Building an Effective Startup Marketing Strategy
When you’re running a startup, your marketing strategy may be the last thing you want to think about. You’re busy networking, securing funding, and above all, ensuring the product or service you’re offering is the best it can be.
Still, studies show that 62% of customers have an emotional connection to the brands they buy. In an increasingly saturated startup landscape, your brand is essential in setting you apart from your competition. An effective startup marketing strategy is the way you share that brand (and your killer product or service) with the world. Over time, your marketing efforts will eventually feel like second nature, operating like a well-oiled, leads-getting machine. But first, you need to have a foundation to build on.
This foundation starts with well-defined, measurable, and realistic goals fueled by tactics and tools to achieve them. In this blog, we’ll be detailing how to set those goals and the foundational tactics you should be focusing on to get your initial startup marketing strategy off the ground. Let’s get started.
Step 1: Setting Goals for Your Startup Marketing Strategy
Before a word of marketing copy is written, you want to have specific goals outlined. These goals will determine how you measure success, and any marketing initiative—big or small—should support those goals.
Your goals should meet the following criteria:
- Well-defined: You can state in explicit detail what your goal is with no room for ambiguity.
- Measurable: There is a definite metric you can track to determine whether you achieved your goal or not.
- Time-sensitive: You have a specific deadline for when you intend to achieve the goal.
- Realistic: It can be tempting to shoot for the stars, but setting an honest, believable goal will prevent unreasonable expectations for the rest of your team.
An example of a goal that doesn’t meet the criteria would be:
“We want to become a leader in the content marketing industry”
While more aspirational goals have their place in overall vision casting for your company, goals that are more specific are more effective when it comes time to craft a startup marketing strategy. Better examples of goals would be:
“We want to onboard 3 more clients by the end of Q3.”
“We want to increase our email list by 25% before the end of the year.”
“We want to increase online sales by 15% this quarter.”
If you don’t actually reach your goal—don’t panic. These are just benchmarks that will provide valuable insights as your strategy evolves with time.
Step 2: Finding Your Target Audience
We’ve all heard the phrase: if you talk to everyone, you’re talking to no one. Marketing 101 is essentially matching the right message, with the right person, at the right time. You can’t craft a message that sticks without first knowing who you’ll be delivering it to.
Your target audience may change over time as you acquire more conclusive data about who is most likely to buy your offering, but you should start with some hypotheses you can support with research.
Things you should be researching are:
- Demographics: How old is your target audience? Where do they live?
- Channels: Where does your audience spend their time online? What channels would they be most likely to engage with content around your brand?
- Buyer personas: It’s unlikely you will be able to generalize your audience into one homogenous group. By analyzing the different behaviors, interests, and personality traits of your target audience, you’ll be able to craft several buyer personas that categorize the various archetypes within your overall audience.
Once you know who you’re talking to, you’ll want to figure out how you talk to them, which starts by understanding what makes you unique and different from the competition.
Step 3: Conducting Competitive Analysis
“Know thy enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be defeated.” (Sun Tzu)
Dramatic much? While your competitors are certainly not your enemies, you have to know what they’re doing and saying to understand how you will present yourself to your target audience.
Here are some things you should think about as you size up the competition:
- What are they offering? Do an audit of their website. How much does their product or service cost? Do they offer demos? How are they speaking about what they offer?
- What is their brand perception? What are their customers saying about them? How are their reviews? What pain points could they be failing to address?
- What channels are they using? How are they interacting with their audience on those channels? Are there any channels they might not be using to their advantage?
- What is the look and feel of your competitors’ brands? Can you pick out any similarities in their branding? What tone of voice do they speak in? What is your emotional reaction to the content these brands are putting out?
All of this information will shape how you choose to position your brand and offering, from the way you speak, to the channels you use, and maybe even the color of your logo. You want to focus on what makes you unique and different from everyone else.
Step 4: Putting Together Your Marketing Toolbox
Now that you know who you’re talking to and how you’d like to position yourself, you’re almost ready to start creating marketing collateral—you just need the tools to do it.
This is the point where you should consider auditing your marketing tech stack. What tools will you need to create content? How will you deliver it, and on what channels? How will you measure the effectiveness of your efforts? All of these considerations should be baked into your startup marketing strategy.
For example, you might need Adobe or Canva to create content, Hubspot to stage it on your site, Google ads to drive and measure paid traffic to that content, and project management software like Jira or Asana to keep track of it all. It might sound like a lot, but a proper MarTech stack is essential if you want to streamline your startup marketing strategy.
Step 5: Creating a Website That Tells Your Story and Communicates Your Unique Value
The first piece of public-facing content any brand should create is a website. Some of the things you want to make sure your website communicates to potential customers are:
- Who you are and what you do. Visitors to your website should be able to read your hero section and understand in 1-2 phrases who you are and what you do. You can expand on the details throughout the rest of your website.
- Your why. Why is it you do what you do? Hint: it has to be more than just making money. This is essentially painting the vision for the change your brand will make in the world—big or small. It could involve any number of content elements, from a mission statement to your core values to the history of your company. All of it should be rooted in your reason for existing.
- Your offering. You of course want to be selling on your website. It should be easy for customers to find information on your offering, from pricing (or how they can get a quote), to product specifications, and how the product or service works.
- Credibility. It’s not enough to just tell people about the value of your offering, you have to show them. This could be in the form of customer testimonials, case studies, original data, demonstrations of your offering, and maybe comparisons to those competitors you researched earlier.
Your website should be a living document that serves as the ultimate sales pitch for your offering, and most or all of your startup marketing strategy should be leading potential customers back to your website.
Step 6: Inbound Marketing with Organic Content
Consistently populating your website’s blog page with content doesn’t just help establish you as a thought leader in your industry, it gives you more chances to appear in relevant searches and drive traffic to your site.
You want to think about what your target audience may be searching for online, at all stages of the buyer journey (from awareness to consideration), writing about topics that address their questions and build trust in your brand.
Step 7: Outbound Marketing with Paid Search
This is where all that audience research you did pays off. Where inbound marketing is a long-term play for SEO dominance, leveraging paid search is a way to immediately go after leads, and can generate twice the number of website visitors.
While anyone with a laptop can set up a paid search campaign, you want to make sure that you’re optimizing for the highest ROI possible, which means putting lots of thought into the setup and ongoing maintenance of your digital ads.
For more details on paid search, hear from our in-house expert, Sam Fiorillo.
If you’re ahead of the game and already running digital ads, consider getting a free audit from Möve to spot any opportunities for optimization.
Step 8: Review the Data, Optimize, Rinse, Repeat
No effective marketing strategy for startups is built on a set-it-and-forget-it approach. Part of the excitement in marketing is the opportunity to continually learn from the data you’re collecting and make changes based on that data—it’s the scientific method through and through.
It could be as simple as switching out the CTA of a low-performing ad to be more direct, improving the user experience on a page with higher bounce rates, or testing out a new topic cluster for your next round of blogs.
However you decide to iterate, basing your decisions on data will help you to better evaluate what’s working and what isn’t.