23 Unique Growth Strategies for Start-Ups to Try First

When guiding a start-up on its journey to growth, the wisdom of founders and CEOs can be invaluable. From targeting a niche market to developing a buyer persona, we’ve compiled twenty-three unique strategies from seasoned professionals to kick-start your company’s expansion.

  • Target a Niche Market
  • Participate in Industry Events
  • Leverage Social Media Marketing
  • Implement Referral Programs
  • Introduce Gamified Loyalty Programs
  • Form Strategic Local Partnerships
  • Foster Community Engagement
  • Employ Content Marketing
  • Highlight Unique Selling Points
  • Focus on Customer Value
  • Explore Influencer Marketing
  • Embrace Strategic Co-opetition
  • Exercise Trial and Error
  • Lean into Personal Networks
  • Invest in SEO Digital Marketing
  • Listen, Learn, and Adapt
  • Seek Capital Injection
  • Monitor Competitor Strategies
  • Utilize User-Generated Content
  • Build a Strong Brand
  • Engage Users with Empathy
  • Try a Reverse Freemium Model
  • Develop a Buyer Persona

Target a Niche Market

For a start-up in the custom apparel industry, I recommend focusing on a niche market as the first growth strategy. This allows for targeted marketing and building a strong brand identity. 

For instance, if they specialize in eco-friendly athleisure, they should leverage this unique aspect in all their marketing efforts. Collaborating with influencers or athletes who share the same values can also create a buzz and attract a dedicated customer base. It’s crucial to start small, understand your market deeply, and then gradually expand your offerings based on customer feedback and market demand. This approach not only conserves resources but also builds a loyal customer base that feels connected to the brand’s journey.

Nicolas Krauss, Founder and CEO, dasFlow Custom Sublimation Apparel

Participate in Industry Events

The effectiveness of any strategy you choose to implement or try depends on the startup’s unique value proposition, target audience, and industry dynamics. Experimentation, adaptability, and a deep understanding of customer needs are key elements of successful growth strategies for startups.

With that being said, a good first step for any business is to attend and actively participate in industry events and conferences. This provides networking opportunities, enhances brand visibility, and allows your startup to stay updated on industry trends. The more events you attend, the more people you meet, and the more your knowledge can expand.

Participating in events puts your startup in the spotlight, which not only increases brand visibility but also provides an opportunity to showcase your products, services, and innovations to a targeted audience, including potential customers and investors.

Curtis Feather, Founder, Franboost

Leverage Social Media Marketing

Social media has become an essential tool for businesses to reach a wider audience and promote their products or services. It allows start-ups to create a strong online presence, interact with potential customers, and build brand awareness. 

By using social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn, start-ups have the opportunity to target specific demographics and engage with them through creative and interactive content. 

Additionally, social media advertising is cost-effective and provides a measurable return on investment, making it an ideal strategy for start-ups with limited budgets. By implementing a solid social media marketing plan, start-ups can attract new customers, increase website traffic, and ultimately drive revenue growth.

Alex Capozzolo, Co-Founder, SD House Guys

Implement Referral Programs

Referral programs are easy and effective. Encouraging your current customers to recommend your product to others is an excellent growth tactic for startups. If someone likes your product, a recommendation from a person they trust is influential. It helps in building and nurturing a community around your product.

A startup’s budget is usually tight, so if you can save on customer acquisition costs through your loyal customers, it’s an opportunity worth taking. Many companies, big and small, use loyalty or referral programs to grow their customer base. Think about what you can offer in return. People generally appreciate good deals, so consider giving them discounts, bonuses, promo codes, branded gifts, or other valuable incentives for referring your business.

Precious Abacan, Marketing Director, Softlist

Introduce Gamified Loyalty Programs

For the start-up, I would recommend a gamified loyalty program as a growth strategy. Put in place a gamified system where users receive points for engagement, recommendations, and feedback, besides purchases. 

Gathering these points grants access to special advantages, generating a feeling of accomplishment and encouraging support. Include competitive and enjoyable elements to entice users to engage with your brand more. Because people are drawn to positive and fulfilling experiences, this strategy not only retains current customers but also attracts new ones. It separates your company by transforming client interaction into an engaging and fulfilling experience that generates a favorable feedback loop for ongoing expansion.

Ravi Sharma, Founder and CEO, Webomaze

Form Strategic Local Partnerships

It can be challenging to stand out in a competitive market. One unique growth strategy that I would recommend trying first is building partnerships with local businesses and organizations. By forming strategic alliances, you can gain access to a wider audience and increase brand recognition within the community. 

By collaborating with complementary businesses, such as interior designers, home renovation companies, or even property management firms, you can tap into their customer base and gain more exposure for your own business. Additionally, partnering with organizations such as local chambers of commerce or nonprofit groups can help you reach potential customers through events and promotions.

Mark Buskuhl, Founder and CEO, Ninebird Properties

Foster Community Engagement

For a startup embarking on the growth journey, here’s a unique strategy to carve out a niche: foster community engagement. Picture this: developing not only customers but a community of enthusiasts around your brand.

Start by creating a platform for dialogue. Encourage discussions, feedback, and user-generated content. It’s not simply a business about selling something but crafting an authentic story that people want to be included in. This strategy converts customers into brand evangelists, and word of mouth becomes your most powerful marketing tool.

It stands out in the crowded startup environment. A community approach not only drives business but builds a lasting relationship that goes beyond buying and selling. We’re not just in business; instead, we are a movement, and your startup is the leader.

Manish Shrestha, Founder, BiheBazaar Pvt Ltd

Employ Content Marketing

I’d say one of the most effective growth strategies would be content marketing. By consistently providing valuable insights and solutions through content, you establish your startup as an authority in your industry. 

Begin by pinpointing what your audience needs and what interests them. Then, develop quality content—think blog posts, videos, infographics—that addresses these areas. Distribute this content across various platforms like your website, social media, and email campaigns. 

This approach can steadily build a dedicated following, enhance your brand’s visibility, and promote organic growth. Drawing from my journey with The Content Authority, I’ve seen firsthand how effective content marketing can be in forging a robust online presence and fueling business expansion.

Shawn Manaher, Founder, The Content Authority

Highlight Unique Selling Points

The key to success is not just being different but also being memorable.

My advice to a start-up would be to find its unique selling point and leverage it as its growth strategy. It could be an innovative product, exceptional customer service, or a revolutionary idea. Whatever it may be, make sure it is something that sets your company apart from the competition.

In today’s saturated market, being able to stand out is crucial for long-term success. By focusing on your unique selling point, you can create a memorable brand and attract customers who are drawn to what makes your company unique.

Always keep in mind that growth is not just about increasing numbers but also about creating a loyal customer base.

Eric Eng, Founder and CEO, Private College Admissions Consultant. Business Owner, AdmissionSight

Focus on Customer Value

For startups, or any business in general, always remember that growth can be achieved if you’re selling and providing value correctly to your set of customers. If you’re good at retaining your customers, getting more out of their pockets, and always receiving positive feedback from them, you’ll always be profitable! 

Treat your customers as the king, and they’ll help you build your kingdom. Growth strategies focus aggressively on acquiring new customers, always running after new leads, and closing as many sales as possible, but catering to old customers with amazing value is the core of your business. You must analyze who your best customers are based on cost-to-serve, organic growth, and how mentally challenging it is to serve them. 

Now, if you regularly serve and sell more to your best customers, your startup will give you both—money and peace of mind. Since we’re talking about relationships, with new customers as well, impress them with your service and upsell during their first month. 

Once the new customer has faith in you, they won’t hesitate to try new products/services by you. As a business owner, you should know when to strike while the iron is hot. You’ll achieve more growth that way!

Jack Vivian, Chief Technology Officer, Increditools

Explore Influencer Marketing

For a startup, I’d recommend exploring influencer marketing as a unique growth strategy. Partnering with influencers in your industry can provide authentic endorsements and reach a broader audience. Leveraging influencers’ credibility can build trust, increase brand visibility, and drive user engagement, offering a distinctive approach to growth in the early stages.

In addition to influencer marketing, consider implementing a referral program that incentivizes existing users to refer new customers. Word-of-mouth recommendations carry significant weight, and a well-structured referral program can turn your satisfied customers into brand advocates.

Pascal Culverhouse, Founder and Managing Director, Electric Tobacconist

Embrace Strategic Co-opetition

I recommend a strategic co-opetition strategy for your startup. Identify key players in your industry and, rather than viewing them as competitors, look for collaboration opportunities. Form strategic alliances in which each participant brings unique strengths to the table while maintaining core interests. This cooperative competition promotes innovation, resource sharing, and market growth. 

By strategically developing partnerships, your startup can gain access to new markets, technologies, and customer bases. This approach not only challenges the traditional competitive mindset but also promotes an evolving ecosystem in which mutual growth is the primary focus. Embracing strategic co-opetition will bring your startup to the forefront of industry transformation, taking advantage of shared strengths for unprecedented success.

Scott Lard, General Manager and Partner, IS&T

Exercise Trial and Error

When advising a start-up, I’d suggest the good ol’ trial-and-error strategy. There are too many suggestions and tips on the market already. Do you need another one? The best way to navigate the journey to success is to try different ideas while sticking to a core vision. 

Try a niche in your industry, partner with known figures, or create a strong social media presence. The trick is not to restrict yourself, particularly in your initial days. You’ll find many business gurus who’ll advise you to go in one direction or the other.

While the specific approaches might have worked for them, they might not work for you. Success is a combination of many variables. Therefore, testing to find the right path gives you stability and flexibility in the long run. It lets you better understand your business and industry while creating a customized strategy. Plus, failures are your best lessons. The more you fail and learn in the initial stages, the smoother your later journey will be.

Faizan Khan, Public Relations and Content Marketing Specialist, Ubuy UK

Lean into Personal Networks

When launching a business, your visibility is likely to be non-existent. However, it’s imperative that you create visibility and word-of-mouth as soon as possible, and this can be done quite simply. Reach out to friends, family, and warm contacts. There’s no shame in asking for the help of those closest to you, and it provides a number of benefits. 

Firstly, it helps stress-test your new venture and iron out any issues that you may not have considered, but within the relative safety of a familiar relationship. Secondly, it can help generate positive reviews online and positive social media content, which helps raise your visibility. Thirdly, it can encourage genuine word-of-mouth and referrals for future business. Use tools such as LinkedIn to reach out to past contacts from school, university, or previous jobs, and consider inviting contacts from social activities, both online and in the real world.

Ryan Stone, Founder and Creative Director, Lambda Films & Animation

Invest in SEO Digital Marketing

I’d suggest going for digital marketing, especially focusing on SEO. SEO is key for tweaking your website and content to attract more organic visitors from search engines like Google. It’s a very effective and cost-effective growth strategy when done right!

SEO is incredibly effective for several key reasons. Case in point, digital ad spending is expected to surpass traditional ad spending this year, so focusing on SEO is a strategic move. If you think about it, the vast majority of consumers begin their search for products or services online, making high search engine visibility crucial. 

A good SEO strategy ensures that your startup not only attracts visitors but also the right kind of visitors who are more likely to be interested in your offerings. It’s also a cost-effective marketing strategy compared to traditional advertising, offering a higher return on investment over time.

Patrick Beltran, Marketing Director, Ardoz Digital

Listen, Learn, and Adapt

The best growth strategy for a startup is to “listen, learn, adapt” to the market. According to Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School, nearly 30,000 new products are introduced each year, and 95% of them fail. That’s because most founders are so in love with their ideas and vision that they don’t have a system to talk to the market, ask for feedback, understand problems to solve, learn, and adapt their ideas to what they learn. 

This way of thinking jeopardizes their ideas and entrepreneurship journey because founders push ideas to the market that might not solve a problem, facing massive rejection in the market and joining the club with a 95% product failure rate. 

Talk to as many prospective customers as possible, find the common asks and hesitations, and solve them with your product, value proposition, and messages. Listen, learn, and adapt to the market.

Jose Bermejo, Founder and Managing Partner, Predictable Innovation Strategy

Seek Capital Injection

Definitely get a capital injection! Getting financing, funding, or loans can really kick-start a business. That would be my advice because, from personal experience in my startup, obtaining a capital injection proved to be the most impactful growth strategy. Last year, we raised $3.75 million in seed funding, a major milestone. This round was led by Initialized Capital and included major investors like Khosla Ventures, Y Combinator, Schox, and Goodwater, significantly impacting our business and allowing us to focus on improving our intelligent workflow automation platform.

I believe this strategy is invaluable for startups because it provides essential resources for growth and development. With financial backing, startups can invest in technology, hire talent, and expand their market reach. It also offers a cushion to experiment with innovative ideas without immediate financial pressure. And remember, being backed by reputable investors can enhance a startup’s credibility and attract more attention in the market.

Lucas Ochoa, Founder and CEO, Automat

Monitor Competitor Strategies

To startup founders, I’d say to monitor your competitors first. Watching what your competitors are doing is a key part of growing your startup. There are several reasons why it’s smart to track your competitors. 

First, it helps you learn about their strategies. Second, your competitors might have already figured out solutions to problems you’re still facing. Studying how they’ve solved these issues can be like a shortcut for your business. Not paying attention to competitors is a mistake many startups make, and it can lead to failure.

Danilo Miranda, Managing Director, Presenteverso

Utilize User-Generated Content

Use user-generated content (UGC) to accelerate the expansion of your startup! Urge your clients to provide reviews, testimonials, and experiences on social media. UGC increases engagement and draws in new clients by fostering authenticity and trust. 

Take advantage of user-generated content by developing interactive marketing campaigns, competitions, or even online user stories. Incorporating your consumers into your marketing initiatives fosters a sense of belonging and loyalty. Thus, let your clients act as brand ambassadors, and watch as your startup achieves unparalleled popularity.

Michael Branover, Business Development Director, Branover Contractors Inc

Build a Strong Brand

The thing about choosing a growth strategy for your startup is that all startups are different. Each one will have different values, different customers, and a different product, meaning your growth strategy is not going to be the same as someone else’s. You need to clearly understand your product, your value proposition, and your customer needs before you go ahead and pick a growth strategy. This will ensure that you maximize growth potential according to your unique brand, product, and customers.

With that being said, in a hypothetical situation where I were to go in blind and choose a growth strategy based on past company results, one of the best ones is to build a strong brand. Building a strong brand will help you to create more consistency across different marketing channels and customer experiences, thereby helping you to build stronger relationships with your customers. Over time, this will translate to better retention and improved word-of-mouth growth, too.

Lauren Carlstrom, COO, Oxygen Plus

Engage Users with Empathy

Always lead with empathy for your end-user: think about where they live online and how you can add value in the natural course of their usage. 

Most people think about social media advertising and other traditional marketing channels, but spend time in their subreddits and Facebook groups speaking about your product in a natural way. That authenticity will lead to downloads, loyalty, and a deep connection with your end-users.

Drew Chapin, Partner, Commerce Media Studio

Try a Reverse Freemium Model

We would recommend the start-up implement a Reverse Freemium model. Instead of offering a basic version of the product for free and charging for premium features, reverse the traditional freemium approach. Provide a fully featured premium product for free initially, creating a buzz and attracting a substantial user base. 

This strategy capitalizes on the principle of reciprocity, where users feel a sense of obligation to reciprocate the value they’ve received. As the user base grows, the start-up can then introduce a tiered subscription model or additional paid services. By offering a premium product for free upfront, the start-up not only breaks through initial adoption barriers but also builds a user community that has already experienced the full value of the product. 

This approach can lead to higher conversion rates, as users are more likely to upgrade to a paid plan once they recognize the benefits they would be foregoing.

Neil Hodgson-Coyle, COO, TechNews180

Develop a Buyer Persona

Building a buyer persona is always the first step in developing a successful startup growth strategy, not the product or service. The foundation of every marketing strategy is identifying your target market.

You might, however, miss who you will sell to if you focus on the product’s ‘what’ first. Naturally, your product will fail.

Creating a buyer persona, not the product or service, is the first step in creating a successful startup growth strategy. Finding your target market is the cornerstone of any marketing strategy.

If you concentrate on the product’s ‘what’ first, you may overlook who you will sell to. Of course, your product will fail.

Axel Hernborg, Founder and CEO, Tripplo