Hackernoon logo4 Lean Marketing Strategies for Disruptive Startups by@guysheetrit

4 Lean Marketing Strategies for Disruptive Startups

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@guysheetritGuy Sheetrit

Guy Sheetrit is the founder of Over The Top SEO, one of the fastest-growing and most awarded multinational SEO agencies.

Startups rarely have money to throw around on ostentatious marketing strategies.

Money shortage is a primary reason startups fail. You don’t want yours to be part of that sad statistic. Fortunately, marketing on a budget is not so difficult as long as you invest in the right tools and techniques.

Follow this exploration of four affordable marketing strategies that have proved effective for startups. 

Word of mouth marketing

Honest promotions from loyal-customers-turned-brand-ambassadors are worth more than several dollars in marketing campaigns. Lean marketing is about doing more with less.

And in a budget-stretched startup, your customers must be your best marketers. The question is whether you would give them a reason to be so. 

Tesla is a breakthrough story of how a company out-marketed competitors without spending a dime on traditional ads. The company relies on current Tesla owners to spread the word about their cars and the brand. And so far, it has worked.

Turning customers into marketers begins by delivering an experience worth sharing. Tesla has a product worth telling others about, and then it encourages customers to market for them. 

Every casual mention, genuine reviews, and sincere recommendations boost the profile of your brand. But you can also reward sharing.

People can make actual money through Paypal’s referral program or increase their cloud storage space for every Dropbox referral. Tesla itself doesn't rely on its product experience alone.

It has a referral program with rewards that have varied over the years. In 2019, the promotion was so massive that the company had to give away 80 new Roadsters for free.

Not every company can shell out that much cash in prizes. Even Tesla had to dial back on the free car program. Word of mouth marketing can be affordable if you leverage game mechanics the right way.

For instance, the Evernote referrals program uses a reward system that builds up points for premium benefits. By referring others to the app, users access more benefits, which make the app more valuable to them, thus increasing their likelihood of becoming paid users. 

Social Media Marketing 

Social media provides the biggest opportunities to grow authentic brand awareness. Every brand wants to go viral on social media, but without the strategy to do so.

While virality may result from dumb luck sometimes, most brands implement a smart strategy that placed them in pole position to go viral once the opportunity opened.

The true value of social media marketing is in connecting with your audience directly and personally. The workspace app, Notion, uses its Twitter account to learn about the needs of its users.

Notion uses its Twitter account mostly for announcing product updates and new features. And you know it does this well because now and then a post racks up some thousand likes, such as the time it added backlinks or recently when it introduced the timeline feature.

Social media is the place to showcase the informal side of your business. People don’t log on to Facebook to read posts with whitepaper-esque messaging.

Witty replies, GIFs and memes, entertaining content, quick tips, and even quibbles; help you relate with your audience better. 

If your plan is to target a narrow demographic, complement your organic social media strategy with paid ads. Paid ads on social media are quite cost-effective; the cost is usually measured per click or by impressions.

That means that you only pay for what’s working, not what’s not. Of course, you need to target the right keywords and demographic segments. 

(Virtual) Event Marketing 

Organizing an event is a great way to get people talking about your brand. Right from the build-up to the event, to its aftermath, there are many promotional opportunities to exploit and build your brand awareness. 

The pandemic has instigated a rise in virtual events, meaning that many small businesses can now compete in event marketing. The sector is largely decentralized now, and you don’t need elaborate plans to plan a successful event.

Live streaming, for instance, is not a new idea. But because of COVID-19, streaming had increased by 73% within a month (February to March) in the US. Promptly, brands seized the opportunity. 

For instance, to adapt to the challenges caused by COVID-19, the Social Media Week pivoted into a virtual event. The result? What used to be a three-day in-person conference became a four-week-long series of events, from live talks to panel sessions, workshops to demos, and more.

There were over 170 sessions, nearly 300 speakers, and about 10,000 attendees. Consider how much an in-person conference would have cost in terms of expenses and resources, yet the virtual organization was just as effective. 

Unlike in-person events, virtual events bridge event marketing with content creation. In in-person events, the content creation is separate from the event, with the former promoting the latter.

Brands use social media to drum up anticipation for their events. However, virtual events are the content themselves, and social media is not just used to create awareness for events; social media platforms have become tools for organizing events. 

To create a meaningful virtual event marketing strategy, use the following tips:

  • Keep your audience engaged. There are more distractions for people attending virtual events. Give your attendees a stronger motivation to stay connected. 
  • Allow attendees a part to play. Events should be an opportunity to listen to your audience and address their concerns. 
  • Repurpose video content to make your virtual event remain valuable long after the event is over. You could use highlights from your events for future promotion, transcribe talks into blog posts, share clips on social media, etc. 

Email Marketing

Email marketing is important for customer acquisition and lead nurturing. More than half of the world’s population uses email. The strongest reason that email marketing must be part of your strategy is that it delivers a high return on investment.

The average return for every dollar spent is $36, according to the Litmus State of Email report 2020. Other reasons for the effectiveness of email include:

  • Measurability: there are many useful metrics to be tracked, such as open rate, conversion rate, CTR, bounce rate, forwarding rate, list growth rate, unsubscribe rate.
  • Affordability: email marketing does not require an elaborate budget, making it an effective lean strategy.

According to DMA’s Consumer Email Tracker 2020 report, the most important factors for consumers to open emails are brand recognition (55%) and the subject line (48%).

Concerning the content, consumers like emails that contain offers (52%), are relevant to them (50%) and contain useful information or news (36%). 

What do these mean?

  • Craft attractive subject lines. You won’t get anywhere with an outstanding email that has a poor subject.
  • Make your customers feel special by offering them exclusive, personalized offers.
  • Only send useful information that is relevant to the recipients. An email does not become relevant because you personalized it by addressing recipients by their first names. It is relevant if it contains the information that they need.


Lean marketing principles are founded on small iterative techniques, continually testing to determine what works and what doesn’t. To make your success easier, you must rely on data to tell you if you are going in the right direction. Many insights and opportunities will come your way; you must be able to filter the valuable ones and implement them.

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@guysheetritGuy Sheetrit

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Guy Sheetrit is the founder of Over The Top SEO, one of the fastest-growing and most awarded multinational SEO agencies.


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