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Beware Toxic Promotion Syndrome…

Updated: Aug 24, 2019

Every startup needs to promote the business in some way, to get their brand and product in front of potential customers. It would be nice if at a certain point, a business could grow large enough that promotion is no longer necessary, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.


Rolex is arguably the most well-known watch brand in the world, yet Rolex still spends A LOT on promotion. Why does Rolex even bother, if the brand is so well known?


For comparison, look at the brands that DO NOT do any promotion. Which brands seem to be doing better - the ones that promote, or the ones that don’t?


Most successful brands never stop promoting. Promotion is as necessary to a business as food and water are to our bodies.


And just like we can become addicted to harmful things we put into our bodies, a business can become addicted to certain promotion tactics that are actually harmful, if not toxic in the long-term.


How can promotion be harmful?


Any promotion that doesn’t give the business a return for what that promotion cost is a waste of time and money. It should be easy to stop investing in something that clearly doesn’t work, but it’s often difficult to tell whether or not something is working.


More dangerous than wasting time and money on promotion that doesn’t work at all is that there are methods of promotion which actually do produce results, but the return isn’t enough.


Worse yet, many of these may cost a business an increasing amount of time and money the longer the business uses them, like an addict losing more of their physical and mental health with each passing day.


For startups, this is a particular risk, for two reasons.


First - our time and money are so limited to begin with. We can’t afford to waste either, but we certainly don’t want our business to become addicted to any form of promotion that will end up costing us more time and money the longer we use it, slowly draining all the value out of what we worked so hard to build.

Second - startups are often desperate to find that “silver bullet” which will make customers sit up and take notice of the business. For the same reasons younger people are more prone to experiment with recreational drug use, startup brand owners are the most susceptible to the lure of toxic promotion.


Just like maintaining a good diet, exercising, and avoiding toxins are habits which lead to good health, there are habits business owners can develop and maintain to ensure that the business avoids becoming addicted to toxic promotion.


As a first step towards good business health, ask yourself these questions about your promotion efforts:


1. How much money am I spending on this? If I’m only spending time, what’s that time worth?


2. What is the return I’m expecting on that investment?


3. How does that investment compare to the profit it’s generating? How does that return on investment compare to the available alternatives?


4. Can that investment possibly cost the business more in the future, as the business grows? With technology changes, increased competition, it gets harder to reach new customers. That combined with increasing costs on popular platforms like Facebook, Google, YouTube is a recipe for diminishing returns.


5. Which forms of promotion are least likely to cost more in the future, or even cost less as time goes on?



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