Denver Startup Week celebrates the entrepreneurial spark that our city is known for, and 90octane joined the events this year to hear the buzz in our local startup community. Hustling to disrupt major industries and challenge the status quo, startups have to keep their ears to the ground for opportunities to pull ahead. Even the most powerful enterprise brands can draw valuable insights from their scrappy up-and-coming peers.

Considering this, here are four ideas to keep in mind as we run full-steam toward the end of the year.

1. Small voices grow loud if you showcase enough of them.

Any marketer looking to tap into digital word-of-mouth might be star-struck by a big-name “influencer” with a professional blog, millions of Instagram followers and a $5K price tag to pose for a photo with a protein bar.

Yet Lyle Stevens, CEO of influencer marketing startup Mavrck, rejected this idea, challenging marketers to focus instead on creating opportunities for micro-influencers (namely, current customers) to share authentic experiences with their brands. This both generates content that can be scaled and repurposed across channels and engages customers—even the ones who don’t have their own hashtags—to speak on behalf of your brand and tell your story.

— Erin Smith, Storyteller

2. Show, don’t tell.

Daniella Yacobovsky, co-founder of the personalized jewelry provider BaubleBar, shared how her team overcame a major fundraising obstacle. Investor pitches were mostly delivered to men who didn’t see the appeal of having personalized accessories delivered to their door. Worse, the BaubleBar team wasn’t getting the opportunity to discuss goals, numbers or successes because they were stuck explaining the basic draw of their offering to people far outside their target audience. Then they hit upon an idea: If “telling” these investors about BaubleBar wasn’t working, why not “show” them instead?

They started sending thank-you packages of BaubleBar accessories to the women who facilitated these investor meetings, making sure the deliveries arrived in their offices after each appointment was confirmed and before it was held. The effect was immediate. Investors no longer needed to ask whether the idea had value because they’d seen their colleagues’ excited faces upon receiving the packages. Having vaulted that hurdle, the BaubleBar team was able to have deeper, more compelling conversations with investors, which lead to more money raised. It goes to show that a problem that seems impossible to solve can be overcome with creative thinking.

— Becca Zukowski, Employer Brand Manager

3. Strive for emotional connections in B2C and B2B.

Whether you’re a startup or an established company looking to break into a new space, you’ve probably considered how to capture market share from well-established competitors. The panel of entrepreneurs who discussed this issue agreed that building emotional connections with buyers through a seamless user experience is the strongest way to achieve differentiation.

Their suggestion for companies working to accomplish this? Draw on emotion to establish your niche in a community whose needs align with the problem your business solves—before looking to expand to other audiences. For instance, craft marketplace Etsy found success by targeting a do-it-yourself community that was deeply dissatisfied with eBay’s user experience. As another example, an energy startup made it easy for their partners at large utility companies to share research and insights with teammates and decision-makers, demonstrating empathy and reinforcing the value of those partnerships. Whether you operate in B2B or B2C, it’s always valuable to tap into emotion.

— Kelsey Fielding, Account Director

4. Think outside the box when it comes to digital measurement.  

Return on investment may be a simple, dollars-to-dollars measure, but it is not the only way to demonstrate value. With this in mind, a panel including experts from Facebook, Google and local firm Red Door Interactive discussed additional ways to show and boost effectiveness.

For instance, audiences that don’t perform can still be valuable. Measuring and reporting on these audiences can help you understand how to optimize for stronger success in the future. Also, don’t let a hyper-focus on conversions distract you from informative mid-funnel metrics. Try reporting on “educated visits” from users who show strong onsite engagement but aren’t ready to convert. Not only will this help you gauge consideration, but high numbers of educated visits may mean that you need to reevaluate how you measure conversions or optimize to improve the rate. Having a results-driven mentality doesn’t mean you should ignore opportunities to learn along the way.

— Amanda Christensen and Kelsey Brown, Social Media Strategists

Looking for more insights to help you keep your finger on the pulse of what’s ahead for your industry? Reach out to us.

Even the most powerful enterprise brands can draw valuable insights from their scrappy up-and-coming competitors.