How Marketing differs for a Startup and an Enterprise?

Updated: Dec 27, 2019

Have you ever been in dilemma before joining a startup while working at an enterprise and vice-versa? Everybody gives a second thought before taking these kinds of decisions. And I think everybody who can handle pressure and have a risk appetite should taste both enterprise and startup marketing. This is a topic of debate in which people participate actively and always have different thoughts according to their past or present experiences.

I have met a lot of people from marketing domain who have worked for both startups and big companies like HP, Accenture, McKinsey, and Adobe. People can have two perceptions for both that marketing for an enterprise is an easier task than the other and vice-versa. Sometimes they might be right and sometimes wrong. There are always two sides of the coin and it totally depends how do you perceive your work and take it forward to meet the goals set by your employer. After talking to people I have been able to assess that there is not much difference in both i.e. enterprise marketing and marketing for startups.


Being in the marketing and sales for so long time, I have also experienced both enterprise and startups during my tenure. Sometimes the journey has been quite smooth and sometimes turbulent.

That’s why I said, it totally depends on how do you perceive your job and how do you proceed and create strategies for your goals.

Normally, we enter into space with the same mindset of maximum ROI out of your marketing investments. Though this does not seem to be working everywhere. Now, this is a slight difference between a startup and an enterprise level company.

For a startup, you set up different kind of campaigns which are more of brand awareness and they start giving results at a later stage, not immediately. Now, this is kind of tricky situation to make everybody (who don’t know marketing at all) understand this scenario. People think marketing starts giving results overnight, it’s not like that. For example, you set up a PPC (Pay Per Click) campaign for one of your product or service. Leads start coming in quickly, however, all are not qualified leads. So when you narrow down your funnel you get a few, unlike your boss expectations. Whereas if you are working for a big company whose brand awareness is already great in the target market then the scenario is quite different. You can directly pick a strategy which can target our desired audience, for example, an email campaign which has a CTA (call to action) hyperlinked to a landing page which has a form and that form is also having some of the validations which shall stop jokers to enter into the sales funnel.

After telling all these things I am not trying to say that joining a startup is a better choice than the other one, rather I am trying to prove the point that both startup and enterprise needs the same amount of expertise and hard work from you to raise the marketing bar.

To discuss it in an organized manner, I will put some points which will be compared for both types of marketing. Let’s start without any further due then:

1. Expectations

From my experience, I would say expectations are always high on both sides either it’s a startup or an enterprise. When you are working for an enterprise then there is a set process (according to the senior management, it does not seem perfect though) to execute the things.

Initially, you try to go by the set process and execute marketing activities but you can not even go close to your targets. So this is the time to think and do some out of the box and make your own process and aim again to reach that target. You do a lot of A/B/C tests to hit the target every quarter and you won’t believe, the expectations keep on increasing day by day as you start to go close your goal.

I would say, a similar experience is for a startup. The difference is, initial expectations are small in comparison to an enterprise, however, to meet those expectations in a startup, you end up giving the same amount of time and effort that you did for an enterprise. This is again the thing that we discussed above. You need to build an image of the startup in the market, so it takes more efforts than you do for an enterprise, so on the other hand, we have higher expectations in an enterprise. So a marketer can’t be relaxed in both of the marketing spaces. A marketer has to be always on toes to meet the expectations whether it’s an enterprise or a startup.

2. Budget

The budget has been always a win-win factor for an enterprise. But this leads to great pressure. Both may have really agonized over grinding maximum ROI out of every dollar. For some instances, you can get relief on this factor at enterprise since they are having a bigger budget than the startup and enterprise have good risk appetite as well. But in case of a startup, you are accountable for each and every penny that you spend on your marketing. Budget is the only factor that sometimes gives indications to the people to work for an enterprise but it again depends on the person how does he take it. If you work at a startup and you do proper budget forecasting and make a thoughtful budget distribution then with that limited budget you can win a lot of success. And let me tell you the taste of success is quite good. There are a few things that may do while working for a startup, look for free products/services. Use them extensively but intelligently. Like I have used MailChimp and SendGrid for free email marketing up to a certain extent. For CRM and sales purpose, I used HubSpot. To keep a big chunk of databases, I used PostGre SQL.

3. Pressure

As we discussed in the above point, the budget can lead to pressure on the marketer. If there is a good budget then there would be anticipated pressure that there should be the high volume of qualifying leads in the funnel. Pressure does not decrease if we are working for a startup though. Pressure mounts at its top since, in a startup along with MQLs (Marketing Qualified Leads), you have pressure to do brand awareness from the same budget. You end up spending a good part on Google, Linked etc ads. On top of this, you have fewer resources in terms of people and software. So being in the senior position, you are supposed to do a lot of stuff yourself. Whereas, in an enterprise, you get resources in both ways and then the different kind of pressure hits you that is keeping everybody on the team on the same page. You can’t afford to leave people on their own for so long time. So you need to keep an eye on all processes going on in the team. At an enterprise level, you get a resource for everything you want to accomplish but you are now accountable for you and your team work.

So if we learn how to tackle this pressure then we can rock either it’s an enterprise or a startup.

4. Learning Curve

During my tenure, I learned a lot from both (enterprise and startup). Both have some pros and cons though. From my personal experience, I had a more learning curve while working for a startup. As we discussed above, lack of resources gives you more opportunity to hunt for free resources like free ESP (Email Service Provider), CRM, Database and several other utilities like Google Chrome extensions. I have been a great fan of some of my favorite Google Chrome extensions.

Sharing a few of them.

a). LightShot (Used to take Screenshots on the go and sharing is very impressive)

b). WhatFont (Used to identify the font on the webpage)

c). ColorZilla (Used to pick color code/#code from any of the images on the web)

d). BuiltWith Technology Profiler (I would say this is a lifesaver if you are working for an agency or consulting firm and you need to know the entire tech stack of a company then this is the best)

e). Scraper (Just right click on anything and scrape, this has been my friend all the time whenever I had to scrape any data from any website)

This is a small example of very basic things. When you work for any of them then you learn from strategies to executing the marketing activities. Once you get hands-on experience of anything then you feel more confident on that while doing the same thing for the second time. That's why I had always followed the approach of doing something by my own at least once and this type of hands-on experience you can get many times at a startup. I can seem to be advocating for startups but this is not the case. I have got a chance to work with a lot of good professionals at enterprises who are real gurus at their work.

5. Risk Factor

This is quite debatable too. We can't say that an enterprise is having a good budget so they have a greater risk appetite. No, it's not like this. A startup can take more risks while they are heading to some aggressive marketing efforts. A startup can go ahead and spend almost 50% of its revenue to expensive marketing efforts like Google Ads, SEM, Facebook ads etc. On the other hand, an enterprise spends hundreds of thousands of dollars per month on these expensive marketing efforts, however, if we look at the ratio they spend quite lesser than the startups. Whenever I had got a chance to decide whether to take risks whether working for a startup or an enterprise I would have been on the defensive side. I had always spent each dollar intelligently and preferred more of organic methods of marketing like email marketing or LinkedIn messaging. Email Marketing has been always worked like a charm for me in either of the cases.

6. Work Environment

On this point, I would share the common thought with a lot of working professionals. When we imagine a startup, the first image that comes to our mind is - some handful people are working in a Co-working space and quite busy with their things. Nowadays co-working spaces have brought a good and efficient place for the startups. If we remind of Amazon, it started out of Bezos's garage, similar kind of story Facebook carries. But now startups have got co-working spaces and they literally have made the lives good for startups. Whenever I worked at a startup, I found that startups are carrying a spark that’s always pushing you to work more and more. Since some small things that you do yourself gives you more joy of the win. I am not saying that at an enterprise you can’t do small things or you don’t enjoy the win, however, at an enterprise level, there are different teams involved to accomplish a task, unlike startups. But I have been always fascinated to work at an enterprise because of their fancy and upmarket offices that too in high skyline towers.

With these six points of views, I would conclude this read. If you liked the read please share it with your colleagues. We are in process of writing some more those will cover some marketing technologies and freemium services from them as well.

Stay tuned.

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