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How to Develop a Startup Marketing Strategy

Develop a marketing plan to boost the visibility of your startup business, establish a digital marketing presence through strategic positioning and promote your business.

Behind every successful startup is an effective market strategy. This will determine where, when, and how you interact with potential customers in order to sell them your brand. It needs to send a positive message to customers that will make them want to give you their business. You can do this by taking into consideration the reason your business exists. What purpose is it meant to fill? Use the answer to that question to guide the marketing strategy for your startup.

You'll want to create a strategy that makes your business relatable to its customers. This means using just the right language to communicate with them in a way they will respond to.

If your product targets serious professionals, you'll want the language you use to match. But if your products are targeting a more casual audience, it's best to converse with them in a more casual manner.

You'll also need to communicate with consumers online. The best way to get them to take notice of your business is to have a website in place that they can easily find. You can achieve this through SEO, or search engine optimization. For example, researching which keywords are the best to use for your products and business.

Take into consideration factors such as topics your business supports, the keywords your competitors have found success with, and any local keywords that will get the attention of the community. And don't forget that every successful marketing strategy helps answer the questions your customers are asking the most.

If you run a startup, marketing your business is key to your growth—and how you’ll set yourself apart from your competition.

In this marketing for startups guide, we’ll discuss marketing tactics for your startup—from developing a strategy and connecting with your audience to making adjustments and measuring your success.

What is a startup marketing strategy?

In its most basic terms, a startup marketing strategy outlines how you plan to achieve your business goals. It must address the direction the company will take, along with the approach you'll use to do so. To put it another way, think of your marketing strategy as a road map to your business.

The best marketing strategies start with constructing the outline for it. This should include the individual ideas that will create the framework for your plan. Necessary elements of a marketing plan include identifying your customers and any profitable marketing channels. It should also include ways to differentiate your business from that of your competitors. To do this, you'll need to figure out which marketing initiatives and ideas will help your business the most.

Why should I create a marketing strategy?

Now that you know what a marketing strategy is, you may be wondering why it's so important to create one. There are both immediate and long-term benefits to doing so. One of the immediate benefits is that a strategy will help you focus on the best ways to achieve the goals you've set for your business. By clearly stating the goals and objectives of your company's marketing strategy, you are keeping everyone responsible for it on the same page.

There is nothing worse than trying to run a business that has no direction. But once you've set your objectives, and measured the return on investment for each one, you are well on your way to success. Any move you make as part of your business strategy should further its value in your chosen industry. This especially applies to a digital marketing strategy.

One of the many objectives you'll want to set is establishing your brand on social media. It's best to choose the platform you think will allow you to connect with the highest number of consumers. For example, you might choose to focus on building your following on Twitter. The key is to start with customers who already frequent your business and expand in an effort to attract others.

This is where your marketing department comes in. Having a marketing strategy documented on paper or digitally gives them the tools they need to help you grow your brand. It's also a great way to brief new employees on the strategies your business uses. Regardless of the department they work in, they'll need access to your marketing plan to tie in their own ideas to it.

Here's how to get started in 3 steps.

1. Outline your strategy

No 2 startups are exactly the same, which means marketing strategies vary, too. But all successful marketing strategies include 4 key components: your goals, audience, market research, and budget. Let's break it down:

Set goals

In the early stages of your business, your goals might vary depending on how you define success. But for many startups, goals often fall under 1 of 2 categories: raising brand awareness and acquiring new customers. And while both categories are important in the development of your startup, it can be helpful to prioritize the goals that make the most sense for you.

  • Raise brand awareness. When starting a new business, it’s important to introduce yourself to your potential customers or clientele. You have to tell people who you are, what you do, and what sets you apart from everyone else. If you choose to prioritize brand awareness, your goals—and your marketing strategy—might revolve around getting people to recognize your brand name, logo, or products.
  • Acquire new customers. If you choose to make acquiring new customers a priority, your goals might include getting new people signed up to your platform, encouraging them to become active users of your product, or converting existing leads into paying customers. To reach these goals, you’ll need to develop a marketing strategy using effective design, copy, and calls to action that grab people’s attention and make them want to engage with your business.

Define your target audience

No matter the type of startup, it’s crucial for your marketing to reach the right people with the right message. As you’re developing a marketing strategy, take time to think about who your ideal audience is—or who you want your audience to be.

Here are a few questions you might ask yourself as you’re deciding which audience to target with your marketing:

  • What are you offering your potential customers?
  • What makes you unique?
  • Why would a customer choose you over your competitors?
  • If you’re B2B, would your product be more beneficial to businesses of a certain size or within a certain industry?
  • If you’re B2C, does it make sense to choose a preferred audience based on their location, demographics, or interests?

Find your place in the market

According to a study by CB Insights, lack of demand in the marketplace is the number 2 reason startups fail. Maybe the product or service being offered doesn’t solve a problem or isn’t unique enough to set itself apart from the competition. Maybe its focus is too narrow and the pool of potential customers isn’t large enough to build (and scale) a successful company. Or, maybe it just hasn’t been positioned correctly and never had the chance to reach the right people.

To give your new startup a better chance of avoiding these common pitfalls, take time to thoroughly research other products on the market and gauge interest from your potential customers. Once you’ve determined there is enough demand to sustain your business, you can start thinking about how you’ll tell your target audience about all the great stuff you have to offer.

Determine your budget

The marketing budget for a startup will be affected by several factors, including operational costs and revenue forecasts. But no matter how much money you’re able to set aside for marketing, it’s important to spend wisely.

Think about your goals, and focus your marketing dollars on the channels that will help you achieve them. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments along the way or to try something new if a particular channel doesn’t prove fruitful.

As your business—and your budget—grows, you can always start allocating more money toward your marketing and expanding your reach to previously untapped audiences.

2. Reach your audience on the right channels

These 5 channels are essential components of any startup marketing strategy:

A website

Websites are versatile marketing tools that work around the clock to help you communicate with your audience and grow your business. Getting started is easy—Mailchimp has tools to help you build a professional (and free) website, even if you don’t have any web design experience.

If you’re not ready for a full website or you’d just like a single page encouraging visitors to take a particular action, start with a landing page. Landing pages are a great way to collect email addresses, sell an item, or provide people with a quick overview of your business, your newest products, or the services you offer. If you build a landing page in Mailchimp, you can even use your own domain name to customize your page’s URL and give it a unique, branded feel.

As you create your website, here are a few other aspects to keep in mind:

  • Get a domain name: A domain name is your online identity, so it’s important to choose a name that’s recognizable, fits your brand, and will be easy to remember. As you’re considering all the options, be sure to check the availability of each potential domain name on social media. Using the same name across each of your channels can help you establish a unified brand identity and improve your reach. After making your decision, you can buy your new domain on Mailchimp.
  • Set up Google ads: Google ads allow you to keep your business top-of-mind by displaying targeted ads to people who visit—and then navigate away from—your website. These ads are a powerful way to boost traffic and recapture sales from customers, no matter where they go on the web.
  • Don’t forget SEO: Search engine optimization (SEO) helps increase the visibility of (and the traffic to) your website through search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. As a startup, there are a few basic SEO elements you can incorporate into your website to improve your search ranking, like keywords, title tags, meta descriptions, internal links, and high-quality original content. For more tips, check out our 10 steps to designing a successful website. Or, if you’re interested in starting an online store, check out this article for a step-by-step of the process.


Email marketing is an effective way to build a relationship with your audience and keep them engaged over time. Add a form to your website (or landing page) to collect email addresses from visitors, then start sharing updates about your services, content, products, and anything else that might be of interest to them.

If you decide you’d like to take things a step further, you can always ask for extra information from your new contacts, too. Requesting details—like their date of birth, interests, or location—can help you create even more personalized, relevant content.

(Note: Mailchimp makes it easy to add an embedded or pop-up form to any page of your startup’s website. And when you’re ready to start sending emails, we can help with that, too.)

Social media

As social media usage worldwide continues to grow, so does the importance of incorporating social channels into the marketing plan for your startup with a social media marketing strategy.

Whether you're creating and scheduling posts across channels, posting directly, or creating ads, social media can quickly communicate with your existing fans, friends, and customers. It can also help expand your reach and encourage more people to check out your website, store, or products.

  • Facebook and Instagram ads: Facebook and Instagram each have more than a billion users worldwide, which means you’ve got a huge collection of potential customers at your fingertips. You can target specific segments of people with ads for your startup—like folks who live in a particular location or are within a certain age range. And if you’re a Mailchimp user, you can create both Facebook and Instagram ads directly from your account.
  • Twitter ads: Twitter provides several advertising options that help you raise awareness of your startup, drive people to your website, attract new followers, and more. You can target people by demographics, location, interest, or even based on other accounts they follow or keywords they use in their tweets.
  • LinkedIn ads: LinkedIn gives startups the opportunity to connect with (and promote themselves to) other like-minded professionals. They even offer the ability to focus your marketing efforts on specific collections of people, like those who work in a particular industry or have a certain job title.

Content marketing

Content marketing focuses on creating (and sharing) content like blog posts, articles, videos, podcasts, and infographics for your target audience. Unlike your other advertising efforts or promotional messaging, this content isn’t just about selling; it should provide relevant, valuable information people care about—and actually want to engage with.

Over time, content marketing can prove to be a cost-effective tactic that leads to big benefits for your business. Not only can it help you attract (and convert) new customers, but it’s also a great way to establish yourself as a trusted source for information in your field.

Offline promotion

Online marketing is the main focus for many startups, but there’s still plenty of value in offline promotion. Here are a few ideas:

  • Create business cards or brochures: Physical items like business cards and brochures are a direct, convenient way to make a great first impression and tell new folks what you have to offer. Design and print professional business cards with the name of your business, your contact information, and your logo. Or, create brochures that explain what you do and what type of stuff you sell. Then, look for networking opportunities where you can hand them out to your peers and potential customers.
  • Go where your customers are: When you’re just starting out, networking plays a key role in developing relationships and getting your business off the ground. Be on the lookout for opportunities to have face-to-face interactions with people who might be interested in your goods or services. Visit trade shows or conferences, attend meet-ups for entrepreneurs in your local area, or do a bit of research and seek out one-on-one meetings with people who can help you get your business to the next level.
  • Send postcards: Postcards can help you stand out from the competition and give your audience something tangible to remember you by. They’re a fun way to introduce yourself to new contacts, announce a new release, invite folks to an upcoming event, or do anything else you’d like.
  • Get people talking: Word of mouth is one of the most effective marketing tools for startups. When people hear that their co-workers, friends, or family members had a great experience with your business, products, or services, there’s a good chance they’re going to give you a try, too. Strive to create a great customer experience and exceed expectations every step of the way.

3. Measure the success of your startup marketing campaigns

Startups often have a limited amount of funds and resources available, so it’s important that every dollar spent leads to tangible, measurable results. Here are 3 ways to use data to inform your startup marketing campaigns.

Set (and track) your marketing KPIs

Key performance indicators are the metrics used to track the progress you’ve made toward your marketing and business goals. If your goal is to raise awareness for your brand, choose KPIs like website traffic, social shares, and new contacts to measure growth in your audience size. If, instead, your goal is to acquire more customers and make more money, measure your KPIs against daily or monthly sales and conversion rates.

Test, iterate, repeat

No matter what type of startup you operate, you’ll always need to listen to your audience—even if they’re only communicating with you through click-throughs, page views, and conversions found in your reports. Be ready to make adjustments when something isn’t working.

If you’re planning to include email in your startup marketing strategy, A/B testing is a great way to learn how small changes can have a big impact on your results. When you create A/B tests in Mailchimp, you can choose a single variable (subject lines, from names, send times, or content) and up to 3 variations of an email to see which one generates the most engagement from your audience. And since you’re also able to select the factor that measures your email engagement—whether it’s clicks, opens, or revenue—it’s easy to learn what adjustments will help you reach your goals faster.

Learn what works for your audience

With each marketing campaign you create, you learn more about your audience. And when you manage your audience in Mailchimp, it's easy to turn that information into action.

Using Mailchimp as a CRM, you can get an overview of the people you're talking to in your audience dashboard, and at the individual level in contact profiles. See how your campaigns resonate, learn more about who they are demographically, check out their interactions with your brand, and add any organization of your own.

With all of this data, you can improve your strategy based on who is in your audience and what's working for them. Let your audience drive what you do, and you'll hit those marketing KPIs in no time.

Startup marketing strategy FAQs

What's the difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan?

Though there are similarities between the 2, there is a clear difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan. Their purposes and applications are never the same, nor should they be. Where marketing plans are driven by goals, marketing strategy is driven by the business strategy you employ.

The purpose of a marketing plan is to clearly state the ways you plan to achieve your business goals. This is where you devise the plans and tactics you're going to use to help drive profits and brand recognition. It includes any events your company plans to attend in an official capacity, and any campaigns you plan to run.

In contrast, a marketing strategy addresses what and why your business exists. This includes any deliverables you plan on creating, as well as how you present your products or services to consumers.

Despite the fact that these two tactics are different, you need them both to run a successful business. It helps to think of your marketing strategy as the result of brainstorming your approach to building your brand. Whereas your marketing plan is about bringing the vision for your business to life.

What makes a startup marketing strategy different from a generic marketing strategy?

There is a significant difference between a generic marketing strategy and one used for a start-up business. A startup marketing strategy needs to position the new company to take its place in its chosen industry. But generic marketing strategies are used by already established businesses, for the purpose of being able to stand out from the competition.

What are the 7 Ps in a marketing strategy?

The 7 Ps in a marketing strategy are product, price, promotion, place, people, packaging, and process. When it comes to the product(s) you're selling, it's important to think of it in terms of sales conversions. You'll need to determine the want or need that your product or products will fill for customers. You can then use this information to market your product to the right demographic.

A product, no matter how useful it is, won't be successful unless you set the right price for it. This is another reason you need to be familiar with your customer base. The key to getting your sales numbers up is pricing your products for the consumers you are targeting. And once you have the right price set, you can drive sales through tools like email marketing promotions and discount programs for your customers.

This ties neatly into the promotion of your products. The more channels you use in your marketing, the more exposure your business will get. You'll want to use digital promotions, direct marketing, and advertising, and, if your business has brick-and-mortar locations, face-to-face promotional activities that customers can participate in.

To a large extent, the places you market your products are also critical to the success of your business. Your best bet is to go where your customers are. Determining where and when they want to shop will help you put your products in their line of sight. To do this, you'll need to determine the buying cycles of your customers, so you can effectively target them.

In order to learn their buying cycles, you need to connect with them. But you can't do it alone, so your team of salespeople needs to be as passionate and knowledgeable about your products as you are. And even if you use non-humans to connect with your customers (in the form of chatbots), they need to be programmed to be as professional and courteous as your human sales team.

Having connected with your customers and determined their wants and needs that your business can fulfill, the next step is to focus on delivering your product to them as effectively as possible. This is the part of the process where you take steps to support your brand. For example, when your customers are environmentally aware, you can help deliver a positive experience to them by producing sustainable products that they will want to purchase. If you and your competitor sell the same or similar products, you can sway consumers to give you their business when you have something to offer that your competitors don't. And that sustainable competitive advantage can really give you a leg up on the competition.

Last, but not least, physical evidence must be used to support the legitimacy of your business. Anyone can sell a product or service without necessarily having a business behind it. But this is not seen as a trustworthy way for consumers to acquire what they need. For that reason, it is important that your business has some kind of physical presence. While for many businesses, this simply means having one or more storefronts, in today's world, that's not always possible or even necessary.

If you run your business strictly online, you still need physical proof it exists. This can be something as simple as business cards that you hand out to potential customers or something as involved as a website promoting your business and its products. The best marketing strategies include a strong physical presence for your business.

Begin promoting your startup

Keeping all of this information in mind, you are now ready to begin promoting your startup. Everything from the tone you use with customers to your digital marketing strategies should be carefully thought out and planned. When it comes time to execute your plans, Mailchimp is there to help you rise to the top of the ranks.

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