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7 Tools to Help Startups Dominate in Large Markets and Compete With the Giants Use these strategies to focus your effort to go viral, achieve higher conversions and hit the headlines to start building a respectable cash flow.

By Matthew Toren

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Launching a successful startup is not necessarily about who has the greatest amount of financial backing through investors or even a superb product that no one has ever seen, but is about who can win the hearts, minds and interest of the web at large. As we've seen with the launch of the recent app Yo! having achieved 1 million downloads in only four days, the product does not need to be extraordinary.

Separate from creating products that simply work, startups achieve virality and real success by catering to potential users of the product first through creating an appeal or purpose that people can align and relate to or an idea they believe in and will want to share with everyone in their circle of influence. However, the mere creation of an awesome product does not translate to automatic rewards.

Here are the three strong strategies to focus your effort and the tools to help you go viral, achieve higher conversions and hit the headlines to start building a respectable cash flow.

Leverage big data to boost sales.

Big data, another buzz phrase that has popped up recently, has always been in use to drive various types of marketing and sales campaigns. Essentially, the concept was primarily used by large enterprises such as Microsoft and Amazon to gather extreme amounts of customer data to analyze trends and assess behavior at large. Thankfully, with the democratization of big data and wide adoption and innovation in technologies, startups can leverage the power of intelligence through data affordably.

1. Sell more at the right time and right place. Fanplayr is revolutionizing real-time marketing by harnessing the power of big data to help retailers and marketers profile and target site visitors based on their specific behavior and experiences. With a focus on improving conversions and average order values on ecommerce sites, the service assesses in real-time a visitor's clickstream and page engagement duration and identifies key demographic data, visit frequency, visit time of day and other valuable characteristics to determine the perfect offers, deals and pricing to present to visitors.

Related: 5 Secrets to Making Your Startup Go Viral

This means that retailers using the service will be able to automatically make offers with the highest chance of conversion as they are aligned and customized for that specific visitor at that point in time. This approach has proven to increase average order values by up to 50 percent and conversions by up to 25 percent, according to the company.

Right out of the gate, businesses are able to deliver products in a smart and data-driven manner, greatly improving chances for success and sales. This technology helps startups in various markets affordably leverage big data and market intelligence to drive profits.

While there's a growing wealth of knowledge about customer behavior available, an important thing to note as startups take advantage of big data is to ensure that customers are not viewed as mere statistics. Businesses are built on forming lasting and genuine relationships with your target audience and not solely on the basis of mining data to increase sales.

Align data acquisition and targeted offers with outreach and other loyalty-building strategies. Use data to fuel more rewarding relationships.

Gain virality through "growth hacking."

Growth hacking is a somewhat new term but is a longstanding principle of passionately pushing to improve a certain metric through executing outside-the-box tactics with the use of analytics and tools that multiply your effort. This approach is typically used by startups since they usually do not have the financial resources to launch the typical million-dollar marketing campaigns that big businesses employ to efficiently acquire huge user base growth.

One popular example is the story of DropBox, which through the use of a reward referral program acquired more than 200 million users in only a few short years. Another is Hotmail, which in 1996 acquired 3,000 new signups every day by simply adding the sentence, "PS: I love you. Get your free email at Hotmail" to the signature of every email after traditional TV and billboard ads failed.

2. Growth hacking with WiseStamp. Fast-forward to 2008, startup WiseStamp began helping professionals transform standard, regular emails into a high-converting marketing tool by allowing them to easily brand email signatures, distribute engaging social content and add marketing messages that align with their organization's dynamic marketing campaigns.

WiseStamp took the simple idea of having basic email signatures and enhanced its value by providing simple yet powerful tools for customizing email copy, helping brands to leverage the attention emails normally receive. It has converged social engagement, productivity and marketing into something as basic as email while empowering customers to hack their way to success.

Your ability to think outside the box and create experiences and rewards for everyday users is vital. Running any marketing or growth-hacking campaign relies heavily on the tools to manage the process and create the experience for the user which encompasses email, social media, networking and other functional tools.

3. Turning gamification into conversions. PunchTab takes loyalty and user engagement to another level by allowing businesses and any website owner to integrate and customize rewards, gamification and other socially-driven activities for your users to drive traffic, virality and interactions. Put simply, you can reward users for sharing, commenting and otherwise interacting with your content in an effort to successfully spread the reach and access of your products.

PunchTab gets the idea of gamification and how it affects loyalty and user engagement. Vendors claim that gamification can lead to a 100 to 150 percent pickup in engagement metrics including unique views, page views, community activities and time on site, according to M2 Research, and 63 percent of American adults agree that making everyday activities more like a game would make them more fun and rewarding, JW Intelligence reports. Anything that is more fun and rewarding will help garner engagement and popularity among your users.

4. A point-of-sale software as a service with a twist. If your startup is retail based and requires the use of a point-of-sale and inventory management system, then Vend is a powerful service to use to help you grow from one client to 1,000.

Vend is a simple browser-based software that takes the monotony out of inventory and sales management, as it is packed with additional features that help you build better client relationships through its built-in customer-relationship management and tracking and managing client loyalty. This adds great value to the sales process by providing you with data and opportunities to communicate with your users within the perfect context.

Vend's built-in loyalty program allows store owners to offer real benefits to users, meaning that your startup can be perfectly positioned to acquire repeat sales and growth through rewarding happy customers.

Loyalty programs have proven their worth, as nearly 90 percent of all Americans participate in some sort of rewards program. The market is estimated to be valued at $54 million and is growing at a rate of 20 percent per year, according to California Management Review. Customers love and respond to rewards and we all know there's nothing sweeter than happy repeat customers who spread the word.

Related: Make a New Year's Resolution to Humanize Your Marketing for 2015

5. Pay With A Tweet is exactly what it sounds like. It allows you to reward users with privileged access to your product by having them tweet and share the good news about you and your company. This is a powerful way to naturally spread the word about your company and achieve virality without a burdensome budget.

A new project-management tool startup, SpringSled, has been able to acquire over 138,000 users before even launching their product by simply offering users who refer five or more customers with an early, free one-year access to the finished product.

One of the most amazing things about this campaign is that the company only focused on promoting on Facebook and Twitter and nevertheless achieved great results. The concept is powerful and is a perfect addition to your startup marketing arsenal, since 71 percent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on social-media referrals, according to Marketing Profs.

Listen and be proactive to build relationships.

"Today, getting people to hear your story on social media, and then act on it, requires using a platform's native language, paying attention to context, understanding the nuances and subtle differences that make each platform unique, and adapting your content to match," Gary Vaynerchuk's writes in his Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World.

Part of telling your story within context and in a manner that people can relate requires that you know what's happening in your niche. Although a few of the major social networks offer search tools that allow you to track most topics, doing it manually will be a chore. Being an active listener positions you to acquire the knowledge to act on the opportunities that matter.

Here are a couple tools that will help you not only automate social listening but identify and take advantage of the right opportunities.

6. Oktopost is a great social listening and relationship-building solution that allows you to not only consolidate and manage your social-media accounts but monitor your impact and social-network conversations in real time. With customized content streams, you can monitor specific hash tags, subjects or profiles of interest to identify opportunities for engaging your target audience while avoiding the noise of the entire network.

In addition, a user friendly calendar that lays out your social posting schedule, a consolidated social inbox and campaign analytics sums up a great social business-to-business tool to help startups forge relationships for growing business and winning customers.

7. Colibri shows you where and what your prospects and existing clients are talking about on Twitter, Quora, blogs and a bunch of other social networks. This allows you to inject yourself in these discussions with the aim of building relationships, offering value and increasing awareness of your startup and presence. This works even better when you can publicly solve problems through the use of your product or service, garnering powerful social proof. It also integrates seamlessly with Google Analytics to provide you with insight into how your campaigns perform and identify the best conversion funnels.

Growing your startup is about winning the attention from your potential users through bringing value to their everyday lives or solving simple problems. To do this you'll need to have full command of online tools that allow you to leverage the reach and other capabilities of social networks in a time and cost efficient manner.

Related: 4 Free Must-Use Analytics Tools for Social-Media Marketers

Matthew Toren

Serial Entrepreneur, Mentor, Influencer and co-founder of

Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.

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