So you want to start marketing your business? Developing a solid marketing strategy for startups is daunting.
Digital media has completely changed the game when it comes to marketing your business to potential customers.
Now, while social media and tech giants have made it easier and more cost-effective than ever to market to your ideal market, some skills are still needed to make sure you’re spending your budget wisely.
With options to market your business flying from everywhere and blogs and articles on the net claiming that SEO or PPC or Facebook ads are the keys to unlock a “flood” of customers to your business, it can be extremely overwhelming as to where to begin.
This guide attempts to explain all of the major areas of digital marketing for startups, so you have the tools necessary to make an informed decision for your business.
This is the crucial point since your business and your audience are unique.
You need to choose which marketing strategy will work for you and not just copy someone else’s because it worked for them.
So let’s begin by defining what digital marketing is and break it down from there.
Marketing is more than just getting your company’s name in front of potential customers; it’s about creating a solid brand that customers can resonate with.
Digital Marketing In a Nutshell
Digital marketing can be defined as any marketing you do for your business on the internet.
This can be from social media to writing blog posts, from asking for shout-outs from influencers to paying per click on search engines.
But marketing is more than just getting your company’s name in front of potential customers; it’s about creating a solid brand that customers can resonate with.
That’s why, when developing any digital marketing strategy, it’s essential to not only understand what platform to begin on but also necessary to understand your brand and what message you want to portray.
Your message and branding must remain consistent throughout all of your marketing and customer service efforts. A lack of consistency can damage your product or service and limit word of mouth.
Therefore, a robust marketing strategy is more than just setting up an array of social media accounts.
It’s about creating brand awareness to ensure that you’re maximizing your return on investment and creating effective marketing content that brings in a consistent stream of ideal traffic on a limited budget.
So let’s look at some of the most common digital marketing strategies used by brands today.
Given the power of technology, failing to engage in at least one of these will cause you to lag behind your competitors instantly and limit your chances of success.
This won’t be a guide to discussing a single strategy that works on each platform, but evergreen activities that, when applied consistently, bring results.
Common Marketing Strategies
Social Media Marketing
Social Media is any form of media where customers can connect instantly to a company.
Platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok, and Pinterest have a combined user base of over 4 billion people.
Never before have companies had instant access to such massive amounts of potential customers.
Social Media provides a – never before seen – opportunity for companies to market their products or services to a massive range of customers at a low cost.
While most social media platforms now offer powerful advertising tools to market your brands to your target audience, the key to unlocking the real power in social media comes with creating quality content and engaging with your target audience.
Creating quality content allows customers to be more attuned with your brand and your brand’s message, making them loyal fans.
Although it is possible to promote your business on social media, it’s essential to understand WHY people use social media.
People use Social Media to connect with friends, to share experiences, and as a form of escapism.
They do not come there to shop.
While platforms like Facebook and Instagram are now making it easier for its users to buy things on their software, the core concept of social media has not changed.
When setting up a startup marketing strategy with social media in mind, remember that your goal is to get users to engage with your content and create informative, educational, and content worth-sharing.
If you go in with the attitude to sell, sell, sell, you’ll be found out very quickly.
Social media platforms are constantly changing their algorithms.
This makes it almost impossible to truly define what the best strategy is on any one platform.
After each update, the internet will be flooded with people telling you they have “Gamed” the system.
Or that “This one easy trick is the key to thousands of followers,” when the reality is, it’s not true.
That’s why this won’t be a guide to discussing a single strategy that works on each platform, but evergreen activities that, when applied consistently, bring results.
With social media, the clue is in the name “Social.” The more social you are and contributing to the positive experience of the platform’s users, the more likely you are to be rewarded by the platform’s algorithm.
Create good content, talk to your users, inform, educate and assist. Comment and share other’s content and focus on providing free content that your ideal traffic can relate to.
You’re more likely to go viral with content that the customer likes than content intended to sell your product or service.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
Search Engine Optimisation is the practice of optimizing your website with specific content or keywords so that Google and other search engines rank your page high on their Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Take this article, for example. This article’s aim is to be shown to people who searched “marketing for startups” (if that’s you, then we’ve achieved our goal).
SEO is an extremely popular route for companies because it offers one of the only FREE ways to get your webpage ranked highly on Google.
Did you know that 75% of people will never scroll past the first page on a Google search?
So if you’re a digital marketing agency and you’re on any page other than the 1st, it’s likely you’re going to have to invest in some marketing to get on the front page.
Search engine optimization is complex.
Let’s say you own an app that translates foreign menus, and you want your landing page that people use to download the app to come up on the first page of search results when someone searches “Translation app”.
You can’t simply create a landing page with the phrase “Translation app” copied and pasted 1000 times.
Google sees past these tricks and rewards those who have created enough content on their page with specific keywords but with content that is relevant and informative to the searcher.
Why do people use Google? To find things.
Why do people keep returning to Google?
Because whenever people search for things, Google does a great job of sending them websites with the right answer.
If Google sent its users to sites that just had “Translation App” written 1000 times, the user would leave the site without getting what they were looking for.
That’s why to rank high on Google, it’s important to optimize your SEO to create content that a user wants to read and will get their answer from.
To succeed online, you want to create solid content that benefits both the user and the platform.
Try and cheat or “game” the system, and you will be found out and very swiftly be punished.
When it comes to startup marketing, SEO can be a good route to start down.
Writing informative blog posts helps to solidify your brand’s authority and shows you have specific knowledge in your industry.
However, creating good content is only a small percentage of the game.
You’ve got to create authority.
Backlinks show that others value your website and tell Google that if they sent people your website, Google could assure them of getting the answer their looking for.
- Create good, relevant content
- Get your website authenticated through backlinks.
- Make sure your pages load quickly
- Don’t try and cheat the system
Many marketing purists will tell you that Email marketing is the number one tool in every startup marketing strategy.
The main reason why is, unlike the followers you have on Social Media, you own the email subscribers that you collect.
If Instagram or Twitter went down tomorrow, all big brands and influencers would lose all their followers overnight. That means years of painstaking work disappearing in a flash.
However, the same cannot be said for email subscribers.
By collecting subscribers and saving them locally, you have access to that email until that subscriber physically unsubscribes from your mailing list.
Email marketing also allows you to send targeted messages to your subscribers based on their past behavior or their reaction to some of your content.
Going back to the translation app example, let’s say the company has 1000 subscribers.
Every time the company sends out a weekly newsletter, they get a 20% open rate, but they get a 40% open rate when they send a discount code.
The company can then split their campaigns to send newsletters to those that open them to increase their authority while improving their numbers on the discount code.
Email marketing also allows you to create automated welcome campaigns for anyone that joins your list.
This is a fantastic way to showcase your brand to your ideal customer and broadcast curated messages that you can iterate and improve based on open rates and user behavior figures.
Like all of our other marketing strategies, it’s essential to understand why people sign up to your mailing list.
This is often for a number of reasons, but one reason beats them all.
For something free.
Known as a lead magnet, lead magnets are a fantastic and extremely cheap way to build up your mailing list with your target audience.
Lead magnets can come in all shapes and sizes, but usually offer something that your ideal customers want in exchange for their email address.
This could be a free PDF guide, checklist, resource list, e-book, or video playlist.
Making a lead magnet as part of your startup marketing plan is a cost-effective way to create content that a customer wants and introduces them easily and simply to your brand, products, and services.
Offering a lead magnet turns a cold lead into a warm one and helps your business focus on brand awareness and customers aware of your company already.
Pay Per Click (PPC)
This marketing strategy requires some investment but is a great way to guarantee visitors to your landing pages or website. An initiative run by Google Ads, PPC refers to paying a nominal amount every time someone clicks on your ads online.
This is most commonly seen in standard search pages. When you search the keyword “Translation App”, the first results you will see are the ads.
These companies have created these by paying Google for the chance to be on the 1st page for that search term.
Depending on how popular that keyword is, will determine how much the company will pay when someone clicks on their ad.
While this does require some upfront investment initially, with sophisticated reporting and audience tools, Google makes it easy for startups and businesses to optimize their ads for performance and return on investment.
When we talk about marketing, we’re essentially talking about the process of warming up a lead.
Leads come in 3 temperatures; Cold -> Warm -> Hot.
- Cold Leads are those that are unaware they have a problem and are unaware of your business.
- Warm leads know they have a particular problem they want solving but don’t know your business.
- Hot leads know their problem and understand your business can solve that problem.
Your job as a digital marketer is to create a system or strategy that identifies Cold & Warm leads and turns them into Smoking Hot ones who will eventually become customers.
Cold leads are the hardest to convert. This is where PPC comes in.
With PPC, you are only targeting people who know they have a problem that needs solving (Warm) and then putting your business right in front of them as the people who can solve it.
PPC helps to skip the struggle in identifying and converting cold leads and focuses your efforts on converting warm leads, which is significantly easier.
When it comes to Social media marketing, apart from running ads and creating good content, influencers also provide an excellent way for putting your brand in front of your ideal customers.
Influencers are users on Social Media platforms that have a significant following (+10,000), with an audience that engages with their content regularly.
Everything we’ve talked about so far has been about finding your ideal audience and marketing to them.
But here, influencers have already done your job for you.
They’ve collected thousands of your target audience all in one place and can prove that their followers respond to their content.
As far as marketing for startups goes, using influencers to promote your products is an excellent strategy for putting your brand in front of thousands of your ideal customers immediately.
This marketing strategy is effective for several reasons
- It presents a low barrier to entry (no need to learn how to create and optimize ads)
- It puts your brand in front of thousands of your target audience
- Influencers will generate the content for you, so it aligns with their brand as well
- It’s a growing industry with more and more people willing to promote on their platforms
Remember why we said people use social media? Not to buy things, but to connect with others.
This can be frustrating for brands since they have access to incredibly vast pools of their ideal customers but cannot directly sell to them without coming across as pushy.
Influencer marketing, on the other hand, allows brands to skirt around this.
By building relationships with people who have already built a following and loyal fanbase, companies can buy this loyalty and showcase their brands in a unique way to increase sales without looking pushy.
For any startup business, this strategy allows them to target customers without creating and tracking ads and creating a marketing campaign with their customers in mind.
Content marketing can be grouped into numerous marketing strategies to consistently create and distribute valuable content to attract and retain an engaged audience.
One of the most famous digital marketing gurus – Neil Patel – does content marketing better than anyone I know.
Patel has a fantastic Instagram and social media presence where a lot of his content frequently goes viral.
He also consistently posts on his blog and uploads incredibly resourceful and valuable material to his YouTube channel and website.
This method drives a lot of free traffic to Neil Patel’s business, generating millions of dollars in business revenue without the need to rely on traditional advertising methods.
The downside with content marketing is the time it takes to create content and ensure that it meets a certain quality standard to satisfy a demanding audience.
However, get it right, and content marketing can show your ideal customer base that you are knowledgeable and qualified to speak on the subject and show a warm lead that you’d be able to solve their problem for them.
As a startup marketing plan, content marketing should be considered a more long-term goal than a short-term one.
It requires a lot of planning and posting regularly to a blog, Facebook page, or other platforms and requires significant upkeep to save your content from going stale.
In the digital era, growth hacking has allowed companies to achieve more sustained success online by providing organizations information on where to focus their advertising campaigns.
Growth hacking is the art of slowly making small iterations to marketing strategies to improve results and a return on investment.
In an attempt to growth hack, a startup business can start by initially identifying their potential customers and devising a marketing plan that includes a social media marketing campaign that showcases their products or services.
By growth hacking, the startup business runs 2 ads on Instagram and changes only one feature, such as the headline.
The company then runs the ads for the same length of time on the same budget and analyses the results after the campaign has finished.
The campaign that returned the best results is then used in another test, changing the description – but keeping the headline the same.
This method is repeated over and over, making small changes each time to find the combination that has performed the best overall.
This is known as A/B testing and is the backbone for most headlines, colors, and features of online products we see today.
The internet has given rise to marketing ideas and strategies that have used internet users as a kind of global testing ring, testing what does and doesn’t get clicked on and then refining for optimization.
The good news is, when it comes to marketing strategies for startups, you’re not just limited to social media marketing when attempting to A/B test.
A/B marketers can use A/B testing and growth hacking all types of marketing strategies to increase traffic to their blog, website, Facebook page, or business.
Referral marketing is an initiative designed by an organization to incentivize word-of-mouth referrals to a customer’s family and friends.
Such a marketing method can be extremely powerful, especially for a startup, given the usual lack of capital available for marketing. Developing a referral program is a great free way to boost traffic without the need for expensive advertising.
A referral program doesn’t necessarily require a big expensive marketing budget either. For example, Hotmail achieved viral online success by adding a small referral call to action at the end of each email.
Whenever one of its users sent an email, Hotmail added “Get Your Free Email at Hotmail” to the email footer. Intentionally making each one of its users refer the company to a friend. This is an excellent example of a startup marketing plan that helped grow a new company; one went from 20,000 users to over a million only 6 months after adding the tagline.
Where You Can Begin
Now that you’ve learned about the most common marketing strategies for a new business or startup, it’s time to learn how you can put it all together to start attracting customers to your website or just generally increasing traffic without the need for big advertising budget.
1. Set Goals & Develop a Marketing Plan
When starting a new business, you need to understand what the marketing goals are for your startup.
This will allow you to build a solid strategy and implement it more efficiently.
Do you want to drive more traffic to your website quickly, or do you want to build authority over the longer term?
How many email subscribers will you need to generate a consistent revenue stream, and how do you intend to secure them?
Do you want to develop a lead magnet, offer a course, or tap influencers to establish exposure quickly?
Set your goals first, so you know what you’re looking towards, and then your marketing plan will follow.
2. Document Who Your Ideal Customer Is And Where They Are
Identifying your target audience is one of the most important things a startup can do to develop a quality marketing plan.
Casting a wide net out online is the wrong way to attract a large number of people.
You need to find out exactly where your customer is located, what platform they are on and what content they engage with.
The more you can niche down and identify your ideal customer’s behaviors online, the better placed you will be to target them with ads they are more likely to engage with.
3. Develop A Clear Brand Message
What is the value proposition of your startup?
Do your customers know exactly what you do and more importantly, why you do it?
This is one of the most common strategies that startups fail to employ in their marketing efforts.
It’s all well and good spending a lot on advertising, but if your customers don’t relate to your brand or understand what you do, then your marketing plan could end up in the trash can.
Ensure that your brand message is clear, that your core values are displayed visibly on your website, and that customers get a chance to interact with your brand’s personality and character.
Social media provides a fantastic platform that allows startups to showcase their personality, making them more relatable to potential customers. Use it wisely.
4. Create A Marketing Funnel To Warm Up Leads
We’ve already spoken about how important it is to identify leads at a particular temperature, now we need to devise a system that essentially warms them up.
For each type of lead, you need a different marketing strategy.
Cold leads require you to notify them about their problem, whereas you need to show warm leads that you have the solution to their problems.
A marketing funnel can help you do just that. A funnel allows you to capture a large number of cold leads at the top, and then as they move through different marketing strategies – email campaigns, retargeting, etc. – you begin to warm them up right to the point where they are ready to buy.
5. Distribute The Content You Create Consistently
One of the key drivers of successful digital marketing campaigns is distributing and sharing your content consistently.
Consistency helps to prove your commitment to algorithms.
It also helps to build authority with your followers.
One way to think about consistency is that your ideal customer missed your last post, but they may see your next one.
Look at the growth rate of most social media influencers or successful content marketers, and they will show you that progress occurs with consistency.
Viral posts are extremely rare; consistency is your friend.
6. Run Ads for Short-term Results & A/B Test
You should only run ads for the long-term once you know they convert.
How do you get to that point?
By A/B testing. You’re much better off running lots of small ads over the short term (min 4 days) and collecting results so you can optimize than running a long-term ad that you’re not sure is going to work.
The keyword here is TEST.
Every landing page, color, headline, image, description, CTA, and video.
The more you can test, the more you find what to focus your marketing and advertising efforts on. This is one strategy that every startup or new business would do well to implement.
Never assume what your customers will respond to.
Get the raw data instead and find out for sure instead.
Head to any freelancing website (Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer) and you’ll find thousands of capable digital marketers, content marketers, and SEO experts.
When building a startup, surround yourself with people smarter than you.
It can be very tempting to do it all by yourself, but bringing in someone who has more knowledge of specific areas can be a great strategy for optimizing your startup marketing.
For example, by outsourcing your content marketing, you can get someone to write your blog posts and post on social media for you.
At the same time, you concentrate on building the business infrastructure or iterating your MVP.
Make sure you apply your focus on where your skills are.
8. Measure and Improve Customer Lifetime Value (LTV)
What gets measured gets managed.
Customer Lifetime Value essentially refers to how much repeat custom your customers give you.
It’s much easier to get existing customers to continue buying from you than to find new ones.
Make sure you treat your customers right and develop a value ladder that gives them something to buy after they’ve received what they initially wanted from you.
Keep them in your business as long as possible.
9. Establish a Marketing Budget
The less you can spend on marketing, the better.
That’s why a lot of businesses focus on developing free traffic in the form of content marketing and SEO.
However, spending on marketing is often a necessary evil.
However, if you manage your budget correctly and growth hack your way to success, you’ll be able to monitor how much you spend on your marketing compared to how much you get out.
Marketing is the best way to bring customers to your business or startup.
However, establishing a robust marketing budget allows you to visually see where your money is best spent. Don’t skip the budget.
10. Build a Referral Engine
As we mentioned earlier, developing a referral scheme is one of the best ways to showcase and deliver your product or service.
A great way to improve the chances of your customers referring your business to a friend or family member is to build in a 2 sided referral incentive.
If someone refers your business, they and the person to referred get something in return. A win-win for every party involved.
Marketing For Startups
Throughout this article, we’ve discussed how startups can develop a marketing strategy to bring more customers to their product or service.
Marketing can be extremely daunting, so it’s best to start with one area first and only expand once you begin to gain traction.
Pick what is most relevant to your business and where you’re likely to engage with your ideal customers more.
Marketing is all about sending the right message to the right people at the right time while pushing people down a funnel to warm them up.
Where will you begin?