How to Bring the Best of Startup Culture into Any Marketing Organization

iStock_000023872762SmallThe most obvious difference with marketing a product or service for a startup versus a larger company is your marketing budget. That is, you have near-zero dollars to grow your audience and build your brand. So startup marketers are often cited as being creative and resourceful in reaching customers. But what is just as critical as forming your marketing plan is your approach in executing it.

Having worked at a few startups, here are some tips on how to apply the best parts of startup culture to your marketing tactics.

Take a lean startup approach to marketing.

Lean startup methodology is often associated with product development and UX. Ship an MVP (minimum viable product), test it, experiment, learn and iterate quickly on the product features and user experience. Marketers can apply these same principles to our work.

It’s really about minimizing investment risks by validating your hypotheses through smaller experiments. You don’t have months (or money) to formulate and validate your positioning and marketing assets. You can’t hire creative agencies and run multiple rounds of creative reviews when time to market is critical and budget is lean. So, you have to learn more from less. For example, run small Google Adword buys – like $50 campaigns – as your own version of A/B testing positioning and copy. Then spend on the “winning” creative (i.e. the one that directionally performed the best).

Conduct user interviews as a part of your day-to-day operations.

Big companies tend to invest in large market research studies or conduct user interviews in preparation for a new launch, rebranding strategy, or some other significant milestone. But talking to customers every week provides you with valuable insights on how to iterate on your message, value proposition, and sometimes even your target market. In just a handful of phone interviews, you immediately hear themes in the feedback on what is and is not resonating with your customers.

Additionally, product development (PMs, engineers, designers) loves getting feedback straight from customers. Customer insights are a great weapon to motivate the team, and guide product decisions that are best for the customer. Direct quotes from your interviews always resonate with stakeholders and team members.

Treat every employee as part of your social media team.

We all know of the importance of social media in driving engagement with your audience. Large companies tend to hire a dedicated marketer or a social media freelancer to manage these channels and editorial strategy. But in a startup, every employee knows and loves your products, and is passionate about the company and its mission. You have to be, in order to get through the long hours and less pay. So it’s not only out of necessity, but also great strategy to leverage the entire company to contribute to your social media presence. Create a calendar and rotate post responsibilities across your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest channels. By giving up total control over these channels, you may lose some consistency of brand voice. But you gain authenticity and frequency of posts, which is critical to customer engagement through social media.

Take the best of startup culture – lean, fast-paced, passionate – and use them to your advantage when executing your marketing plan. What you lack in resources, you make up for in speed to market. Getting just enough data (qualitative and quantitative) to react quickly is at the heart of startup success.

About Stephanie Cruz

Stephanie Cruz is a product management and product marketing consultant for consumer technology companies. She specializes in delivering value to customers through well designed user experiences. View all posts by Stephanie Cruz
This entry was posted in Data & Analytics, People and Culture, Social Media, Strategy. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to How to Bring the Best of Startup Culture into Any Marketing Organization

  1. Ken says:

    Stephanie – thanks for sharing! I think you are spot-on. Just because you have a limited budget, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be investing in some marketing. We like to use user testing.com as a virtual research tool to get feedback on messaging, web pages, really anything. I also agree that everything should be structured as a test in the beginning with clear learning objectives and metrics. I think even big companies should structure their marketing programs this way.

  2. Leilani Yau says:

    Totally makes sense, Stephanie! I especially like using the team to contribute to social media efforts – it’s fascinating to see the passion, culture and personality of a startup. One could create quick and dirty content guidelines to try to stay on brand!

  3. Justin Liszanckie says:

    Nice read, Stephanie. Just because you don’t have a budget (or even if you do), it doesn’t mean that you can’t be creative and clever with your efforts. Love getting direct feedback and including everyone for social media; people will always be the greatest asset you can have, so why silo marketing efforts when they can instead permeate everything? The more people you involve from all angles the greater the reach.

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