Let’s start this article with a contradictory statement to its title. Your target audience does not care about you having a perfect marketing strategy. They really do not. They cannot care less about the swanky graphics and the perfect filters you use in your Instagram or TikTok, or even about the results of your perfectly executed A/B testing campaign on Meta Business.
There are two things your target audience cares about. A high-quality product or a service that fulfills their needs and/or desires, and a memorable experience in the process of acquiring it. So, “why should I learn about developing the perfect marketing strategy for my startup?”, you ask. It is because, as Pablo Picasso aptly put it, you need to learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.
There is no foolproof way to create a marketing strategy that works regardless of the product or the target audience. However, you can always learn the best practices in marketing new businesses, research your ideal target audience closely, and create an innovative marketing campaign that is persuasive without being manipulative, trendy without being unoriginal, targeted without being irritating, and personalized without being unethical.
The best kind of startup marketing does not feel like marketing.
Let us now have a truly in-depth look at how exactly you should go about developing the perfect marketing strategy for your startup.
- Fundamentals of Startup Marketing
- Getting Started: How to Set Up a Marketing Plan for Startup
- Best Marketing Channels for Startups
- Organic Marketing
- Paid Marketing
- The “Do”s and “Don’t”s of Startup Marketing
- Learning From Results and Optimizing for Startups
Fundamentals of Startup Marketing
Before we dive into the fundamentals, it is important to understand that there is a significant difference between creating a marketing strategy for a startup as opposed to an established business. An established business has a solid foundation of experience and credibility to build its marketing efforts, while startups have to level the playing field with innovation while often having a lesser budget.
Here are a few differences in approaches marketers have to consider when creating a marketing strategy for a startup.
Established Business Marketing
- Leveraging credibility and experience
- Promoting quality and innovation
- Focus on scaling
- Focus on growth
- Lots of existing data to use
- Needs to gather credible data
- Easier organic reach due to existing followers
- Needs to use paid promotions to accumulate initial following
- Has a higher marketing budget
- Relatively low budgets
It is apparent that marketing a startup company requires putting in a larger effort than marketing an established brand. However, startup marketing is not without its perks and advantages! Perhaps the most distinct difference when it comes to startup marketing is that speed of decision-making and execution is crucial. While a long-term growth strategy is essential for a startup, there is significant importance in setting up and meeting ambitious short-term goals in order to create momentum in growth.
Startup marketing methods are highly target-driven and for good reason. It helps marketers win or fail quickly in their strategies. They learn from their mistakes and successes at a rapid pace and fine-tune their budget allocations accordingly.
1. Understanding Your Target Audience
The first step to successful digital marketing for a startup is to define a target audience. The more specific the target audience is, the more effective the marketing efforts will be. Finding your target audience is essential for startups that want to succeed. Without knowing who your potential customers are, you could end up wasting valuable time and resources on marketing strategies that don’t reach the right people. Fortunately, there are several ways to identify and reach your target audience.
- First, consider the demographic characteristics of your ideal customer. Think about age, gender, location, income, education level, and other factors that might influence their purchasing decisions. Collecting this information can help you narrow down your target audience and tailor your marketing to reach them.
- Next, research your competition and analyze their target audience. Who are their customers? What do they have in common? How does their target audience differ from yours? You can use this information to create a unique selling proposition and better understand the needs of your potential customers.
- You should also look for consumer behavior trends that might be relevant to your product or service. Analyze consumer data to identify buying habits, interests, and preferences. This can help you create a more effective marketing strategy and better understand the needs of your target audience.
2. Solving a Problem
When it comes to business success, it all comes down to one point. You need to understand the problems or pain points of your target audience, and you have to provide sustainable solutions for them. Whether it’s a B2B or B2C business, you must be able to identify and solve the problems of your target market in order to succeed.
Adding to the previous section on target audiences, you need to research their demographic, geographic, psychographic, and behavioral characteristics. Doing this will give you a better understanding of their needs, wants, and desires. Additionally, use surveys, focus groups, and interviews to gain further insight into what your target market is looking for from the products or services you offer.
Once you have a better understanding of your target market, you can start to identify and solve their problems. Look at what your competitors are providing and how you can improve upon it. Figure out what your target market needs that they can’t find elsewhere. By doing this, you can create a unique offering that will set you apart from the competition.
It is important to also stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technology. Doing this will help you to stay ahead of the competition and provide your target market with something they can’t get anywhere else. Additionally, invest in research and development to ensure you are providing innovative solutions to your target market’s problems. Conducting surveys and interviews is a great way to understand the wants and needs of your target audience.
Surveys allow you to quickly and easily gather data from large numbers of people, while interviews provide more personalized, in-depth information. Use surveys to gain insights into customer preferences, such as what type of content they value, how they prefer to receive communications, and what strategies they find most effective. Use interviews to gain more detailed insights, such as how customers feel about specific elements of a product or service, or what motivates them to make purchasing decisions.
3. Creating a Brand Voice
The relationship between you and your target audience largely depends on having clear and effective communication. The voice of your brand is the personality behind the way you communicate with your audience. It is important that your brand voice is authentic and connects with your audience. It should exemplify the personality and the values that you would like to be associated with as a startup company.
Brand voice examples from famous brands:
- Wendy’s: Funny, witty
Wendy’s Twitter account is well known for its funny quips and witty remarks for their followers.
- Nike: Uplifting
From their tagline and advertising material to the partnerships they have with other creators, Nike has always maintained a rather motivating and inspiring tone of voice.
- Harley Davidson: Strong, masculine
To connect well with their target audience, Harley Davidson has a brand voice that personifies masculinity.
- Coca-Cola: Friendly, Joyful
For over a century, coca-cola has used a consistently friendly, happy, and positive brand voice, connecting their product with good times that the target audience has with their friends.
4. Developing a Content Strategy
Content is a key component of digital marketing, as it is the way to engage with customers and build relationships. Content should be tailored to the target audience and focus on topics that are relevant to them. Content should also be informative, entertaining, and visually appealing. Developing a comprehensive digital marketing strategy includes steps such as the creation of content, the use of social media, email marketing, search engine optimization, and more.
As it was discussed earlier in this article, the first step to developing a successful content strategy is to understand who will be reading your content. Once you understand your audience, you should look for problems or pain points that they have that you can solve with the content that you create.
Ex: Create educational content around how to save money on their monthly bills.
By providing informative blog posts, webinars, or even videos on how to save money on monthly bills, customers will be able to easily access the information and apply it to their own financial situation. This will help to alleviate the stress customers have when it comes to their monthly expenses.
If you are unsure about the kind of content your target audience gravitate towards, you can always research high-performing content by your established competitors. It is, however, extremely important that you are clear about what makes your startup and your brand voice unique, so your target audience can distinguish you from your competitors.
Here are 5 characteristics of an effective content marketing strategy:
- Value: Content that’s useful! Content should be relevant to the target audience and should provide them with value.
- Clear goals and objectives: A content marketing strategy should have a well-defined set of goals and objectives, such as increasing brand awareness, generating new leads, or driving more sales.
- Diverse content types: Content should be varied and come in different forms, such as blog posts, infographics, videos, podcasts, and more.
- A consistent publishing schedule: Content should be published regularly in order to keep the audience engaged.
- An integrated approach: Content should be integrated into multiple channels, such as social media, email marketing, and more.
5. Understanding How to Stand Out
No matter the industry or the niche audience you aim for, the business world is saturated with so many different options for your target audience to choose from. This is why you need to differentiate yourself as much as possible when you plan your marketing efforts.
- The first step to standing out from competitors is to research the market.
Understand what your competitors are doing and what their weaknesses are. This will give you an idea of what you need to do to differentiate yourself. Additionally, researching customer needs and wants will help you to create a product or service that is unique and of high value to your customers.
- The second step is to create a strong brand identity.
Develop a logo and website to help your business stand out. Additionally, create a mission statement that clearly states what your company is about and why it is different from competitors. This will give customers a reason to choose your business over others.
- Third, focus on building strong customer relationships
Show your customers that you care and that you are willing to go the extra mile to meet their needs. This can include responding to customer inquiries promptly, offering discounts and promotions, and providing personalized services. This will help build customer loyalty and trust, which is essential when competing with others.
Getting Started: How to Set Up a Marketing Plan for Startup
Step 1: Conduct a Market Analysis
Your first step to setting up a marketing plan for your startup is to conduct a market analysis. This involves researching the current market, identifying the target market, and assessing the competition. This step is essential in order to determine the most effective marketing strategies and tactics to use in order to reach the desired target audience.
Step 2: Set Objectives & Goals
Establish realistic yet challenging goals for your business.
Step 3: Identify Your Audience
Identify who your target customers are and develop a clear understanding of their needs and wants.
Step 4: Brainstorm and Develop Strategies
Based on your research, brainstorm your options and develop marketing strategies that will help you reach your goals.
This includes but is not limited to,
- Identifying the unique selling points of the business
- Planning out social media strategy
- Ways to gather customer data
- Brainstorming content ideas
- Ideas for referral programs and loyalty discounts, etc.
Step 5: Monitor & Evaluate
Monitor and evaluate the strategies you executed on a regular basis to ensure that you are getting the desired results. Make adjustments as necessary to ensure success. This step will be discussed in detail later in the article.
Best Marketing Channels for Startups
The startup marketing landscape is ever-evolving and it can be difficult to know which channels are the best for startups to use when it comes to marketing their products or services. With so many options available, it's essential for you as a marketer to have a deep understanding of the various marketing channels available and how to best utilize them for maximum success. There is no ideal marketing that works universally for every startup. The perfect marketing channel that provides great ROIs is different from one startup to another.
Here is an overview of the best marketing channels for startups and the benefits that can be gained from each.
For a startup business, paid marketing is an essential tool for businesses looking to reach new customers and increase their online presence. It is a great way to test out your concepts and strategies since you get instant results and analytics that allows you to measure your success almost in real time.
As a startup business starts its marketing journey, paid marketing allows them to reach a large number of potential customers, quickly build brand awareness, and generate leads. Additionally, paid marketing allows businesses to stay ahead of the competition by creating ads that stand out and capture consumer attention. Paid marketing also provides startups with valuable data and insights along with quick feedback which can be used to further improve their marketing campaigns.
With more and more companies relying on digital marketing strategies, it’s important to understand the basics of paid digital marketing, including the advantages and disadvantages of each type of platform. Let’s explore the several different types of digital marketing and the benefits associated with each in order to help determine which type of paid digital marketing is right for your startup.
1. Google Ads
Startup companies can benefit from using Google Ads in their marketing strategy by targeting potential customers on the world’s largest search engine. Google Ads are a great way to ensure your message reaches the right audience, as you can use specific keywords to target the audience you want to reach. Additionally, you can use different types of ads, such as display ads, video ads, and search ads, to reach different types of customers.
Google Ads also provide valuable insights into how your ads are performing, so you can track your ROI and make adjustments if needed. You can also set a budget and target specific geographic locations, so you don’t waste money on ads that don’t reach your target demographic.
Furthermore, with Google Ads, placed on either Search or Youtube depending on your target audience, you can easily track and measure your success. This way, you can see which ads are working and which are not, and make changes accordingly. This allows you to optimize your campaigns for better results.
2. Facebook and Instagram Ads
Facebook ads offer a cost-effective way to reach a large, qualified audience on the world’s largest social media platform. Through Facebook Ads, startup companies can target the right people in their target market based on interests, location, age, and other factors. They also provide a platform for startups to create engaging ad content that resonates with their target audience.
Most importantly, Facebook ads can be tailored to the specific interests of the target audience, making them more likely to click through and convert. They also provide detailed analytics that allows startups to track their ad performance, giving them valuable insights into how their ads are performing and what areas need improvement.
Meta Business has made it easier to place Instagram ads along with your Facebook ads. Together, they can often bring you twice the reach and engagement of your audience. By taking advantage of Instagram's powerful targeting capabilities, you can target their ideal customers and create highly tailored campaigns. Additionally, businesses should create images and videos that are visually appealing and captivating to draw in potential customers. Through Instagram Ads, startups can also reach out to influencers and create content partnerships to help increase their reach and build brand recognition.
3. Ads on Other Social Media Platforms
If your target audience usually hangs out on Twitter, placing ads there is an effective way to reach a wide range of potential customers. Twitter Ads allow companies to target their ads to specific groups of people based on their interests and demographics. It is great for brand awareness and improving your reach as well. Twitter Ads can help startups drive more website visits, increase engagement, and generate leads which can help them grow their business. Additionally, it is a great way to keep your followers updated on new products and offers.
TikTok is an excellent platform for startups to engage with potential customers in a creative and fun manner, allowing you to create memorable ads that will be shared and talked about. TikTok ads can be tailored to target specific audiences based on age, location, interests, and behavior, making it an ideal platform for developing campaigns that are tailored to the right audience. Additionally, TikTok's easy-to-use tools and analytics make it easy to track the success of your campaigns, allowing you to adjust your strategy as needed.
It is important to note that the pricing for TikTok ads is relatively higher than other social media platforms, but the ROI is often better if you are creative with your advertising.
4. Influencer Marketing
Startups should definitely consider using influencer marketing in their marketing strategy as it can be a great way to reach a larger audience. Influencers have built up a dedicated and engaged following, so working with them can help to raise awareness about the startup’s brand and products. Youtube and instagram are the most popular platforms for influencer marketing. When selecting an influencer, make sure that their content resonates with your target audience and that their values align with the brand. It’s also important to track influencer performance and make sure that the content created is helping to drive conversions.
Startups should also make sure to communicate their goals and objectives clearly to the influencer so that they understand exactly what they need to do to promote the brand and products. This will help to ensure that the influencer’s content is on-brand and aligns with the startup’s overall marketing strategy. Overall, influencer marketing can be a great way for startups to reach a larger audience and promote their products. When used effectively, it can be a great addition to any startup’s marketing strategy.
Organic digital marketing is all about using existing tools to naturally increase your reach and visibility and generate leads and traffic to your website. It provides a low-cost and highly effective way to reach a wide audience and promote your products or services.
Organic digital marketing is all about achieving slow, steady, and long-term growth. Your startup marketing strategy should always have a strong organic marketing component in order to ensure longevity in its success. It is, however, important to know that many organic marketing methods require consistent and long-term execution in order to see results, which is not something a startup business can afford at the earliest stages. So it's not ideal for a startup to focus too much on the organic methods at first, but use them as a part of a larger marketing strategy that includes paid marketing methods as well.
1. Content Marketing
High-quality and consistent content marketing remains to be the highest-performing long-term organic marketing method since the beginning of the internet. With the right kind of content that provides true value to your audience, you can build trust and strong relationships which eventually translate to brand loyalty, leads, and conversions.
Creating a blog is perhaps the easiest and the most tried and true method used in content marketing. There are many tools out there such as Polyblog that make it not only incredibly easy to create and maintain a blog but also to perfectly optimize your blog posts so that they easily attract and engage your audience while also being friendly to search engines.
Check out our blog for more tips on content marketing.
2. SEO (Search engine optimization)
To SEO or not to SEO, that’s not even a question! The answer is, to SEO, always! The reason? Search Engine Optimization is the most crucial element in building both short-term and long-term equity for your startup business.
A good ranking on the leading search engines for your preferred keywords is how you reach your best potential customers. It also increases your credibility as a business, and consumers are more likely to trust a brand that organically makes the first page of a search engine over others. Moreover, SEO helps all your other organic marketing efforts while they, in turn, often support your SEO ranking by elevating your reach and brand awareness.
The most important thing to remember when carrying out SEO efforts for a startup is that it takes time. There are some growth hacking processes that may give a short-term SEO boost but they are rarely organic or long-lasting. Good SEO that lasts is a long-term long yielding process.
3. Social Media
As of 2022, the average social media user spends roughly 2 hours and 25 minutes on social media daily. This, multiplied by roughly 4.7 billion active social media users in the world, is a channel that a startup marketer should definitely use in their marketing strategy.
Social media provides the opportunity to build relationships with customers, promote the brand, and drive website traffic. When using social media, it is important to post regularly, use visuals, engage with customers, and respond to questions and comments. For startup businesses specifically, social media platforms level the playing field as they compete with more established businesses.
As long as you are creative, communicate and connect well with your target audience, and put in the work, there is a chance for your startup to go viral in the most positive way.
Examples of small businesses that went viral on social media:
- Roman Originals, UK (“The Dress” that went viral on Twitter in 2015)
- Blendtec Blender on Youtube
- The Silk Labs on TikTok
Tip: Facebook groups are a great way to get people to try out your product or even do small-medium sized marketing campaigns.
4. Referral Programs
If there’s one thing that is common between traditional and digital marketing is that word-of-mouth and personal recommendations make highly positive impacts on the purchase decisions of people. A customer referral program helps you organically expand your reach by creating voluntary advocates for your startup.
Your existing users can promote your brand among their peers to earn rewards for both themselves and the new users that they bring. Once your initial marketing efforts bring you a considerable number of first-time and return customers, a referral program is a great way to strengthen your relationship with them.
5. Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is an effective way for startup companies to gain visibility, generate leads, and acquire customers. By partnering with other businesses and websites, startups can tap into a larger network of potential customers, which can help them reach their business goals faster.
Affiliate marketing is a cost-effective way for startups to gain exposure without having to invest in costly advertising campaigns. With affiliate marketing, startups can leverage their partners’ existing customer base and reach a larger audience. This type of marketing also allows startups to track their performance in real time and adjust their strategies accordingly.
Affiliate marketing also allows startups to build relationships with partners, which can lead to long-term growth. By establishing strong relationships with affiliates, startups can build trust and loyalty, which can lead to more customers, referrals, and revenue.
The “Do”s and “Don’t”s of Startup Marketing
It is important to know what to do when you are marketing a startup, and it is just as important to know what not to do as well. It does not matter how high quality your product is or how genius your service is if you do not know how to reach the target audience in an impactful manner. Understanding the dos and don'ts of startup marketing can help ensure that your startup is set up for success. By following the right steps and avoiding common mistakes, you can maximize your marketing efforts and reach your goals.
1. Do Know Your Audience Well
When we say “know your audience” it does not mean that simply knowing the demographics of your audience is enough. As a startup marketer, you need to really KNOW them! It’s not enough to know their age and gender, you need to know their likes and dislikes, where they like to hang out online, their hobbies, their education level, their sense of humor, and even their love language if you can figure it out! You should know your audience the same way you know a close friend. That’s when you can understand how to communicate with them effectively.
2. Do Utilize Trending Social Media Platforms
Are you a millennial who thinks TikTok is below you, but your target audience includes GenZ? Well, time to break out your dancing skills my friend, because as a startup marketer, no social media platform that has the potential to generate millions of views is not below you. Study what is trending on social media and jump on the trends right away, but make sure you are still consistent with your brand voice when you do so. The most important thing is to utilize the social media platform where your target audience spends most time.
3. Do Leverage Influencer Marketing and Partnerships to Reach Niche Audiences
A core component of any startup is brand awareness. You need to get the word out there. With the massive culture of social media influencers nowadays, many people tend to trust a product when it is recommended by an influencer they have similar tastes or opinions with. Do your research before you partner up with an influencer. Check their engagement rate with the followers rather than their likes or follower count.
Forums are another effective way to reach your niche target audiences as a startup business. They provide a platform to engage with potential customers, build relationships, and create an organic online presence that increases brand loyalty and trust. Forums allow you to target users based on their interests and provide relevant content. Additionally, through forums, you can gain insights and feedback from your target audiences, allowing you to continuously improve your marketing strategies.
If done well, partnering up with social media influencers with the same niche audience can get you high-quality reach and leads.
1. Don’t Hold Back on Trying Out New Things, But Don’t be Controversial Just for Sake of It
There are too many unoriginal and repetitive content and marketing methods out there. So much so that everyone’s craving something fresh and new. Therefore, do not be afraid to try out original ideas for your marketing material.
The only thing you should be careful about in your innovative marketing campaigns is leaning too much toward getting a shocking response from your audience. A touch of shock value works well with the right creativity and clear communication, but do not push it too much. While controversial marketing has its own charm, it is better not to alienate any audience demographic during the brand awareness stage of your startup.
2. Don’t Ignore Customer Feedback
“Customer is king!”. As a startup, you are increasing your base of followers and gaining new customers. There are several long-term aims you should consider when you communicate with your audience at this stage of your business. You should aim to carefully nurture your relationship with them so they turn into first-time or repeat customers and then for them voluntarily recommend and spread awareness of your brand among their peers. This is why you should always pay close attention to their feedback, so you can aim for the highest customer satisfaction at all times.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Think Big and Be Extra Creative
From the beginning of time, those who made a lasting impression on humankind have always been a little bit “extra” in what they do. Especially in this day and age, everyone likes a brand that is not afraid to be extra innovative and creative. From Steve Jobs at Apple to Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Tesla, successful brands tend to push the boundaries and think big in what they want to achieve. Yes, there is always a chance that you might fail a few times, but just like the saying goes, “Aim for the moon. If you miss, you may land among the stars”.
Learning From Results and Optimizing for Startups
1. Review the Metrics Associated With the Campaign
If you are new to implementing marketing campaigns, the sheer number of marketing metrics can be overwhelming at first. The first step to learning from your marketing efforts, however, is to thoroughly review performance metrics such as Reach, Engagement, Conversions, and Cost. These will help you understand which elements of the campaign performed well and which ones failed.
2. Identify Which Metrics Were Successful
The metrics that should perform better than others often vary according to the stage of your startup, the product or the services that you sell, and also your target audience. For example, during the earliest stages of a startup, it is better to focus on the Reach and Engagement of your audience rather than Conversions, since your audience is still getting to know you. Make note of the metrics that were successful but also the ones that failed, which will give you important insights as to what changes you should be making for your future campaigns.
3. Analyze the Data to Understand What Drove the Success or Failure of the Campaign
Now for the interesting (and maybe a little daunting!) part. Analyzing your data. Taking a step further from the initial numbers that you see in the stat reports you get from your campaigns, have an in-depth look at not only the final results but also what may have contributed to those results. If you had more than one marketing campaign, break down your results according to the key channels and their separate KPIs(Key Performance Index). There are many advanced tools that will help in this step such as Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google Ads, and more.
Having defined goals or key performance indicators in place before you run the campaign is quite important during this step. Analyze your data and metrics according to your goals. For example, if the goal of your campaign is to increase your sales and leads, you do not have to pay too much attention to the number of likes on your post, but rather your link clicks and website views.
4. Develop Insights and Hypotheses Based on the Data Analysis
This is perhaps the most important step in your analysis: “What’s the lesson or story your data is trying to tell?”. You need to develop informed insights on how and why your audience has responded to your campaign the way they did, whether it was a success or a failure. This is when you understand the type of content that resonates with your target audience, and the overall effectiveness of the campaign.
This information can then be used to inform future campaigns and create more effective strategies to reach the desired audience. Additionally, data analysis can help you identify potential opportunities for optimization, such as testing different messaging and content formats to see which ones best engage the target audience. By leveraging data analysis, you can have a better understanding of your audience and create more effective campaigns that drive better results.
5. Develop an Action Plan for Future Campaigns Based on the Insights and Hypotheses
Now that you know what went right, and most importantly, what went wrong, time to develop an action plan for the future. Make necessary changes according to your insights, and do not hesitate to try out new things. Especially when it comes to startup marketing, there needs to be a period of trial and error initially until you understand what truly resonates with your target audience.
In conclusion, marketing is an invaluable tool for startup companies, as it allows them to reach new customers, build their brand, and increase their revenue. As digital marketing has become more advanced and accessible, it is now easier than ever for startups to get their message out to the public and make a lasting impression.
Developing the perfect marketing strategy for a startup company requires a combination of research, creativity, and analysis. It is essential to understand the target market, industry trends, and the competitive landscape. Companies should focus on creating content that is unique, engaging, and relevant to the target audience.
Additionally, they should try a variety of tactics to reach their desired customers and find out what works best., such as social media, search engine optimization, email marketing, and advertising. By utilizing these strategies, startups can create a successful marketing strategy that will help them achieve their goals.
“If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success.” - James Cameron