Lessons from Startup Culture: Innovative Marketing Strategies

Our series Lessons from Startup Culture focuses on the ways in which startups have changed the business landscape through the necessity of innovation and outside-the-box thinking. While many larger companies face different challenges, there is still a lot to be learned by examining how small businesses navigate product design, branding, and marketing on a limited (often nearly non-existent) budget.

In this installment, we’ll explore the marketing strategies that pioneering startups have developed in response to emerging social media landscapes and out of a need to build name recognition and introduce new products to their target markets.

An Interconnected Relationship with Social Media

It’s no surprise that social media and startup/internet companies have grown together, not least because today’s social media giants were tiny startups themselves not too long ago. This symbiotic relationship has both shaped and been shaped by the rise of social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, which have provided low-cost marketing opportunities for new companies to reach target demographics in their communities and across the globe. This foundational interconnectedness hasn’t been missed by big business, of course – active participation on social media is no longer optional for companies of any size.

Let’s look at a few of the ways startups have created innovative marketing strategies through social media:

Marketing Solutions, Not Products

No matter how effective your marketing, a new product will inevitably hit a wall if it doesn’t solve a problem for its consumer base. The problem might be very practical or seemingly inconsequential, but by presenting a new product as a solution, marketers narrow their initial focus to a specific target market that can be found online. Whether through posting on community forums, creating viral how-to videos, or simply producing content geared at answering related questions, startup companies discovered that marketing their product as a solution to a problem increased initial interest at a pivotal time for growth.

Deputizing Influencers

Sometimes, it’s all about who you know. Social media created a new tier of internet celebrities (for better or worse) who gained immense powers of influence over their followers. Savvy startups realized early on that attention from influencers could lead to a big boost in sales, and courted them with free products in the hopes that they would make their way into an Instagram post or YouTube video. The personal, storytelling-fueled nature of social media dovetails perfectly with many companies marketing efforts. While some claim that the age of the influencer is over, there’s still nothing like an endorsement from a prominent personality to gain traction in their particular demographic group.

Embracing “New” Media

From viral video challenges to branded Instagram accounts, the ways marketers reach an audience have changed drastically since the era of print and radio ads. One newer form of content creation, podcasting, has provided a way to reach specific market segments with an influencer twist. Casper mattresses was one of the first startups to leverage podcast advertising and make a splash with Millennials. Hearing their favorite podcast host gush about the great night of sleep they got on their new Casper mattress inspired many new customers to try one out for themselves and introduce the brand to their own social networks.

Driving Sales by Doing Good

As younger demographics grew up in our social media-connected world, they developed a preference for brands who feature social good in their messaging and core values. TOMS Shoes found early success with a one-for-one model in which every purchase provided a pair of shoes for someone who needed them. A number of eco-friendly clothing brands have recently launched with product lines made from recycled plastic. If it’s good for society, it’s good marketing strategy – after all, what’s more shareable than a product you can truly feel good about?

Startups Lead the Way

The next blockbuster marketing idea is just around the corner, and odds are good that a scrappy startup is behind it. Whether you’re a brand new brand or an established corporation, these social media strategies can bring out the best in your marketing efforts. Learning to thrive within a limited budget is a smart move for businesses of any size, and we’ve got our eye on startup innovation to pave the way.


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