• Matthew Lerner

The One Inch Punch

If you haven’t seen a video of Bruce Lee’s “one inch punch” take a minute to watch it. Bruce Lee was 171cm (5’7”) tall, weighed 58 kilos (130 lbs), and his “one inch punch” carried a force in excess of 70KG (154 lbs), and would knock a full-grown man back two metres. What can the Little Dragon teach us about startup marketing?


How could such a small man deliver such an enormous force so quickly? Physiologists understand that strength does not come from the size of your muscles. Rather, it comes down to how much of your muscle fibre your central nervous system can recruit and fire in unison. When we practice a motion, such as a penalty kick or a backhand, we get stronger with repeated effort. That’s largely because our brains are learning the movement, and they’re able to take fuller advantage of more of our muscle fibres. The fibres do get stronger. But the real power comes from the central nervous system.


How could teeny startups like AirBnB, PayPal and Transferwise, with only a few dozen employees, challenge giant companies like Hilton, Visa and Barclays? Just like Bruce Lee, the key is to get everybody pointing in the same direction and firing in unison towards a clear common goal. Big companies have all the advantages – heaps of cash, loyal customers, brand awareness, supplier relationships, government protections. Extremely formidable foes! They only have a few weaknesses: They are slow, risk averse, and lack focus. Therefore, as a startup, your only chance to win is if you can focus intensely, take risks, execute and learn fast!


The product team is trying some new features that might draw customers. Online marketer is trying some search campaigns, A/B testing the homepage. BizDev is working on a corporate B2B2C opportunity. PR person is trying to get the CEO some press quotes and a speaking gig. Analyst is making decks to answer investor questions. Operations fighting fires. CEO maybe fundraising… Sound familiar? Focus! Easy to say. Hard to do. That’s why we spend so much time training teams around process.


Our five Core Strengths of startup marketing: Message, Metrics, Focus, Team, and Process, can be abbreviated MMFTP. That’s “More Muscle For The Punch.” And it’s no coincidence that we end with Process, the Punch. Startups come into our programs with all manner of marketing goals: Fix our CAC, help us hire so-and-so, find more channels… But when we survey CEOs afterwards, and ask what was the most valuable thing they learned? They always mention the process. Getting everyone firing in unison, moving in the same direction, quickly – that’s the punch.

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