How CMOs at Fortune 1000 Companies Can Adopt Start-Up Thinking

These days, it seems like everyone and their best friend are hard at work at their start-up.
It’s become a nationwide trend, as coders, designers, and entrepreneurs join forces to bring their dreams to life. Many will fail, some will succeed, but along the way, they’ll learn some important lessons about leading teams, managing investors, and working smarter, not harder.
Increasingly, bigger companies are looking to their smaller rivals for a dash of the “wow” factor that makes the start-up experience so enticing for so many. Tight-knit teams, flexible working arrangements, eclectic workplace benefits, even company culture are all rubbing off on the big players, too, as they seek to keep their employees engaged and their teams running smoothly long past the point of start-up glory.
CMOs, too, can learn a lot from start-ups, and we’re seeing more and more marketing departments adopt some core principles from their bootstrapped brethren. Here are a few we think are worth considering, no matter the size of your organization:
Be an MVP. The legendary “minimum viable product” has become gospel in the tech start-up world since the launch of the Lean Start-up movement, which encouraged founders with a good idea to get their product out in the world as soon as it was ready for even the most basic of user interactions. One tech giant which once started quite lean is Alphabet (formerly Google), which maintains its lean start-up roots even today, launching products through its Google Labs that may not ever see the light of the day (or may blossom into fully-fledged components of its existing services.) Even Gmail, its wildly popular email service, started off as an MVP, so much so that its engineers weren’t sure they could support more than a few hundred original users. From a marketing standpoint, an MVP like Gmail is a brilliant idea—people granted an exclusive invitation spread the product through word-of-mouth while engineers get the chance to fine-tune any bugs before a mass public release.
Aim for love, not like. It seems self-explanatory: your customers should love your product, not simply like it. But for many companies, it’s simply easier to provide a satisfactory experience to a majority of customers rather than a truly superlative experience to a smaller few. But the difference between love and like becomes very clear when it comes time for customers to choose between your product and service and a competitor’s, or to recommend your product or service to a friend. Take Dunkin’ Donuts, for example, which has rated highest for brand loyalty amongst its competitors for nine consecutive years. Through consistent store experiences, a generous customer loyalty and rewards program, and convenient and quick service, the mid-market donut chain has shown that cultivating deep customer appreciation can pay off.
Be focused on your user, always. “Always focus on the user, and all will be well.” That’s the advice from Ev Williams of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium when it comes to launching a successful start-up on the web. But the rules apply to companies of all sizes and across industries. Just ask Shannon Eis of Yelp, who spoke with us recently about her company’s strong focus on the user, including advocating for legislative reform on their behalf. It’s a principle that will ensure that your core customer base understands that you are ultimately in business for them, not for yourself.

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