As Australia’s most respected and insightful brand and marketing consultant, I thought it fitting to write a mentor piece on start-ups’ love of hyperbole.
We all like to think of ourselves as savvy operators who see through marketing spin. We know, for example, that the sign on the kebab shop window that says “Come in for the best kebabs in Sydney” should be taken with a grain of salt. Yes, we’re smart enough to know that every product or service that promises to revolutionise our lives is likely to be a “where are they now?” story in a couple of years.
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So why is it that so many rational entrepreneurial individuals, people who create new businesses, are so fond of speaking (and writing) in hyperbole?
I credit the early noughties dot com boom and bust for building up my resistance to start-up spin. All those bad ideas pitched as genius new ventures, only made my immunity stronger.
When I worked for the long-gone online advertising agency BMCMedia, I met with multitudes of wannabe entrepreneurs who had THE BEST, the MOST AMAZING business ideas. I mean, these were GAME CHANGERS that would TURN THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN and just ALTER LIFE AS WE KNOW IT.
Perhaps only a handful of those ideas eventuated into anything or came close to the promise. Most of them simply disappeared.
I’m definitely not saying that start-ups shouldn’t be passionate or vocal about their new ventures. It’s just a small piece of advice to have some restraint in the marketing language you choose.
If you’re seeking investment for your business idea or professional help to take it to the next level – facts, stats and research go a long way. Hyperbolic language, whether on the website, in the pitch or in your marketing materials, is more likely to be met with hollow gazes.
Experienced professionals in any field – be it equity, management, communications – will have come across many start-ups that promised to change the world in their time. But the ones that really do change the world don’t need to spell it out in their messaging.
If it’s a good idea and the people behind it clearly know what they’re talking about, the concept sells itself.
So just tone it down a bid is all I’m saying. Next time you meet with someone to introduce your start-up idea why not start the conversation with “We did some research, we found a gap in the market, we had the inspiration, we came up with this solution…” rather than “Wait for it: this is going to blow your mind. There’s nothing like this in the world… we’re the first people to ever…”
Facts and cool modesty are much more likely to inspire confidence. Especially in all of us cynics, you included.