As an entrepreneur, the biggest mistake you can make when launching your startup is failing to develop or implement a clear marketing strategy. As you probably already know, you can’t build a profitable business by simply conceptualizing, creating, and launching a great product. It takes much more than that to succeed.
In order to gain traction, boost growth, and build a sustainable business that stands the test of time, you have to do more than have a great product. You have to connect with your audience, tell your story, build trust, nurture leads, and ultimately convince people that your product or service can help make their lives better or their jobs easier. To do it, you have to invest serious time, energy, and money into developing effective marketing strategies.
The problem is, for many new or inexperienced entrepreneurs and business owners, the idea of spending any amount of time or money on marketing campaigns can be intimidating. When it comes to marketing your startup, there are a lot of tools you can use, channels you can participate in, articles you can read, and areas you can focus on.
In this post, we’re going to help you cut through the noise and overcome any fears you might have by providing you with the most essential information, best practices, and tools you need to build a winning marketing engine for your startup.
Before investing any of your resources into marketing efforts that can help grow your company, it’s important to first become aware of the primary focus areas that can be incorporated into your overall strategy. Today, most startups are investing resources in the following areas:
- Content Marketing & SEO – Creating and publishing valuable content on your blog is one of the easiest ways to boost exposure for your new business, build a reputation for your brand, increase traffic to your website, capture and nurture leads, educate people about your products and services, and land your very first customers. For help building out an effective, ROI-driven content strategy for your startup, read through our recently-published guide here.
- Social Media Marketing – As a new business, participating in social media is a must. It’s the best way to engage in authentic conversations with your current and future customers. The important thing to remember, however, is that you don’t need to create a presence and participate on every single social media site that exists. You just need to go where your customers and ideal customers are. For some businesses, that might mean focusing primarily on Facebook. For others, it might mean putting more time and energy into developing an active following on Instagram. To determine which social media site you should be investing in for your startup, read through this detailed report on the demographics of the most popular social media sites and messaging apps from the Pew Research Center.
- Email Marketing – Despite the increasing popularity of social media sites and messaging apps as outlined above, email still remains one of the most direct and effective tools that you can leverage to communicate with current and prospective customers. In fact, according to a report by McKinsey, email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter. To get started with email marketing, read through this guide from Copyblogger. In it, author Henneke Duistermaat offers 37 tips for writing emails that get opened, read, and clicked. We also recommend checking out this post from Brian Dean at Backlinko – it offers a ton of great and actionable tips for building your email list.
- PPC & Social Advertising – PPC or pay-per-click advertising can also help drive more visitors to your website. With PPC and paid search, you’re creating online advertising campaigns in Google and paying for results (clicks). It’s different than content marketing where your goal is to increase organic traffic to your website. With PPC, your goal is to use a daily budget to increase visibility in search results. To get started building PPC campaigns for your startup, read this introductory blog post from WordStream. In addition to launching PPC campaigns, most startups also create and manage ads on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Again, the goal is to increase visibility and connect with ideal customers using demographic targeting. To learn more about advertising on Facebook, click here. To learn more about advertising on Twitter, click here.
- Growth Hacking, Analytics, & CRO – Growth hacking has become almost synonymous with marketing over the past few years, but the two are not the same. Marketing is the umbrella terms that all focus areas being described in this section fall under. Growth hacking is a focus area that involves creating and launching rapid and lean tests aimed at moving the needle. Growth hacking is primarily conversion-focused, and it requires a good amount of data analysis. To understand growth hacking, the best place to start is with this beginner’s guide from marketing guru Neil Patel. To learn more about the type of CRO tactics other startups are incorporating into their marketing strategies, read this post from Brian Dean at Backlinko.
- Traditional Marketing & PR – Despite what some might tell you, traditional marketing and PR should still be included in your overall marketing strategy. As a startup founder, part of your job is to build relationships with writers and reporters who can help you spread the word about your product. If you’re like most startup founders, you’ll also be tasked with writing and launching press releases from time to time that fill people in on important and exciting announcements about your company. That’s where traditional marketing and PR both come into play. To start learning how to incorporate traditional marketing and PR into your overall marketing strategy, read this post from KISSmetrics.
To build an effective marketing engine at your startup, you should consider building a team that looks something like this:
- Head of Marketing – a well-rounded and experienced marketer to develop the strategy, coordinate the execution, keep track of goals, and manage the team.
- Developer / Designer – a creative professional with a marketing focus who can help you design and develop both digital and print marketing collateral (tradeshow brochures, sales sheets, case studies, Facebook ads, your website, landing pages, ebooks, brand graphics etc).
- Copywriter – a versatile writer who can help you shape your brand story and develop copy for both print and digital marketing collateral.
- Content Marketer – an experienced content marketing expert who can help you build editorial calendars, develop new blog ideas, manage freelance writers, and promote content.
- Social Media Manager – a skilled writer and communicator who can curate content for your social media pages and authentically engage with your followers.
- Paid Advertising Specialist – a marketer with experience creating and launching PPC ads, retargeting ads, and social media ads. Should also be comfortable managing budgets and bidding on ads.
- Public Relations Director – a seasoned PR professional who was an established network of journalists and writers they can reach out to when you have new press to share.
- Growth Hacker / CRO Expert – a savvy, data-driven marketer who can help you launch lean tests and identify which efforts to double-down on in order to drive growth.
- SEO Specialist – an SEO expert who can consult with your content marketer and paid advertising specialist to ensure that you’re able to take advantage of all existing SEO opportunities.
- Project Manager – a detail-oriented person who can manage all ongoing projects for the team.
If you’re like most startup founders, you’re not going to be able to build this ideal team right away, and that’s OK. Building a winning marketing team doesn’t happen overnight. It happens one person at a time. To get started, think about your budget, your goals, and where you need the most help—then start filling roles from there.
When it comes to marketing your startup, there are a few general best practices you can follow to boost success and ROI:
Best Practice #1: Set goals that are hard to achieve. Easily achievable goals are great morale boosters for your team, but they won’t help you scale your startup.
Best Practice #2: Know and listen to your audience. Let your customers guide your marketing strategy. Know what matters to them, where they spend their time online, what problems they need help with, what they think about your company and the product and services you provide, etc.
Best Practice #3: Don’t do what everyone else does, do what works. It’s tempting to go where every other startup is going and implement the same strategies as everyone else, but don’t do it. Instead, implement strategies that work. If Facebook isn’t right for your business, don’t sweat it. Invest your resources where they’ll make the most impact.
Best Practice #4: Hire people who are smarter than you. It’s the best way to build an amazing team of marketers. As a founder, you can’t do it on your own. Go out of your comfort zone and learn to trust people who know more than you do.
Best Practice #5: When you see an opportunity, don’t miss your chance to double-down. You might be presented with an opportunity to spend $10K on a marketing campaign, and that can be scary. But if you have the budget and you think you’ll get the return you’re looking for, do it. Don’t hesitate—when it comes to growth hacking, content marketing, paid advertising, and PR, opportunities can often disappear as fast as they arrive.
Best Practice #6: Alway go lean first, then spend time and money refining. When it comes to marketing a startup, the key is to spend as little resources as possible when testing tactics. This allows you and your team to launch more tests in less time in order to land on opportunities that can move the needle and spark growth. Once you have proven a tactic or idea to be successful, you can then invest more resources and time into refining and doubling down on your efforts.
Best Practice #7: Don’t be afraid to fail. Marketing moves fast. Each day there are new ideas and strategies being introduced and written about by companies everywhere. As a startup founder, it’s important to understand that testing a lot means failing a lot—and that’s OK. The key is to walk away from every test—successful or not—with learning that you can apply to your overall strategy going forward.
Best Practice #8: Be authentic and show people that you actually care. You can launch all the marketing strategies and tactics you want, but at the end of the day, if people don’t trust you or think you’re being genuine, you’re never going to get anywhere. Become a master marketer, but never forget the golden rule.
When you’re ready to start scaling your startup marketing engine, consider investing in these core tools to boost productivity and success:
- Optimizely – You can use Optimizely to build A/B tests on your website or within your mobile apps.
- Google Analytics – You can use Google Analytics to track website and blog engagement and traffic, and to set and track conversion goals.
- Buzzsumo – You can use Buzzsumo to find content to share on your social media sites, or to come up with new blog ideas.
- Mention – You can use Mention to keep track of each time another website mentions or links to your startup.
- Haro – You can use HARO to find free press opportunities for your startup.
- Facebook Advertising – You can use Facebook Ads to target ideal customers and drive them to your website.
- Adroll – You can use Adroll to create and launch retargeting advertising campaigns that follow your website visitors around the web in order to drive more conversions.
- Asana – You can use Asana to collaborate with your team members and manage projects.
- Growth Hacker Projects – You can use Projects by Growth Hackers to manage growth-driven campaigns and tests.
- Buffer – You can use Buffer to schedule your social media updates and engage with your followers.
- CoSchedule – You can use CoSchedule to create and manage your blog editorial calendar.
- Campaign Monitor – You can use Campaign Monitor to create and send email marketing campaigns to your subscribers.
- SumoMe – You can use SumoMe to capture email addresses on your website and build your list.
- Moz – You can use Moz to perform keyword research and identify new SEO opportunities.
- Zemanta – You can use Zemanta to distribute your blog content across other popular websites across the internet.
What else are you doing to market your startup? What tips do you have for new entrepreneurs? Leave us a comment below.