Play to Strength

Embrace Constraints

An important part of bottom-up mindset is embracing constraints. Startup marketers must learn to make the most of what they have. They can’t fight Business Goliaths like another Goliath. The must fight Goliath like David. Fortunately, embracing constraints and finding your own way to compete often unleashes the creative power of winning tactics. In the Bible story, David didn’t like Goliath’s armor and weapons. Goliath’s armor is too heavy and David doesn’t know how to use the weapons very well. So David asks himself, “What do I have that I can use?” “Well, I have some stones, a sling, and a man-cloth; what can I do with those?” The tactics he hits upon are legendary. Without the heavy armor and dressed in his man-cloth, David easily dodges the spears thrown by Goliath. With the sling and stones, David easily hits Goliath in the forehead and knocks him out. With the giant’s own sword, David easily cuts-off Goliath’s head.

Using the same marketing tactics as bigger competitors gives the bigger competitors a huge advantage. Learn to “play to strength.” “Me too” tactics are just as bad as “me too” products. Startup marketers DON’T ASK, “What are my competitors doing and how will I match it?” Startup marketers DO ASK, “What do I have that I can use and how will it make my competitors irrelevant?”

The Case of Stonyfield Farms

Stonyfield Farm Yogurt founder, Gary Hirshberg, hit a rough patch in building his company. He didn’t have a big marketing budget for promoting his products or his brand. Facing the challenge of no marketing dollars, he asked himself, “What do I have that I can use and how will it make my competitors irrelevant?” His answer was, “I have some cows and a farm.”

First, Gary began publishing a Moosletter and then launched an Adopt-A-Cow program. The Adopt-A-Cow program, now renamed Have-A-Cow, allowed consumers to learn about the importance of supporting family farms, the link between our food and our environment, and sustainable farming methods by getting regular emails from their cow. It also helped a lot of consumers gain awareness of the StonyField Farm Yogurt brand and sold a lot of yogurt. Other competitors sold yogurt, but StonyField Farm sold yogurt from little-farm cows with back stories and bigger-than-life personalities. Gary Hirshberg is the type of person that makes the most of what he has and finds every opportunity to elevate his products and vision. Several years before launching the Adopt-A-Cow program, he heard a well-know Boston radio host, Andy Moes, tell his listeners that he’d rather eat camel manure than yogurt. Gary stopped by a farm, picked up some camel manure, drove into the radio station, and then gave Andy a choice – manure or yogurt. Andy choose yogurt and gave free airtime and Promotion to Stonyfield Farm Yogurt. Starting with a small farm and only a handful of cows, Stonyfield Farm Yogurt now earns $360 million in annual revenue, assists hundreds of family farms, and is a world leader in supporting organic farming.