3 digital marketing lessons to learn from Uber
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A self-driving Uber on the streets of San Francisco December 2, 2016 (Geektime/Yaniv Feldman)

Despite all of the controversy over patents and company culture, what can we learn from one of the leaders in the ride share game about getting the word out about your startup?

In March 2009, the consumer-driven ride-sharing corporation Uber was born. Since then, the firm has been lauded as one of the fastest-growing companies in the US, having reached more than 300 cities across six continents, with more than 1 million drivers.

Uber is worth about $70 billion today, an incredible feat for a company that’s been around for only eight years. But this raises the question: What has brought Uber to this point?

Certainly, much of the firm’s success can be attributed to the genius of the operation. It offers not only a more affordable way for customers to get around but also plenty of jobs to boost the economy.

Other ride-sharing companies have not done half as well, though. Uber’s innovative marketing strategy may be the real reason for the company’s international success. Marketers all over the world can derive several lessons from Uber.

1. Use word-of-mouth marketing

The digital marketing organization Single Grain, which services small organizations as well as Fortune 500 companies, created a list of organizations that it believes have the best digital marketing campaigns. Uber came fourth, primarily for its expertise in word-of-mouth marketing.

About 84 percent of customers make essential purchasing decisions based on the recommendations of friends and acquaintances, which make this a powerful influence for Uber’s campaign. “They offer incentives for riders to act as advocates for the business by providing referral codes to their friends in exchange for free rides,” says Eric Siu, co-founder of Single Grain.

“Between a service that saves people time by making transportation easier and cost-effective and their powerful referral system, Uber spread like wildfire.”

Word-of-mouth marketing can be an incredible benefit to any organization that hopes to promote its reputation and expands clientele. Uber used its network of drivers and the tech community of San Francisco to share the word about the service, then made sure the firm could live up to the praise spread by friends and family with consistent, quality service.

2. Catering to customers

Uber debuted a fleet of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh last week (photo credit, Uber)

Uber debuted a fleet of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh (photo credit, Uber)

One thing Uber recognized is the need for useful services over products. The firm saw something customers truly needed and knew that in order to win in today’s competitive market, it had to give the customers exactly what they desired.

What’s more, Uber offers plenty of choices for customers. When drivers sign up, they can choose the hours they work as well as the people they drive. Consumers can choose the type of vehicle and refuse a driver for any reason, and they’re guaranteed a warranty on the services.

Customization and a strong focus on customers are also evidenced in Uber’s digital marketing. Every picture shown on the company’s site as well as in advertisements shows a happy customer or driver, who’s obviously pleased with the service rendered.

The firm also uses slogans such as “Moving people” and “Drive when you want, make what you need,” to emphasize its focus on personalized, customer-centric services. Uber markets itself as a community of people who are all after similar goals, which is a powerful motivator for potential customers.

3. Creative social marketing

Uber and Lyft have suspended service in Austin, Texas after the defeat of Prop 1 in a referendum which would have exempted ridesharing services from fingerprinting (image, Uber PR)

Though Uber is a service for everyone, the younger generation, specifically millennials, use it the most. Uber knows that millennials are also the largest demographic on social media, so it has a highly creative marketing strategy.

As an example, Uber used National Cat Day to gain some leverage with its social following. Partnering with Cheezburger and local animal shelters, Uber launched a social campaign in which consumers could request a kitten for 15 minutes of petting.

For a fee of $30 per 15 minutes, drivers picked up kittens from local animal shelters and delivered them to payees. After compensating the driver for his or her time, the remainder of the money was donated to shelters.

The campaign was wildly successful. It raised $17,000 for animal shelters while spreading the word that Uber is an innovative, fun, and caring corporation that’s worth supporting. The campaign was buzzworthy and set up Uber for even more followers and clients.

With this kind of marketing, it’s not that surprising that Uber has done so well in a relatively short time. Any organization with such a strong understanding of its target customers, with a focus on quality service, can deliver similarly powerful results.

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