How Marketing Like a Startup Keeps Your Company Competitive

When it comes to marketing, companies ranging from one-man operations to multinational conglomerates can benefit from thinking more like startups. These scrappy contenders on the business scene have “youth” on their side in many respects, and when they employ boldness and innovation in their advertising strategies, it gets people’s attention.

As your company gears up for its next major marketing campaign, consider how adopting a startup mentality can help you gain an edge over competitors old and new.

Why Startup-Style Marketing Appeals to Consumers

Almost everyone likes a rags-to-riches story. When the “little guy” manages to build a company from the ground up and makes a name for himself, it gives others hope they can do it, too. Startups remind people that everyone starts somewhere and that they have the power to help keep a business going by investing in their products and services.

Not only that, but startups are exciting! They’re driven by new ideas, new products, new business models, and new marketing approaches. When people witness innovative new companies in action, it breaks up the monotony of every day and sparks their imaginations.

How Companies of All Sizes Can Create Buzz

Whether your company is a new venture or a well-established business, you can benefit from the marketing techniques of successful startups. Consider employing one or more of the following strategies, such as the following:

  • Be approachable. One aspect of startup culture that companies can lose as they grow is approachability. When clients choose your business, they aren’t just buying your product; they’re investing in you. They want to know their hard-earned dollars are going to someone they can relate to – a salt-of-the-earth, regular person. Put your personality into every piece of marketing, and consumers will respond in kind.
  • Engage with your audience. It’s not enough to appear approachable; you have to be there for your clients when they approach. Startup CEOs often establish strong presences on social media, sharing their take on industry news and interacting directly with their audiences. While you may not have time to become a social media butterfly, investing in social media or customer service staff is a smart way to keep the conversation going.
  • Stay nimble. Too often, businesses get caught up in their own paradigms of what constitutes a good marketing strategy. When faced with information conflicting with their beliefs, they dig their heels in instead of adapting.

Successful startups know they have much to learn from their clients. When launching new campaigns, they pay attention to how their audience reacts, either by reading or listening to direct feedback or by analyzing metrics such as user clicks. They use this information to adjust their strategies, making them stronger over time.

  • Embrace risk. Consider the quote by F.W. Dupee: “Progress always involves risk; you can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” Safe marketing approaches rarely get anyone’s attention. When you launch a bold and unique initiative, you have no previous successes to draw upon. Instead, be confident in your instincts and know that if this approach fails, you’ll dust yourself off and start again. Startups do this every day.

  • Measure what matters. Analytics are an important tool for measuring the effectiveness of a marketing campaign, but be selective about which metrics you use to inform your strategy. It can be tempting to focus on quantitative data (such as unique number of visits to your website), but a smarter approach is to zero in on qualitative aspects, such as how long visitors spent on a prioritized page.
  • Roll out campaigns quickly. When companies overthink marketing campaigns, they can take months to implement. In today’s fast-moving market, you don’t have that kind of time to keep ahead of your competitors. By using templates and other methods to streamline your campaign planning process, you can push it live in half the time – or less – and start seeing results sooner.

These Organizations Get It

Startup-style marketing can make a positive impact on organizations of all ages and sizes and across all industries. From the newly established to the industry authority, a few examples of entities effectively employing startup sensibilities include the following:

  • The behemoth. Google basically owns the internet, but they haven’t given up their startup mentality. Their intrapreneurship program is a perfect example of the company’s commitment to fostering innovation at all levels of its organization. By allowing employees to spend 20 percent of their work time pursuing their own projects – and working directly with engineers to implement them – Google illustrates their commitment to helping everyone become an entrepreneur.
  • The new guy. A startup with serious ambition, Plated.com delivers all the components of a home-cooked dinner. They provide clients with convenience and nutrition while reducing waste.

The Plated.com marketing video shows its co-founders in the kitchen, whipping up a hearty meal, which the viewer assumes will approximate the product they will receive. By rolling up their sleeves along with their clients, the company’s co-founders make themselves approachable and relatable. Considering their recent television appearances – including Shark Tank and CBS This Morning – they’re clearly doing something right!

  • The wild card. Since their launch three years ago, Major League Soccer team, the Portland Timbers have become “the third-most-valuable franchise in MLS,” grossing over $39 million in revenue. But, how did they get there? The answer is they engaged with their audience.

Hailing from an unconventional town, Timbers owner Merritt Paulson knew they would need to think beyond typical marketing techniques to build a following. They used culturally astute billboards to reel in a diverse “Timbers Army” and created a unique game experience that made attendance more about team spirit than winning. That authenticity has made the Timbers one of the most exciting up-and-coming sports entities in the country.

Although these three enterprises differ wildly from one another in their scope and services, their marketing ethos remains the same.

In business, every day is a new opportunity to stagnate or to grow. When it comes to your marketing strategy, the worst mistake you can make is to take your previous success for granted. With the nimble, approachable, and bold approach of a startup, your company’s fresh take will be sure to attract fresh audiences.

Does your company think like a startup?

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Emily Perry

In her spare time, Emily enjoys hanging out with her husband, American bulldog, and two cats. Besides writing, she is passionate about questionable fashion, singing in the car, and taking the easiest yoga classes available. She plans one day to record a ukulele/rockabilly/folk record, no matter how much people beg her not to.

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