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Start-up growth strategy example

start-up Feb 06, 2021


Rob Stross


Ok, so time to share some start-up tips from my time as CMO at WeSwap – what worked for us and probably even more important, what didn’t work. Here goes…


Before you launch


The numbers (or data science)

Be very clear what numbers you are tracking and make sure you track correctly – easy to say, difficult to do. We hired a data analyst to really help us track correctly so we can make informed decisions on marketing channels. This was a key factor in helping drive down CPA’s over time.


Values and Vision

Address your company values early on. What really defines you and what you really stand for and what you are really trying to achieve. As the workload piles up and the plates start spinning, it’s easy to forget things like this, but this is so important. The quicker you do this, the easier is to shape many other elements of the business – including the team you bring on board to help deliver this vision.



Ensuring your product and marketing are aligned should probably be your number one focus after raising your money. How can you do this? Look at the viability of a Product Marketing combined role, this is increasingly common in start-ups. This role helps bridge the gap between the 2 departments. If you have a separate product and marketing team – do all you can to get them aligned. Involve one in the hire of the other, ensure the lines of communication are well and truly open.


Launching a marketing campaign when the product isn’t quite ready is probably the main reason for failure. More than likely you’ll get one shot at getting it right. Get it wrong at this stage and it’ll be a struggle to gain lost ground.



Really focus on the positioning or where your product stands in relation to others offering similar products and services. One thing we did at WeSwap very well was to very clearly define our ideal user – create a persona. Once you have that it can really help how you shape the product development, marketing channels, marketing creative used etc.


On Launch



start-up PR isn’t for every agency. One of the key decisions you’ll need to make is how to generate PR – in trade and consumer press. In my experience working with an agency that can have a scrappy, roll your sleeves up approach is much better that a bigger agency. You may meet some amazing polished senior PR exec and they very quickly disappear into the background once the contract is signed.



Build a performance team. For WeSwap this meant moving away from agencies to build on the in-house team - covering digital acquisition and SEO. The agility of owning these channels internally was vital and enabled us to deliver a Test and Scale approach. Test at small scale on digital channels – see what works, do more of the things that work and less of the things that don’t! Marketing involves testing and iterating and with accurate tracking in place there is no need to waste money on unprofitable campaigns or creative



Think early about getting to profit. Growth and revenue are great but ultimately in times of uncertainty what makes your business really appealing is ideally profit, if not a very clear pathway to profitability.



Building partnerships with more established brands is a great way of building credibility. We partnered with and Jet2 and many other smaller successful digital travel brands. It was a fantastic way of building credibility to a less established brand as well as driving users.


Oh and one more thing...


Fail fast

If something isn’t working don’t brush it under the table. Front up, deal with it, address, resolve and move on. This could be from an underperforming channel, creative that isn’t hitting the spot, a campaign not delivering or to a wrong hire.


This isn’t ‘start-up gospel’ by any means just some reflections on what has and hasn’t worked for us at WeSwap. Feel free to give a shout if you’d like to discuss any of these.