Being a Guerrilla: Growth Hacking your Startup in a Saturated Market

Being a Guerrilla: Growth Hacking your Startup in a Saturated Market

Do you have a product or service that you’ve given your heart and soul for? Fought tooth and nail for? Actually bled and lost sleep over? But the media doesn’t want to go anywhere near it? You’re preaching to the choir on this one. The Onboardly team knows first hand how frustrating it can be for entrepreneurs who believe in their startup so strongly but are struggling to get the traction they need.

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Yes, Elle Woods! It’s incredibly hard!

There’s no question that with today’s access to technology, coverage in the media is difficult to attain but you still might find yourself asking why: if my baby is so beautiful why does nobody want to hold it and rock it to sleep? Well, we’ve come to find a common conclusion...

The shift

There’s a change in the tech industry happening and that change is that everybody and their dog has an app. So rather than pitching to the media that they should write about this really cool app that’s changing the world, the media wants to hear that they should write about this really cool app that’s changing the world because it got ten thousand users in six months. THAT’S media worthy.

And it’s not entirely the media’s fault either, we’ve heard horror stories from popular tech publications and how they can receive up to one hundred pitches in their inbox by the time they get back to their desk from walking to the water cooler.

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How do you get around this incredibly frustrating problem? You can’t get in the media unless you have traction and you can’t get traction unless you get your startup covered, right? Not necessarily.

Start thinking like a guerrilla 🙊

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So the idea is guerrilla marketing is used as a strategy designed for you to promote your startup in an unconventional way with little budget to spend. This involves high energy and imagination in order to grab the attention of the audience you want to target. Essentially, you want to get your product directly in front of your ideal customer without spending a whole lot of cash.

Micro Case Study: One of the greatest examples of a successful guerrilla marketing tactic I have ever heard was from Pinterest founder, Ben Silbermann who used to stop into Apple stores on his way home from work and change all the browsers on the Macs and iPhones to the Pinterest homepage.


Another really great example of this tactic was in 2002 when Sony hired actors to walk around cities and ask strangers to take selfies with them. During this interaction, they then would boast about all the nifty features the new phone had.

A few more whacky yet respectably effective GM strategies include:

These are obviously all physical demonstrations of guerrilla marketing but with today’s digital presence and fascinations with social media there are many ways to execute this strategy online as well with viral videos, newsjacking, and even social media competitions could be considered guerilla marketing.

We recently had an experience with a client who was launching a new dating app in Toronto called Zepeel. The premise was to bring reality back into online dating and essentially remove the notion of “bad dates” from the online dating process by operating on a video based platform. With the video chatting push you no longer have to sit through an entire awkward dinner after you realize the personality of your match just isn’t exactly what you thought. So naturally you’d think by solving a clearly relatable problem, while also taking advantage of the evident presence of video content in our social media that this product would go viral overnight. The only problem is the online dating app space is completely saturated.

After going through a few pitches with our PR team and watching article after article come though about the hottest new dating apps on the market (which was filled with brand new apps each and every time) our team quickly realized we needed to do something extra to fast track this startup's visibility.

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Enter  The Bachelorette Canada. Once we started looking around for advertisement opportunities we quickly realized the timeliness of a show, airing in Canada for the first time (remember Zepeel is launched in Toronto), with a bachelorette who literally could not have fit Zepeel’s ideal customer persona anymore perfectly was almost too good to be true.

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But again, we come back to the question of how do we pitch this partnership to The W Network when we still are trying to scale this dating app? So we presented the ideal of live tweeting the show weekly to compliment the ads running on their website. This campaign has delivered some of our highest engagement rates on Twitter so far and has pushed Zepeel’s brand and message in front of more ideal customers and we can’t wait to see what’s next for Zepeel.

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Buzz tweets - announcing our live tweeting of the first Canadian Bachelorette gained the attention of the official twitter page and the bachelorette herself.

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Zepeel ad located on the Bachelorette Canada home page.

All in all, sometimes thinking outside the box is not just creative, but necessary for your startup to survive in an era where technology is more accessible than ever. Don’t rely on your favorite publications to tell the world about the really cool shit you’re up to. Get out there and tell them yourself, or better yet get Onboardly to do it!

Have a really cool growth hack that worked for your startup? I’d LOVE to hear about it! Send me a tweet at @HeyItsMeJaredG or leave us a comment below! 👇🏼

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Love it!! Amazing job 👏👏👣

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