It can be challenging to envision how a growth strategy and digital marketing come together to drive growth. Therefore, in this post, we will use a real-world example (Atlassian - software company) to demonstrate how the right strategy and digital marketing helped propel this startup into a company worth over 30 billion dollars.
Atlassian is an Australian enterprise software company that facilitates software development and team collaboration.
Most early-stage startups don't have an advertising budget, so how do you get your message across? How do you tell the world that you built this great product? You start with something that doesn't have a high upfront cost and has a broad reach.
1. Content Marketing
Atlassian began blogging in the mid-2000s (the screenshot above is from 2005). These were the early days of content marketing before large businesses fully understood the advantage of it.
While large corporations were busy buying traditional advertising, startups like Atlassian were capitalizing on content marketing and attracting attention with blogs - covering product features, technical articles, and how-to guides.
Writing content for developers was especially important because developers played a crucial role in Atlassian's growth. By writing blog posts for developers, Atlassian built an excellent reputation within the development community, and over the years, produced thousands of champions for their core products (JIRA and Confluence).
In fact, many business decision-makers first heard of Atlassian from their technical colleagues (e.g., developers, architects, administrators, etc.).
The lessons here are apparent: 1) know your customers (decision-makers and who influences them), 2) create relevant content, and 3) find the right channel to get your message across.
2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Search engine optimization has changed over the years, but two core tactics are as relevant today as they were 10 years ago. Laser focus and consistency are essential to all successful SEO strategies. In other words, create content that only focuses on your ideal customer (not all customers), and pos regularly.
When we analyze Atlassian's home page from 2007, Atlassian described itself as a "Global software company that provides enterprise software solutions to the world's leading organizations." This is a very broad description. However, if you look at the keywords, it's clear they focused their SEO on "issue management."
Home Page (2007) - Meta Keywords: "wiki, issue tracking, issue tracking software, bug tracking, bug tracking software, issue management, issue management software, track issues, track bugs, defect tracking, bug tracker, bug track, issue tracker, project management software, software development tools, sso, single sign-on, identity management"
Even in 2007, Atlassian's products did a lot more than just track issues, but they remained focused on issue management.
The lesson being, even if you sell a wide variety of products or services, know your core competency, and focus your content marketing and SEO around it.
3. Social Media
Today all businesses (small and big) have a social media presence online, but that was not the case in the 2000s when most companies didn't see the value of social media.
For example, let's look at Twitter. Twitter launched in 2006, and Atlassian joined the platform a year later (2007) - these were the early days when Twitter's referred to themselves as a "microblogging" platform and not a social media platform.
Even though Twitter's product vision (and roadmap) wasn't clear, it didn't stop Atlassian from joining the platform. And while its competitors were debating the value of Twitter and social media in general, Atlassian was busy building a following.
Note: Atlassian started its Twitter account two years before most of its competitors. Getting a two-year jump start on your competition is invaluable!
The first-mover advantage is priceless when competing against well-established players; therefore, always be on the lookout for new channels that you can use to reach customers.
4. Agile Software Development
Another brilliant move by Atlassian was to associate its brand (and products) with the Agile software development movement.
By associating Atlassian with Agile, Atlassian created a strong association between agile software development and JIRA (Atlassian's core product). It's fair to say that many software development professionals (Developers, Project Managers, and Product Managers) learned about Agile through Atlassian's content marketing efforts.
The lesson being, Atlassian benefited tremendously by catching the Agile software development waive early. As the popularity of Agile grew, so did the popularity of Atlassian.
In many ways, the association between Agile software development and Atlassian is as strong as the association between electric cars and Tesla; It’s hard to think of one without the other.
5. Build A Community
Building a thriving customer community is one of the best things you can do for your business, irrespective of your business model.
A flourishing community will:
- Keep your customers engaged
- Ensure your company stays relevant
- Create loyal customers
- Develop brand advocates
Atlassian's early efforts (the 2000s) were very modest, with only a few user groups. However, they kept building their community over the year, and today (17 years later), they've created one of the largest SaaS communities in the world.
Atlassian's Community By Numbers
- Over 3.5 Million Members
- 200+ Groups
- 2,000+ Events
You may be overwhelmed by these numbers, but keep in mind that all thriving communities started with a few small initiatives (e.g., starting a user group).
6. User Groups
During the 2000s, Atlassian was organizing user groups before they were popular, or easy to coordinate with software like Meet-Up. It's safe to assume that Atlassian's leadership quickly saw user groups as an excellent opportunity to engage customers (and potential customers).
Invaluable feedback was collected, valuable relationships were built, and priceless brand advocacy was created. All of this value was created for the cost of a few pizzas (typically provided during user groups).
It's never been easier to create a user group, and while Atlassian had to do it the hard way (organizing in-person user groups). Today, technology allows us to organize virtual user groups with ease.
In-person groups build stronger communities, but virtual user groups are a great start. Also, there are no shortcuts. It took Atlassian many years to create a community with millions of members and thousands of meet-up groups around the world.
At some point, a community may outgrow the user group format - this is when you should consider organizing a Summit/Conference for your users, customers, prospects, etc.
We are not suggesting you stop organizing user groups, but user groups can be limited in their format.
Yes - most small businesses don't have the resources to organize a large summit/conference, but the size (or the location) is less important than the substance. Therefore, focus on your speakers (e.g., invite leading experts) and not on the size of the event.
8. University (training and certification)
On the surface, training and certification programs have the sole purpose of educating users. This may be the primary goal of your product and support teams. However, they are also extremely valuable from the marketing perspective.
Atlassian knows that the more someone is invested in a product, the less likely they are to switch to a competitor. Atlassian's University (training and certification program) keeps customers educated, but they also make their product "sticky."
When thinking about classes, training, and certification programs, it would be a mistake to only think of them as an opportunity to educate users. They can be an invaluable tool for keeping your customers loyal and engaged.
Even if you hire the smartest people in the world, many great ideas require an outsider's perspective. For example, some of the best Atlassian's features (e.g., add-ons) were created externally - by partners and community members.
There is no reason why you can't apply this concept to your business as well. Building a marketplace around your core competency (product/service) will undoubtedly make your offering more valuable.
Throughout this post, we touched on many different growth factors, so it's challenging to summarize it all in a few words. However, here are a few key points you can take away from this post and Atlassian's growth example.
- Growth doesn't happen by chance or accident
- All successful growth and marketing strategies take years to materialize
- Pick your digital channels wisely (don't compete with large companies with unlimited budgets)
- Jump on a new platform/channel early (first-mover advantage)
- Build a thriving community (it will do wonders for your business)
Lastly, we hope you take the next step and implement these ideas into your business.
Related: Growth Strategy (PDF Document)
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