Practical strategies to steadily grow your startup (competitors beware!)

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September 6th 2023

Practical strategies to steadily grow your startup (competitors beware!)

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It’s a hard fact to accept, but as any business owner knows, there are hundreds of other brands, companies, startups and side hustlers out there who do what you do. Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory, “survival of the fittest”, applies in the business world too.

The challenge then becomes — how do you stay relevant and stand out in this fiercely competitive landscape? How do you become the crème de la crème of your industry? This week on Parallel we’re deep diving into four practical strategies to steadily grow your startup, while leaving your competitors in the dust.

1 | Focus on brand awareness

To put it simply, brand awareness is why you know certain brands, and a lack of brand awareness is why you don’t know their competitors. When I say,“Coffee?” you say, “Starbucks.” Being creative and strategic is the name of the game. How can you ensure consumers recognise and remember your particular brand? What level of familiarity do people have with your brand's name, logo, and purpose? How do you make your brand synonymous with a service or product?

The simple fact is when consumers are aware of your brand, they are *more* likely to consider it when making purchasing decisions. Brand awareness is the credibility that gets customers through the door, and your delivery of your product builds the trust and consistency that keeps them coming back. So don’t be shy – let your brand stand out from the crowd. Speak directly to your target audience and create that unique identity that makes YOUR company’s name pop into people’s heads the next time a coffee run is suggested.

2 | Find your USP

All successful companies have one thing in common — a clear and straight to the point Unique Selling Proposition (USP).

Your USP is a key factor that differentiates you from your competition and ultimately drives consumers to your brand over others. Let’s start this article hot by telling you that every single day, whether we notice it or not, we are exposed to 4000 – 10,000 ads in different sizes, formats and locations. Yup – that’s a lot!

However, when you take into consideration how many businesses are out there on a mission to solve similar problems for similar audiences – the amount of ads starts to make sense. Now you understand why finding your USP is absolutely critical, right?

When consumers are on the market for the products and services you offer, everything can appear the same to them, just different company names. Your goal is to not be in that crowd but to stand out with a specific benefit that your competitors don’t commonly offer by constantly and cohesively pushing your marketing message while ensuring it reflects your mission, culture and values.

Think of Canva, for instance. Their marketing message states, “Empowering the world to design” – and they do exactly that*.* Canva empowers users with no design experience to create eye-catching presentations, websites, invitations, social media templates, and so on. Their ability to nail their USP is why it’s used by 135 MILLION people per month. So be like Canva, not a company lost in the crowd.

3 | Niche down your target audience

Charles Darwin does it again! When you’re on a mission of sustainable growth and staying relevant, you cannot be looking at the entire world as a funnel to find your people. “Oh, I’ll just invest thousands of dollars into ads so that they reach everyone and welcome whoever falls through” is not a strategy. Get your thinking caps on! It’s time to be intentional with your efforts to convert viewers to consumers. You need to know the age range, gender, location, values, frustrations and aspirational dreams of your specific audience if you want to forge a meaningful connection.

Niching down your target audience is a strategic move that holds unspoken importance in standing out from competitors. By focusing on a specific, well-defined niche, you create a stronger connection with your audience because you’re speaking directly to them.

It’s a win/win! Getting a deeper understanding of your target audience gives you invaluable insight into how to tailor your products, services, and communications to meet their specific desires and their needs. Not only that, but when you’re super specific about who you are targeting, you establish yourself as an authority and a go-to resource in that area. This credibility differentiates you from generalists who are just trying to gain attention from anyone – and instead cements you as connoisseurs of your specific industry.

Look at it this way: by tightening up your target audience, you’re reducing the competition. Niching down often means facing less competition compared to broader markets. This gives you the opportunity to dominate your niche and become the “it thing” in your industry.

4 | Work on community building consistently

We get it. Building a community can be tricky in the digital world where the average attention span has drastically decreased to 8.25 seconds. Bye YouTube, hello TikTok!

Though consistently working on community building holds a silent yet crucial importance in the growth and sustainability of any brand or organization. It creates a sense of belonging and loyalty among audiences, and when people feel valued and connected, they trust your brand and are more likely to keep coming back for more.

One of the biggest perks of curating a tight-knit community, is that they spill the tea on their positive experiences with their community. This organic word-of-mouth marketing can lead to a ripple effect of brand advocacy and new customers… and that is how you clear your competitors!

Plus it puts you in tune with a direct channel of genuine feedback and insights. By listening to your community members, you can refine your offerings, address issues and innovate based on their needs.

So while building a community no doubt takes time (more than 8.25 seconds!) and effort – the benefits are far-reaching. You’re definitely going to want to hire an experienced Community Manager whose role might look something like this. Remember: It's an investment in relationships that can shape your brand's reputation, drive sales, and provide a strong foundation for your business journey.

In the dynamic world of startups, where competition is piping hot, the journey to steady growth requires you to not just be innovative, but also have a strategic approach. Growth is not just about outpacing others, it's about establishing a firm foundation, building meaningful connections, and consistently delivering value to your people. By embracing and implementing these four practical strategies, you can pave a path that gradually pushes your startup to the top of consumer’s minds, and your competitors out of them.

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