Charting Business Growth

Why Viral Growth Is Difficult But Possible for Enterprise Startups

“Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.”   – James Cash Penney

Building a business is tough.

What can be even more difficult is earning the attention and dollars of prospective users or customers.

This challenge is especially amplified within the enterprise space.

Comparatively, consumer-facing startups have easier times achieving viral growth. Think of some of the fastest growing companies in history and you’ll find that most of them exist in the consumer sector.

Notable names like Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Airbnb, Groupon and Ebay all demonstrate the more frequent exponential growth that happens in consumer technology.

It’s different for companies building for the enterprise. The sheer volume of challenges makes this already-uphill battle, an even steeper one.

There are numerous reasons why user growth in the business-to-business space is so difficult. There are multiple decision makers, longstanding company norms, conflicting interests and of course, inertia.

With all that said, there is good news for those enterprise startups. Viral growth is possible!

recent example of this viral growth is Slack.

The company, which offers collaborative solutions for business teams, achieves growth through the praise and evangelism by their users.

Slack has gained tens of thousands of users within a year, much of which happened completely organically.

When referring to the company, famed entrepreneur and investor Marc Andressen said, “I have never seen viral enterprise app take off like this before–all word of mouth.”

A few examples of other enterprise companies that experienced similar rapid growth include social platform Yammer, which was eventually acquired by Microsoft, and the now-veteran software company Salesforce.com.

As one of the earliest enterprise companies that defined software-as-a-service and cloud software, Salesforce has achieved significant growth even a decade after its inception.

They were ranked as the third fastest growing technology company in 2009, according to Forbes.

Therefore, we know it’s possible. But what strategies, methods and tools can you use to quickly rise to the radar of business users?

Here are a few creative ways enterprise startups can achieve rapid adoption or growth:

  • Implement customer referral mechanisms (example: discounted pricing for every referral)
  • Allow frictionless integration of other popular business apps/tools (example: works with popular CRMs, ERPs, accounting or budgeting software)
  • Be visible at points where your customers touch their customers
  • Find a consumer product that closely mirrors your space and reach out to those users; they may work in companies that want an enterprise-grade product

Remember, this list should simply serve as a starting point for your marketing and sales efforts.

You shouldn’t be building a business expecting to achieve viral growth, you should focus on earning the love of the customers. As entrepreneur and marketing expert Andrew Chen said, “the product is what matters.”

Any additional ideas that I may have missed?

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