Business Marketing

What Business Leaders Can Learn From Elon Musk’s Marketing Strategies

Helping C-level executives implement marketing strategies since 1999. Senior Marketing Consultant at goTRG.

One could say that Elon Musk is the Michael Jordan of CEO-led marketing, the Tom Brady of business or the Babe Ruth of return on investment. According to Bloomberg and Fortune Magazine, Musk is often the richest person on the planet. If you’re not careful, this hard-working leader may use his magic touch to make you sell yourself a Tesla. Here’s what we can learn from him.

Social Media Engagement And Follower Activity

Many CEOs are extremely hesitant to post on social media themselves. If they do so, the message will likely be stiffly planned and reviewed by others. Musk seems to be the exact opposite of this on social media; he tweets about everything from memes to music appreciation and business updates.

He often also responds to others and engages with followers. Showing your personality and engaging more with your audience on social media will give people the chance to become more than customers. This is how you can turn buyers into hyper-engaged buyers and fans; this is how you can become an influencer.

Here are a few ways CEOs can engage their audiences on social media:

• Do AMA (ask me anything) threads about a specific topic or about your business in general.

• Go live with a planned topic to discuss, but be open to back-and-forth conversations with commenters.

• Show the lighter side of working at your company.

• Collaborate with influencers in your industry who your audience is likely to follow.

With these strategies in mind, CEOs can stand out from the competition and give a clear face and voice to their company.

The Value Of Referral Programs

Tesla previously offered its customers a rich and dynamic referral program. At one point buyers who referred new customers could receive free Tesla products or services. At various stages, the program allowed buyers to earn Tesla charging credits or even a free car.

However, as of September 2021, the referral program for vehicles has been discontinued. This may just be because they no longer need it, but Musk reportedly said that the cost of the program is a factor.

Referral or affiliate programs can be effective ways to increase brand awareness and get more customers in the door, but they can also be expensive. Business leaders can create successful referral programs by ensuring that any commissions they plan to pay are built into their monthly recurring revenue from the beginning.

How Exclusivity Can Bring In Business

There are many examples of how exclusivity creates intrigue and notoriety for products and services. A recent example is the social app Clubhouse. The platform has seen significant growth since it launched.

Until recently, Clubhouse was only available to Apple product owners. Also, you could only join via referral. These limitations put a premium on Clubhouse invites. Some people even began offering them for sale on other social platforms.

Tesla has different barriers to entry: Its vehicles are generally fairly expensive, and switching from traditional fuel may be difficult for some people, especially if they live far from most charging stations. But as time goes on, I believe those barriers will become less significant. The feeling of exclusivity, on the other hand, is likely to linger.

Marketers can create exclusivity around the products they promote by limiting supply, using premium pricing to support better products and focusing on their precise target market. 

The Final Product Of Social CEOs, Great Referral Programs And Exclusivity

I believe that through clever marketing and customer service, Musk and Tesla are engineering a world in which most adults will know what a Tesla is. But more than that, the strategy they use is one others can adopt to promote their products.

If Tesla and Musk’s marketing so far have been enough to help them achieve “escape velocity,” then they and others may be able to cruise on these types of strategies and positioning. However, if it’s true that the referral program only ended because it got too expensive, we may see new creative campaigns from the company that we can learn from.


Forbes Communications Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?