What Marketers Can Learn from Startups

Ahh, startups. Such a romantic notion of a passion project becoming a livelihood, with small groups of people putting in long hours and eating copious amounts of pizza and using innovative marketing ideas to spark a business from the ground up and really make a difference in the world.

On the other side, there’s your organization, which has been around for a while, established a foothold and operates on sound processes, strategies and campaigns that use solid marketing principals. Admit it, sometimes you look longingly at your friends in startups and wish for some of that edgy entrepreneurial magic.

The thing is, startups can do things a little differently because they’re small and nimble. But remember, they have to work a lot harder than you to capture attention and market their brand-new business. They’re in survival mode, while you’re in growth mode.

Here’s what you do: First, watch a few episodes of “Silicon Valley” and you’ll lose any feelings of envy pretty quick (and you’ll laugh A LOT). Second, stop feeling stymied and consider what you can take from startups to implement into your own marketing.

Stay close to your customers.

Great startups develop close relationships with their initial customers and their social networks. They have to—these are the people who helped them get going and probably spread the word to others. As businesses grow, they can lose that personal closeness. But you don’t have to.

As a marketer, you can make an effort to keep up active relationships with customers. Get on social media and talk to people. Call some of your early, long-term customers and see how they’re feeling. Heck, send gifts or offer other special treatment to those long-time customers or those who actively and happily promote you. Don’t allow yourself to think of customers just entries in your CRM’s contacts database.

Be available and responsive.

Startups know that social media is so much more than a marketing channel; it’s a true opportunity to actually talk to people. Larger organizations tend to forget that, using those channels to just talk about product feature new product blah blah blah me me me. The best companies use social media to have a larger conversation with people < > and find ways to interact on a more personal level. Rethink your social media to ensure you’re having a two-way conversation.

Innovate (and fail).

Innovation is the bread and butter of startups. And in some ways, so is failure. Startups by nature have to try a lot of things, gauge the level of success or failure, and move on quickly to the next thing. Of course, in your larger organization, you can’t have a true “let’s try anything and see if it sticks” mentality—there’s just too much at stake. But you also can’t stifle innovation because you fear failure.

Remember that Michael Jordan poster from the 90’s that said something like, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”? To some degree you have to allow your marketing team to try new things, even if there’s a chance of failure, because the potential success could be so much more awesome. Take the shot and make Michael Jordan proud.

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