Since the dawn of the unicorn era, startups have been chasing the elusive status that only the crème de la crème tastemaker companies have reached by achieving a billion-dollar valuation. While these mythical creatures make up only a small percentage of all startups, aspiring entrepreneurs joining the ranks of the most elite status in the tech world no longer view membership as a fantasy.
What does success look like in today’s startup world?
In the current landscape, it’s all about explosive growth opportunities and expected long-term development that giants such as Uber, SpaceX and Slack have painted as a hockey-stick curve.
Our team analyzed success stories from this unique breed of tech giants that have achieved explosive growth and uncovered the top three tips to drive your own startup’s growth.
Strength in numbers
The internet moves at the speed of light; slow and steady no longer seems to be a viable option for growth in a world of instant gratification. Young, millennial-driven companies are looking for ways to fast-track growth and are turning to mergers and acquisitions (M&A) as a result.
Trends in recent years, according to Crunchbase data, indicate that building heavy tech acquisitions into startup culture is a proven path for accelerating growth.
Many young tech startups rely on exponential growth for survival, and partnerships can provide another path to success. Although this brings its own set of challenges, such as collaboration and fostering teamwork, strategic partnerships can be a lower-cost and lower-risk way for growth than M&A.
While the end goal is often to go public, software startups are choosing to stay private longer due to the capital available to them in the private market skyrocketing. Given that cross-selling is easier to achieve than acquiring new customers, these moves make sense.
Content marketing still reigns
Marketers are continually seeking innovative ways to take a leap outside the content marketing box to reach their target audiences, increase engagement and build loyalty to set themselves onto the glittering path to growth. Bigger risk-takers often reap bigger rewards. This can apply to content marketing strategies, as well.
Companies like Intercom, for example, have grown exponentially, largely on the back of content marketing. Especially in the software and B2B space (often SaaS), content marketing becomes the fulcrum for companies to achieve exponential growth with limited resources.
Of course, startups lack the resources of enterprise firms, with their limited budgets for advertising and traditional marketing efforts. But content is one growth strategy that allows startups to gain attention and traction without an enormous financial investment. It’s both a long-term and sustainable strategy, too.
Master the cross-sell
Category creation is the ultimate growth strategy. No one else is doing what you’re doing (hopefully!), which provides the opportunity to disrupt the market. When you’re in unchartered territory, there are no rules. While being first helps, it doesn’t necessarily grant market dominance long-term.
To avoid any threat to your market dominance, do more than just create the category; own the category.
Tapping into thought leadership and being a champion in your niche builds reputation and credibility while also adding to a killer content strategy. Most importantly, it’s easier to build a healthy sales pipeline when you have a core set of buyers that already know and trust your company.
It’s certainly easier to cross-sell or up-sell an existing customer on another product or service than it is to acquire a new customer who may not be familiar with your brand.
Remember the old homage about assumptions? Well, the same rings true regarding your target audience. If your product identifies a gap in the market, you’ll leave dollars on the table by not connecting to multiple groups of potential customers outside the niche you initially carved out. Redefining target audiences may seem tricky, but refocusing as to not miss any opportunities is essential for growth.
Building a billion-dollar valuation is no easy feat, but that doesn’t mean you can’t unlock the keys to explosive growth: find gaps in the market and effectively employ unique value propositions to fill these gaps. Use niche markets as an entry point for innovation, take risks with content marketing and supplement with an uncommon format to disrupt the market to achieve the hockey-stick growth that most startups are chomping at the bit for.