Big Businesses could learn a thing or two (or three) about digital marketing from startups

Online Marketing

With so many channels to market these days, communication has become a two-way dialogue rather than a one-way push, though many big businesses have yet to accept this. The outdated marketing techniques still employed by many big businesses is handing a clear advantage to those startups and small businesses that are agile and adapting to change.

The advent of social media, and the creation of meaningful, educational, informative, insightful and engaging content, has challenged the traditional approach. No longer are we just throwing a brand out into the market hoping for the best, or producing some marketing collateral to complement the sales pitch. What we are doing now is creating meaningful relationships with our audience. We are telling stories, taking people on a journey, educating them, showing them the human element to our business, promoting individuals, and highlighting the contributions the business is making to society as a whole.

For big businesses to stay relevant, there needs to be a willingness to embrace change. Many businesses out there are doing the bare minimum to ‘keep up,’ building social media pages only to employ the same dated methods of pushing and selling products, rather than educating, entertaining and engaging their audience. These lost opportunities are costing businesses big.

You may well have heard the phrase “content is king”, and it’s absolutely correct. This is nothing new, however the advent of multiple digital marketing channels has multiplied the importance of creating valuable content.

Imagine if you could help your audience by providing regular information (content) to them which answers the questions they have. It doesn’t even necessarily have to be exactly aligned with what you do, but there will be a correlation between the two. To some this sounds like an odd concept – providing educational information to your target audience that isn’t necessarily “selling” your product or service. What it does do, however, is position you within your target audience as a product or service provider that understands their needs and answers their questions.

Content allows you to provide value to your audience before you “sell” to them; in other words, you can educate, inform and engage them. Content can be articles, videos, aggregators (e.g. a landing page of information), calendars, checklists, ebooks, in-depth guides, how tos, tips, infographics, interviews, listicles, gifs, podcasts, pdfs, recipes, white papers and more.

Startups and bootstrapped businesses are often the ones getting this right! With smaller budgets, they rely heavily on customer engagement and are often the most creative when it comes to getting the best ROI for their marketing. They’re the ones in the trenches talking to their customers and finding out how they can best help them.

Here are three things big businesses can learn about marketing from startups:

1. Accountability

Brand awareness in isolation is no longer enough. Startups need to account for every cent of their capital or their investment funds. If there is one thing that used to really irk me back in the day of my employed marketing career, it was the use of the term “brand awareness” to justify the spend of a campaign. It was a matter of simply putting the brand out there and their job was done, and there could be tens, if not hundreds of thousands – or even millions – of dollars dedicated to it. Setting brand awareness as a strategy in isolation is old hat. What is important is the way in which you go about generating and ultimately measuring that brand awareness; the channels you select, the messages that you put out there and their intention and required action.

How do you measure success? How do you calculate ROI? How do you minimise risk? Who is doing what? The money being invested into marketing or social media strategies needs to be accounted for, from the setting of budgets and objectives through to the return on the investment once a strategy is implemented.

2. Authenticity

Stop “staging” start “showing”. Startups don’t stage things. They earn their merits on their authenticity, their objective to make a difference and cater to the burning need of their target audiences. They have conversations with them, they show them how they are doing it and more importantly WHY they are doing it. Audiences can tell when a business is being genuine or not.

3. Adaptability

Old thinking won’t bring new results. Stop drafting lengthy marketing strategies without having gone to market to test what works and what doesn’t. Tools like a lean canvas can help you develop a one-page business map to get to market fast, test, succeed or fail and review or repeat.


About the author

Entrepreneur, author of ‘I Just Want It To Work!’ and founder of boutique digital and social media marketing agency, Menace Group, Kevin Spiteri works with 7, 8 and 9 figure businesses to develop dangerously good digital marketing strategies that yield measurable results. He has contributed What I learned from starting a business at 14, Negative feedback: it’s a gift, don’t waste it and The rise of the ‘Dadpreneur’: five tips for fathers looking to start a lifestyle business to Dynamic Business.