4 Unconventional Growth Hacks For Young Startups

Being in the startup position is fun at first, but it soon becomes a drag if no customers or sales are coming through and your dwindling budget isn't paving the way to profit. Marketing is the name of the game, but if you don't have big bucks to spend on more conventional advertising, then you need to get a little creative. Here we'll talk about a few unconventional ideas that other marketers have used to go from relatively unknown brands to some of the biggest in the world.

1. Guerrilla Marketing

This marketing method has gained notoriety lately because it's meant to be low-cost, full of imagination and highly imaginative. It's about creating a big impact that immediately captures the audience and gets them to look.

Bounty did this by installing a giant popsicle statue and then posting an ad near it. Frontline did this by putting a giant poster of a dog on the floor of a two-floor mall, so anyone looking down would see a dog covered in fleas/people. Burger King even took it online and created a fake Twitter fight that got people heated up.

It's all about doing weird things that people have to take notice of. Best of all, these methods are fairly inexpensive compared to running radio and TV ads. You can perform guerrilla marketing indoors, outdoors or even "ambush" marketing. This involves hijacking an event (usually without the event holder's permission, so be careful with this one) and making a big scene that people have to take notice of.

The name of the game here is imagination. Create something extreme but small and you'll see people's reactions. It's all about creating buzz, so don't be afraid to get a little weird.

2. Unconventional Torrenting

Like him or hate him, Soulja Boy did one brilliant marketing tactic that has to be noticed. Way back when, when Limewire was first introduced, most musicians were angry at the platform because it made it easy to download music for free. But not Soulja Boy. He took this software and ran with it.

He took his song "Crank Dat" and uploaded it, but with one big twist. He intentionally changed the title of the biggest songs of the day from Eminem and Brittany Spears. So, people thought they were downloading those songs, but they were really hearing Soulja Boy. This got him in front of millions of listeners, and the rest is history.

Now, torrenting is illegal, but you can see how just a tiny bit of subterfuge gave Soulja Boy a huge marketing edge. Don't be afraid to jump on trends and get yourself out there. Some people will be mad for sure, but the buzz you get will be worth it.

3. Make it Free

Do you provide a product or service that customers have to pay for? More than likely you do because that's the most logical route to profit, but sometimes making your product or service free actually leads to larger sales down the line. Take the case of Dropbox and Hotmail.

When Hotmail first started, most people paid for their email addresses (yes, this is very long ago). They ditched that and instead offered completely free email addresses to people with no strings attached. It didn't take long for them to go from a very conservative 20,000 users to over one million for obvious reasons. When the company was sold to Microsoft, they were worth millions of dollars, and they just make a simple change to their pricing structure.

Dropbox followed a similar route. While they offered small free packages, they required people to pay for more data. They quickly noticed that this pricing structure created an obstacle for people since they wanted more room, but didn't want to fork over their money.

So, Dropbox said that if people refer a friend, they will give them a data boost. This worked by dramatically increasing the number of customers that Dropbox had, while users were happy since they could store more files without paying anything.

Now, you shouldn't do this to the detriment of your company. This is a risky strategy because you will have to turn these free users into profit at some point and it doesn't always turn out that way, but this is a great way to get a boost in traffic.

4. Piggyback on Platforms

Here's another interesting case. Have you heard about how Airbnb went from a small company to a powerhouse through the use of Craigslist? It's true. Craigslist is one of the biggest websites in the world. Millions of people visit it every day to buy stuff, meet people, get jobs, find apartments and so much more. It's a national digital billboard for multiple services that's completely free for users and cheap for posters (if you're posting in one of the paid categories, many of them are free).

So, what did Airbnb do that was so brilliant? They used bots to post about their business and locations on any relevant board. This ensured that people found them and made use of their service. That's it. While bot use is a little involved and advanced, this isn't really that difficult or outlandish.

They just took advantage of a platform that willingly allowed them to post about their business. You can do the same exact thing. Your business isn't in front of millions of eyes, but you can post on websites where there are millions of users. This is why social media marketing is so big right now. This is basically the same premise, but you're using platforms other than Facebook or Twitter.


Startups are almost always low on money, it's the name of the game. However, you can make a big splash in the market if you just turn on your imagination and let your marketing get a little unhinged. From weird installations to using free platforms to do your bidding, it's pretty easy to apply these unconventional growth hacks to your business and make a big splash in the market.