It can feel like a David and Goliath scenario.
As a startup, you may be tempted to look at the established giants in your niche and believe you have no chance of beating them. They have the reputation, reach, and budget to acquire and retain customers.
But if the biblical allegory teaches us nothing else, it does demonstrate that an informed and savvy underdog can defeat a perceived champion.
Easy? No. Quick? Nope. But 100% doable.
How? By achieving organic growth.
No matter who or where you are, or how much money you have to work with, a sustained and focused plan to organically grow your audience, reputation, and customer base can deliver big, big results.
What is organic growth?
Organic growth refers to growth as a result of efforts achieved through internal efforts within a company, such as by means of creating higher-converting marketing content, increasing sales, and retaining more customers. Essentially, organic growth is growth that's achieved by the company, versus growth that's achieved through mergers and acquisitions or rounds of funding.
Organic growth generally achieves a higher rate of return for companies, but takes longer to achieve because it involves upfront marketing, sales, and customer service investments.
The black and white statistics for startups and new businesses can be a bit frightening at first glance:
- About two-thirds of businesses never see their tenth anniversary
- Approximately 80% of startups don't survive past a year
- Venture-backed startups have a 75% failure rate
You need to change the narrative. Put another way, one-third of new businesses make it to ten years, 20% of startups survive past 12 months, and 25% of venture-backed startups flourish and see a return-on-investment.
Doesn't that sound better?
Failure is a part of doing business, and the reasons for it vary: insufficient or lack of market research, poor planning, not enough capital, bad or misguided marketing, outcompeted, no demand, expanding too fast, and on and on.
You've got to plan and work for success. You've got to hustle.
In the business world of the 21st century, the tactic that levels the playing field is online organic growth. Generate leads, spread awareness, grow your reputation, acquire and retain customers, and produce advocates.
Ready? Let's do this.
5 Examples of Organic Growth in Business that Startups Can Achieve
1. Invest in a long-term content creation strategy.
There are no shortcuts, and you need to remember that going in. Successful businesses of any size play the long game, understanding that growth and profit may take some time.
- Longer blog posts generate 9x more leads than shorter ones
- 56% of B2B marketers increased spending on content marketing in the past year
- Cost-per-lead drops by as much as 80% within just five months of switching to content marketing, and it generates 4x more leads per $1000 spent within three years
- Business websites with an active blog have 434% more indexed pages, 97% more inbound links, and 55% more visitors than those without one
- 93% of the most successful businesses are extremely or very committed to content marketing, 76% of them use it to nurture leads, and 73% use it to build loyalty with customers
Source: Content Marketing Institute
That said, you're not going to dethrone the king with 1-2 blog posts. Invest time, effort, and whatever money you can. Create a concrete plan. Write it down and share with every stakeholder.
- Diversify your production beyond just written content (blogs, ebooks, articles): 64% of marketers have increased their budget for videos, webinars, and live-streaming in the past year.
- Create detailed buyer personas and deliver the content they want to the places they spend their time online.
- High-growth businesses are 2x as likely to conduct research and 75% more likely to have a well-defined niche.
- Consistently create and share high-quality, useful, valuable content to organically grow your audience and reputation.
None of this is fast or easy, but you get what you put in. Successful startups aren't afraid of hard work.
2. Experiment with emerging trends and strategies to beat established competitors.
Don't be intimidated by the big guys. They may have an existing audience and catalog, but their success can sometimes work against them. Maybe they've grown complacent. Maybe they don't put a premium on growth anymore. Maybe retention is not their strong suit.
As a startup, you can't outspend them, but you can out-hustle them. You can innovate, experiment, and think outside the box in a way that may either be impossible or ridiculously slow to implement for them.
Create better content. Visit the blogs of the biggest businesses in your niche, and you'll likely see the same subjects, topics, categories, and even headlines. This “me-too” stuff is safe, but boring, and you'll never stand out if you follow their lead.
Identify what works – an online search query or tool like BuzzSumo can instantly show you – then improve upon and expand it. Take it in a different direction. Make a video rather than an article. Share it with the people that made the inspiration piece so popular.
Cultivate your reputation as the expert for Topic X, and leads, customers, and fans will eventually come to you as your reputation grows.
Be fun, engaging, and different. Try new and emerging trends.
3. Strategize for growth, then execute.
Success and growth take planning. Make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to do – and how to accomplish it – with your content marketing. Have a better, more focused content strategy than the next guy or gal.
Only 39% of marketers have a documented content marketing strategy. That's an opportunity for you.
Source: Content Marketing Institute
To optimize for growth, build your strategy around pillar and cluster content for better SEO, user navigation, backlinks, and more.
A pillar page or piece is typically a comprehensive guide, post, or ebook on a broad topic. It's something that could be broken down into many smaller pieces, like Facebook Ads or how to build brand loyalty.
At Mailshake, we spent time, money, and effort creating our Cold Email Masterclass and Email Outreach Playbook. These are pillar pieces: they generate a lot of traffic, increase time on site/page, and produce a lot of quality backlinks and engagement.
Cold email is a big subject, though. Within those two pieces, there are many internal links to relevant sub-topics on our site, such as subject lines, follow-ups, and personalization.
That's cluster content.
Both the search engines and visitors love pillar and cluster content because it's easier for both to understand a subject and find what they're looking for. That's a major win for you.
Better, more convenient, more detailed content means more shares, more links, and ultimately, more growth.
Include a variety of topics and formats to keep your audience from getting bored, like blog posts, videos, podcasts, animated presentations, ebooks, images, charts, webinars, infographics, and more.
Build your content strategy around pillars and clusters from day one, and you're primed to drive massive organic growth.
4. Build relationships.
There are literally billions of people online. Audiences of thousands or millions already exist for others, and they're in constant need of quality content to share with their group.
You can use that to your advantage.
Build mutually beneficial relationships with editors and other content creators in your industry and niche. Using the Voila Norbert email finding tool is a must for building these relationships effectively. Leverage those relationships to get your content seen by a wide and far-reaching audience.
Going back to my point about playing the long game, this strategy is not a quick fix. But it's perhaps the most powerful way to increase awareness of you and your brand.
Make a list of the movers and shakers – both individuals and websites – in your niche. Those are the big fish. Set that aside for now.
Make another list with the lesser-known creators. Conduct a search query for the keyword or topic of your latest piece, and jot down the names and sites on the SERPs that you don't recognize.
Those are the other small fish hungry to grow their audience – just like you – and they'll be eager to use your content to do so.
Follow and engage with them on social media. Leave a comment on their latest blog post. Give them a compliment on a recent achievement. Share their best stuff with your audience. Find a broken link on their site and let them know.
Cold email is the best way to automate this outreach, and most providers allow you to personalize at scale. Don't forget to follow up if you don't get a response. And then follow up again. And again.
Establish a connection. Give without asking for anything in return.
Once the relationship is underway, include and link to them in your content, and notify them. They'll be happy to share. Ask them for a quote, a quick Q&A, or a longer interview. Pitch a guest post idea.
Help them, and they'll help you. Eventually, you'll be sharing each other's content without being asked.
Once you've established a network of small and medium-sized fish, you can start reaching out to the big ones from earlier.
5. Use technology to work smarter, not harder.
Avoid competing for the highest-volume keywords, and instead focus on the lower-volume – but higher-converting – ones. These long-tail keywords are easier to target and better reveal searcher intent.
Master the three dimensions of organic growth: investing, creating, and performing.
Because at the end of the day, David beat Goliath by knowing more and thinking it through.
That's the takeaway.
To learn more, read our list of more growth hacking strategies to try.