Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Life by Sam Huleatt

Startup Marketing Plan: The Role of Tipping Point Marketing in Web 2.0

berlin-field-tipping-point-marketing

In my last post I alluded to something I called tipping point marketing. This is a phenomenon that is hugely relevant to web 2.0 and well worth considering in early stages, in particular around a launch strategy. It’s something I am currently thinking through with Workstreamer.

There are a number of key industry events that have become literal ‘launch pads’ for new products and companies to debut. The best known is probably Techcrunch50, but others include DEMO, Web 2.0, and even South by Southwest.

The idea behind tipping point marketing is straightforward. A startup *could* spend $50,000 over five months attempting to organically drive traffic to its website: using Google and Facebook advertising, writing a blog, appealing to influential bloggers, etc.

However, a startup could instead choose to focus its efforts on exploiting key events, time periods and news that result in short massive bursts of new users and have the added benefit of momentum. Affiliation with certain events where influencers are guaranteed to show up could easily result in $50,000 of marketing/PR over just a few days — and often at significant discount (for example, Techcrunch50 is free for exhibiting companies).

I’m a big proponent of exploiting metrics and focusing on the 20% of tactics that provide 80% of your traffic. For example, this post will likely be my highest trafficked this week simply because I’m posting on Tuesday. Tipping point events are also great at producing momentum. Momentum is an often overlooked, but crucial component to helping something turn viral. Keep in mind that in the world of web 2.0 where attention spans are short, figuring out a plan for sustainable publicity is key.

While launching or demoing at major events is the principle area of focus for tipping point marketing, there are others. For example, creating a viral video that will get passed around, or driving a meme that gets picked up by TechCrunch, Mashable or even a big influencer on Twitter can drive more traffic to a site in 20 minutes than you might be able to get over two months of paying four interns to blog and implement a direct email campaign. The idea might be best summed up by the following: go to where the audience is, don’t try to build from scratch.

The tactics to tipping point marketing are similar to what bloggers refer to as creating linkbait. As an example of a company who’s had great success check out this post on Mint.com or consider the resounding success of GoDaddy who became big by focusing on the biggest event of the year – the Super Bowl. Here are some great tipping point strategies.

Of course there are downsides. First focusing efforts on big paydays can appear risky – and sometimes it is. By focusing on creating ‘publicity events’ rather than enacting a more traditional slow-and-steady approach results seem to lack consistency. Likewise it may be that the people you get from given tipping point events are not the right audience. It may be (just an example) that the people attending South by Southwest get excited at the event and register for services, but then never convert to paying customers. Also a focus on metrics needs to be balanced with a focus on building relationships. Finally, the ability to rapidly scale is necessary to handle the traffic a tipping point event can produce.

Startup marketers must do their homework and see what pieces of tipping point strategy — if any — make sense to test out.

—-Other Posts in this Series:

  • http://www.fastforwardblog.com/?author_name=pthornton rotkapchen

    It seems to me that a company would be better served by focusing on 'tipping point relationships' rather than marketing. Starting with attraction (different from awareness) you establish the necessary kinetic energy to then continue the design path to action, rinse and repeat. The full cycle is a relationship.

    Devoid of real relationships businesses will misinterpret their own market signals and potential.

    The strongest comment you made here is “go to where the audience is, don’t try to build from scratch.” That's an inherent part of 'follow the energy' , or 'energy for free' — the essence of emergence (a primal element of 2.0).

    And true Web 2.0 leverages a LOT of non-online elements…

  • http://www.leveragingideas.com Sam Huleatt

    @rothkapchen Paula I agree with you here from a sustainability
    perspective. Though cliche, it's a balance.

    As an example, one thing I struggle with is on the relationship
    end…I could write a blog post that would appeal strongly to a few
    people and generate a great conversation in the comments. Strong
    relationship appeal. However, I could also spend considerably less
    time, and post a few Tweets that would would be read by hundreds. It's
    sort of like online advertising…you can go after conversions or
    awareness. I'm know what's best long-term but with limited resources
    it's tough to know what's best

    “Devoid of real relationships businesses will misinterpret their own
    market signals and potential” – Great point and eloquently stated.

  • http://www.fastforwardblog.com/?author_name=pthornton rotkapchen

    Don't confuse a conversation (acquaintance) with a relationship. I sketched a model last night that I need to find time to draw up and talk about, but let me do a quick narrative to see if I can tell the story effectively. Interestingly, now that I look at the model, 'relationship' is not represented, but hang with me just for grins.

    This story comes from the perspective of the individual rather than “marketing”. Any sense of 'driving' is controlled by the individual. They're driving a “Discovery” vehicle wheeled on one side by “Need…Interest” (which has both “aware” and “unaware” elements) and on the other side by “Action…Interaction”. Each of the elements energy/movement fuels the others. The path traversed is the “Experience”. They can move forward, backward, go in circles (which may or may not be frustrating — it may be part of their own “decision dance”).

  • janyx

    I was looking for 'the long tail' and ended up on a site for 'the tipping point'.

    I think a very important thing to consider with web 2.0 is the relationship between your 'long tail' niche(s) and the audience you are trying to engage.

    Godaddy works because it lets you buy something you NEED (i.e. domain registration and web hosting) very cheaply – I feel it has less to do with the SuperBowl as I'm an Australian and Godaddy is still king for cheap domains/hosting here basically through word of mouth.

    My point is in web 2.0 the product should be its own marketing. There is a good post about designing websites with this in mind here -

    http://www.demonzmedia.com/DemonzBlog/?p=12

    I particularly like the threadless t-shirts example. The whole thing works on the principle of letting users design t-shirts, having the other users vote on the designs and then having those voters buying the t-shirts. It is the pure embodiment of good web 2.0 / social network design for products.

  • janyx

    I was looking for 'the long tail' and ended up on a site for 'the tipping point'.

    I think a very important thing to consider with web 2.0 is the relationship between your 'long tail' niche(s) and the audience you are trying to engage.

    Godaddy works because it lets you buy something you NEED (i.e. domain registration and web hosting) very cheaply – I feel it has less to do with the SuperBowl as I'm an Australian and Godaddy is still king for cheap domains/hosting here basically through word of mouth.

    My point is in web 2.0 the product should be its own marketing. There is a good post about designing websites with this in mind here -

    http://www.demonzmedia.com/DemonzBlog/?p=12

    I particularly like the threadless t-shirts example. The whole thing works on the principle of letting users design t-shirts, having the other users vote on the designs and then having those voters buying the t-shirts. It is the pure embodiment of good web 2.0 / social network design for products.

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  • http://www.myonlinestartup.com My Online Startup

    Interesting concept. There does come a point when a companies marketing will either reach a tipping point or disappear – especially if it is 'social' marketing. What is more interesting is what causes 'marketing' to catch on and tip. In my experience it only take one strong connector to make it take off.