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Marketing Stories from Successful Startups

Doug Miller
#Digital Marketing, #Community
Published on November 16, 2016

We share the lessons learned from attending the #HeresHow16 event, which featured some great marketing success stories from startups in the Chicago area.

Last week, I had the chance to attend an event in downtown Chicago called #HeresHow16 that featured some success stories of startups in the Chicago area from a marketing POV. The event was presented by Propllr.com, and there were some great stories told and some great strategies covered. Here are of few of the highlights we gathered from the event and felt like curating onward through our blog, along with some extra advice about things we felt folks should focus on to make things even better:

We at Diagram have had the chance to help organizations of all sizes from a variety of industries build their digital strategies, and being smarter at helping some of our clients was part of why I was there. We understand that businesses of all sizes are part of our community, so we wanted to make sure we could stay on top of how to serve them best. What better way than to listen to the stories of some of Chicago’s most successful startups?

To start with, the “Here’s How” format was brilliant and super efficient. This was a bare bones, breakneck set of presentations, much like the PechaKucha model I’ve had the chance to participate in as well, only diving a little bit deeper with some great practical examples.

Among the presenters were Jellyvision, Basecamp, Reverb, Insureon, WyzAnt, InContext Solutions, Review Trackers, and Pangea.

There was lots of discussion around various types of media at the event (which itself was being filmed by the folks at EmotiveStories.com), and I was not at all surprised by this.

We live in an increasingly media rich world, and it seems that every message deserves to be a multimedia experience - or needs to be, depending on how competitively approached the attention of your target audience happens to be.


I’ve talked a lot on this blog about the value of video in particular and about making sure that your content - no matter the medium - is created to add value to the communities it serves.

Reverb did exactly that in their efforts to break into a brand new market by taking advantage of some existing trends in online video. Their presentation centered around "Here's How I Acquired An Entirely New User Base With A Single Video".

The title of their presentation is a little misleading, because they had actually spent a fair amount of time building up a repository of valued content in their YouTube account prior to releasing this one particular video that got a good amount of traction in that space and helped them gain some awareness with their new target market.


Video wasn’t the only rich media tool discussed as part of a good startup marketing strategy, however. The folks from Basecamp actually shared a great deal of information about their efforts getting into content marketing by way of the podcast.

Podcasts can be challenging, but again, taking an approach that made extra effort to understand what sort of value the content was going to add to the communities they intended to serve with the content made a big difference. They also took extra time to make sure to emulate the qualities their listeners would be expecting based on the tone of other successful podcasts, which is a very smart choice.

Both the folks at Basecamp and the folks at Reverb admitted that it was of central value to understand how users who were finding their media rich content did or did not end up in any particular pipelines for new business. The way a client journeys through your content from awareness to consideration to decision and ultimately to retention is a key process in any content marketing strategy.


Don’t get too deep into the weeds looking for conversions on the wrong type of content, however, according to the folks at ReviewTrackers.

Awareness is a beautiful and often rare thing in this age of information overload. When you’re setting out to serve your communities with your content, be sure to take their stage in the process into consideration when you’re mapping out the things you want to track. Becoming successful creators and trusted curators of useful content takes time and patience. Don’t give up.


Understanding the communities they served was key to the success of the awareness building efforts of GoPangea. They identified their value propositions and were able to communicate that to a key segment of their clients (working moms), who ended up being valuable allies in the process of spreading a trusted message about their brand.


Knowing key internal communities was key for the folks at Jellyvision. Their understanding of key internal stakeholders was demonstrated as they discussed their experience implementing a new Marketing Automation Platform (HubSpot). They had a very small team in charge of this implementation, so it was critical to be patient and to over-communicate internally to keep frustration at a minimum.

We’ve deployed a number of HubSpot implementations for folks, so hats off to the folks at Jellyvision for keeping the faith and realizing the value of mapping the customer’s journey through your content and communications. It isn’t always easy without a partner, and that's why we try to provide insights about this process to the organizations we work with.


Finally, the folks at Wyzant shared some great thinking about the way your content plays into your overall brand. In particular, it was discussed that a “brand key” might be more appropriate for organizations who are just getting started in their brand’s journey toward identity and promise. It’s more malleable and less ambitious.

I was very impressed by the stories I heard at this fantastic event. Since we act as internal marketing and web development support partners for many of our clients, it was important for us to gain a broader understanding about what others who are part of the communities we serve have experienced. We will pass these lessons along to our communities with pride.

Many thanks to the folks at Propllr.com for putting together a great day of great stories and for serving their community well through this content.