A Fresh Perspective on the Power of Organic Marketing
For start-ups burning money on paid ads
What do Tesla and Ferrari have in common?
Apart from being bank-breaker vehicles, they both boast a similar marketing strategy… Their super-power is that their product does the talking.
In a second, I am going to explain the beauty of organic marketing and why start-ups should prioritize this before paid strategies, but before I discuss the slow-growth strategy, let’s look at how shifting focus from paid strategies has worked in the favor of Tesla and Ferrari.
You will not hear Elon Musk discussing his budget for paid ad placements. In fact, you will hear him joke about not having a marketing budget. Tesla’s fans sing more praises about the products than the CEO of the company, and that’s saying something...
Tesla’s superfans take the lead on social marketing by making the most noise regarding stock valuation or any product updates- this doesn’t cost Tesla anything.
Similarly, Ferrari runs waiting lists of high net-worth customers eager to get their hands on the latest model. They reward their loyal customers with the first opportunity to drive off into the sunset, while new buyers eagerly anticipate when it will be their turn. Scarcity and style encompass the buzz behind the brand.
You might ask, what about Apple? Why do people quote Steve Jobs from that award-winning Apple television commercial? If Apple is paying the big-bucks, surely that means my start-up should too?
This is where it gets interesting. Even though Apple has spent money on paid advertising, the company has also harnessed the power of organic marketing.
In 2012, Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, described, at the launch of the first I-phone, that Apple did not spend money on marketing. They didn’t need to. Product placements in tv shows, movies, and raving reviews were infectiously expressing enthusiasm for the brand.
If this sounds unrelatable because these are big, established companies, it’s not. We can often get lost in the smoke of what could be, that we forget to identify the root at the foot of the start-up fire…
Why Start-Ups Should Consider Organic Marketing
The origin of paid ads
Many start-ups feel lost in the sea of websites, social media platforms, and e-commerce stores that they are willing to act out of desperation to get traffic.
The only way they feel heard is by making a lot of noise through paid advertising. The softener, “If people don’t know my business exists, then I’m going to have to make some noise to show them,” can deceptively trigger you to pay for eye-balls as opposed to earning them.
As someone who has started numerous businesses, I picked up that when I was starting out, I wanted momentum to prove, to myself, as well as others, that I was seeing success.
I wanted the sales of Ferrari, Tesla, and Apple. It seems that comparing ourselves with the big-dogs is the trap that small entrepreneurs fall into.
Without indication that we are heading in the direction of large-scale success, we can fall victim to the insecurities in our heads… We can start believing that we should burn money to grow money, regardless of taking ownership of our current financial position.
Success, to me in the past, came in the form of sales and vanity metrics like followers, likes, and traffic.
In the long-run, these metrics are what businesses appreciate, but in the short-term, more than fighting for sales, you need to become aware of your blind-spots within your actual offering. If you want to spend money in the early phases, it should be on bettering your product, not marketing.
What most start-ups forget about is the learning curve of getting a business up and running.
Starting a business is expensive
Yup, we went from talking about making money to the harsh reality of how much we actually end up spending in the beginning phases.
Some people bill their businesses to their credit-cards and if paid-advertising is new to you, then you will quickly find out just how much money you will be spending in the ‘testing phase’.
I have seen many dropshipping and print-on-demand video’s on YouTube claiming that the individual made five-figure sales in a week from paid advertising campaigns. However, after the person explains their Facebook ad strategy, it is clear that although they made five-figures, it definitely was not all profit. In fact, from the testing of the ad, which costs money, to the scaling of the ad, it seems like the individual was likely to lose money as opposed to making it…
The point I am making is that just because someone boasts about how much they made from paid advertising, does not mean they are rich, or that they, in fact, made any profit. In the same way, just because someone is driving a BMW, does not mean that can actually afford it.
Being honest about how much things cost, on the way to achieving success, is often left out in these ‘get-rich-quick’ kinds of stories.
But let’s believe that maybe you are the exception…
Perhaps you find some luck and harness the power of paid advertising.
However, going from start-up to fully-fledged overnight comes with challenges of its own.
If you grow too quickly, you face those growth pains which makes pivoting and changing strategies a little difficult- especially if you have positioned your business in a certain way that now needs altering.
The Wisdom in Organic Marketing
There is wisdom in getting your customers to come to you naturally over time.
Paid advertising can be like hiring a sex worker. You pay a lot for an immediate feeling that does not last once the moment is over.
Organic marketing is like finding your spouse. Dating, tough conversations, managing change, and freedom are what you will likely face. However, once there is mutual respect, you can make the big ask, and if your foundations are strong, you are likely to have some sort of a happily-ever-after in real life and in business.
Organic marketing is a long term strategy, but if you are patient, you are likely to yield more authentic customer engagement as well as creating a permanent source of traffic to your website as a result of effective SEO.
What You Miss Out on When You Leap-Frog Organic Marketing
Malcolm Gladwell writes in his book, The Tipping Point, that there comes a point in where enough people buy into something to trigger momentum for a whole bunch of other people to join in: A somewhat wild-fire effect.
In your mind, you may think that you know what people want. But organic marketing allows you to fine-tune your product and approach until it is what people really do want. With paid-marketing, you force your brand on people and, if you come across as desperate or aggressive, you could harm your brand's reputation.
When you create value that people truly desire, you do not have to pay for them to adopt it into their lives. You just need to find the right people who want what you have to offer…
Gladwell, discusses three groups of people you want to have around: Mavens, Salesmen, and Connectors. Ultimately, these three groups of people spread ideas from one social group to the next. Their excitement for what you have to offer is contagious.
Let’s look at how you can start the fire…
Launching organic marketing strategies
Here is my take on how you can find the right people to grow your brand.
- Identify experts who have social followings that are willing to honestly review your product.
- Write an unpaid guest blog on blogs in your industry that links back to your website.
- Tag influencers and brands when it is appropriate to do so.
- Identify bookclubs or social groups that would find what you are selling valuable.
- Create pins on Pinterest that aesthetically show off your product and link back to your website.
- Add value to Twitter and Reddit threads.
- Start a YouTube channel showing how your product adds value linking back to your website in the description and comment section.
- Appear and provide value on podcasts.
- Expand your social circle and meet up with like-minded business enthusiasts.
With everything mentioned above, the goal is to first provide value. If you provide value expecting return, you have got the wrong idea. In fact, you should be more mindful of receiving feedback on where to improve.
Showing up, listening, and then making the required improvements are more likely to get people talking about you positively as opposed to aggressively forcing your brand in front of people through paid-advertising.
The whole purpose of organic marketing is to be authentic, value-based, and natural. You can smell when someone is trying to exploit you from a mile away- don’t be that person, again talking from experience here... Nobody and no platform responds well to that.
If your focus is on engagement and education, you will slowly generate a following of loyal fans. If you are consistent at providing value, it will take time, but the people who follow you have done so out of their free choice. You would have opted for a non-scammy call-to-action and you would have stayed away from using clever marketing tactics to manipulate a buyer.
As with marriage, choosing who you want to spend the rest of your life with, is an empowering decision. Don’t rob your customers of that freedom.
Analyze The Numbers
Don’t forget to measure your organic marketing campaign
This isn’t a cushy-tactic.
Just because you aren’t ‘pushing’ your customers, doesn’t mean you just sit back and smell the roses.
Identify which strategy is bringing you consistent traffic.
You may find that creating Pinterest pins seemed girly and long-winded, but after a few months on the platform, you may get a viral pin that drives a lot of traffic to your store.
Similarly, you may found that the micro-influencer you asked to review your product, blows up and becomes a raving fan of your brand, infectiously sharing it with their followers.
Use Google Analytics to track your traffic and hone down on the methods, whether they are written, image, or video-based, that are bringing your customers.
The Slowest Way to Success
Organic marketing is by no means the steam train of marketing strategies.
Yes, there are exceptions of paid videos, posts, and blogs that have gone viral and made someone an over-night success.
Those are exceptions, not the rule.
If, as a start-up, you are willing to make peace that it is unlikely that you are the exception, you may be willing to persevere through the pilgrimage of starting a business.
I’m going to refer back to Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Tipping Point, one more time where he mentions the most important point regarding organic marketing: “The stickiness” factor.
You can pay for PPC campaigns, Facebook ads, sponsored posts, or you can go the free route… But if your product is not worth the hype- people are going to forget about it.
Organic marketing allows you to pick up where your offering may not be as sticky as you would hope, without costing you a fortune.
You are able to tailor your offering to reach the level of “stickiness” and once you have achieved that, sit back, and keep an eye on how your brand will spread contagiously.
Be courageous and pursue your audience through listening and bettering your offering.
Aim to produce something worth other’s hyping up.