The secrets of start up marketing success

By: Vinay Gupta

Date: 16 November 2012

It’s Global Entrepreneurship Week and there have been hundreds of events taking place to bring together new and existing entrepreneurs.

It has only been just over two years since we launched our own business — — a neighbour to neighbour car rental service and car club. During that time, we have learned a lot about the importance of marketing.

When we started up, we were excited to transform an existing industry that we believed to be inefficient. The average new car costs upwards of £6,600 per year to own and maintain (source: RAC), but it’s only used for an average of one hour a day. We felt this was a real waste, and wanted to create a service where cars could be made to pay for themselves.

Tough marketing challenges

One of the toughest lessons we learnt early on was how difficult it is to change user behaviour and how much time it takes. As we were a “world’s first” business, we were interviewed by The Economist and Wired magazine before we even launched. We thought our publicity would quickly make converts out of everyone. We were wrong.

This is one of the reasons we wanted to get involved with Global Entrepreneurship Week 2012. Hosted by Youth Business International in partnership with Barclays, the week is all about people with knowledge about setting up a successful business passing it on to others who could follow in their footsteps. So here’s what we wished we’d known about marketing then, and how we’re going about changing things.

Lessons learned

People need to be engaged via multiple touch points over time in order to gradually gain comfort with something new. Reassuringly, when people convert they become huge fans of the service and tell other people about it. We've gained a nationwide presence because of the power of word-of-mouth.

This reinforced the fact that success in a start up environment typically takes many years to pan out. We’re delighted with what we’ve achieved already in a short time — at the moment 90% of Londoners are within a ten-minute walk of a WhipCar. But our goal is halve this to a five-minute walk, as well as continuing to expand across the UK.

We launched our first advertising campaign in Spring 2012. As we’re establishing a brand new behaviour, and creating a market, it was important to keep the message simple. We boiled everything WhipCar stands for — the service, benefits and community spirit — into a simple slogan: Love thy neighbour, drive their car.

We ran a series of poster ads across London, concentrating on the Underground network, which was supported by online banners. That generated a big burst of awareness, and we continue to rely on media relations to amplify the word of mouth that WhipCar generates.

Vinay Gupta is the co-founder of is one of many small businesses supporting Global Entrepreneurship Week 2012, hosted by Youth Business International in partnership with Barclays.