If Jack and Rose had fallen in love on a speedboat, the blockbuster hit “Titanic” would’ve been significantly shorter. Within 30 minutes, the star-crossed lovers would’ve deftly moved around the iceberg before landing safely in America.
Much like the drama-killing speedboat, startups have the ability to maneuver in ways that larger companies can’t. They may be more limited in the scale of their marketing approaches, but what they lack in budget and brand recognition, they gain in speed and latitude to explore unique strategies.
While big brands take a “go big or go home” approach to marketing that carries a huge risk of failure, startups must test concepts and measure results to avoid wasting precious resources. They can test new marketing strategies that larger brands wouldn’t have the patience to pursue, and they’re flexible enough to change directions without inflicting lasting damage to the brand.
Take Dollar Shave Club, for instance. The company had the flexibility to try out a subscription model and used an outrageous viral video campaign to spread the word. A big brand couldn’t have taken those risks, but after Dollar Shave Club proved the concept, Gillette introduced a similar model.
This goes to show that startups should focus on harnessing their unique strengths to stand out instead of trying to go head-to-head with larger companies. Here are three ways your startup can outmaneuver larger brands to get ahead:
1. Budget for marketing from the beginning.
One common startup pitfall is burning through initial capital investments to develop the most valuable product possible. Unfortunately, this leaves no remaining capital to prove the model through marketing. Even with a strong network, the lack of a marketing budget can be a death sentence for any startup.
If possible, develop a marketing strategy well before you build your product to ensure you set aside appropriate resources to acquire customers. If you fail to allocate a marketing budget in the beginning, you’ll be tempted to spend your capital on whatever the business currently needs most.
2. Develop a well-researched plan to fuel growth.
Strong marketing strategies go beyond creative ads or the latest social media fad. Rather than jumping into any idea that seems cutting-edge, you need to determine the amount of money that generates a specific business action.
Thoroughly research your customer base and the overall costs to acquire new customers, identifying the appropriate media vehicles to reach that customer base. This will generate a predictable and scalable model to grow your business.
3. Choose timing over creativity.
If you have ever wondered why uninspired and boring advertisements seem to be everywhere, it’s because they’re working.
It’s tempting to start with a creative concept and work backward, but you should figure out the best placement and timing first. A terrible concept in the right place will always outperform a creative concept in the wrong place. Creativity should serve as a boost to a well-timed and perfectly placed ad.
When nailing down timing, cater your thought process to imagining your target customers’ typical day. Determine all the chances you have to interact with them, online and offline, then choose the most appropriate opportunity. When you match a creative message with your ideal customer’s activity, the strength of the impression increases significantly.
You don’t need a Titanic-sized marketing budget to grow your customer base. You just need to start early, create a scalable customer acquisition plan and focus on the timing and placement of your ads. With enough planning and testing, your startup can propel itself through the iciest of waters without hitting any icebergs.
Related: 3 Reasons Startup Marketing Stalls