mbudo's blog

    How to Tailor your Strategy for Startup Marketing vs. Corporate Marketing

    by Mary Swick

    Marketing is important for businesses of all sizes, but your approach to Marketing needs to take into account the size of your business, resources, budget, and much more. Simply put, Marketing for smaller or newer businesses is different from that of large, established businesses. That's not to say they're completely different, they do share certain similarities. 

    So, in order to tailor the best strategy for your business, we will explain how Marketing is different for startups vs. large businesses and corporations. Discover Startup Marketing vs. Corporate Marketing


    Similarities and differences between Startups and Corporations

    As mentioned, not all companies are the same, so not all Marketing strategies should be the same. To understand what approach to take and which tactics to use, we must first understand the fundamentals between large and small businesses: 



    • Data-driven: Now more than ever, data drives Marketing. Marketers must use this data to lead the strategy and influence the organization as a whole. 
    • Audience approach: Connecting with your audience is truly one of the most important aspects of Marketing. Every business needs a deep understanding of their target audience.
    • Goals and KPIs: To have a strategy that is effective and efficient, it's important to create a roadmap, and this means establishing specific goals and KPIs that are relevant to your company.    




    • High stakes: 20% of startups fail within the first year, 34% within two years, and only 50% of businesses make it to year five. Although it seems like there are dozens of new startups popping up every day, the reality is that the stakes are very high for new businesses and any wrong decision can be make or break the company. Having the right Marketing Strategy for Startups is crucial. 
    • Limited resources: Startups are all about maximizing their resources, whether it be time, money, ROI, etc. There is a real pressure to take the right course of action so as to not let anything go to waste. For this reason, the lean startup methodology has become popular. 
    • Closer to the problem...and solution: Startups tend to have smaller teams, perhaps with multiple people performing various roles. The good thing about this is that startups really understand the core problems of their business and market. The tougher challenge is that if you don't solve these problems, no one else will. 
    • Agile and quick-to-market: Startups are agile and fast. They can make decisions more quickly than large businesses, implement changes, test results, etc. 
    • Market appeal: Who isn't looking for that great, new innovator or disruptor in the market? Startups are seen as the "cool new guy" on the scene. 



    • Decision-making: In large companies, the chain of command tends to be more established, and thus there is a hierarchy that you must follow. There is red tape in certain areas and it may take longer to reach final decision-makers.
    • Risk tolerance: In established businesses, there is a higher tolerance for risk. This gives you flexibility in making difference decisions, evaluating investments, and doing multiple investments at the same time. There is greater freedom and flexibility to try new initiatives, even if there is a risk of failure.  
    • Competition: Although they are less vulnerable within the market, corporations are wary of new competitors and entrants who can act quickly and be more agile in the face of challenges and changes. 
    • Dedicated teams: A strength of corporations is they already have expertise in specific areas like Marketing, market research, analytics, etc. 


    Strategies for Startup Marketing



    1. Branding should be at the forefront

    For large corporations and famous brands, branding is already taken care of. For newer or smaller businesses, building your brand in the eyes of users is an essential step in the Marketing makeup. That's where Brand Marketing comes in.

    With brand positioning still being formed in the mind of the user, it's essential that your brand vision be strategic and clear from the get-go. However, this gives startups an opportunity to break the mold with their visual elements, storytelling, and communication channels. You should spend time studying the competition, where you fit in the market, and how to stand out. 

    You probably recognize the logos, names, or product of successful companies like Uber, Spotify, Groupon...well, these all began as startups and used, in part, successful branding to spur their startup success, alongside a great idea, of course. 


    2. Focus on growth and optimize quickly

    As mentioned above, startups tend to be more agile and quicker to action than corporations. This gives you an advantage when it comes to experimentation and implementation. Growth Marketing could be the perfect strategy in this case, because it's all about growing, and doing so quickly

    To do so, establish the most important goals you want to reach, identify your core channels and focus solely on activities via these channels, and get your whole organization involved in working towards your goals. You will need to go through a lot of trial and error to achieve the outcomes you want. This is actually a good thing!

    You can use tenets of Growth Driven Design to help streamline and speed up the process. Basically, this design-forward strategy tells you to have your goals, audience, and assets well-defined from the beginning, implement ideas quickly, and study the results to continuously optimize and improve.  

    Startups that can optimize their processes quicker than competitors will be the ones that will thrive. 


    3. Identify accounts that could spur your success

    We often think of startups as champions of users, and while this can be true in many cases, it's often the big accounts that jet them to success.

    To target the high-value accounts, you first need to learn to identify them, and this can be done through Account Based Marketing. ABM is a hyper-segmentation strategy mostly used in the B2B sector to reach specific accounts, by using personalized Marketing actions and content for each individual account. 

    Account Based Marketing would be right for your startup if the market is high concentrated or the product/service is highly specialized, there are numerous contacts or decision-makers within each account, the sales cycle is long, and the opportunity size is very large. In this case, you'll use ABM to use resources more efficiently, align Marketing and Sales departments, and identify only the most important leads (known as Buyer Personas in Inbound Marketing).


    4. Automate as much as you can

    In startups, time and resources are limited. You can't be wasting precious time on manual tasks. You need to automate, and fast! According to Salesforce, 67% of marketing leaders currently use a marketing automation platform, with 70% reporting that the most important benefit is better-targeted customer communication

    Automation allows you to make your strategy work for you 24/7. For startups, automation via workflows could be used for maintaining and updating your database, doing email nurturing, and sending internal team notifications. The best platforms to carry such actions out include HubSpot, Pardot, Marketo, and Mailchimp, among others. 


    5. Find a mentor or partner for guidance

    All startups want to become unicorns - those mega-successful companies valued at over $1 billion that attract investors of all types - but it's out of reach for most. Besides funding, the main reason for this is due to lack of know-how, strategy, or support. One of the most common factors among successful startups is their reliance on experienced mentors or partners who can help guide them

    Startup incubators are plentiful, but if you're more of an SME or the competition is too high for those types of programs, consider finding a partner in Marketing who can help you discover new tools and techniques, guide your strategy towards better results, and maximize your budget. 


    Strategies for Corporate Marketing



    1. Get stakeholders on board with Marketing

    One of the greatest barriers in large companies is the heavy, bogged-down hierarchy that makes decision-making slow and keeps final decision-makers unknown or out of reach. The first thing that Marketers at corporations need to do is identify the stakeholders that can make or break the success of their proposed initiatives. Below, discover the main steps for identifying and approaching stakeholders:

    • Identify stakeholders: Are they internal or external, what type of influence do they have, what teams are they part of, and what's their profile or expertise?
    • Choose a framework: There are several frameworks that can be used to organize stakeholders, including the stakeholder participation matrix; relationship, influence, and feel map; and the RACI chart. 
    • Approach stakeholders: First decide whether you can count on their support, need to convince them, or simply work around them. Use this knowledge to create your strategy, present your ideas, give examples, and provide metrics. 


    2. Pivot from Event Marketing

    Large businesses and corporations have traditionally included large events like conferences and galas in their Marketing mix, and while these won't disappear entirely in the long term, the 2020 pandemic has shown is that digital is the way forward in the short to medium term

    As we've witnessed during the pandemic, online activities can be lifesaving at times, not only for Marketing and Sales activities, but for the overall business strategy and ROI. That's why, instead of in-person events and congresses, webinars and similar events should be part of your strategy for the next few years. This will require a reorganization of your budget and a rethink of how to trasnfer in-person events to the online environment. Discover best practices from Eventbrite


    3. Optimize assets with SEO and Paid Media

    As a corporate Marketer, you've probably already got a good base of content, channels, partners, etc. Now, it's time to make all these assets work for you by maximizing Search Engine Optimizing and Paid Media. Search engine algorthims and user search habits are constantly changing. That means you can't simply put out content and campaigns and leave them there, without going back and optimizing and revamping. 

    The goal is to make SEO attract inbound leads by optimizing for keywords, site loading time and responsiveness, domain authority, link-building, and more. Then, you can bolster organic with Paid Social and Paid Search, since a large company like yours will have the necessary budget to do so. 

    A great tool for optimizing organic, developed by the Inbound Marketing experts from HubSpot, are Pillar Pages and Topic Clusters. They help you organize your content around core topics (Pillars), with supporting topics linking back to the pillar. This helps search engines establish relationships between your content and helps it moves up in the search rankings. 


    4. Expand to new markets and business opportunities

    The "core business" is extremely important to corporations. Their Buyer Personas, markets, audiences, segments, etc. have all been defined for years. They tend to stick with what they know and what works. However, this can meet that room to explore new markets and business opportunities are stifled, when actually these hold great potential due to internal assets and expertise. 

    Corporations need to embrace new customers and new markets, broadening and diversifying the company's holdings. And luckily, with a budget and stability to experiment, you'll be able to explore a wide variety of initiatives to see which of them work. Start with reevaluating your Buyer Personas and seeing where new audiences could be found, or if there are any gaps. 

    Another hidrance to large businesses is being too reactive, hopping on trends too slowly or when it's already too late. In this sense, you must get on board with emerging trends and not be afraid to pave the way. 


    5. Align Marketing and Sales 

    A problem that many large businesses have is with so many departments and divisions between the players involved, internal teams and processes aren't aligned. This is especially true of the Marketing and Sales teams, which need to work in near-perfect unison to carry out the business strategy. If your Marketing leads don't convert into sales, what has all the effort been for? Corporations need to prioritize Marketing and Sales Alignment

    Different departments in large companies often function completely separately. While that may be the case in your organization now, it's not the way you should be doing things in the future if you want to improve ROI. Start with recurring meetings between both departments, identify common KPIs, and develop an SLA for the responsabilities of each team. You'll find that Marketing and Sales will be on the same page and that your strategy is working better than ever. 


    As you can see, Startup Marketing vs. Corporate Marketing tend to be completely different. Now you know that Marketing it's one-size-fits-all and so your strategy shouldn't be either. If you're a startup, SME, large business, or corporation, get in touch with mbudo to see how your Marketing strategy can be optimized to fit your business. 

    New call-to-action

    Strategy Startup

    Mary Swick

    Mary Swick

    Mary is a professional copywriter with nearly 10 years of experience in Marketing and Advertising. As an American expat in Madrid, she enjoys the relaxed Spanish culture, hiking, and the latest shows from Netflix and HBO. Mary also loves cats and music (she's the office DJ!)