Startup Marketing to Scale Your Business?

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Startup Marketing to Grow Your Business

Why Does Startup Marketing Matter?

  • 82% of startups fail. Based on data collected from over 60,000 startups, CB Insights discovered that the average startup only has a 1 in 10 chance of surviving for a decade. This underscores the importance of effective marketing strategies for startups. Reaching your target audience and generating interest in your product or service is crucial to increasing your chances of success.

  • 72% of consumers say they are likelier to buy from a company they know and trust. According to a recent study by Nielsen, trust is a paramount factor consumers consider when buying. This finding emphasizes the significance of establishing a robust brand for your startup. Your brand can set you apart from the competition and cultivate a devoted customer following.

  • 92% of B2B buyers research products and services using social media. LinkedIn surveyed over 3,000 B2B buyers and found that social media is an indispensable tool for potential customers to learn more about vendors and make informed purchase decisions. This emphasizes the significance of startups' robust social media presence as it is an excellent platform to connect with potential customers, establish relationships, and generate leads.

  • 60% of consumers say they are more likely to buy from a company that offers personalized experiences. Personalization is key to driving customer engagement and loyalty, according to a survey conducted by Salesforce among 10,000 consumers. It is crucial to tailor your marketing messages to reflect the unique needs and preferences of your customers. This helps increase engagement and ultimately boost sales, setting your startup apart from the competition.

  • 70% of consumers say they are likelier to buy from a company that provides excellent customer service. Startups must prioritize top-notch customer service, which is crucial in ensuring customer satisfaction and retention. This is highlighted by a study conducted by American Express, which surveyed over 1,000 consumers. Positive experiences with your company will likely bring customers back for more business in the future, making customer service an essential factor for startups to consider.

How to Establish Your Startup Marketing Strategy

So you've set up your own business and have a website. You have a great product or service and have sold it to your first pilot customers, partners in your network, friends, and family. You get encouragement that your solution is something great, and you are ready to conquer the world. What's next, though?

Successful Startup

The world is full of advice for getting your website on the first page of Google in just a few days: how to buy success with followers and likes on social media; and how to maximize your traffic with advertisements on Google Adwords, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. You just have to do it, and the path to unprecedented wealth is paved with long-tail keywords. Yeah, right.

Sometime later, your bank account isn't what it used to be, and you haven't hit the jackpot. Sounds familiar?

A saying in the startup world is, "If it were easy, everyone could do it." That has held rather true for our startups and businesses--we weren't born or founded smart. Pretty much all of the trailing thoughts and experiences, we have messed up royally in our first steps. But we learned quickly (and the hard way) that this can work with a couple of simple principles. Many start and then think about a Marketing Strategy second.

Let's turn this around and look at some basic premises that work for every startup, every business,  and individual situation.

When pushing for quick results, build a foundation first.

Yes, you can buy yourself into revenue. It comes at a cost, though. More often than not, that price is quite steep. "In the old days" (which were the days when we were young), one way to get traffic to your website was by placing pay-per-click ads, i.e., you paid $100s or $1,000s every month. You got Google Analytics to show you, in real-time, that you have this incredible website with money-laden visitors flocking all over your website.

(At least) two things are wrong with that: only a small fraction of those visitors convert to buyers, while the others remain anonymous visitors. More importantly, the second you stop paying for your PPC ads, your visitor stream stops. Unless you are great at that approach (that is, born smart...some people are), learning in the paid advertisement world is VERY expensive and builds up little relative to a solid foundation for future growth. When boosting your traffic with paid advertisement, ensure a maximum number of landing pages to help you convert into leads or customers.

"In the long run, your business will prosper only if you find a systemic way to attract a steady and growing stream of relevant visitors to your website and are able to convert traffic into leads and eventually, into wicked happy customers."

- Joachim Koch

One of the ways to make that happen is through disciplined content generation. Content, often generated through an effective business blog, lets search engines index your site and improve its ranking. When done right, it educates your visitors about typical issues your business solves for your customers and inspires your prospects to reach out to you for potential solutions. Consultants and leaders called this "creating pull" decades ago. Modern terminology calls it "Inbound Marketing."

Not only does good content generation answer questions your prospects might be searching for and, as such, attract them to your site, but it also provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate competence in your areas of strength.

Furthermore, visitor traffic coming from organic search, triggered by disciplined content generation, is compounding. Many of our customer examples show that less than 20% of visitor traffic comes from content generated in the last 30 days.

Does content marketing lead to quick results? Can you get the first prospect within a week of publishing your first blog post, creating your calls-to-action, and making white papers and guides available for download on dozens of landing pages?

Well...... nope. Of course not.

While content marketing often yields mind-boggling results and exponential growth, it can take a few weeks or even months for organic traffic to pick up significantly. Knowing how to write well and reuse content for gated white papers, deep-domain-expertise pillar pages, email campaigns, sales-executive meeting follow-ups, etc., helps accelerate the benefits you can obtain. Eventually, the results will outweigh the initial investment by a long shot, and you will never look back.

Below is a little case study from our history books of a startup marketing agency:

Exponential Growth of Organic Search Traffic

The above example shows the development of sessions from Organic Search in the first 15 months of a new website launched in February 2019. It was managed with two weekly blog posts of about 1,400 words until April. We added a third weekly post and some thorough SEO and Keyword optimization in May 2019. Yet, it took another nine months for results to show.

Interesting yet relatively common: more than 40% of organic search traffic in May 2020, the most recent month of this chart, was generated from content published in 2019--more than six months earlier.

A couple of months later, the trend continues nicely:


Get good at storytelling, network with storytellers, and build and convert a pipeline.

So, leads begin to come in. Your lead generation is working (yeah, right). Interest in your brand, products, and services begins to grow. Now, you'll need to sharpen your pitch to crisply articulate what value your customers can expect (and when) once they use your products and services. What value are you adding? Why buy from you? Why now?

Entertaining your visitors with the coolness of your offering is nice. You will need to articulate, though, (1) how you would use your services if you were the customer (and why) and, ideally, (2) how others have already been using them and what results they've achieved.

Expected or already achieved results, presented in a context relevant to your prospect and narrated in a familiar language, build credibility. Having existing customers serve as a reference will further increase the trust and comfort level a new customer seeks when making key decisions about your solutions.

For the importance of establishing trust, watch a first introduction to the trust formula:

Being great in sales is being good at storytelling—stories from the non-fiction section. Apply your story to incoming leads from your networking, inbound marketing activities, and referrals.

At the same time, frame the sweet spot of your solution offering, define your target industries and buyer personas, and build targeted outreach campaigns to supplement your slowly ramping-up inbound marketing. Identify targeted names of people you'd like to win as customers. Listen to them, their requirements, their suggestions, and their rejections. Modify your approach until you get it right. While "dialing for dollars" can be frustrating, working with a highly relevant target population will let you iron out the bugs in your product and go-to-market approach and generate wins. And let's face it, winning is better.

What's the best strategy for you? Learn more about Smart Marketing!

Proactive digital advertising, e.g., adding paid advertisements on social media or Google Adwords, is fine as long as you understand the temporary nature of those activities: they stop working when you stop funding them. If defined and targeted well, they can be a solid, cash flow-positive boost to your revenue stream, especially beneficial until your inbound marketing and brand reputation kick in. Ensure sufficient landing pages to provide opportunities to convert traffic into leads.

Finding the right outbound activities and combining them with your fundamental inbound marketing approach is a critical element of startup success:

Growth Marketing StrategyB2B Growth Marketing Elements

The best venture capital comes from happy customers.

When employed in a large company, your paycheck comes from the HR department. When you work with your startup, because you're not making any money, your pay comes from the venture capital company—true for many, but still dead wrong.

Ultimately, the thing that pays your bills will have to be revenue, which must come from customers. As simple as that.

Your friends and family and their capital injections, in addition to your savings or 0% credit card loans or, later, money from the venture capital world, can fund you with initial cash to get started, accelerate growth, or help through difficult times. I feel fortunate to have those.

More advanced stages of despair can quickly involve merchant loans for 20%+ APY, depleting your retirement savings, or similar nonsense. Unfortunately, these situations are relatively common. After all, the failure rate of startups is larger than the success rate...

Bootstrapping at least your pilot phase, building and showcasing the foundation of your go-to-market success with modest means (e.g., inbound marketing, grooming your storytelling capabilities to build your pipeline, and winning first pilot users) will not only increase your chances of success but also significantly increase your negotiation position when it comes to attracting external capital.

Ask for advice, even if you don't think you need it.

Yes, good advice can be expensive. If it is truly good, though, it will be more than just an expense. It will provide you with a tangible return on investment (ROI). An ROI of more traffic, more referrals, more opportunities to convert traffic into leads, and leads into customers. Network with individuals and companies who have lived through the whole cycle of building successful and growing companies, ones who have failed to do so but have succeeded more often.

Learn to not just grow big with lots of money burned through in a flash but how to grow better by building a foundation with lots of capabilities in your business and yourself. If benefit and ROI disappear when the consultant, the agency, or the money stream stops, it will not have been the best approach for you to help you grow better.

In addition to working with great partners (and paying for it in return), surround yourself with great mentors. Mentors who have nothing else in mind other than seeing you succeed. Mentors who listen rather than talk, mentors who coach rather than instruct. Most great (business) leaders will cite their mentor network for success. You can find great mentors in all aspects of life, your city's startup community, LinkedIn groups, (good) old bosses or teachers, etc.

Be proactive in building and maintaining a small network of mentors. Even and especially when you think you don't need them. The world's best athletes surround themselves with great trainers, even though they already perform well. It works for us as well. If we don't learn and improve ourselves, we won't be able to do the best for ourselves, our families, or our businesses.

"We have a strategic plan. It's called doing things".

- Herbert David Kelleher (March 12, 1931 – January 3, 2019)

It is good to dream, but you need to get started.

The longest journey starts with the first step. Business success requires the first customer, the first sales opportunity, the first prospect, the initial lead, and the first visitor. Building your business and your customer attraction model with the "end" in mind is important.

But even more important than having a plan is to get started—all the best of luck. Let us know if you want to bounce off some ideas and plans.

Startup marketing guide download

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get more traction for my startup?
There are many ways to get more traction for your startup, but here are a few strategies you might consider:

  • Identify and target the right audience: Make sure you have a clear understanding of who your target audience is and how to reach them.
  • Create valuable and relevant content: Develop valuable, relevant, and consistent content that meets the needs of your audience and helps to build trust and credibility for your startup.
  • Optimize your website for search engines: Make sure your website is search engine optimized so that it ranks well in search results and is easy to find by potential customers.
  • Utilize social media: Use social media platforms to connect with your audience, share content, and engage with potential customers.
  • Build partnerships and collaborations: Partner with other companies or organizations that share a similar target audience or mission. This can help to expose your startup to a new audience and establish credibility.
  • Run promotional campaigns: Consider running promotional campaigns or special offers to attract new customers and drive traffic to your website.
  • Consider paid advertising: Paid advertising, such as Google AdWords or social media ads, can help to increase visibility and drive traffic to your website.
  • Focus on customer satisfaction: Make sure that you are providing an excellent customer experience, as satisfied customers are likely to recommend your startup to others.
How can I effectively target and reach my target audience?
Effective targeting and reaching your target audience is crucial for the success of your startup. Here are a few strategies you might consider:

  • Define your target audience: Identify your ideal customer, including demographic information such as age, gender, location, and interests.
  • Research your target audience: Conduct market research to learn more about your target audience, including their needs, preferences, and behaviors.
  • Identify the best channels to reach your audience: Determine the most effective channels for reaching your target audiences, such as social media platforms, email marketing, or paid advertising.
  • Create relevant and valuable content: Develop content that is relevant and valuable to your target audience and addresses their needs and interests.
  • Segment your audience: Consider segmenting your audience into smaller groups based on shared characteristics, such as location or interests. This can help you create more targeted and personalized marketing messages.
  • Personalize your marketing efforts: Use your information about your audience to create personalized marketing messages and campaigns that speak directly to their needs and interests.
  • Utilize customer data: Use customer data and analytics to inform your targeting and reach efforts and to optimize your marketing campaigns.
  • Test and optimize: Test different targeting and reach strategies and use data and analytics to optimize your efforts and improve results over time.
How can I create a successful marketing strategy on a small budget?
Creating a successful marketing strategy on a small budget can be challenging, but it is possible with the right approach. Here are a few tips for creating a successful marketing strategy on a small budget:

  • Prioritize your efforts: Identify the marketing activities that will have the biggest impact and focus your budget on those efforts.
  • Utilize free or low-cost marketing channels: There are many free or low-cost marketing channels, such as social media, content marketing, and email marketing. Utilize these channels to reach your target audience and promote your startup.
  • Collaborate with other businesses or organizations: Partner with other businesses or organizations to promote each other's products or services jointly. This can help to expose your startup to a new audience and save on marketing costs.
  • Leverage customer relationships: Encourage satisfied customers to spread the word about your startup through word-of-mouth marketing. This can be one of the most effective and least expensive ways to promote your business.
  • Utilize data and analytics: Use data and analytics to inform your marketing decisions and ensure you get the most bang for your buck.
  • Be creative and resourceful: Be bold and think outside the box and get creative with your marketing efforts. There are often unique and unexpected ways to promote your business on a small budget.
  • Test and optimize: Test different marketing tactics and use data and analytics to optimize your efforts and improve results over time.
How can I measure the effectiveness of my marketing efforts?
Measuring the effectiveness of your marketing efforts is important for understanding what is working and what is not and for making data-driven decisions about your marketing strategy. Here are a few tips for measuring the effectiveness of your marketing efforts:

  • Set clear goals and objectives: Define specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals for your marketing efforts. This will help you to determine what success looks like and how to measure it.
  • Use analytics tools: Utilize analytics tools, such as Google Analytics or social media analytics, to track key metrics related to your marketing goals.
  • Track conversions: Set up conversion tracking to measure the number of people who complete a desired action, such as making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter.
  • Monitor engagement: Track engagement metrics, such as likes, comments, and shares, to understand how your audience responds to your marketing efforts.
  • Use A/B testing: Conduct A/B testing to compare the performance of different marketing tactics and identify the most effective approach.
  • Conduct surveys and customer research: Use surveys and customer research to gather feedback about your marketing efforts and learn more about your audience.
  • Review and analyze your data: Regularly review and analyze your data to identify trends and patterns and make data-driven decisions about your marketing strategy.
How can I leverage social media for my startup?
Leveraging social media can be an effective way to promote your startup and connect with your target audience. Here are a few tips for leveraging social media for your startup:

  • Identify the right platforms: Determine which social media platforms your target audience is most active on and focus your efforts on those platforms.
  • Develop a content strategy: Create a content calendar and plan the types of content you will share on social media, including blog posts, articles, images, and videos.
  • Engage with your audience: Interact with your followers by responding to comments and messages and by sharing and commenting on relevant content.
  • Use hashtags: Use relevant hashtags to make it easier for people to discover your content and join relevant online conversations.
  • Utilize paid advertising: Consider using paid advertising on social media platforms to reach a larger audience and drive traffic to your website.
  • Analyze your results: Use analytics tools to track the performance of your social media efforts and identify what is working and what is not.
  • Continuously optimize and improve: Use the insights you gain from your analysis to optimize and improve your social media strategy continuously.
How can I build a strong brand for my startup?
Building a strong brand is important for the success of your startup, as it can help to establish credibility, differentiate you from competitors, and create customer loyalty. Here are a few tips for building a strong brand for your startup:

  • Define your brand: Develop a clear and concise brand message that reflects the values and unique selling points of your startup.
  • Create a visual identity: Develop a visual identity, including a logo and brand guidelines, that reflects your brand and sets you apart from competitors.
  • Consistency is key: Maintain consistency in your branding across all marketing materials, including your website, social media, and business cards.
  • Tell your brand's story: Use storytelling to connect with your audience and convey the unique personality and values of your brand.
  • Engage with your audience: Engage with your audience on social media and through other channels to build relationships and create a loyal customer base.
  • Deliver on your brand promise: Make sure that every customer interaction lives up to the promise of your brand and consistently meets or exceeds customer expectations.
  • Monitor and adapt: Monitor your brand perception and be open to adapting your branding efforts as needed to ensure that your brand remains relevant and resonates with your audience.
How can I generate leads for my startup?
Generating leads is an important part of any marketing strategy, as it helps to bring potential customers into the sales funnel. Here are a few tips for generating leads for your startup:

  • Identify your target audience: Clearly define who your ideal customer is and what their needs and interests are.
  • Create valuable content: Develop valuable and relevant content, such as blog posts, ebooks, and whitepapers, that addresses the needs and interests of your target audience and establishes your expertise in your field.
  • Use calls-to-action: Include calls-to-action in your content and on your website to encourage visitors to take specific action, such as signing up for a newsletter or requesting a demo.
  • Utilize landing pages: Create targeted pages designed to convert visitors into leads.
  • Use lead magnets: Offer something of value, such as an ebook or webinar, in exchange for contact information from potential leads.
  • Invest in paid advertising: Consider using paid advertising, such as Google AdWords or social media ads, to reach a larger audience and drive traffic to your website.
  • Utilize social media: Use social media to promote your content, engage with potential leads, and drive traffic to your website.
  • Use email marketing: Use email marketing to nurture leads and move them further down the sales funnel.
How can I create and execute a content marketing strategy?
Content marketing is a strategy that involves creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience and to drive profitable customer action. Here are a few tips for creating and executing a content marketing strategy:

  • Identify your target audience: Clearly define who your ideal customer is and what their needs and interests are.
  • Determine your content marketing goals: Identify what you want to achieve with your content marketing efforts, such as generating leads or increasing brand awareness.
  • Create a content calendar: Plan out the types of content you will create and when you will publish it, using a content calendar.
  • Develop a variety of content formats: Experiment with different types of content, such as blog posts, videos, podcasts, and infographics, to see what resonates best with your audience.
  • Promote your content: Use social media and other channels to promote your content and drive traffic to your website.
  • Engage with your audience: Use your content to start conversations and engage with your audience on social media and other channels.
  • Use data and analytics: Use data and analytics to understand what is working and what is not and to optimize and improve your content marketing efforts continuously.
How can I build partnerships and collaborations to benefit my startup?
Partnerships and collaborations can be a valuable way for your startup to access new audiences, build credibility, and gain access to new resources. Here are a few tips for building partnerships and collaborations that benefit your startup:

  • Identify potential partners: Research companies or organizations that share a similar target audience or mission and may be interested in partnering with your startup.
  • Establish mutually beneficial goals: Clearly define what each party hopes to gain from the partnership and ensure the goals are mutually beneficial.
  • Build relationships: Take the time to build relationships with potential partners and get to know their business and goals.
  • Develop a partnership agreement: Create a written partnership agreement that outlines the terms of the partnership and the responsibilities of each party.
  • Communicate and collaborate effectively: Make sure to communicate regularly with your partners and collaborate effectively to ensure the partnership is successful.
  • Measure and review the partnership: Regularly review the partnership to make sure it is meeting the goals of both parties and consider making adjustments as needed.
  • Be open to new opportunities: Be open to exploring new partnership opportunities that may arise and that align with the goals of your startup.
How can I use data and analytics to inform my marketing decisions?
Using data and analytics is an important part of any marketing strategy, as it helps you to understand what is working and what is not and to make data-driven decisions about your marketing efforts. Here are a few tips for using data and analytics to inform your marketing decisions:

  • Identify your key performance indicators (KPIs): Determine the most important metrics to track, such as website traffic, leads generated, or conversions, and use analytics tools to track these KPIs.
  • Use data to inform targeting and reach efforts: Use data, such as customer demographics and interests, to inform your targeting and reach efforts and create more personalized marketing campaigns.
  • Analyze the performance of your marketing efforts: Regularly review the data and analyze the performance of your marketing efforts to identify trends and patterns and understand what is working and what is not.
  • Use A/B testing: Conduct A/B testing to compare the performance of different marketing tactics and identify the most effective approach.
  • Make data-driven decisions: Use the insights gained from your data and analysis to inform your marketing decisions and continually optimize and improve your efforts.
  • Use tools and technologies: Utilize various tools and technologies, such as analytics platforms, customer relationship management (CRM) systems, and data visualization tools, to help you collect and analyze data and make informed decisions.

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