a strategy, and the marketing infrastructure to reach your first customers. As you grow, you will need ongoing marketing campaigns and automation that strengthens your funnel. As you mature, you will need the broader reach that public relations and ongoing strategic advice provide.
We like to keep commitments as flexible as possible because startups are always discovering new marketing opportunities or customer needs. Some relationships are ongoing, others are quick projects that take a week to complete. Our long-term relationships begin with a growth strategy workshop, where we identify a North Star metric so that everyone is pulling in the same direction from day one.
Our workshops help startup teams design a customer journey using the pirated metrics framework and turn it into a clear, step-by-step action plan that they can implement or outsource.
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There is a survey on their site that encourages companies to check if they are “ready for growth marketing.” What are the high-level points that prepare a company?
It’s really about having a small number of early fanatic clients – evangelists. Many people call it a product-to-market fit, but it really does fit the customer.
It doesn’t make much sense to fire a rocket under a startup to grow and reach a wide audience without a clear and sure direction. Sure, you might get somewhere fast, but where are you going?
We made the mistake of accepting clients who were too early to grow, so we know how important it is to say “no” when it doesn’t fit in well. We can drive all the traffic in the world to your website, but without the right customer, you will be fighting for every sale.
Startups need to do a few things right to be ready for growth. Not all startups will be prepared for what we can do for them. We are also focused on our own customer fit.
For one-on-one work, who are your regular customers?
Our most successful relationships are with startups that have already established a customer fit and are looking to grow quickly. We work with SaaS B2B and B2C companies, as well as more traditional companies looking to alter the way things are done in their industry.
We have developed startups in Australia and abroad, including the Berkeley, California-based neuroscience company Humm. We worked with them to identify early customers and pre-order channels as they rallied the initial investment, build a system of learning / experimentation within the team as they grew, and more recently, providing advice at a strategic level.
What mistakes do you help startups avoid when it comes to branding?
After working with more than 230 startups, we know what works and what doesn’t. Our clients work with us because they know we can help them avoid the traps inexperienced founders often fall into and make the most of the tight budgets that startups run on.
Marketing agencies are getting money that startups don’t have to build brand identities that startups don’t need. We would rather see those resources invested in building your product and talking to your customers.
That said, it’s important for a landing page or slideshow to be credible to clients, investors, and partners, and when startups invest little in your brand, people are less likely to deliver their attention, email address. and money.
For example, some clients often don’t even have proper logo files or a broad enough color palette to create websites that effectively convert people into customers. If someone can’t clearly see your “sign up” button when they come to your website because everything on your website is blue, it doesn’t matter how good your product or service is.
Can you explain why advise startups to create a “minimum viable brand”?
The temptation in the startup world is to use a freelancer through an online marketplace (or worse yet, let an overzealous employee create a logo in PowerPoint). But this generally results in a surface-level logo design regardless of how it might develop over time or fit within a larger brand identity.
Other startups may work with an agency to create a brand identity, and this can lead to brand hype – stationery kits, photographs, lofty mission statements, and endless meetings. None of which need new pre-seed companies yet. This process wastes time and money that is better spent elsewhere and traps pivotal startups with an expensive brand that can’t evolve the way they do.
We take the branding processes used by world-class agencies and focus them on the core parts of the branding that you need right now. This leads to a minimal viable brand identity that is built to grow and created with the expectation that it will change as your startup does. Inspired by Lean Methodology and Minimum Viable Product (MVP) – it’s designed to challenge assumptions and grab customers’ attention without investing too much.
What is the process you follow to help startups develop their minimum viable brand?
Initially we help them find a name.
The name is important, so we generally spend time on this part to avoid changing it in the future if possible. We want to ensure that you adhere to the basic principles of distinctiveness, brevity, appropriateness, ease of spelling and pronunciation, friendliness, extensibility, and protection (as per Marty Neumeier’s Book of Trademark in Business Zag).
From there we design a logo. A good logo (the “icon” part of the logo) is generally figurative and not literal. It should be scalable, simple, and work in multiple environments, including single-color black or white. The logo is then complemented by brand color selections, fonts, and a simple image direction to create a basic but useful brand guide.
Most importantly, we believe that your startup’s branding guidelines should be publicly available online, rather than in a hidden PDF in a folder on your Dropbox. Somewhere you can direct your team members and partners to make sure everyone can maintain brand consistency.
How does Ammo compare to having an internal CMO?
As a CMO, we are strategic. But unlike a CMO, we have experience with hundreds of startups in dozens of industries – we can draw insights and lessons from unexpected places when working with clients.
While we closely align with business goals as an in-house CMO, we also know the importance of startups moving quickly. That’s why everyone at Ammo rolls up their sleeves and gets things done for our clients.
We don’t have the mindset of taking months to develop an annual marketing strategy, we want to help our clients reach customers quickly, collect valuable data along the way, and be agile to adapt when they need it.
How do you and your customers measure your impact?
At Ammo, we don’t measure time, we measure results. At the beginning of each project, we define what customer success looks like. Every client is different and we respond to that. We recheck with ongoing clients in monthly meetings to see how we are tracking the success metric we agreed to, adjusting as necessary.
All of this is measured through quantitative analysis, qualitative customer feedback, and instinct.
In the past, we have described our role as becoming obsolete: that our clients grow large enough to be able to hire their own in-house marketing team. Today, we still maintain many of these client relationships in different ways, providing more strategic advice. Those long-term relationships are the best indication to us that we have had a valuable impact.
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