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Australian growth marketing agency Ammo helps startups calibrate their efforts – TechCrunch

Australian growth marketing agency Ammo helps startups calibrate their efforts – TechCrunch
Written by publishing team

When you’re the founder of a small startup, it’s always hard to gauge the right amount of effort to devote to marketing. A failure and you risk looking unprofessional. Hire a traditional agency and you might waste time and money.

By contrast, Australian growth marketing agency Ammo wants to ensure that its clients are not over- or under-investing. Geared towards tech startups, it prides itself on having “shipped the growth of over 200 innovative companies,” from fintech and SaaS to hardware.

Ammo is based in Perth and an active member of the Western Australian startup community, where it is “very much appreciated,” in the words of a survey respondent recommended by TechCrunch. But if that person decided to work with Ammo, they said it was because their “results spoke.” (If you have growth marketing agencies or freelancers to recommend, please fill out our survey!)

After reading this, we reached out to Ammo Director Cam Sinclair for insights into early stage brand development, marketing preparation 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 the ammunition?

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.

Cam Sinclair. Image credits: Allen Cuba(Opens in a new window)

We’ve been in this community for seven years now, and have a small, skinny team from a variety of backgrounds – none of which are traditional marketing.

As a nerdy kid I loved technology and was fascinated by how business works. I always knew I wanted to find some way to help founders and innovators get their great ideas out into the world. After working on political campaigns, I realized that many skills overlap with what startups need: moving quickly, dynamism, good communication, adaptability, and staying flexible.

This inspired me to develop “anti-agency” where startup founders can really feel that they have someone on their team who understands their challenges and risks.

How do you collaborate with startups?

Our services cater to every stage of the founder’s journey. When you get started, you’ll need a brand, strategy, and marketing infrastructure to reach your first customers. As you grow, you will need ongoing marketing campaigns and automation that boost your conversion funnel. As you mature, you will need the broadest access that PR and ongoing strategic advice provide.

We like to keep posts as flexible as possible because startups are always discovering new marketing opportunities or customer needs. Some relationships are ongoing, others are quick projects that are completed within a week. Our long-term relationships begin with a workshop on growth strategy, where we define the North Star scale so that everyone is heading in the same direction from day one.

Our workshops help startup teams design a customer journey using the hacking metrics framework and turn it into a clear step-by-step business plan that they can implement or outsource.

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There is a survey on your site that encourages companies to check if they are ‘market ready for growth’. What are the high level points that make the company ready?

It’s really about having a small number of the first fanatical customers – the missionaries. Many people call it a market-friendly product, but it’s really customer-friendly.

There is no point in lighting a rocket within a startup to grow and reach a broad audience without clear and confident direction. Sure, you might get somewhere quickly, but where are you going?

We mishandled clients who were too early to grow, so we know how important it is to say “no” when it isn’t appropriate. We can direct all the traffic in the world to your website, but without customer relevancy you will be fighting for every sale.

Startups need to get a few things right to be ready for growth. Not every startup will be ready for what we can do for them. We focus on the convenience of our customers as well.

For a solo business, who are your typical clients?

Our most successful relationships are with start-up companies that have already established client fits and are looking to grow rapidly. We work with B2B and B2C SaaS companies, as well as more traditional companies looking to disrupt the way things are done in their industry.

We’ve grown startups in Australia and abroad, including neuroscience startup Humm, headquartered in Berkeley, California. We’ve worked with them to identify early adopters and pre-order channels as they collect the initial investment, build the learning/experience system within the team as they grow, and most recently, provide consultancy at a strategic level.

What mistakes do startups help avoid when it comes to branding?

After working with over 230 startups, we know what works and what doesn’t. Our clients work with us because they know we can help them avoid the pitfalls that inexperienced founders regularly fall into and make the most of tight budgets that startups run.

Marketing agencies take money that startups don’t need to build brand identities that startups don’t need. We would much rather see those resources invested in building their product and talking to their customers.

However, it is important that the landing page or slide deck is believable to customers, investors, and partners — and when a startup invests less in its brand, people are less likely to hand over their attention, email address, and money.

For example, some customers often don’t have proper logo files or a wide enough color palette to create websites that effectively convert people into customers. If someone can’t clearly see the “Subscribe” 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 you advise startups to create a “minimum viable brand”?

The temptation in the startup world is to hire a freelancer through an online marketplace (or worse yet – let a very motivated employee create a logo in PowerPoint). But this usually results in a logo design at the surface level without any regard for how it has evolved over time or fits into a larger brand identity.

Other startups may work with an agency to create a brand identity, and this can lead to brand overuse – stationery sets, photography, lofty mission statements, endless meetings. Pre-incorporated startups don’t need any of them yet. This process wastes time and money that would be better spent elsewhere and traps expensive branded startups that cannot develop as they do.

We take the branding processes used by world-class agencies and narrow them down to the essential parts of the brand you need right now. This results in a minimally viable brand identity that is built to grow and created with the expectation that it will change as it does in your startup. It’s inspired by the Lean and Minimum Viable Product (MVP) methodology – it’s designed to challenge assumptions and capture customer attention without overinvesting.

What process do you follow to help startups develop their minimum viable brand?

At first we help them come up with a name.

The naming is important so we generally invest time in this part to avoid changing it in the future if possible. We want to make sure it meets the core principles of excellence, brevity, convenience, ease of spelling, pronunciation, likeability, extensibility, and protection (based on Marty Neumeier Zag’s book Branding in Business).

From there we design a logo. A good logo (the “icon” part of the logo) is generally symbolic rather than literal. It should be scalable, simple and work in multiple environments including a single color black or white. The logo is then complemented by choices of brand colors, fonts, and a simple image orientation to create a basic yet useful guide to branding.

Most importantly, we believe your startup branding guidelines should be publicly available online, not in a PDF hidden in a folder on your Dropbox. Somewhere you can direct your team members and partners to so you can ensure that everyone can keep your brand consistent.

How does ammunition compare to the presence of the chief marketing officer of the company?

Like CMO, we are strategic. But unlike CMO, we have experience with hundreds of startups across dozens of industries – we can extract insights and lessons from unexpected places when we work with clients.

While we closely align with business goals such as internal 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 customers.

We don’t have the mindset of spending months developing an annual marketing strategy, we want to help our clients get in front of customers quickly, gather valuable data along the way and stay adept at adapting when they need it.

How do you and your clients measure your impact?

At Ammo, we don’t measure time, we measure results. At the beginning of each project we define what success with the client looks like. Every customer is different, and we respond to it. We check back with existing clients at monthly meetings to see how we’re following the measure of success we’ve agreed upon, adjusting as necessary.

All of this is measured by quantitative analyses, qualitative customer feedback and gut instinct.

In the past, we have described our role as making ourselves obsolete – for our clients to grow large enough to be able to hire their own in-house marketing team. Today we still maintain many of these customer relationships in different ways, by offering more strategic advice. These long-term relationships are our greatest indication that we have a valuable influence.

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