Conventional wisdom says that if entrepreneurs want to be successful they should strive to create breakthrough tech products in new and huge markets.
Conventional wisdom is wrong.
Yes, it’s incredible when an entrepreneur develops a billion-dollar technology that changes the world and defines a new category of a business, but it’s also rare. Consider that fewer than 200 tech startups are valued at $1 billion or more right now. That’s right — just 200 out of all the startups out there have reached unicorn status. The chances of you starting one are slim. You have a greater chance of being struck by lightning.
What wannabe entrepreneurs often fail to see is that you don’t have to aim to be a billion-dollar company, start a new market from scratch, or create a breakthrough product. You can start with something you already love and know well, copy the existing products out there, and focus your energy on creative marketing.
This approach works because it puts the odds in your favor. Rather than taking on a big product and market risk, you copy what already works in markets that are already proven. This frees up resources to focus on being the best marketing innovator in your niche.
The challenge with this approach, of course, is that large, competitive markets tend to have well-funded, well-branded competitors. Fortunately, small bootstrapped startups have two advantages: speed and edginess. Startups can go from decision to action in just hours. Large companies, on the other hand, are almost never early adopters because of risk-aversion and decision inertia.
Being an early adopter is powerful because there’s less noise from other marketers and more curiosity from users who want to explore. In just the last year, Facebook made a major change to its newsfeed algorithm and created bots and instant articles. Instagram released a new direct-response ad product. Snapchat went mainstream. All of these are opportunities for startups looking for creative marketing opportunities.
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Being an early adopter was how my company, Travel Ticker, broke into the crowded travel space almost a year ago. When we launched, we were looking for ways to help our company’s marketing go viral. We saw the YouTube videos of two of the best rooftoppers in the word, Ivan Kuznetsov and Oleg Cricket, and knew we had to work with them. So, we offered to pay for a trip for them to anywhere in the world to record their next stunt if we could put it on our YouTube channel. They ended up recording themselves climbing the Eiffel Tower and walking, flipping, jumping, and doing handstands on ledges of skyscrapers across the world. That one campaign has led to over 17 million views across all media platforms and has been an incredible investment for us.
Time and time again, we’ve all seen strong brands emerge from creative marketing. For example, Helloflo, a feminine care product brand, went from less than $100,000 in revenue to more than $1 million with just two viral videos. Launched in 2014, it was acquired by SheKnowsMedia this year. DJ Khaled became a mainstream personality by being an early adopter of Snapchat. Finally, 14 months after launching, the Dollar Shave Club posted their first video to YouTube. That one video was seen over 23 million times and turned the company into a household name. This year, Dollar Shave Club was acquired by Unilever for $1 billion.
Instead of focusing on your big billion-dollar idea, focus on doing some really smart work with the tools that are out there. The number of social media and marketing platforms is exploding, and this means that there has never been a better time to succeed as a creative marketer.
Eimantas Balciunas is the co-founder and CEO of Travel Ticker.