Startup Marketing Plan: The Role of Tipping Point Marketing in Web 2.0


In my last post I alluded to something I called tipping point marketing. This is a phenomenon that is hugely relevant to web 2.0 and well worth considering in early stages, in particular around a launch strategy. It’s something I am currently thinking through with Workstreamer.

There are a number of key industry events that have become literal ‘launch pads’ for new products and companies to debut. The best known is probably Techcrunch50, but others include DEMO, Web 2.0, and even South by Southwest.

The idea behind tipping point marketing is straightforward. A startup *could* spend $50,000 over five months attempting to organically drive traffic to its website: using Google and Facebook advertising, writing a blog, appealing to influential bloggers, etc.

However, a startup could instead choose to focus its efforts on exploiting key events, time periods and news that result in short massive bursts of new users and have the added benefit of momentum. Affiliation with certain events where influencers are guaranteed to show up could easily result in $50,000 of marketing/PR over just a few days — and often at significant discount (for example, Techcrunch50 is free for exhibiting companies).

I’m a big proponent of exploiting metrics and focusing on the 20% of tactics that provide 80% of your traffic. For example, this post will likely be my highest trafficked this week simply because I’m posting on Tuesday. Tipping point events are also great at producing momentum. Momentum is an often overlooked, but crucial component to helping something turn viral. Keep in mind that in the world of web 2.0 where attention spans are short, figuring out a plan for sustainable publicity is key.

While launching or demoing at major events is the principle area of focus for tipping point marketing, there are others. For example, creating a viral video that will get passed around, or driving a meme that gets picked up by TechCrunch, Mashable or even a big influencer on Twitter can drive more traffic to a site in 20 minutes than you might be able to get over two months of paying four interns to blog and implement a direct email campaign. The idea might be best summed up by the following: go to where the audience is, don’t try to build from scratch.

The tactics to tipping point marketing are similar to what bloggers refer to as creating linkbait. As an example of a company who’s had great success check out this post on or consider the resounding success of GoDaddy who became big by focusing on the biggest event of the year – the Super Bowl. Here are some great tipping point strategies.

Of course there are downsides. First focusing efforts on big paydays can appear risky – and sometimes it is. By focusing on creating ‘publicity events’ rather than enacting a more traditional slow-and-steady approach results seem to lack consistency. Likewise it may be that the people you get from given tipping point events are not the right audience. It may be (just an example) that the people attending South by Southwest get excited at the event and register for services, but then never convert to paying customers. Also a focus on metrics needs to be balanced with a focus on building relationships. Finally, the ability to rapidly scale is necessary to handle the traffic a tipping point event can produce.

Startup marketers must do their homework and see what pieces of tipping point strategy — if any — make sense to test out.

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