Younger, smaller or faster growing companies approach marketing differently than larger, older, and market-leading companies. There is a unique urgency in their marketing efforts.  This often manic energy is all about selling more, and selling it right now!   In the larger, but fast-growth companies it can often create a noticeable anxiety among the marketing and sales staff, who feel tremendous pressure to perform at their peak — continuously. In the smaller, more entrepreneurial establishments, it can feel like the cult of over-caffeinated enthusiasm – contagious, and collaborative, but requiring constant injections to maintain its high intensity.

The reason for this pervasive marketing energy, not found in larger, more established companies, is a sense that the company is behind, and needs to catch up in order to survive. There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach. In fact, it can be the foundation of something truly remarkable, like Apple, Google, and any number of other legendary start-ups. However, if a company just defaults to this approach without consciously considering its benefits and pitfalls, they can rapidly burn up their greatest resources – their staff. Here are the entrepreneurial marketing traits that characterize this approach. Each trait has a positive benefit, and a negative pitfall.

  1. Speed vs. Haste: Breaking into a market effectively and then staying ahead of the competition requires that you be faster than the nearest competitor, and if your intention is to overpower the market leader, faster than anyone else. But this speed must be sustainable and it must be directed. Speed without direction is just haste, which creates poor decisions, sub-par execution, and can even bring a company to its knees.  Speed looks ahead, sees the hurdles, and leaps over them while preparing for the next one. In marketing terms, speed knows that it needs to gain competitive insight, understand the customer’s needs, and build communications that reach the customers where they are.
  2. 2. Intensity vs. Mania: Entrepreneurs are an intense breed. They are passionate about their products and the solutions they provide. Sometimes, however, they have a tendency to lose focus on the customer and their needs, and get swept up in their evangelical message. There is a distinct difference between a brand that builds an attractive solution, then ensures the market is aware of it, and a brand that is constantly pushing and hard-selling their market. Attraction (what’s in it for the customer) always wins out over promotion (talking, talking, talking about you).
  3. Focus vs. Rigidity: A measurable, clearly defined objective is the directing force behind successful entrepreneurial marketing – and what converts haste into speed. Companies that keep their eye on the goal, and align all their marketing activities to that goal, can rarely help but succeed. The challenge is that the market can change – sometimes overnight – due to new technologies, regulations, or economic conditions. Entrepreneurial organizations are inherently nimble, and able to adapt their goals quickly, if they are careful not to become too married to the goals in the first place.
  4. 4. Realism vs. Optimism: As an entrepreneurial company is establishing its track record, anything seems possible. Indeed, it is. However, the more history behind it, the clearer the limitations it actually is operating within become. It bumps up against a lack of capital investment, against customer service challenges, or product delivery and implementation setbacks. In these cases, optimism is not a company’s friend. In fact, too much optimism will turn quickly into pessimism and disillusionment, eroding it internally. Realism recognizes the inherent weaknesses in the system, and works, not only to resolve them, but to adapt the company’s marketing to focus on the strengths while the weaknesses are being addressed.
  5. 5. Creativity vs. Inanity: It is inescapable. To be noticed, and to be noteworthy, we want to do something truly original, and truly creative – as original as the company it will represent. The quest for the “Original Idea” can often trump the message to be delivered. We have all heard the stories about ads where we remember the spot, but have no idea what company it was for. That is the most glaring example of inanity as a result of the quest for creativity.
    The other danger, inherent in this quest for creativity, is that it can be at the expense of the brand identity. When every ad, every email, and every direct mail all look different, and none of them look a thing like the company website, or corporate brochure, then a company begins to enter an identity crisis in the eyes of its customers.
    The successful entrepreneurial organization finds a creative platform it can truly stand on, and trust that it will be strong enough to carry them and their message across the finish line.

When a company has speed, focus, intensity, realism and true creativity in its marketing efforts, it is a safe bet that these traits are found throughout the organization. They are the singular traits found in companies that started small and indeed became the giants they had decided to become.