“If you’re looking for the next big thing,
and you’re looking where everyone else is,
you’re looking in the wrong place.”
This is the second lesson I want to draw out from The 1-Page Marketing Plan. As I said last week, I knew that this was going to be a great book from the start. I didn’t get out of the introduction before I found the first two lessons that I am sharing with you. I see this second lesson all the time.
Image source: Amazon
Dib explained that when small entrepreneurs begin to market themselves, they often make a fatal mistake. They look at what the big guys are doing and try to copy their marketing. This seems like a good idea, but it usually doesn’t work. Here is the reason why:
Large companies have a very different agenda when it comes to marketing than small businesses do. Their strategies and priorities differ from yours significantly.
Large Business Marketing Priorities
- Pleasing the board of directors
- Appeasing shareholders
- Satisfying superiors’ biases
- Satisfying existing clients’ preconceptions
- Winning advertising and creative awards
- Getting “buy in” from various committees and stakeholders
- Making a profit
Small Business Marketing Priorities
- Making a profit
You would think that this would give you a competitive advantage, and it would if you started on a level playing field, but you are not on a level playing field. The big guys have millions to spend on marketing. You have sweat equity. They have refined systems in place. You have an idea. Most importantly, they have mind share. You are an unknown quantity.
You have to do something different to get noticed. You cannot simply copy what they do and expect the same result because they are at a different stage in the process.
Playing to Your Strengths
For example, in Growth Hacker Marketing, Ryan Holiday urges his readers to play to their strengths. Have you ever noticed how companies make it easy to tweet or post a pre-written message on Facebook? That is playing to strength.
Dropbox created a viral marketing program by giving new customers 500 megabytes for signing up a friend after failing miserably at traditional marketing efforts. According to Holiday:
Dropbox’s founders, after pulling in their first set of users with their awesome demo video and social media strategy, had a choice. They could try to continue growing with the same tactics—more videos, more social media—or they could use advertising to boost their brand, because it was the conventional marketing wisdom. They tried the latter only to find that it cost between $233 and $388 in ad spend for every paying subscriber they brought in. After more than fourteen months of struggling to find a growth engine, the Dropbox team had what they call their epiphany. Using an idea brought on by talks with the famous growth hacker Sean Ellis, Dropbox built one of the most effective and most viral referral programs of the start-up world.
It was as simple as placing a little “Get free space” button on the front page of the service. The offer was that users would get five hundred megabytes of free space for every friend they invited and got to sign up. Almost immediately, sign-ups increased by roughly 60 percent and stayed at that level for months. With more than 2.8 million direct invites a month because of the program, it’s not hard to see why.
And remember, the alternative was paying upwards of $400 per person via advertising. You and I might not have studied math or computer science in school, but we can do the math there. Referrals versus paid advertising is the kind of A/B test whose results are obvious to everyone. Referrals win. And today, 35 percent of Dropbox’s customers come to it via referral.
The giants are formidable, but by their nature, they are also slow, formal, less personal, and often bureaucratic. You can beat them with speed, relationship, and flexibility, as long as you don’t try to play the game by their rules.
If you are outnumbered by a factor of 1000 or 100,000 to one, you have to think like a guerilla, not like a soldier in a conventional army. You are completely unprepared to go head to head with the established brands. While that is bad news, the good news is that the big guys are completely unprepared to deal with you. Play to your strengths, not their strengths if you want to succeed.
What about you?
Are you engaged in marketing strategies that give the other guys an unfair advantage? What are your strengths? How can you use them to sell yourself more effectively than the big guys?
Dib, A. (2016). The 1-page Marketing Plan: Get new customers, make more money and stand out from the crowd. Miami, FL: Successwise. (p. 13).
Holiday, R. Growth Hacker Marketing: A primer on the future of PR, marketing, and advertising.New York: Penguin Publishing Group. (pp. 39-40).