6 Key Growth Hacks Fortune 500 Companies Can Learn From Startups

Size isn’t everything. Fortune 500 are titans of industry, employing 17% of the population and frequently reaching revenues in the hundreds of billions. But when it comes to more successful and bigger companies, they are often troubled by issues such as bureaucracy, corruption, ineffective decision making, and not relating well to their customers


Economies of scale and a lack of competition allows for these inefficiencies in larger companies. Meanwhile, startups live, breathe, and die by how efficient they are, with half of small businesses failing within their first five years.

Startup founders need to claw their way into a market space and then generate enough value to remain relevant. This sense of perpetual danger keeps small business leaders sharp and is something that has created many survival growth hacks and mechanisms that even the biggest businesses can gain from.

Take Advantage of the Hype Cycle

Understanding customer enthusiasm is a key part of timing your business decisions and marketing campaigns properly. Gartner, a company specializing in research methodologies, has created a predictive chart that describes and roughly models how hype develops and dies.

Despite its reputation as a provider of sleek and hyped up products, even Apple occasionally misses the mark with some of its software, especially with the $100 million U2 album debacle.

The missing point here was that Apple assumed the desirability of the U2 album and didn’t correctly anticipate or try to influence (through hype generation) how its customers felt.

Give It Out For Free

Now, to credit big companies and fast food chains, a lot of them do a great job of creating an incentive for customers to return through coupons, buy one get one deals, promotions, and so forth. It’s easily observable that plenty of companies understand the principle behind “giving something out for free” to increase sales in the long run.

However, an innovative take on offering these products for free has to do with the “try it and pay if you like it strategy,” which Steam famously has capitalized on in its refund policies for games.

Expand and Engage Across Different Platforms

Customers are starving for engagement, 78% of Twitter users that engage a corporate profile expect a response within the hour. Diversification across social media platforms is relatively common and your company is at a significant competitive disadvantage if it does not have an extensive online presence.

Big companies often outsource their social media management to other agencies so that they can focus on developing and managing their business. However, this hampers that business’ ability to truly engage and get to know their customers in many cases because the members of the business have the most knowledge and expertise on their own products.

Understand When Bad Publicity is Good

“No press coverage is bad press coverage” is a motto frequently spoken by very sharp, expert marketers or people trying to shrug off negativity with no idea on how to use it to their advantage. Place yourself in the former group by being aware of the balance between bad publicity and sales. Bad publicity has been actually shown to increase sales significantly in particular cases.

A study from the Stanford Graduate School of Business claims that “For books by established authors, negative reviews, led to a 15% decrease in sales. For books by relatively unknown authors, however, negative publicity had the opposite effect, increasing sales by a significant 45%.” That means that when your brand is relatively unknown, bad publicity can actually be an important booster.

Differentiate and Innovate

You don’t want your business to exist in a market of pure or perfect competition. It might appear to be a basic point: if everyone is selling the same product as you with the same specifications, then there’s no real reason to buy your product in comparison to any of your competitors’ products.

Many times it comes down to a question of branding in what determines whether someone buys a Macbook, Lenovo, or Dell. Stunning visual appeal and aesthetic sense are often enough to seal the deal.

Revamp Customer Service

If your business has expanded greatly but hasn’t dedicated enough resources to create the infrastructure behind a disciplined and adaptive customer service team, you may be bleeding potential customers as a result. On the whole, businesses are losing $62 billion from bad customer service.

Every customer that stays counts when you’re in a startup, but when you’re operating from the perspective of a Fortune 500 company, it is easy to lose sight of customer service efforts due to the sheer scale of your business.