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Three effective tools to get your start-up noticed (or ‘what we can all learn from Gok Wan’)

If you’re reading this there’s a good chance you have at one time considered the possibility of running your own business. And as we all know, going it alone takes guts and more than a sprinkling of self-belief. That’s why I joined other existing and potential start-up owners to soak up some inspiration and insider knowledge, at the recent AWiSE event, ‘Do you have a business in you?’

“With the right support, you can set up and grow a successful enterprise to the level that fits your needs,” Liz Lyon of Rise Business Circle enthused. “Everyone has something useful to offer.”

Defining your ideas and mapping them to your skills and resources is the first step in turning the hypothetical into the viable. “Whether or not you want to develop your potential is a decision only you can make,” she added.

Mastering the psychological challenges budding business owners face is often the biggest barrier to getting started.

Liz’s business partner, Luanne Hill, explained the importance of getting that first impression right, “Whether it’s your bank manager or a potential customer, it’s vital to making someone understand why they should buy into you.”

Learn how to sell yourself in three seconds. Be positive: make eye contact, ask questions and smile. A lot! We tend to buy from people we like, even more so if we recognise genuine passion and commitment.

Based on Liz and Luanne’s advice, here are three simple tools to ensure your start-up gets the right attention in those critical first few moments.

1. Make a good impression

Just like celebrity stylist Gok Wan and his fashion followers, new start-ups need to stand out from the crowd.

Just as you wouldn’t turn up for an interview looking scruffy, the way you communicate – literally and metaphorically – has a crucial impact on the way people perceive you.    Everything you say or do, written or verbal reflects who you are and what you do.

Your website is often the place people will get their first impression of your company. Yet often we see long lists of functional attributes completely ignoring the customer’s hopes, fears and dreams (see point 3). And god forbid …typos!

“But my product speaks for itself!”

If you don’t make the effort to check your words, the underlying message is; how well would you look after a customer’s business?  As Gok might say, ‘dressing for success’ really does count, because spelling mistakes look lazy and people do judge you on this.

2. Keep it simple

They say brevity is the sister of talent.  Many start-ups are so jam-packed with talent, their passion leads to an excess of words. People have short attention spans, so cut out the waffle and get straight to the point.  Avoid jargon and remember, unless you are part of the fashion fraternity, strip out all the ‘fabulous’ and ‘amazing’ superlatives!

3. Paint a picture

According to Liz, we use six metaphors every ten minutes. These internal visual cues help deepen our understanding of the world around us.

As science increasingly shows emotion to be a greater driver in business than logic, these cues enable people to feel – not just understand – how good your product or service is.  In a competitive market, this could mean the difference between success and failure.  But how do we harness this?

They say, sell the lifestyle, not the car.   Forget the long list of technical features.  Sell the wind in your hair on a summers evening, cruising down the Champs-Élysées with the top down.  Spark emotion… create desire!

You can apply the same principle to the science and technology sector…

In my day job, I write about a pan-European terabit network.   It connects students and researchers all over the world and allows them to exchange high volumes of data.

Factually correct, but not very inspiring!

In my day job, I write about the world’s leading research and education network. Its high-speed bandwidth is accelerating scientific discovery, transforming the way 50 million scientists collaborate on solving some of humanity’s most pressing challenges.

Which one speaks to you more?

People want clear, tangible benefits they can visualise.  Crack this and you’re well on your way to making a good first impression.

Try it: next time you’re writing about your business, ask yourself who you have in mind.  Is it you? Your colleagues? Or are you writing for your customer?

Working for yourself doesn’t have to feel like jumping into the abyss.

No doubt, there are many others offering the same service or product as you.  But take time to focus on the needs and wants of your customer in a way that makes them feel valued, and you’ll have an indispensable head start over the competition.

Moreover, this will give you the confidence to focus on building a thriving and rewarding business.

Tamsin Henderson

Tamsin is an independent marketing and copywriting professional with experience in science and technology.

If you need clear, benefits-focused copy to help your business communicate better, find out more at

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