Are you new to the startup game and even newer to the content marketing game?
With all of the work involved in starting a business, there is little time to think about marketing strategies that will prove successful and feasible for a startup’s teams.
If you are in this boat, don’t panic. You are probably familiar with the tools that startup marketers can use to develop strategies – such as a CMS, social media accounts, and graphic design software.
Now you need to know how to use these tools and similar methods to create campaigns that are aligned with your business goals. You may have seen other startups’ glowing marketing techniques and wondered how to develop a successful strategy.
We have you covered for this. Below are some ways you can develop a successful startup marketing strategy that lays the foundation for future success.
Startup Marketing Strategy
- Use SMART Goals to focus on business-critical goals ahead of time.
- Create detailed documents to differentiate who your target customers are.
- Have clear, compelling messages.
- Create a content marketing strategy to generate leads.
- Distribute the content you’ve created.
- Place ads for short term results.
- Implement a digital PR strategy to drive excitement about your brand.
- Measure and improve customer lifetime value (CLV).
- Establish and maintain your reputation.
- Build a recommendation engine.
1. Use SMART Goals to focus on business-critical goals ahead of time.
At Huble Digital we use SMART goals. These are goals that are S.specific, M.simple, Areachable, R.Elevant and T.imely. For example, a SMART goal could be:
- Increase organic traffic on our website by 50% by 2022
- Create 10 new sales-focused blogs by the third quarter
The purpose of SMART goals is to set businesses up for success. They provide a sense of direction and help organize efforts.
While SMART goals are invaluable to any business, they are especially beneficial for startups.
In most startups, employees have to wear multiple hats (often due to budget constraints or lack of resources). For example, the founder could be responsible for strategy, product development, and even PR, while the chief technology officer (CTO) could be involved in website design, marketing, and social media. There is just so much to do!
Of course, for all startups, the main focus is on product development (and will always be until “release”) … but what about all the other elements that help the company grow?
This is where SMART goals can really help. Instead of trying to do it all at once, focus on the most critical business goals, put everything behind you, and do things strategically. For example, instead of spreading your time across multiple initiatives (some of which may not be important right now), focus on three or four that provide a foundation for your activities or support your current endeavors.
For example, when you come out with a new product, focus on developing it, but also set goals like:
- Create 10 New Blogs to Raise Awareness About the Product by X Date
- Publish 2 new web pages to promote the new product by X date
- Get 5 placements in online media with digital PR by the X date
These are just a few examples, but they can undoubtedly help raise your company’s profile without costing a lot – the only real effort is time. Instead of spreading your skills across multiple initiatives, focus on those that support your current activities.
The key to sustainable growth is persistence and focus. With SMART goals, you can do just that.
2. Create detailed documents to differentiate who your target customers are.
SMART goals give direction and focus to your marketing efforts, of course, but who are you marketing to?
In order for your startup’s marketing efforts to produce tangible results, they need to be tailored to your ideal audience.
By now you probably have a good understanding of who you want to do business with, but have you shared this with the rest of your team or at least put together a document detailing who your buyer personalities are?
Buyer personalities are ideal here. Buyer personalities are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers. They are based on market research, current data, existing customers, and some educated assumptions. Buyers personalities help you understand the drivers, business challenges, and needs of those you want to market to.
It’s also important to note that buyer personalities aren’t real people, but archetypes of them.
After taking a quick look at buyer personalities, you might be wondering: Okay, but what makes them so valuable to my start-up? In short, with Buyer Personalities you can refine your marketing and segment your target audience (s).
You want and need quick profits during the product development and release phases. So why waste time (and money) casting the widest possible net when you can focus on those who are most likely to buy from you?
Your buyer personalities will give you a good idea of who these people are. Use this information to create marketing and PR campaigns that focus on the right people at the right time and place on the buyer’s journey.
3. Have clear, compelling messages.
If you’ve ever seen a ronseal ad, you probably already know the phrase, “He does what he says it does.”
In times of tricky marketing campaigns and big budget buzzwords, it’s up to you to keep your messages clear and precise.
People don’t want platitudes or jargon. They want to understand what your product does and how it can help them solve their business challenges. In fact – and that may sound harsh – it’s not even about your business, it’s about how you can help your prospects.
With this in mind, all messages created by your startup (and this applies to any company of any size) must be created with the end user in mind. It has to be simple, informative and convincing. This is a great way to convert the website traffic you generate into leads.
4. Create a content marketing strategy to generate leads.
Speaking of traffic, you want to have a plan to get potential customers to your website. Content marketing is all about creating high quality content, answering the questions of your prospects and customers, and leading them to a point of sale.
For example, blogs are a great way to increase your website’s organic traffic and brand awareness. Any blog should be optimized for a long tail keyword term as this will help drive targeted traffic (i.e. people who are definitely interested in what you have to say) to your website. This is a very easy way to grow your startup’s digital footprint and build their name.
The content you create also helps generate leads and demonstrate your expertise. For example, you can create informative e-books and place them behind landing pages on your website. Visitors can then download your e-books in exchange for their details.
With this approach, you know that those who download your ebooks will be interested in hearing from you. The e-books you create are particularly useful for targeting early adopters, i.e. H. Those who want to be up to date on new technology / software.
Over time, your website will become a store of information as more and more content is created. Provided everything is optimized for the right conditions, the right people will find it over and over again.
5. Distribute the content you have created.
It is not enough to click Publish and wait for customers to appear. After all, content marketing doesn’t just work for organic search engine traffic. To get the most bang for your buck, you can use the content you create for other purposes, distribute it on non-search channels like social media and email, and promote it to new and existing audiences alike.
Take a blog post, for example. Once you’ve made a list of 10 tips, you can create a social media graphic for each of the tips and create a series of information for your followers as you promote the full article and / or related content offering.
Such a social media plan should be part of any content marketing strategy, and any content marketing strategy should be developed with distribution in mind.
6. Show ads for short term results.
Content marketing is a long-term game. While it can be extremely rewarding over time, you probably won’t see immediate results. When building your content platform, you need a way to generate leads and ROI at short notice. The best way to do this is through ads.
Ads are “pay-to-play” so they are not as scalable as content marketing. The advantage, however, is that your ads will be shown to users shortly after they turn on the campaign.
But which ads should you go with first? This is determined by your ad strategy. However, a good rule of thumb is:
- Google Search Ads – Best when people are already aware of the product / service you are selling and search Google to find the right provider / provider.
- Social Ads – Since people don’t specifically go shopping on social media, these are best when people don’t know the product / service and you can get their attention in a fun / visual way. Also good for finding niche audiences.
- Display Ads – Best for brand awareness and re-targeting.
7. Implement a digital PR strategy to drive brand excitement.
Now, if you want to get the most out of everything you do – especially from a content creation perspective – you can expand it with digital PR.
Digital PR effectively uses everything that is good in traditional PR: press coverage, events, public relations, content for thought leaders – and the same for the online area. Suddenly the assets that you have created for your marketing activities can be upgraded for PR purposes.
In fact, digital PR goes a step further: the agency you work with will do their best to get backlinks to your website (editors and publishing are notoriously difficult when it comes to keeping links in content). Then those who read your content through online publications can actually find your business and the content itself is already optimized for search because you have already done so.
All in all, digital PR helps increase your startup’s visibility both online and offline, helping you get featured in key trade media related to your activities, and creating positive excitement in your industry.
8. Measure and improve Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).
Since it is easier and cheaper to retain or resell existing customers than to acquire new customers, it is important for startups to purposely pursue and improve CLV by:
9. Establish and maintain your reputation.
87% of customers read online reviews for local businesses in 2020, up 81% in 2019 (Bright Local). The internet enables customers to be better informed than ever before during the buying process. Therefore, a bad reputation can hurt your marketing and sales efforts, while a good reputation can help seal the deal.
With this in mind, you should do everything you can to make a positive impression:
10. Create a recommendation engine.
Despite all of the digital marketing strategies and tactics, word of mouth is still powerful.
This is especially true for those who purposely improve the customer experience.
Referrals are often made organically, but a referral marketing strategy can help you generate them faster. For example, you can:
- Identify promoters and ask if they know anyone who would benefit from your product / service.
- Incentives for customers to recommend their friends through a referral program.
- Leverage user-generated content.
- Create campaigns that are mutually beneficial or advocate for a cause that your customers support.
Startup Marketing Ideas
The strategies above can give you a big picture of where to go, but execution is a different story. To get a feel for how a marketing strategy can lead to the success of your startup, we’re going to share some ideas. These ideas come from startups and help you visualize how a successful strategy can be helpful for your own marketing goals.
1. Use paid ads to build community.
Starburst Data is a B2B company that helps companies understand their website analytics. They use a search engine that organizes data so customers can quickly interpret large amounts of data. This startup uses ads on LinkedIn to connect with its target audience, like this one who promotes their software:
A content marketer for a company like Starburst has a good chance of finding their target audience on LinkedIn, as it’s a platform for professional networking. Part of this marketing campaign is using LinkedIn ads to build a community and provide helpful information.
A similar B2B startup strategy could be to use the paid ad offers on a social media platform to appeal to your target audience. Alternatively, you can upload offers for free and use hashtags to make them visible to potential customers such as # B2BMarketing or #MarTech.
2. Try to connect with customers through social media.
Social media marketing doesn’t have to involve spending money – it can be used to grow your audience and connect with existing members. Take paperless parts, for example, a manufacturing company with a stellar Facebook page:
It’s free to create and tweak a Facebook Business Page for leads and customers to find it. The paperless parts feed starts with recommendations and reviews from happy customers that show the company has a dedicated customer base. The company then publishes videos that take a behind-the-scenes look at the manufacturing process, as well as reminders for webinars and other website content.
A social media page for a startup that showcases customers, offers helpful content, and encourages audience participation. This is a free strategy to increase reach, get clicks on your website, and show credibility in the industry.
3. Crowdfunding marketing that can generate press.
Are you thinking about starting a crowdfunding campaign? When you do this, you can earn great press from publications and thus expand the reach of your campaign. Take NeighborSchools, a childcare startup, for example. NeighborSchools offers unique day care centers run by licensed and experienced professionals.
When the minds behind NeighborSchools sought funding to expand their service, they turned to crowdfunding to find people who believed in the service and could invest. This tactic earned the company $ 3.5 million in seed capital, and its success caught the attention of major publications.
Even if you only have a few customers, you can use your crowdfunding campaign as a marketing tactic to get more people interested in your business.
4. Host a virtual meetup instead of a conference.
Mabl is a Boston-based SaaS provider of test automation in machine learning. This makes life easier for developers who need to test their solutions. To build a larger community, Mabl hosted a virtual meeting with industry experts.
The speakers at the meetup informed the participants about software tests. This idea is a cool and inexpensive way to expand your professional network and bring valuable content to clients without hosting a conference.
5. Use user generated content to tell your story.
Startups typically don’t have the revenue to create big budget social media campaigns. For the Hopjump travel agency, the marketing team found that the best way to tell their story is on Instagram. The business page is filled with customers who are enjoying their vacation at the destination and who have booked through the service:
Customers who post their amazing travel pictures on Instagram can tag Hopjump to be featured on the page. This also increases the awareness of the startup. Satisfied customers can share their experience with more of Hopjump’s target groups.
A user-generated content marketing campaign is an easy and free way to create testimonials. You can use your social media channels to run the campaign and include hashtags so there is a chance to show up in more feeds.
When thinking about campaign ideas, you may not have to look that far. You may be able to enable some of the tools that are already available to you to improve your campaign messaging. Is there a webinar you can host on a topic or a piece of content that you think will be particularly well received by your LinkedIn audience?
6. Create SEO optimized content to attract high intent visitors.
SEO is another free, low-cost strategy that startup marketers can use to promote their business.
But here’s the caveat: Of all the strategies mentioned, this one takes the longest.
That’s not to say it’s incredibly time-consuming – it isn’t, but it’s an ongoing job. The more you optimize your website, the better it will perform, which in turn will generate more leads for your business.
We need to let you know that at this point, SEO isn’t bringing in your leads or opportunities right away, but rather forms the foundation for continued success for months and years to come.
The idea behind SEO is that you optimize your web pages (and content) for keyword terms that you know potential customers will find products or services like yours.
Better still, identify long-tail keyword terms with low to medium competition, high search volume that are relevant to your product or service and use them instead.
Your main service pages will, of course, compete with other companies in your field on many similar terms, but you can use the content you create to link to these pages, increase their SEO score over time, and rank them on SERP results pages to improve .
Updating and optimizing your website ensures that it continues to grow and attract long-term interested prospects. So this is an opportunity that you don’t want to miss.
7. Implement a referral program.
Recommendation-based marketing has become all the hype in recent years as people increasingly look to product / service reviews, testimonials, and case studies to validate their buying decisions.
The goal of this particular startup marketing idea is to leverage those who have already bought your product / service and ask them to stand up for you – be it through a review, testimonial, or case study.
This type of content is invaluable as it shows and communicates to your potential customers that you have solved in the past for others like them. To increase your customers’ chances of doing this for you, offer them discounts or free product trials.
In addition, you can consider giving away free keys, trials, or versions of your product to specific people. For example, a great way to get press coverage and increase brand awareness is to have tech journalists test your offering for free. You can then write a review and distribute it to the appropriate online publications and link back to your website.
Lastly, make sure you post these reviews prominently on your website. They help build trust and authenticity. Both are the key to revenue in today’s digital world.
8. Offer a free or trial version of your product.
One of the best ways to get your startup out there is to offer a version of your product / service for free – and this already works for many companies.
Canva, Dropbox, Zapier, HubSpot – all of these high profile tech companies are offering a free trial of their product or service so customers can try it out before buying (or upgrading). When people use them and realize how great these products are, they feel compelled to buy the full “unlimited” version for all the bells and whistles. Great right?
But aside from encouraging users to use your product – and naturally speaking about how good it is as a result – it’s about reducing the customer’s initial cost. What many companies do with a freemium model is to offer current test users a discount on the full price of the software. This is far more attractive than paying full price, and it can potentially convert more leads into paying customers very, very quickly.
For those converting non-paying customers with this offer, you can also see what features or parts of your service are missing. You can ask for feedback, make the necessary changes, and then roll them out to see who’s using all of the product offerings.
For maximum impact, compare what you are offering against key issues your buyer personalities have with technologies like yours. Consider adding functionality to your product / service to address these issues (if possible). Maybe make a roadmap and show people what they’re going to get. Transparency is a great way to increase the number of users!
Finally, keep in mind that there is a risk with this approach that users may not want to upgrade to the full version. However, be as clear as you can about what users can get out of the full version and highlight how valuable it can be to them. Keep your coolest features under lock and key!
The best strategies use a combination of ideas and tactics
If you want the best possible results in marketing, you need to focus on what works.
While there are many different ways to achieve your goals, you should always focus on the most effective and inexpensive ones. As a startup owner, you probably already know how important this is.
The best strategies use a combination of the above strategies and then analyze their performance to determine which ones require more or less investment. No matter what you do, remember that your marketing activities are only as good as your goals and direction. Good luck!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2020 and has been updated for completeness.