A solid startup marketing strategy can make or break your small business.
Whatever your marketing goals are, pairing traditional marketing with a solid digital marketing strategy can put you ahead of the pack.
Whether you have a killer idea for a new business or are running an established one, there are ways to get traffic and build traction without breaking the bank.
Below are 11 marketing ideas to include in your startup marketing strategy.
- Social media marketing
- Email marketing
- Offline ads
- Blogging (and guest blogging)
- Partnership marketing
- PR and ad placements
- Search engine marketing
- Affiliate marketing and referrals
- Community marketing
- Events and sponsorships
Let’s dive in.
1. Social media marketing
Social media is an obvious digital marketing channel, but it’s important not to spread yourself too thin.
Instead of creating a profile on every social network that catches your eye, nail one or two networks that drive the biggest impact for your business.
Get involved with industry groups, build a community around your brand, then invest resources into the next platform.
Social media lets you approach your digital marketing strategy in two ways: organic content marketing and paid ads.
Organic content is delivered to a percentage of your existing followers, while paid ads guarantee a specified reach.
The key to successful organic social media marketing is streamlining your workflow as much as possible.
Use (and reuse) templates, employ content scheduling tools, and keep an eye out for comments and direct messages.
Remember: creativity and engagement in your organic content strategy are table stakes.
Paid ads can put your brand in front of new customers, but getting the intent and targeting right is far more important than the budget you allocate or the creative you use.
This is because if a tree falls in the forest and no one in your target audience hears it, it doesn’t actually make a noise.
Intent here refers to what social media users go onto those platforms to do – mainly to consume content.
Approaching social media as a conversion platform (a mistake many B2B companies make) is an effective way to torch hundreds or thousands of dollars in ad spend.
This is because your e-book, whitepaper, or report gets ignored for something more entertaining or thought-provoking.
To save money and create more effective ads, ask yourself: what information can I share with my social media audience that they don’t have to leave the platform to learn more about?
Instead of creating an ad for that report with a link to your website, grab a compelling stat from the report and use that in the creative instead with a relevant caption.
If the consumer’s interest is piqued, they can always click to learn more on your website or your page.
Influencer marketing is another marketing idea that can drive potential customers to your website.
With a more intimate knowledge of your target market, influencers can bolster your marketing efforts and help you reach your ideal buyer persona.
Website calculators are an effective marketing tactic to show prospects how much they stand to earn, save, or lose by taking a specific action. They can be an invaluable element of your marketing plan.
Say your product or service’s value can be measured in hard numbers, like a mortgage app or a blood glucose monitor.
You can add a simple widget to your website that allows customers to calculate how much their mortgages are worth or which foods spike their blood sugar levels the highest.
Even better, you can run Google ads and publish organic content that directs customers to that specific calculator page, and pair it with a path to one of your product, service, or customer booking pages.
Depending on your business model, you might even request their email addresses to send them their results, which adds their contact details to your CRM.
In short, a calculator is light on your marketing budget but an effective inbound marketing tool.
3. Email marketing
Email isn’t dead and can generate massive returns for you when done right. There are a few aspects to keep in mind when crafting your email marketing strategy:
- Earn their permission. We’ve all received emails we never signed up for because we forgot to uncheck a box on a form somewhere. Avoid the temptation to make your newsletter subscription a default opt-in. Choose instead to acquire explicit permission, with double opt-in if possible. Always include an unsubscribe button in every email.
- Value > length. The length of an email is subject only to the email provider your readers use, as some truncate or reject emails larger than 10MB. With that said, prospects and customers will read an email to the end if it’s packed with value, so your focus should be on quality over length.
- Segment your lists. Not all subscribers are created equal. An existing customer base might benefit more from product news than prospective customers who need more benefit-driven copy.
- Don’t buy email lists. See #1.
- Nail the headline. If nobody opens your email, you’ve already lost the battle.
- Proofread your emails before you send them. It’s a simple action that can save your brand.
4. Offline ads
Digital marketing is effective, but so are offline marketing tactics.
A well-placed ad or thinkpiece in a targeted publication, at an industry event, or on a billboard can all be wildly effective, depending on your message and offer.
5. Blogging (and guest blogging)
Blogging isn’t just a way of ranking #1 in search engines. It’s also a way to reduce your customer acquisition and hiring costs.
Consistent thought leadership, product deep dives, and top-of-funnel pieces – both on your blog and others’ — can drive excellent results at launch and beyond.
6. Partnership marketing
Partnership marketing or ‘co-marketing’ is about co-creating a marketing campaign that helps two or more aligned companies increase their brand awareness, target audience, and revenue.
Think Apple and Starbucks linking up to give Starbucks customers free access to iTunes music or Kanye West collaborating with Adidas to promote his Yeezy line of sneakers.
Done right, partnership marketing can be lucrative for both parties – 54% of companies say partnerships drive more than 20% of total company revenue.
7. PR and media placements
Early press can provide a temporary boost to organic traffic and sales, but you need to be genuinely interesting to journalists – you’re not guaranteed a feature simply because you’re a new startup.
- Focus on a primary message in your releases and features
- Rally around a compelling story
- Have a clear CTA to a destination with more information
- Insist on links (for SEO)
- Drive repeated exposure of your audience to the feature, and
- Leverage influencers in your network to share your news
8. Search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO)
Search features prominently in your customers’ journey, so nailing that channel ensures maximum traffic and conversions.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is about optimizing your existing site content, navigation structure, speed, and security to be friendlier to search engine algorithms.
Search engine marketing is about reaching the right people searching for specific sets of keywords through paid ads.
9. Affiliate marketing and referral marketing programs
B2B affiliate marketing constitutes 18.6% of a growing $13bn market worldwide. In an affiliate marketing campaign, an advertiser shares your ad on their channels, driving traffic to your landing page or sales page.
Conversions are then tracked using their affiliate links and used to calculate commission payouts.
Referral marketing is similar to affiliate marketing, except that referral marketing campaigns use existing users while affiliate marketing can leverage third parties who’ve never used your product.
Think users sharing their Uber Eats or Airbnb referral links on social media.
Paying out commissions as part of an affiliate marketing or referral marketing program can drive increased sales for you depending on the number, scale, and impact of the publishers, influencers, and users.
To launch a successful B2B affiliate marketing program, you’ll need sufficient resources, a compelling incentive for your affiliate marketers, and affiliates with enough reach and impact to make it worth your while.
It’s key to invest time in recruiting the right affiliates, defining your success metrics – for example, whether you’ll track sales or lead contacts – and employing marketing automation tools for the tracking and payout processes.
10. Community marketing
96% of companies see the value that customer collaboration presents for their marketing department, and 66% of companies say they turn to brand communities for product development.
The message here is clear: invest in community.
Community marketing is about building long-term relationships with your users and satisfying their needs in a non-intrusive way.
The strategy is primarily about retention – keeping who you have and delighting them even more.
Word of mouth is still one of the most popular marketing strategies. It pays to generate that buzz on your own terms and increase customer loyalty through a tightly-aligned community.
Community marketing involves defining your key community member persona and picking the right platform(s) for your community (e.g. Circle vs. Slack vs. LinkedIn Groups).
It’s also about consistently driving engagement and activity inside the community with the help of other community members.
These could include:
- Sharing useful resources
- Contests and branded giveaways
- Sharing inspiring visuals and infographics
- Interacting through Q&As on social media
- Ask Me Anything (AMA) sessions with industry leaders
- Water-cooler-type channels for people to build relationships
11. Events and event sponsorship
Events are a powerful way to build traction in the early days of your startup.
If you’re doing community marketing right, you can set up your own (offline or virtual) events and retain control over attendance, activities, advertising, and analytics.
If you don’t have the resources, you can attend related events within your industry to speak about, showcase, and sell your products, solutions, and ideas.
Regardless of what you choose, remember to lead with value – nobody wants to attend a webinar that’s actually just a 90-minute sales pitch.
Launch your startup with a bang
Your startup marketing strategy shouldn’t hinge on any one tactic. Trying multiple approaches in tandem is how you learn what works, compound user sign-ups, and drive more revenue.
These eleven suggestions are a starting point for crafting a coherent content marketing strategy.