How to Master Startup Marketing: Experts Share Their Secrets

How to Master Startup Marketing: Experts Share Their Secrets


July 10, 2020·19 min read

Startup marketing success takes more than just checking boxes and ‘being on Twitter.’ It takes a serious and well-considered strategy.

It’s an all-too-common story: Someone is learning how to market a startup, so they acquire all the trappings of a marketing operation without knowing why they work. They launch a Twitter account, a LinkedIn company page, a website, and start running ads—and nothing happens.

Despite all their posting, launching, and running up the corporate card, few visitors become leads. And of those, few buy. Their problem? They didn’t start with the most important part of startup marketing: Understanding why people buy.

Without understanding why someone purchases or the journey they undergo to get there, a marketing operation rarely works. If you’re a startup, that wasted time, energy, and runway can be catastrophic.

As we’ll explain in this guide on how to market a startup, success takes more than just checking boxes and ‘being on Twitter.’ It takes a serious and well-considered startup marketing strategy.

  1. Contents
  2. 1.Your Startup Marketing Strategy Primer
  3. 2.Specific Marketing Tips for Startups
  4. 3.7 Types of Digital Marketing for Startups
  5. 3.1 Content Marketing for Startups
  6. 3.1.1Content Marketing Tips for Startups
  7. 3.1.2Top Content Marketing Resources for Startups
  8. 3.1.3Top Content Marketing Tools for Startups
  9. 3.2 SEO for Startups
  10. 3.2.1SEO Tips for Startups
  11. 3.2.2Top SEO Tools for Startups
  12. 3.3 Social Media Marketing for Startups
  13. 3.3.1Social Media Marketing Startup Pro Tip: Court Controversy
  14. 3.3.2Top Social Media Marketing Resources for Startups
  15. 3.3.3Top Social Media Marketing Tools for Startups
  16. 3.4 Email Marketing for Startups
  17. 3.4.1Email Marketing Tips for Startups
  18. 3.4.2Top Email Marketing Tools for Startups
  19. 3.5 Advertising for Startups
  20. 3.5.1Advertising Tips for Startups
  21. 3.5.2Top Advertising Resources for Startups
  22. 3.6 Websites for Startups
  23. 3.6.1User Experience (UX) Optimization
  24. 3.6.2User Flow Analysis
  25. 3.6.3Landing Page Optimization
  26. 3.6.4Add Attractions
  27. 3.6.5Website Tips for Startups
  28. 3.6.6Top Website Tools and Resources for Startups
  29. 3.7 Event Marketing for Startups
  30. 3.7.1Types of Event Marketing for Startups
  31. 3.7.2Top Event Marketing Tools and Resources for Startups
  32. 4.How Marketing Can Work With Sales
  33. 4.0.3Top Tools for Startup Sales Teams
  34. 5.Determining and Managing a Startup Marketing Budget
  35. 5.0.4Additional Marketing Resources for Startups
  36. 6.Working with an Agency as a Startup
  37. 7.Does Your Startup Have a Marketing Strategy?

Your Startup Marketing Strategy Primer

The best marketing strategy for startups is to build a brand first, then sell. And that’s it. The goal is simply to become fixed in your audience’s mind as an entity that solves a specific problem (tired of buying expensive razors? Subscribe to cheap ones delivered to your home) and then attract enough purchases to build momentum. Very rarely can you do this through ads alone.

“Most marketers confuse brand building with brand maintenance,” say marketing experts Al Ries and Laura Ries in their book, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding.

Maintenance is what you see most brands doing—billboards, Superbowl ads, radio spots—but that’s not how they got big. It’s too expensive and you’ll never outspend the competition. So instead, fight on your terms by having a stronger brand that spreads on its own, then supplement it with clever marketing tactics.

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What is a brand, exactly? It’s a promise you make to buyers and something that’s primarily communicated through word of mouth and discovered when people interact with your product. They have to like what they find—no amount of advertising can make a breakfast cereal that burns people’s mouths successful, for instance. You get one chance to make an impression.

The stronger your brand and the better the product experience, the more durable your impression and the more effective all of your marketing will be. It’s as true for consumer packaged goods as it is for marketing for tech startups.

Now, the worst marketing strategy for startups is the opposite: It’s to check boxes and go about setting up profiles and posting before you know why you’re posting. It’s to jump the gun on testing ideas before conducting research and to formulate the brand promise without ever talking to customers.

If you go that route, you’ll have all the trappings of a digital marketing strategy for startups, but you won’t get results.

Specific Marketing Tips for Startups

Here are a few quick and dirty tips for marketing a startup:

  • Invest in your brand: Dollar Shave Club was acquired by Unilever for $1 billion—not because its razors were better (they weren’t)—but because people knew and loved them.
  • Do fewer things, but do them really well:As a startup, you can’t afford to spread yourself thin. It’s better to dominate one channel than to bore audiences on many, and better to produce one remarkable asset than to write many mediocre ones.
  • Test for 10x tools: Through testing, determine what channels or mediums work 10x better than others, and can focus there. For instance, many startups find that their smallness is an advantage in video marketing because it makes them far more human and relatable than larger rivals.
Isn’t Video Marketing for Startups Expensive?

Video can be ‘just hit record on your smartphone’ cheap. It’s a myth that it has to cost a lot of money, and the lack of high production values can come across as authenticity. But if you do record with a smartphone, at least buy a plug-in microphone.

7 Types of Digital Marketing for Startups

There are many ways to market your startup based on what it is and who your buyers are. The smartest marketers narrow their options and pick one or two things to do well before expanding. Rely on your existing expertise. If someone on your team is a fantastic writer, write things. If they know video, get into startup video marketing.

Below, we detail seven strategies for (mostly) digital marketing for startups:

1. Content Marketing for Startups

A lot of people misunderstand content marketing for startups. The goal isn’t to write as much as you can—it’s to write a few things that are exceptionally useful.

Take the Michelin guide and star rating systems for restaurants. Michelin started that in the early 1900s by publishing maps for drivers, hoping that if people knew where to eat, they’d do more driving and buy more Michelin tires. It worked so well it became an institution.

Content is more than writing, too—it can be anything, really. You could produce guides, brand-agnostic case studies, videos, blogs, infographics, tools, checklists, or calculators. If you’ve ever tried CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer, you’ve experienced great content marketing firsthand. The headline analyzer exists primarily to help, and people learn to know and trust CoSchedule by association.

Great content is rooted in a deep understanding of how your buyers think, and many startup marketers don’t invest enough in this.

Most startups are understandably intoxicated by the opportunity they have perceived. It’s why they started the company. In marketing that can cause a sort of willful blindness, particularly among first-time entrepreneurs. They think everyone else is as excited as they are, and that they don’t have to put the hard yards in to persuade their target audience. It’s often a problem if the company is led by a first time engineering or sales leader. Marketing often ends up being more ‘look at me’ and less about romancing the opportunity or explaining the problem they solve.

Stan WoodsVelocity PartnersCEO

Content marketing fails when it gets too solicitous, or when it has too obvious a conflict of interest. The Sisyphean struggle of content marketers is stopping others on the team from inserting calls to action or pitches for the product. Readers sense a fake immediately and flee. To create great content, follow the four Es: Engaging, educational, emotional, and empathetic.

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Does Your Content Use the 4 E’s?checklist graphicCreate content that connects—every time. Discover how in the Four E’s Checklist.Download Now