As an angel investor, I see plenty of startups focusing on building an innovative product, but I'm looking for the few who are also leading with an exponential growth strategy, to put them in the category of the next Amazon or Google.
For example, I usually hear about an aggressive marketing budget, with a plan to penetrate a few big retail chains and some videos to catch your attention on YouTube.
What I want to hear is an innovative marketing and growth strategy that will set you apart in the minds of investors as well as customers. This strategy would likely include one or more of the following elements:
1. A plan to rollout innovative support for a worthy cause.
Today's customer is especially attracted to companies like Toms, which donates a pair of shoes for every pair it sells, or Patagonia, with its support for grassroots environmental groups. Let your highly motivated customers be your best marketing advocates for new customers.
2. Sponsor some friendly competitive events with prizes.
Everyone loves to compete and maybe even win something. Give customers incentives, rewards, and challenges as a way to have some fun, and they will talk about you and promote you. Examples include the Nike Run Club app with which people participate in challenges and win trophies.
3. Offer an alliance with competitors to expand the market.
Elon Musk and Tesla made its battery patents available to anyone, to clear the path for market infrastructure growth and compatibility, which of course benefits Tesla.
A mindset of killing your competitors is not always the key to expediting your own growth and success.
4. Initiate a visible campaign against a common competitor.
On the other hand, one of the best ways to strengthen your own community is to provide leadership against a common enemy. This could be fighting some government bureaucracy with your technology, or "supporting" unhappy customer efforts against an unpopular competitor.
5. Produce memorable product demonstrations or videos.
New products being used in unusual ways attract attention, buzz, and followers. Be sure to involve real people and real customers, such as GoPro cameras did, with user-generated demos and amazing aspirational videos. These can easily start new trends or capitalize on existing ones.
6. Build relationships and partnerships to expand your influence.
This one has been around for a long time, but I still see too many entrepreneurs trying to climb the mountain alone. Apple expanded its business exponentially with app developers, and Amazon found new ways to make its suppliers look and act like they are part of the business.
7. Provide and promote an exclusive community for influencers.
Like-minded people like to have a place to meet and talk to one another, both in cyberspace as well as the real world.
Think of these as the future version of the old "computer clubs," or today's multiplayer game platforms. These communities will dramatically amplify your own marketing.
8. Include marketing initiatives to educate and help customers.
Whole Foods, for example, has worked hard to establish itself as not just another grocery store but as a lifestyle choice. Innovative marketing content is focused wholly on healthy living and earth-conscious eating, rather than the conventional food product offerings and price.
9. Create experiential opportunities for desired customers.
Experiential marketing, also called "engagement marketing," invites an audience to interact with a business in a real-world situation.
Hermès, for example, used pop-up shops in New York and China to allow potential customers to try luxury things without having to go out of their comfort zone.
10. Market an image of exclusivity or premium only.
Believe it or not, Facebook started at Harvard and promoted its exclusivity to this school, and then slowly spread to others when rival social media platform MySpace was inviting everyone to join. Using this strategy requires a keen understanding of your market and timing to yield to customer desires.
As you may guess, many of these strategies can't be implemented as an afterthought once you have your innovative solution implemented. Thus investors like me are looking for a parallel and early plan that integrates your marketing strategy with your product.
If you really expect to be the next unicorn, on the basis of exponential worldwide growth, now is the time to start building that plan.