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Marketing Lessons for Your Start-Up: 3 Success Stories Buffer, HubSpot and Warby Parker didn't break the bank with their start-up marketing plans. They just did them well.

By Firas Kittaneh Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Many entrepreneurs make one of two fatal mistakes early in their company's history: Either they believe their product can stand on its own without a formal marketing strategy, or they spend far too much of their fragile budget on an expensive marketing campaign that delivers only modest returns.

Related: How to Design a Marketing Strategy

That's unfortunate, because innovative marketing strategies for startups don't have to be complicated or expensive. And there are good, solid role models to follow here.

In fact, the following three companies are perfect examples of how thinking creatively about your marketing effort can yield remarkable results for your business.

Buffer: How its comprehensive and sophisticated content marketing program has driven growth.

With one key decision (and a lot of work designing and implementing a workable strategy following the decision), Buffer has shown startups around the world just how much is possible through the employment of a great content marketing strategy.

This nascent, tweet-scheduling app company understood that content marketing was much more than just a fad; it was something brands needed, to become a part of a broader conversation. Many companies at the beginning of this decade were throwing up half-hearted blog posts on their company websites, just to say they were participating in content marketing.

But the founders of Buffer realized they could transform their organization and make waves through social media by pouring resources into a dedicated content-development program and creating a cohesive strategy.

Their plan began by partnering with influential publications and offering guest posts. This positioned the company as an authoritative voice for its growing audience. Many of these guest blog posts were heavily shared throughout social media, especially on Twitter. Then, soon enough, after Buffer had enough credibility, it turned its focus inward and began owning a majority of its produced content.

Company content creators then began to publish more regularly to the Buffer blog, which now receives more than 1.2 million monthly visits!

Buffer was also savvy with the type of content it regularly featured on its site. It initially was a niche Twitter- scheduling app, but Buffer's leaders decided it made sense for most of their blog posts to focus on the topic of Twitter.

However, this direction had a downside: It limited the audience. However, Buffer had a lucky break in that this issue of a limited audience coincided with the integration, for their app, of Facebook and LinkedIn scheduling capabilities.

So, Buffer's marketing team members set about broadening the scope of their posts to include a variety of topics about social media. Later, the company expanded even further, incorporating topics such as business and psychology, to reach a wider audience and increase Buffer's influence on the market.

The takeaway? Buffer understood that the only content worth creating is high-value, shareable content, and it was rewarded with rapid growth.

HubSpot: Any company can make a splash in thought leadership by changing the way people think about marketing.

The founders of HubSpot had a radical approach to making their company stand out in an increasingly crowded software-as-a-service (SaaS) landscape. These visionary leaders saw how the explosion of the internet was changing the way people researched and bought products and services.

No longer did business-to-business buyers have to wait for a cold call or email to start discovering their options in an in-depth manner; they could take advantage of the available information from around the web.

Related: New to Digital Marketing? How to Keep 'Face Time' With Customers

A little over 10 years ago, the HubSpot team took it upon themselves to coin the term "inbound marketing," whereby marketing professionals take advantage of this new environment to reach buyers on their home turf. The concept was such a hit that a book was quickly written about the subject. Other peripheral events soon followed, such as the annual Inbound Marketing Conference, which in 2016 welcomed over 19,000 attendees.

HubSpot thus saw the opportunity to become the world's leading authority on inbound marketing and geared its entire content strategy around establishing thought leadership in a topic company members had pioneered themselves.

Today, HubSpot Academy has become a popular destination for marketing professionals who want to learn more about inbound marketing from the experts who brought it to the world. The Academy offers certificate programs across a variety of subtopics and disciplines.

Warby Parker: A masterful PR push helps you grow quickly and save on marketing costs.

Many startup founders examine their proposed marketing budgets early in their company's life -- and cringe. They know they have to start spending money on their marketing and sales efforts to build a customer base, but many of them just can't shake the feeling that there has to be a better way.

Eyeglass design company Warby Parker proved without a doubt that there is a better way and was able to grow by an astonishing 500 percent in a single year. That the company accomplished this while spending zero on marketing and advertising costs during its launch is all the more impressive.

Related: Use Social Media to Make Your Brand Stand Out

The company wanted to target the world of the fashion elite, and began its push by getting editorial content published in high-profile magazines such as Vogue and GQ. The response was massive and led to a 20,000 person waiting list for its products within just a few weeks.

Firas Kittaneh

Serial Entrepreneur • CEO at Amerisleep • CEO at OCLU

Firas Kittaneh is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of amerisleep. Most recently, he launched OCLU to improve how we record our most memorable moments.

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