If you’re involved in a startup, the founder of your own business or a solo-prenuer, you’ll understand how wide the choice of startup marketing strategies are…
…and to make things more confusing, most of these tools, channels and tactics label themselves as ‘MARKETING MUST-HAVES’. Throw this disorientating number of options in with a small startup marketing budget (that every business must scale when they’re starting out), and it’s likely that most of you are in a tough spot.
That’s why I’ve created this roadmap (with build in GPS). These directions will work as a framework for any small business, no matter their niche or industry.
But before we get into the nuts and bolts of digital marketing, and how to grow your audience and customers, I’d like to make something completely clear:
Successful marketing requires time or money, preferably both.
Some of you might have small budgets, that’s fine, within this guide you’ll learn where you can make savings and I’ll point you to other articles (that’ll help you save those all-important pennies). Just remember, wherever you cut back on marketing spend, you’ll need to invest more time.
In other words, the smaller your budget, the harder you’ll have to work (but that’s the fun part!).
When you’ve tested these fundamental startup marketing strategies, you can optimise your marketing budget by spending on the strategies that are successful, and cutting back on those that fail, because…
…the more money you put into a marketing machine that works, the more you get out!
StartUp Marketing Roadmap Step 1: Market Research
Before you do absolutely anything, you must understand your target market and audience. This means research!
Many of you will think that your market research phase was finished with product development, but it’s crucial you understand your audience’s preferences in order to properly market your business.
At this stage in our startup marketing roadmap, you’re doing nothing more than discovering the correct information to input into the GPS. If you don’t know your destination, via, route preferences (fastest, shortest, most fuel economic) or the potential traffic in your way, you’re going to get somewhere but it’s almost definitely going to be the wrong place, and the wrong journey.
Start by creating a Customer Avatar, and work this out into a more detailed tactical analysis that can be used to build a strategy.
In other words, think about your perfect target customer and create an avatar from this, research this avatar until you have a crystal clear understanding of their most-used mediums, their trust-points, their decision-making influences, the time of day they’re free, their biggest pains, their goals…everything…
…and it’s critical that you do this. The better you understand your target market, the more cost effective your marketing strategy will be.
For instance, it’s great to know that your target audience use LinkedIn, but it’s even better to know that they use LinkedIn most often on Wednesday’s between 7.30am-10am. That kind of detailed knowledge is the perfect way to optimise your marketing budget (in both time and money).
Performing market research can be expensive, especially if you outsource the responsibility to a specialist company, but if you’re on a tight budget and want to save as much as possible, I’ve got a few suggestions:
Trust me, you’ll be shocked at what tactics you can pick up from a detailed description of your target customer.
Get yourself one of our customer avatar worksheets. Spend at least an hour filling it out. Go super-granular and describe everything about your target market in as much depth as possible!
Consumer Barometer (with Google)
This tool is FREE, available to everyone and has loads of incredibly useful information, especially for businesses in the research phase of their marketing campaigns.
The Consumer Barometer is something that I would urge all of you to check to gain a better understanding of your customer’s views towards digital and their buying processes.
Use the FILTER option to target information about your customer avatar. Run through all of the options in the Consumer Barometer, and don’t ignore anything! If you think something is unimportant, it could cost you a lot of time and money later on. When it comes to internet usage and user behaviour, you should trust Google. They know a thing or two about it.
Just to make sure you use this amazing tool correctly, I’m going to run through an example.
So, let’s pretend my target market are based in the UK, aged between 25-34, predominantly male, earn a medium income, own 3 Devices (mobile, computer and tablet), they aren’t parents, their most recent online purchase was Books/DVD’s and their favourite category of business is Travel…
…I’d target all of this using the FILTER menu.
Now that I’ve narrowed the information down to my target customer, I’m going to learn as much as I can about them. So, I’d go to the QUESTIONS tab and pick a question, in this case, ‘What online activities do people do on their smartphones at least weekly?’
I can then use this data to create a much more cost-effective and targeted marketing strategy further down the line. For instance, looking at the results (above) my target audience perform searches and watch videos as their top smartphone activities. If I wanted to market to them via this device (which my other research tells me is growing in popularity for this market sector) I’d have to incorporate Search and Video into my strategy.
Whilst the Customer Barometer isn’t as strong as performing market research on your target customer (which usually takes a lot of money, time or both), it is a great place to start for start-ups on small budgets.
A simple yet immensely valuable tool built by Google. Just like the Consumer Barometer, Trends is FREE, but instead of providing information about your target market’s behaviour, it shows trends in search volume for certain keywords.
This means, you can find out if people are searching for keywords that match with your business idea, and you can view ‘related searches’.
Using this research you can better understand WHY people are searching in your niche and even better, what they’re looking for (this will usually lead you to a problem that your target audience are trying to fix).
And keep an eye out for upward trends! If you spot a curve before it grows, it could propel your start-up to the next level.
The oldest, most traditional and probably the best form of market research is the trusty survey.
There’s no better way to get specific answers to specific questions.
These can be costly (in time and money) and also, it can be very difficult to get people to participate (people don’t like doing something for nothing), so either you have to get smart or spend money.
If you really can’t afford to pay for this type of old-school research, why not create a discount that leads, prospects or existing customers receive when they complete your survey.
Try a service like SurveyMonkey, they run a free program for basic accounts (that’s probably you!).
StartUp Marketing Roadmap Step 2: The Website
One thing that you ABSOLUTELY CANNOT COMPROMISE ON, is your website. You must own and control your own site if you want to get anywhere in digital marketing.
You may have heard that you can make your business work online using just social media profiles, or that publishing content on a site like Medium is enough…
When you rely on a network or any other form of external content hosting site, you are putting your faith in somebody else’s hands. That’s not good. You want to be in control. If they make an update, or change their terms of service, or do just about anything that affects you negatively, you have nobody to blame but yourself.
And, not just that, you don’t actually own and control the most important asset on that site, the traffic.
These are the visitors who come to view your start-up’s digital profile, and they’re 100,000x more valuable when you own your own website! (I’ll explain why a little later on!)
So, whatever you do, make sure you buy and control your website! This will cost money, but it’s unescapable. If having your own website takes a big chunk of your budget and costs you time elsewhere, so be it. It’s worth it.
Both Shopify and WordPress have different monthly payment packages, I would advise against going for the cheapest option on either. You’ll regret it when you want to scale. Take your time and study the features of each package, find the most appropriate for your start-up and the functions that best suit your target market.
If you suck at setting up your website, go on fiverr.com and hire a cheap freelancer to get the job done for you!
StartUp Marketing Roadmap Step 3: Social Media
I know that nearly everyone will be encouraging you to focus on one social media channel (or all of them), but I want you to ignore that.
When you’re starting out, begin your business’s social media journey on TWO networks. No more, no less. Two is the perfect number.
At this point you might be expecting me to reel off the exact networks you MUST USE, and then explain why you have to use them, but I can’t…
…because the answer will be different for each and every one of you, apart from one common denominator…
The Must Have Network
Whatever your industry, product, brand, offering, personal preference, you absolutely must have a Facebook page for your business (especially in startup marketing).
Facebook is by far the world’s biggest social network, and with over 2.23 Billion monthly active users, I’m certain that however small your niche, your audience are on there!
What’s more, Facebook is almost seen as a social proof resource for people investigating new people and businesses. If you want to research a person or company, one of the first things you’ll do is search Facebook for them. Make sure that people find you when they’re searching for you. You can’t market something that isn’t visible.
Facebook is also either the 1st or 2nd (depending who you ask) most effective advertising platform in the world. And you’re going to want to take advantage of that at some point in your marketing journey. So, the sooner you’ve got a profile, the better.
When you’ve got a business page set-up, share the page and try to gain as many likes as possible, use our guide, How to Get Facebook Business Page Likes Without Spending a Penny, to maximise your efforts.
Your Second Network
You must give your social media profiles the best possible chance of success, and for you to do that, you should only focus on ONE other platform (after Facebook).
I cannot tell you exactly what network that should be, it depends on your business and more importantly, your target audience. Just make sure you target a large network that acts as a congregation spot for your market.
Use your research to decide which network is most effective. This is a crucial decision, and not something you should take a random guess at.
I’d suggest picking one of the following three as your secondary network for startup marketing:
If you’re not sure which network is right for your brand, use our Social Media Test: Which Network is Most Suited to Your Brand?
Startup Marketing Roadmap Continued: Part ii
By now you should have a website, two social media platforms to target and a whole heap of invaluable research, it’s time to take to the road and begin your journey. You’ve laid the foundations, don’t stand back and admire your handiwork, make it pay.
Startup Marketing Roadmap Step 4: Content
In order to grow an active following, you must first create engaging content.
Of all the steps on this marketing roadmap, this is probably the one that scares (the majority of) you the most.
It’s a commonly held believe that content takes time, creativity and talent, and although this is true for many content marketers, it doesn’t have to apply to you too.
The most engaging form of content is not entertaining, funny, or incredibly designed, it isn’t ‘side-ways’ slants, controversy or breaking news…
…the greatest form of content solves problems, just like your product.
As a startup, you must use your content to create awareness about the problem your product solves and then explain how your product solves it. If you’ve got a service and don’t want to give the game away, give your audience something small that proves your worth and positions you as an expert on the subject.
As for content types, there are four to choose from (and two you must use):
The Most Important Type of Content
You might be intimidated by the sheer volume of content that industry leaders are creating in your niche, you might even feel self-conscious about your content in competition with theirs, perhaps you’re worried about the variety and standard of theirs…
…the good thing is, that’s all beyond the point. Yes, it will make a difference in the long-run, but as a startup, you need to focus on what you’re capable of and just start. Doing is the best way of improving.
In terms of content, that means two different formats that you absolutely must-use.
It’s vital for your long-term growth that you produce regular written content on your website and your social media platforms.
Aim to write social media updates everyday (alongside photos, where relevant) and at least one longer form of written content every week. Focus on the pain points of your target audience and build brand stories everywhere you can. This will make your audience want to return, which is vital for growth.
Written content will help your website rank on search engines like Google, it won’t happen overnight, but by consistently publishing something on your blog, you continually increase your chances. Search engines are a huge source of exposure and this is not something you can afford to miss (more on this later).
Get into a routine of writing (minimum) one new article per week of a decent length. Don’t worry if you aren’t Shakespeare, focus on the lessons in the content, not the writing style.
Written content is a staple of digital marketing and it demonstrates hustle and commitment…
…but, video is taking over.
This type of content attracts the largest audience, the most likes, shares, comments and can interest, convince and convert your market at different stages of the funnel.
It’s 100% necessary that you incorporate video into your content strategy.
The most cost effective place to start is with you in front of the camera. Although this might sound intimidating to start with, you will get over this and become much more natural with time.
Other video options are whiteboard instructional videos and simple slideshows built with software like Lumen5.
Startup Marketing Roadmap Step 5: Advertising
The most fundamental part of marketing is taking your product to your target market, this means (at some point) you’re going to need to advertise.
The cheapest and most targeted form of advertising is via Facebook. Using this platform, you can target audiences by their age, location, interests, hobbies, salary and so much more.
This is another example of the importance of market research. The more you know about your target market, the more money you will save. The aim of your targeted social media advertising is to reach the RIGHT PEOPLE who will convert into customers.
You will have to pay for every person you reach, and that’s why it’s so important that you understand your audience. Know them, target them, save money.
If you haven’t got a Facebook Business Manager Account, and you’re making the fatal error of just hitting that ‘Boost Post’ button, learn how to get one in five simple steps.
Facebook advertising is a crucial part of your startup’s growth and that’s why 93% of marketers use it.
Decide whether you want to run advertising to create brand awareness, capture leads or convert customers and Facebook will help you achieve your aim. Spending as little as £5 per day WILL make a massive difference to your company…
…and before you skim down to the next section because you think you can’t afford this small investment, take a look at your everyday life, do you invest in a coffee in the morning? Do you buy a paper? Subscribe to an app you never use?
What cut backs can you make in your everyday life that would free up this NECESSARY investment?
Another form of advertising that’s cheap and targeted comes via micro-influencers. These are people who have loyal, engaged audiences via their vlog, blog or social media profiles. In return for payment (or a freebie) these ‘micro-influencers’ recommend your product to their audience.
When selecting a micro-influencer look at their content and see if it attracts your target market. If you think it does, analyse their engagement stats; do their audience regularly comment, like and share their content?
When you’re able to tick both these boxes, you should reach out via personal message or email (if you can find an address) and talk to them about your brand and what you’d like to achieve with their assistance.
If you’d like to learn more about Influencer Marketing Strategies, check out our article about this Modern Day Growth Tactic.
Startup Marketing Roadmap Step 6: Growing and Nurturing a List
Email has apparently been ‘dying’ for about ten years now. Instead, we’re told to aim to collect all sorts of alternative contact information…
…but, the fact of the matter is, if somebody wants an account on any software, app, network, social media platform, just about anything online, they need to sign up using an email address. It’s at the heart of everything we do online.
Everybody needs one and everybody uses them, so we must try to capture as many as possible for future marketing opportunities.
This doesn’t mean blasting out tons of emails every week. It means growing and nurturing a list so they actually WANT to receive and open emails from your company.
Owning a valuable marketing list is crucial if you want to reduce your future marketing spend. Sending an email to everybody about your latest product or offering a discount to all existing customers is a great way to boost income with little marketing spend.
The greater your list, the greater your future income will be.
Growing a Marketing List
When and where you’ll grow your list depends on your business model, but there are a few growth points that cross over in all industries (online). They are:
- Lead generation
- Organic approach/cart abandonment/enquiries
- Paying customers
It’s critical, for the growth of your list, that you test and optimise at every single one of these stages.
For example, why not test different lead magnets on different segments of your target market? Remember, a lead magnet will effectively collect leads if it offers something of enormous value in exchange for that email address. Make your offer irresistible, this is usually done by solving a problem that a prospect would normally have to pay for.
Cart abandonment and enquiries are a clear indication that a prospect is interested in your business, but has yet to make a final decision. It’s your job to help them make that decision and using email marketing (by way of your list), is the perfect way of doing this. 7 out of 10 people abandon their digital cart, it’s your job to draw them back. Use our guide if you’d like to learn more.
Every customer that buys online will have to hand over their email address for communications and a receipt. You should use this for future offers, content and awareness. Do everything to make sure these paying customer become repeat customers.
Startup Marketing Roadmap Step 6: Search
The final step in this startup marketing roadmap is ensuring you are search-ready, but that doesn’t mean it’s the last thing you should do. In fact, you should be doing this from the very start of your digital journey, and never stop.
Graduating to the top of the rankings doesn’t happen overnight, but you can speed up the process by doing the correct things and priming your content to be search-ready.
There are so many factors that it’s going to be difficult for me to include them all in this tiny section (especially after the other 5 steps in this startup marketing roadmap), so go ahead and check out Page Optimisation: How we Optimise Every Page for Search Engines, to discover how to prime your content for search enquiries…
…and then get over to The 35 Most Important Google Ranking Factors (and their Explanations) in 2018.
Using the strategies in these posts will help your organic traffic continually grow.
Digital marketing can be a minefield, particularly when you’re starting out online.
There are so many companies offering must-have services that it’s difficult to know which way to turn.
As a general rule, start out with the 6 steps in our startup marketing roadmap and develop from there.
And please remember, the more hard-work you put in at the start (research and market knowledge) the cheaper and easier everything else will be!
What do you think of our startup marketing roadmap? Leave a comment or send us a message, we’d love to hear your opinion.
And don’t forget to check out our Google Ranking Factors post, the sooner you implement search optimisation techniques, the faster you’ll receive free marketing goodness!