Last Updated: November 18, 2020
It is only recently that entrepreneurship has been studied as its own distinct category of business. The amazing success of once small companies like Microsoft, Virgin, and Dell has revealed that entrepreneurship is its own class of business with many unique challenges and opportunities. As the field has received more and more focus, specific strategies for successful entrepreneurship have begun to emerge.
The primary challenge facing the entrepreneur is competing against larger, better known, and more resourceful companies. How can a start up with a small staff, limited budget, and miniscule customer base hope to compete against the giants in their industry? They do this by turning their weaknesses into their strengths. By their very nature, start-up companies can be more flexible and unorthodox than their major competitors.
Marketing is one area where entrepreneurs can actually define a unique identity for themselves. Think of all the clever ads that came out of the first wave of Internet start-ups. Pets.com, for example, was able to turn a simple sock puppet into a nationally recognized spokesperson. Since marketing is a tool that is available to any business willing to invest in it, it is one of the best ways for emerging companies to define their image in the minds of consumers.
What is entrepreneurial marketing?
Entrepreneurial marketing is less about a single marketing strategy and more about a marketing spirit that differentiates itself from traditional marketing practices. It eschews many of the fundamental principles of marketing because they are typically designed for large, well established firms. Entrepreneurial marketing utilizes a toolkit of new and unorthodox marketing practices to help emerging firms gain a foothold in crowded markets.
Marketing Strategies for Entrepreneurs
In competitive markets, it can be easy to get lost in the crowd. One of the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs is standing out from their competitors. Marketing in new, unusual, or aggressive ways is the best way to illustrate what makes a business unique. Below are some marketing strategies that entrepreneurs have used successfully in the past. A company can direct all of its marketing efforts towards one strategy, or use several of them at once.
- Relationship Marketing – Focuses on creating a strong link between the brand and the customer.
- Expeditionary Marketing – Involves creating markets and developing innovative products. Companies act as leaders rather than followers.
- One to One Marketing – Customers are marketed to as individuals. All marketing efforts are personalized.
- Real Time Marketing – Uses the power of technology to interact with a customer in a real time.
- Viral Marketing – Places marketing messages on the Internet so they can be shared and expanded on by customers.
- Digital Marketing – Leverages the power of Internet tools like email and social networking to support marketing efforts
Many entrepreneurial marketing strategies are born out of necessity. New businesses might have 10, five, or just one person working on their marketing efforts. They work within limited budgets and have access to a fraction of the resources that their major competitors have. Luxuries like graphic design teams and advertising consultants are often outside the means of start-ups, requiring them to find ways to make the maximum impact with limited resources.
The most common features of entrepreneurial marketing include innovation, risk taking, and being proactive. Entrepreneurial marketing campaigns try to highlight the company’s greatest strengths while emphasizing their value to the customer. Focusing on innovative products or exemplary customer service is a way to stand out from competitors. They make this pitch using cheap and accessible tools including viral videos, Tweets, Facebook pages, and email marketing. Any and all marketing strategies can be considered as long as they produce results. (See also Guerrilla Marketing)
Who implements entrepreneurial marketing?
Entrepreneurial marketing is best defined by the types of companies that use it. The easiest way to identify an entrepreneurial marketing effort is to look at the company doing the marketing. Start ups and emerging companies use entrepreneurial marketing to help establish themselves in emerging industries.
It is important to distinguish these businesses from small businesses. While they do start small, their goal is to grow rapidly and to become major players in their industry as quickly as possible. This is drastically different from a restaurant or machine shop that may be content to stay small forever. Growth is the primary goal of entrepreneurship, and marketing is the primary means for growth. (See also Expeditionary Marketing)
The marketing strategies used by emerging business are not unique to them though. In fact, many major companies use some of the same strategies. Nike and Burger King have both used viral marketing to great effect. Major businesses use these strategies out of opportunity while entrepreneurs use them out of necessity.
Zappos.com, an Internet shoe store, was able to popularize online shoe shopping by offering free, easy returns. By highlighting this innovative service in their marketing, they were able to reassure customers who were unsure about buying shoes they could not try on. They now sell millions of dollars worth of shoes every year.
Dell Computers: A Case Study in Entrepreneurial Marketing
In 1984, a college student named Michael Dell decided to found a computer company. Today it is one of the largest and best known computer companies in the world. Below are some of the steps that Dell took in its earliest stages to get noticed in the computer market.
- Define your customers – Dell realized early that there was a hole in the market for customized business computers. Their first products were marketed to large and midsized companies looking to purchase many computers at once. It was only in the late 90s that they began to focus on personal computers for students and families.
- Offer something new – In the early 80s, computers were bought and sold primarily through retail stores. Dell took the then radical step of selling directly to consumers, cutting out the retail middle man. This made it easy for business customers to place large orders and to customize each computer they purchased.
- Go to where the customers are – Dell marketed at electronics trade shows, in trade magazines, and in other avenues that corporate technology officers would follow. Advertising messages highlighted the ways that Dell computers were optimized for business customers.
- Offer exceptional services – Dell offered 24 hour technical support to all of its customers. This was a valuable service to customers who were only beginning to integrate computers into their businesses.
How is an entrepreneurial marketing plan developed?
Marketing plans can only develop after a company determines several aspects about their business model. They must understand the core mission of the company, which customers they will target, and who their competitors are. Making a careful self-analysis can help emerging businesses define their place in the market and set realistic goals. The type of business a start-up strives to be will also affect its marketing decisions. If a company decides that it will market to professional business customers, it probably won’t use funny viral videos on Youtube.
The details of the plan will depend largely on the particular marketing strategy that a company chooses. The strategies of relationship marketing are significantly different than viral marketing (See also Relationship Marketing). It is important to define which type of marketing to focus on, and then concentrate all efforts in that area. A comprehensive marketing plan helps companies to maintain this focus as they revise their strategies. Most marketing plans do not cover more than a year’s worth of time because start-ups face such uncertain circumstance, requiring businesses to be flexible and open to quick changes.
Entrepreneurial marketing plans are based on input from every aspect of the company — from production, to finance, to personnel. In order to succeed, start-ups should work in a coordinated way to use their resources as efficiently as possible. Marketing decisions must reflect the real world circumstances facing the company.
Metrics used to evaluate the marketing plan should reflect the goals of the company. These goals can range from maximizing profits, to reaching the broadest customer base, to redefining a particular market. Each goal will require a different marketing strategy and be evaluated on different terms. Emerging companies have to set quantitative targets for themselves and then revise their strategies if those targets are not met. Otherwise, growth is impossible.
Careers in entrepreneurial marketing
What do they do?
Salaries of Entrepreneurial Marketers
- Product Manager
entry level – $50,000 – $75,000
after 10 years – $80,000 – $110,000
- Strategic Planner
entry level – $50,000 – $75,000
after 10 years – $80,000 – $130,000
- Marketing Manager
entry level – $50,000 – $100,000
after 10 years – $80,000-$120,000
Product managers are most common in businesses that offer multiple retail products. They are responsible for developing new and existing products based on market research and the company’s goals. Product managers will work closely with marketing professionals to better align a company’s offerings with their market position. While not explicitly a marketing position, product managers are very concerned with what will sell and how best to sell it.
Education and Skills
The education required of a product manager depends largely on the industry they work in. Most have bachelor’s degree in business administration, marketing, industrial design, or computer science. The most important skill they will need is the ability to think strategically. Regardless of the product, they must be able to guide it from the design phase through its introduction into the market.
What do they do?
Strategic Planners develop corporate strategies to increase growth and profitability. Most entrepreneurs will employ a strategic planner to help them as they grow from small to large businesses. Planners will make decisions about a number of business decisions, including marketing efforts. They do not create ads themselves, but identify new opportunities and methods for marketing.
Education and Skills
Almost all strategic planners have MBA degrees. They also usually have supplemental education in specialized areas of business or the industry they work within. Most will have personal experience and at least an informal education in marketing.
What do they do?
Marketing managers are responsible for supervising every aspect of the marketing process. In entrepreneurial settings they may be responsible for small teams or take responsibility for all marketing themselves. Their duties include carrying out market research, approving images and text, and negotiating rates for ad space. They will also play a central role in developing marketing plans.
Education and Skills
A degree in marketing will be necessary for any marketing manager. Generally, 3-5 years of experience writing copy, conceptualizing ads, and carrying out market research will be necessary before becoming a manager. Additional studies in business and entrepreneurship can also be helpful. Strong creative, technical, and managerial skills are all necessary traits of the marketing manager.
How can a marketing school help you succeed?
Our Recommended Schools
The new interest in entrepreneurship is not limited to MBA programs. Marketing departments have started to look at entrepreneurial marketing as a unique and worthwhile area of study as well. It helps that many emerging businesses often use the Internet and new media as key components of their marketing strategy. Digital marketing has been the most significant new trend in marketing in the last 50 years. (See also Digital Media Manager)
Specific classes in entrepreneurial marketing are mostly limited to the graduate level. But undergraduate degrees can still provide a solid foundation in marketing theories and practices. Having to work with fewer resources, both financial and intellectual, makes it vital for entrepreneurs to understand the principles of marketing.
Entrepreneuriars must have a variety of skills to help their growing companies suceed, such as graphic design, copywriting, social media, and search engine optimization strategy. Formal and ongoing training is the best way to acquire the new marketing skills that emerging businesses are looking for.
New Businesses in America
There are hundreds of thousands of new businesses that open their doors every year in America. This chart, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, illustrates how the number of new businesses has changed over the last 15 years. Despite a dip during the recent recession, it is clear that the spirit of entrepreneurship is still thriving in America.