How one startup grew to $10 million revenue with no paid advertising – Growth Focus now

Reverse engineering businesses’ performance delivers a roadmap of their growth blockages – what works and what doesn’t work for them – allowing a faster way to get to practise performance best. 

 It clarifies where to cut unnecessary costs and invest those into a growth flywheel – strategic investment in what works while cutting costs of what doesn’t. 

The Balanced Growth Framework provides a starting point to compare with the best – like Nike, Apple and Salesforce and millions of others – all startups some twenty-plus years ago. 

The most surprising step for many businesses is how many businesses snowball – with little paid advertising as a result of having improved their 

  • Strategic narrative + pitch, 
  • Strategic marketing and selling, 
  • Community building

Minikatana revenue is ~$10M+/yr selling mini Katanas (a Japanese sword) without paid advertising. Increasing their organic social media posts each month returns a fantastic ROI – the social media platform costs are zero. Their ideal buyers are mainly on TikTok & YouTube. 

Fly by Jings: a startup in 2018 – Fly by Jing’s sells Chili Crisp sauce. It has since widened its product range to include dumplings and hot-pot sets. In 2021, revenue was reported as eight figures.

Growth accelerated when Fly by Jings realised – It’s never just been about a hot sauce you can put on anything – it is about telling a strategic story bigger than your products and services. 

Fly by Jing’s strategic narrative:  one person’s personal story, one person’s unique recipe developed in Sichuan, that helps to support sex workers. 

Strategic narrative – Fly by Jings.

  • Trained chef – Food by Jenny – (birth name Jing), born in Chengdu but grew up everywhere. 
  • A direct, honest and open strategic narrative with her customers and talking to them like they’re friends and at an equal level – resonates well. 
  • Fly by Jings has Meaningful flavours and Meaningful conversations. 
  • Last year, the brand announced it was starting a free OnlyFans account and planned to donate $1 per subscriber each month to organisations dedicated to supporting sex workers’ rights and safety.
  • Community-building strategy – has collaborated with other DTC food brands, Fishwife, Disney, and the YouTube series Hot Ones in the last year.

Strategic Marketing – Fly by Jings

  • There is some paid marketing on Meta and TikTok platforms,
  • Along with influencers and affiliate marketing, 
  • The best-performing channels are word-of-mouth,
  • And organic marketing,  
  • ‘Organic marketing since the beginning has been the basis of growth”, says Jenny, 

The Test: Every campaign test – will this campaign convince someone to stop scrolling, click an email, or generate conversation?

Community building

  • LinkedIn, Jenny called the Hot One’s collaboration a “monumental achievement.” Excellent brand exposure – it took about four years to achieve this. 
  • In 2022, Fly by Jing partnered with Shake Shack in the UK on a Chili Crisp menu

Referral and Loyalty Program 

  • Fly by Jings referral and loyalty program will be updated in 2023 to improve its ROI performance, 

Jenny says ‘everything ultimately ties back to its Chili Crisp hero products and “helping to reinforce [the brand’s] core.”

Jenny’s advice: ‘define your business’s strategic story once clear, everything else is just the how, but you can’t get to the how without knowing the what. So start there.”

Your strategic story is your business’s strategy. The mistake is to think it’s a marketing message. 

Strategic narrative matters in B2B (and high-value B2C) selling because you’re selling to many decision-makers – (B2C – family and friends all have a view) B2B diverse individuals with diverse problems and interests.

The best way to close a deal is to unite all the decision-makers in a common cause that resonates with them and turns all of their problems into shared obstacles to winning. 

  • Fly by Jings achieves this by telling a bigger story than just their products – supporting sex workers’ rights and safety. 

It inspires your employees to make your strategic story come true and all the decision-makers to make it accurate. It is now bigger than just your products and services.