A big marketing model that was birthed in the Hip Hop industry is the “street team.” A street team was the best word of mouth advertising accelerator invented for music acts in the 90’s. The model was pioneered by Hip Hop legend Steve Rifkind who at the time was founder of Loud Records. Loud had great artists such as Wu Tang Clan, my favorite duo Mobb Deep, Big Pun, and Three 6 Mafia. Much of their early success came from the street team model.

Loud Records was no different from a typical startup today. Not much money in the bank, so creativity was needed to get the word out about the great products they were producing. The only difference is the landscape has changed a bit, and digital is the new street. Steve recognized early that customer feedback was important and thats a big part of lean methodology. Your customers are your street team.

“Nobody should put out a record before they know what the street thinks.” – Steve Rifkind

Content co-creation

There is absolutely nothing that gets published or produced by The Phat Startup that hasn’t come from customer feedback, including events. You have to make the content you produce something people actually want. So our content only answers questions we get from emails and social media. Every once in a while I have an idea, and i’ll run it by a customer or fan of the brand before pushing it. This makes them feel involved, and helps us really key in on the messaging.

Here is a recent example of something like this happening in action:

Twitter   KatTorresOnline  The People vote for ...

A simple way you can get started right now doing this is to make it part of your process. When you sign up to our email list, its one of the very first questions we ask you: How can we help you? Another crazy stupid simple two second way to begin this is to borrow from our good friend Scott Britton and create an excel sheet filled with questions people ask you everyday. This practice had made him enough money to live in Brazil for a year.

The more the content speaks to your customers and answers their questions, the more likely it is to be shared.

“You can’t reach America’s youth with off the mark radio ads or insulting television commercials” – Steve Rifkind

Make it a movement

Bosses Only

This is a critical piece of the pie, the movement. In Hip Hop there were always huge movements that existed. Roc-A-Fella, Dipset, YMCMB, G-Unit, Zulu Nation, Wu Tang, this list can go on. A movement in Hip Hop is when the brand went beyond the music, it was a way of life. It was a mission.

I grabbed this quote from a Wistia blog I read recently: “Mission-based marketing focuses on creating content that furthers your mission, instead of making content that sells your product.”3When you have a mission, something that’s bigger than your initial product, people feel like they belong to something bigger. They become cheerleaders for your brand.

Our mission is to make entrepreneurship cooler and more fun1. Hip Hop is about fun. People who aren’t even fans of Hip Hop music are now walking around with Phat Startup t-shirts because they believe in that mission. Our mission doesn’t require you to be a fan of the music, it requires you to believe in yourself and “Boss Up”

We borrowed a bit from Rifkind and created stickers, T-shirts, and now we brand most of our social media images with a The Phat Startup logo. You have to give people the flags, so they can go wave them.1 They won’t mind waving them if you mastered the first step.

Belongingness is the human emotional need to be an accepted member of a group. Whether it is family, friends, co-workers, or a sports team, humans have an inherent desire to belong and be an important part of something greater than themselves. – Wikipedia

Ask them to tell a friend

Seems so simple right? You can’t imagine how many people skip over this step in the digital world. It’s such a simple request that can bring about huge returns. One customer or fan of yours has at least 1 other person in their network that may be interested in your business. The main problem people run into is coming off spammy or over reaching. If you mastered the first two steps, people will have absolutely no issue telling people about you. I’d be surprised if they haven’t already.

Doing this in the digital realm is even easier now with a few small hacks you can implement into your emails. One tool we like to use is  Click To Tweet. We ask a simple request for people to help us spread the word about an event we are holding on Twitter. The results?

Twitter   Search   Hacking The Music Industry

I didn’t want to show every tweet, but you get the message. Each one of these boss up entrepreneurs have their own network of people that they introduce our event to. You can easily copy and do the same for your business. One of our marketing heroes Noah Kagan recently put out a video showing you how to do this via Email as well. He calls this the Samuel L. Jackson Marketing Hack:

Lead by example

If Diddy didn’t wear Sean John, would you wear it? If Dr. Dre didn’t use Beats Headphones, would you? You can’t ask people to do things you wouldn’t do yourself. When it comes to your business and your brand you have to lead by example and show people you benefit from the very experience your trying to get them to tap into. So we follow our own advice. We also cant hardly be spotted without wearing our own t-shirts. We take pictures with our logo as much as we can. We made sure the back of our card shows off our logo clearly so we can make a photo opp anywhere we go. Eat, sleep, breathe your brand!


We want to keep this conversation going. The Phatstartup is having a dope conference in NYC on November 21, 2014.   RSVP now for Tech808, the tech conference thats made for all people.