This small company is doing a lot of things right.
The cycling world is notoriously competitive. The market leader, Trek, sucks up a lot of media attention (thanks in no small part to Lance Armstrong). And there are literally dozens of competitors fighting for the rest of the market: BMC, Felt, Colnago, Schwinn, Cannondale, Ibis, Klein, Lemond, Time, Merckx, Cervelo, Orbea, Pinarello, Scott, Seven, Litespeed, Specialized, Bianchi—the list goes on.
So how does a new start up compete against all these established brands?
Here are a few of the things Madsen is doing right:
Start with a remarkable product.
Rather than creating yet another look-alike road or mountain bike, company founder Jared Madsen focuses on an entirely different category—the cargo bike or bucket bike.
It looks totally different. Almost unexpected.
There’s a good chance you’ve never seen anything like it.
You want to say to the person next to you, “Check that out.”
It’s not just the look. Jared has introduced a lot of unique features you won’t find on other bikes—a massive bucket for hauling groceries or kids, an attached, automatic lock so you never worry about security, and originally designed components like the long stem that helps the bike ride more comfortably.
In part, because of its unique design, Madsen cycles has been featured in several publications, most recently Outside Magazine.
It’s a truly remarkable bike.
Find a new, unique market.
Madsen Cycles doesn’t make bikes for hard-core racers or mountain bikers. Instead, this is a commuter bike. It’s the perfect bike for a mom running errands around the neighborhood or a dad wanting to take the kids out for a spin.
That doesn’t mean that hard-core bikers don’t want one. They do, as a second bike to tool around town on.
Madsen Cycles makes bikes, but they don’t worry too much about Trek and other big manufacturers (yet) because they don’t make those bikes.
Madsen Cycles has a great story.
Jared, a bike lover and engineer, had the idea that his bike could be doing more. After seeing European bikes with a large bucket on the front, he bolted a wheel-barrow bucket to the front of his bike and started riding around the neighborhood. But he didn’t like the awkward center of gravity, so he moved the bucket to the back and started building prototypes. It didn’t take long before other people wanted one and soon he was making them for everyone. Read more here.
Madsen uses a very consistent look and feel.
Check out Madsen’s website. If you knew nothing else about the company, you would likely assume that this is a much bigger business that it actually is.
They’ve invested in a professional design for their logo and website and use a professional photographer to take pictures of their products. They’ve also invested a lot of time and effort into creating an attractive booth for use at tradeshows and expos. They could have skimped on these things and gotten by, but the attention to detail shows through in the quality of their communications.
The result is a brand identity that is consistent and likeable.
They use social media to get the word out.
Madsen can’t afford a full-page placement in Bicycling Magazine, and it’s doubtful that their customers read Bicycling anyway.
Instead, they rely on word of mouth from their customers. And they seed those conversations with updates and videos on their blog, at YouTube, on Facebook and Twitter.
Their videos smartly feature Jared talking about what makes a Madsen different and point out many of the unique features you get with a Madsen Cycle that other bikes don’t offer. They are simple and effective. Here’s an example (more here).
Madsen has also sponsored several events to show-off their products and introduce their bikes to new audiences.
The Madsen Cycle Link Contest
To encourage their customers and fans to spread the word about Madsen, they run a contest every year. When fans post a new link from their websites or blogs back to Madsen, they are entered to win a new bike (they’re not exactly cheap, so this is a great prize). Not only does this spread the word, but it provides link-backs to their website which helps with their organic search rank. The company even provides several banner ads of different sizes to make it as easy as possible for customers to spread the word. Like this one:
Some day Madsen Cycles may be a big company with all the advantages of big budgets, lots of employees, and operational efficiencies. But for now, they’re a small company doing a lot of things right.
What can you take from their experience?
Full disclosure: Though I haven’t done any work for Madsen Cycles, I consider Jared a friend and have had the pleasure of riding along side him (or more truthfully, way behind him) on several morning rides. And I want a Madsen.