By Scott Yates, CEO and Co-Founder, BlogMutt.com
Startups, by nature, can’t play by quite the same rules as large corporations or even traditional small businesses. They have a different set of circumstances, advantages and disadvantages, so they have to invent their own rules.
While larger companies can’t operate exactly like a startup, all types and sizes of companies can borrow some of these strategies. Even in the world of channel marketing, with all its complexities and moving parts, there are some valuable lessons to be learned.
Let’s look at three things I’ve learned from my experience with BlogMutt, as well as through observing other successful startups, and how these tips can apply to channel marketing:
Effective startup founders understand the importance of fostering a distinct culture throughout the entire organization. They identify and clearly define that culture early on in the life of the company. Once the culture and values are well defined and understood, then it becomes possible for any person in the company to make brand-friendly decisions. When it’s time to hire a new employee or choose a partner to work with, the decision is based not only on how talented that person is, but also whether they are a good fit with the culture.
Yes, this can be complicated when you’re dealing with a big, established company, but just consider the factors that are under your control. How does your team interact with each other, with others in the company and with vendors and other partners? Set the tone, and you can make an impact on the culture of the entire company. Start the conversation and try to work together to create and define the company’s culture across all channels.
Of course, you can’t force your culture on your partners, but you can lead by example, share what’s working and provide some insight that will help them be more successful. Also, rather than trying to be all things to all people and work with as many partners as possible, aim for quality relationships with vendors who get what you’re about. Focus on finding loyal, productive partners who already fit with your culture.
Since startups are often scraping by on meager funds, they have to get creative with social media and content marketing. By taking a similar approach, channel marketers can greatly improve communication among co-workers, vendors and end users.
Smart social media encompasses so much more that just promoting your company on Twitter and Facebook. It’s fairly common for companies to either underutilize social media or use it ineffectively. For the best results, it’s important to develop an overall strategy that makes sense for your specific situation.
A great starting point for any social media plan is a company blog. Through blogging, you can tap into the power of story to connect with people on a personal level. Provide important information to partners, share marketing and sales ideas with vendors and generate interest among potential customers. Your blog is a platform where you can position your company as a helpful resource that provides expert advice.
Next, whenever you post a blog or a guest blog, you can blast it across your social media networks. But don’t stop there. It’s not just about sharing your own stuff. Make sure you are also linking to others’ blog posts, articles and tweets. Marketing has shifted from a one-way message to a conversation. Interact and engage with others online. Invite questions and discussion. Be transparent and open about changes, improvements, even problems. Address issues openly so no one feels left out or in the dark. Using social media effectively can strengthen communication and open the door to some valuable (and free) feedback.
Consistent and open interaction on social media can be a great way to build a strong community and connect all the divergent channels. It can also make everyone’s day just a bit more fun. Startups are inherently skilled at tapping into the fun aspect of social media, but any company can incorporate some lightheartedness into the mix. Don’t be afraid to be a little silly sometimes. Humor can be a powerful reminder that there are living, breathing people behind the web site and Facebook page.
Successful startups experiment and fail quickly because they don’t really have a choice. If they don’t get moving on their ideas and start testing them, someone else will come along and do it first. Besides, if they’re not putting their imperfect product into the hands of customers, they can’t get the feedback they need to improve it.
One advantage startups have over larger, more established companies is that they are more agile. Startups have the freedom to fail. They can try something, and if it doesn’t work, they just scrap it and move on. Large companies often have to move much more slowly, allow time for discussion and research before making a change.
So maybe you can’t make sweeping changes across the entire company. But on a smaller scale, it’s possible to mimic the “fail fast” strategy. Again, think about what you do have control over and start there. Try a new method or tactic, and see what the results are. If it doesn’t work, scrap it or tweak it, and try again.
In today’s fast-paced business environment, you can’t let yourself be paralyzed by a fear of failure. If the idea of “failing” really bothers you, it might be time to adjust your perspective. Consider a game like Angry Birds, where you try one thing, and when it doesn’t work, you make adjustments and try again. You’ll undoubtedly “fail” several times before figuring out how to successfully knock down all the pigs. In games, failing is essential to winning. It’s the same with testing marketing ideas. Trying new things and discovering what doesn’t work for your situation isn’t really failure — it’s the path to success.
Scott Yates is the CEO and Co-Founder of BlogMutt.com, where he “works like a dog to fill up your blog.” BlogMutt solves the challenge of limited time and resources for small and mid-sized business owners by providing relevant and affordable blog content for their clients on a weekly basis. BlogMutt crowdsources high-quality content incorporating strategic keywords to help their clients improve their search engine results and provide thought leadership to their audience.
Alicia Fiorletta is Senior Editor for Channel Marketer Report. Working closely with industry analysts and experts, Alicia reports on the latest news, technologies, case studies and trends coming to forefront in the channel marketing world. With a focus on emerging marketing strategies, including social, mobile and content for demand, Alicia hones in on new ways for organizations to market to and through their partner networks. Through her work with G3 Communications, Alicia also acts as Associate Editor for Retail TouchPoints, a digital publishing network focused on the customer-facing area of the retail industry.