How to Develop a Startup Marketing Strategy

Learn what steps you’ll need to take when marketing your startup.

If you run a startup, marketing your business is key to your growth—and the way you’ll set yourself apart from your competition. Even if you have a great product or offer an invaluable service, you still need to market your business in order to boost your visibility to your audience and reach your full potential.

In this guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about marketing your startup—from developing a strategy and connecting with your audience to making adjustments and measuring your success.

Step #1: Create a startup marketing strategy

No two startups are exactly the same, which means that there’s no clear-cut marketing strategy that will be effective for every startup. Whether you’re launching a business-to-business (B2B) startup or a business-to-consumer (B2C) startup, there are several key components that are essential to your marketing strategy.

Set goals

In the early stages of your business, your goals might vary a bit depending on how you define success. But for many startups, goals often fall under one of two 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 over immediately trying generate a lot of revenue, your goals—and your marketing strategy—might revolve around getting people to recognize your brand name, your logo, or your products.

Acquire new customers

If, instead, you choose to make acquiring new customers a priority, your goals might include getting new people signed up to your platform, encouraging folks 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 that utilizes 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 what type of business your startup might be, 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 of the questions you might ask yourself as you’re deciding which audience to target with your marketing:

  • What are you offering to your potential customers?
  • What makes you unique?
  • Why would a customer choose you over one of 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?

Evaluate your place in the market

According to a study by CB Insights, lack of demand in the marketplace is the number one 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 the time to thoroughly research the other products on the market and gauge interest from your potential customers. Once you’ve determined that 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 a number of different things, including operational costs and revenue forecasts. But no matter how much money you’re able to set aside for marketing, it’s important that you 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 towards your marketing and expanding your reach to previously untapped audiences.

Step #2: Reach your audience on the right channels

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

1. 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 easier than you may think; there are a lot of tools available to help you build a professional (and budget-friendly) website, even if you don’t have any web design experience.

If you’re not ready for a full website just yet (or you’d just like to create a single page that encourages visitors to take a particular action, you might decide to start with a landing page instead. Landing pages are a great way to collect email addresses, sell an item, or just 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’re creating your website, here are a few other aspects you’ll want 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, that 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 name through a registrar (like GoDaddy or Google Domains) or, in some cases, through your website builder directly.

Need some extra guidance? Read our tips for selecting the perfect domain name.

Set up Google remarketing ads

Google remarketing 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) is a process for increasing the visibility of (and the traffic to) your website through search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. And even as a startup, there are a few basic SEO elements that 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 walkthrough of the process.

2. Email

Email marketing is an effective way to build a relationship with your audience and keep them engaged over time. Add a signup 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 from new signups—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 signup form to any page of your startup’s website. And when you’re ready to start sending emails, we can help with that, too.)

3. Social media

As social media usage worldwide continues to grow, so too does the importance of incorporating social channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram into the marketing plan for your startup. Not only can social media be a great way to quickly communicate with your existing fans, friends, and customers, it can also help you 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. With these ads, 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 different advertising options that can 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 folks who work in a particular industry or have a certain job title.

4. Content marketing

Content marketing is a type of marketing that’s focused 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 stuff; it should provide people with relevant, valuable information that they 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, it’s also a great way to establish yourself as a trusted source for information in your field.

5. Offline promotion

Online marketing is the main focus for many startups, but there’s still plenty of value to be found in offline promotion, too. 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 looking 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 can play 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 folks 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 anything else you’d like.

Generate positive word-of-mouth

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.

Step #3: Measure the success of your startup marketing campaigns

Startups often have a limited amount of funds and resources available, which means it’s important that every dollar is spent effectively and leads to tangible (and hopefully successful) results. Here are a few ways to use data to inform your startup marketing campaigns.

Set (and track) your marketing KPIs

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, you’d want to choose KPIs like website traffic, social shares, new email contacts, or anything else that might ultimately help you measure growth in your audience size. If, instead, your goal is to acquire more customers and make more money, you might want to center your KPIs around 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—and be ready to make adjustments when something isn’t working.

Incorporate Google Analytics on your website

Google Analytics will help you learn more about your audience’s demographics, how much time they’re spending on your site, and which site pages they’re visiting. You can then use these insights to determine what works, what doesn’t, and what steps you might want to take to generate more traffic to the site moving forward.

You can also use Google Analytics data to implement a conversion rate optimization (CRO) strategy. Once you know what people are doing when they visit your website, you can implement changes—big or small—that will make it more likely they perform some type of desired action.

Perform A/B tests

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 create up to three different variations of an email to see which one generates the most engagement from your audience. And since you’re also able to determine the factor that determines success for your email—whether it’s clicks, opens, or revenue—it’s easy to learn what adjustments you’ll need to make in order to help you reach your goals faster.

Analyze your data

After each marketing campaign, pay close attention to the data that you’ve collected in Google Analytics, Mailchimp, social media platforms, and any other tools you used along the way. That data will help you determine the success of each individual campaign, and you can use it to help you monitor trends over time, calculate ROI, and learn more about the behavior of your customers.

Once you’ve collected enough data to get a good sense of your baseline numbers, be sure to be on the lookout for any elements of your campaign that show in a substantial jump or decline in your results. Try to determine why those particular elements stood out to your audience in a positive (or negative) way, and then make adjustments to your overall strategy accordingly.