Seven Guerrilla Tactics to Supercharge Your Startup

Startups face a multitude of challenges including limited resources, fierce competition, product validation, scaling and hiring. These challenges are more pronounced in the current economic climate where resources are increasingly scarce. It is, therefore essential to be bold, assertive and unconventional. The following guerrilla style tactics will help you push the envelope and give you an edge over your competition. Every tactic is illustrated with an actual example including my own personal experience.

1. Leverage social proof

Customers and investors follow the herd more often than not. If you can show that reputable individuals or entities believe in your startup, others are likely to follow. Be bold and approach famous or influential personalities with offers they can’t refuse. When I started Yaya Village, a resort for elite athletes, I approached one of the most famous and successful athletes of all time, Haile Gebrselassie and offered him a share of my company, with no payment or promotional services in return. My bet paid big time, as the resort started receiving thousands of guests weekly, less than a year after going operational. With Haile’s name behind it the company had no problem raising funds or getting credit from banks. In fact, most people assumed the resort was owned by Haile.

2. Piggybacking on Trends

 Identify emerging trends or news stories relevant to your industry and find creative ways to piggyback on them. This could involve creating content that ties into the trend or offering a unique perspective. Startups might assume that since they are small and unknown the big media would not be interested in their story. This however is not true. If you can find an angle, the media is hungry for stories that are inspiring and interesting. I was able to get an article in The New York Times simply because I aligned my efforts with a trending subject at the time. In 2013, Ethiopia was all over the news as a rising star in Africa. I was able to frame my company, Yaya Village as part of this trend and got significant exposure. It does require contacting dozens of media properties with an interesting twist.

3. Offer free service with a catch

Offering free service has been a staple tactic among many Internet based companies. It removes a major barrier to adoption, and only the quality of the service will determine the success of the company. In the late 90’s when I was running NetNation, a web hosting company, I faced fierce competition from companies all over the world. However, the biggest competition came from a company called that decided to offer free domain name registration. Once they acquired million of users they started offering paid services, which led them to an IPO with a market cap of over $2 Billion USD. Another example is a restaurant in Burnaby, Canada that offered free meals, the caveat being you need to finish it. It was a large meal, so very few people ended up getting a free meal, but it did generate a buzz and often can see people lining up outside of their door.

4. Copy then perfect

Steve Jobs once said “Picasso had a saying – ‘good artists copy; great artists steal’ – and we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.” If you are a startup with a limited budget, don’t waste precious resources on re-inventing the wheel. Identify your top competitors and simply copy everything including website, marketing, operations, and financial model. As long as you are using publicly available information, there is nothing illegal or unethical about this practice. Once you are up and running, you can adjust things to your own liking.  Rocket Internet is a company famous for copying successful companies and selling them back to the company they copied. They sold Alando to Ebay for $43M 100 days after going operational. They sold CityDeal to Groupon which was also a clone of the buyer.

5. Social media hacks:

Burger King launched a bold campaign on Facebook called “Whopper Sacrifice,” where users were encouraged to delete ten friends from their Facebook friends list in exchange for a free Whopper. This controversial campaign garnered significant attention and engagement. IHOP restaurant printed a banner by purposely misspelling their name as IHOB and placing it prominently on their building. Many people were shocked to see a big company making such a mistake. Many were taking pictures and posting it on their social media accounts. It was even in the local news. At the end, they announced that it was done purposely to promote a new location they were opening. Their sales skyrocketed following this guerrilla marketing campaign.

6. Google search SEO Hack

Have you ever noticed whenever you search for a certain subject, the same website comes up over and over again? This is what happens when you own your niche. The best way to get loyal fans and customers and be discovered on Google Search’s first page is to be seen as an authority in your niche market. One way to do this is by creating a blog where you make a post about your subject every single day. This can be done using AI to write the content with a minor edit to put your own twist. If you dedicate 2 hours every week, you can easily generate 7 blog posts in one sitting, which you can put in a backlog and have it automatically posted every day. Eventually your blog post will have the answer to every question a person might have regarding your niche, and you should be ranking very high on Google Search. I did this as an experiment for a local real estate company, their ranking shot up to the first page in under 6 months. The secret is to make sure every post has a personal angle to it, otherwise it won’t pass Google’s AI detectors.

7. Give equity to your employees

One of the biggest challenges for startups is finding the right employees with the limited resources they have. I have always been a believer of giving equity to employees. This will align the employees’ incentives with that of the company. Research has shown giving employees equity reduces turnover, increases productivity, reduces cost and employees are happier. In my first startup, NetNation, 10% of the company was owned by employees. They were given a stock option to be vested above a certain price and over 3 years. If an employee leaves within the first year, no stock option is given. When NetNation got listed on Nasdaq most employees cashed out and bought their first home. This made the employees incredibly loyal and often worked overtime with no pay.

1 thought on “Seven Guerrilla Tactics to Supercharge Your Startup”

  1. Hello Joe,

    Your post is an insightful and thought-provoking piece that offers a refreshing perspective on guerrilla tactics for startups. Your personal experiences and real-world examples add credibility and make the strategies more relatable.

    A few standout points:

    Leveraging social proof through strategic partnerships with influential figures is a brilliant way to gain instant credibility and exposure.

    1/ The Haile Gebrselassie example perfectly illustrates this tactic’s potential impact.

    2/ The advice on piggybacking on trends and offering free services with a catch is spot-on:
    . These tactics not only generate buzz, but also provide a low-risk entry point for customers to experience the product/service.

    3/ The “copy then perfect” approach is a controversial yet pragmatic suggestion:
    . While it may raise ethical concerns, it’s a viable option for resource-constrained startups looking to quickly establish a foothold in the market.

    4/ The SEO hack involving consistent, AI-assisted content creation is an ingenious way to dominate niche search results:
    . This tactic could be a game-changer for startups looking to establish thought leadership and drive organic traffic.

    Overall, this post is a must-read for entrepreneurs seeking unconventional yet effective strategies to gain a competitive edge in today’s crowded startup landscape.

    I love your specific examples. Keep publishing!

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