Startup Marketing Playbook

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Written by Luke Glassford

Startup Marketing Playbook

If there’s one thing start-ups require more than anything, it’s growth. More traffic, more leads, more customers and more revenue. An effective marketing plan is therefore essential if your start-up is going to succeed in hitting its growth targets.

Marketing a start-up is different from marketing an established business in several ways. First of all, start-ups are often limited in some way – usually lack of resources or budget – meaning they need to be strategic and efficient in their marketing activity.

Start-ups are also starting from the very bottom when it comes to brand recognition, so it is more challenging to generate awareness and establish credibility in the market.

Another challenge for start-ups is they are often still in the process of fully defining and solidifying their unique value proposition, which must be effectively communicated to potential customers and investors.

To help start-up founders develop and implement an effective marketing plan that takes into account the unique challenges they face, we have set out an actionable step-by-step guide below.

Book a call with Gambit Partners now to learn more about how we can help your startup grow:

Outline your strategy

Before you even consider attaining your business goals, you must decide on a strategy that works for you. All successful start-up marketing strategies need to consider the following:

  • What are your short-term and long-term goals for raising brand awareness and acquiring new customers?
  • Who is your target audience? Who will most likely buy your product or service, and how will you attract them? What is your USP (Unique selling point) that stands you out from your competitors?
  • Have you completed market research to hone your niche and know what will appeal?
  • What is your budget?

Set your goals

To achieve success with your start-up, it is important to clearly define your goals and prioritise them accordingly.

Two common goals for start-ups are raising brand awareness and acquiring new customers. While both are important, it is helpful to focus on whichever one aligns best with your current business needs.

  • Prioritising brand awareness: To increase the recognition of your brand, you should focus on developing a marketing strategy that effectively communicates your unique value proposition and differentiates you from your competitors. This can include employing tactics such as social media marketing, influencer partnerships and content marketing to increase visibility and establish credibility.
  • Prioritising new customer acquisition: To acquire new customers, focus your marketing strategy on effectively targeting and converting leads into paying customers. Use tactics such as email marketing, lead magnets and conversion-optimized landing pages to increase engagement and drive conversions. Additionally, use effective design, copy and calls to action to grab your audience’s attention and encourage them to take action.

It's important to note here that the above are just examples and these goals are not mutually exclusive. Depending on what stage your start-up is at, you may choose to prioritise one goal over the other or try to achieve both at the same time.

The most important thing is to clearly define what success means for your start-up and to develop a marketing strategy that aligns with your goals.

Define your target audience

As a start-up founder, it's essential to ensure that your marketing efforts reach the right people with the right message.

But, how do you know who your ideal audience is or who you want it to be? To help you determine the best target audience for your start-up, ask yourself these key questions:

  • What problem are you solving for your customers?
  • What makes your offering different from competitors?
  • Why should customers choose your business over others?
  • If you are targeting a B2B audience, are there specific industries or business sizes that would benefit the most from your product or service?
  • If you are targeting a B2C audience, are there specific demographics, locations, or interests that align with your product or service?

Answering these questions will help you to identify your ideal audience and develop a marketing strategy that resonates with them.

Remember, by understanding your target audience, you will be able to create a message that speaks to their pain points and offers them a solution that aligns with their needs – which is the key to building a loyal customer base and scaling your start-up.

Identify your place in the market

One of the most common reasons start-ups fail is a lack of demand for their product or service.

This can be caused by a variety of factors, such as not solving a problem that customers have, not being unique enough to stand out from competitors, having a narrow focus with a small pool of potential customers, or not properly positioning your product or service to reach the right audience.

To increase your start-up's chances of success, it's crucial to conduct thorough market research to understand the demand for your product and gauge interest from potential customers.

Once you've determined that there is enough demand to sustain your business, you can focus on how to effectively communicate the value of your product or service to your target audience.

Some market research tactics you could use include:

  • Conduct surveys and interviews: Reach out to potential customers and ask them about their problems, needs, preferences and the current solutions they are using. This will give you valuable insights into the market demand for your product or service.
  • Research your competition: Understand what other products or services are currently available in the market and how they are positioning themselves. Look for gaps in the market where your product can fill a need.
  • Study industry trends: Keep an eye on current trends and changes in the industry. Identify any opportunities or threats that may affect your business.
  • Carry out keyword research: Use SEO tools such as SEMrush or Ahrefs to understand the search demand for your product or service, understand the online behaviour of your potential customers and track their search queries.
  • Test your product or service: Before launching, test your product or service with a small group of potential customers. This will give you a sense of how well it is solving their problems and what changes may need to be made before launching.
  • Validate your idea: If you are able to validate your idea with the market research and testing, the next step would be to create a minimum viable product (MVP) and validate it by getting paying customers, this would give you an idea of how much people are willing to pay for your product and how much revenue you can expect.

Set your budget

This is often the element that new businesses skip over. For example, a start-up may feel they cannot afford an extensive, national marketing campaign and believe that social media is the way forward.

It could be, but you will still require a budget to help boost visibility and perhaps employ someone to help create eye-catching advertisements and scheduling.

Regardless of the amount of money you have available for marketing, it is crucial to allocate it strategically. Clearly define your goals and concentrate your marketing funds on channels that will assist you in achieving those goals.

Be willing to make changes or try new methods if a specific channel does not prove to be effective.

As your business and budget expands, you can gradually increase your marketing budget and target new audiences.

Focus on the right marketing channels

The number of different marketing channels available these days can feel overwhelming, with many startup founders not sure which ones to focus their resources and budget on. Should you advertise on Facebook or concentrate on email marketing? Would content marketing be more successful than advertising on the radio?

The answers to these questions are different for all startups, as they depend on what audience you are trying to reach. For example, if you are primarily targeting a B2B audience then focusing on LinkedIn as a marketing channel may get better results than focusing your marketing resources on Instagram.

Below we have listed some of the most common marketing channels for startups and SMEs:

Your own website

First of all, you need a website for your start-up. Whether you're selling a product or a service, a website serves as a versatile marketing tool that can help you reach and engage with your target audience.

When building a website, there are several easy-to-use and mostly free Content Management Systems (CMS) options available, such as WordPress, that can help you create a simple website. However, to create a professional-looking website that truly represents your brand and effectively captures leads or generates sales, you may need to seek the help of a web designer/developer or specialist agency.

Before starting your website, it's crucial to search for and purchase a domain name that reflects your business and will serve as your online identity. Make sure to also check the availability of your chosen domain name on all social media platforms you plan to use now or in the future to ensure consistency across all platforms.

When creating your website content, make sure to include the following elements:

  • A landing page that includes information about your business and what you offer to customers. This page should also have a sign-up form that allows you to contact customers about any promotions, new products, or events you plan to run.
  • An About Us page that includes information about you as the business owner. Keep in mind that people buy from people, so it's important to personalise this page to appeal to your target audience
  • A menu of your products/services that can also serve as an online store for customers to purchase from
  • A blog section that you can add to over time to demonstrate your expertise in your field and provide valuable advice to your audience

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

There are reportedly 8.5 billion searches on Google every day, so it’s very likely that your target audience is searching online for your products or services.

SEO is the practice of getting your website to rank higher in search engines like Google when someone searches for something related to your products/services. This could be a potential customer searching directly for your product e.g. “organic shampoo”, or looking for more information and guidance about your product e.g. “which is the best organic shampoo for dry hair”.

One of the main benefits of SEO is that it can help you reach your target audience more effectively. By researching and targeting the keywords that your target audience is searching for, you can ensure that your website is being seen by people who are likely to be interested in what your start-up offers.

Another benefit of SEO is that it can help establish your brand as a thought leader in your industry. By creating valuable, informative content that addresses common questions and concerns in your industry you can demonstrate your expertise and establish trust with your target audience. This can lead to more conversions and ultimately, more sales.

Here are a few actionable tips for start-up founders looking to improve their SEO:

  • Carry out keyword research to identify the phrases and terms that your target audience is searching for. Use these keywords in your website content, meta tags, and page titles to ensure that the content on your website is optimised for search engines.
  • Create high-quality, informative content that addresses the questions and concerns of your target audience. This will not only help establish your brand as a thought leader, but it will also help your website rank higher in search engine results.
  • Make sure that your website is mobile-friendly and responsive to different screen sizes. Google has confirmed that user engagement factors such mobile-friendliness and page download speed are ranking factors, so make sure it is quick and easy for visitors to find what they are looking for on your website.
  • Use analytics tools to track your website's performance and monitor your search engine rankings. Use this data to identify areas for improvement and optimise your website accordingly.

Book your FREE SEO strategy call!

Get real-time, face-to-face SEO advice from our SEO expert Luke Glassford.

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Book your FREE SEO strategy call!

Get real-time, face-to-face SEO advice from our SEO expert Luke Glassford.

Social Media Marketing

Just as your target audience is very likely to be using search engines, they are also likely to be using social media platforms. Facebook has almost 3 billion active monthly users, Instagram has 1.4 billion and TikTok has 1 billion – so whatever market your start-up is in, you can expect at least some of your target audience are using social media.

However, unlike with SEO where your potential customers are actively searching for what you offer, with social media your audience is there for another reason so your marketing tactics need to reflect that and aim to engage, entertain and inspire rather than overtly ‘promote’.

As well as ‘organic’ social media marketing – earning more followers, ‘likes’, clicks etc. by posting regular engaging content and interacting with your audience – you also have the option of advertising on social media platforms.

You don’t necessarily need a large budget, but any successful social media plan should consider some short-term ad planning, especially in the beginning when you are looking to generate early engagement and leads.

For social media ads you gave a lot of options, including:

  • Meta Ads (Facebook and Instagram) - With so many active users worldwide, this offers a massive opportunity for any new business start-up. It means there are a lot of potential customers sitting there, waiting to learn more about you. You can target specific groups of people, people in a particular location, or within a specific age group.
  • Twitter Ads - People often forget about Twitter as it is a fast-moving platform. However, several advertising options still exist to help raise people's awareness of your business, drive potential customers to your website and attract new followers. You can target location, interest, demographics, or even keyword usage.
  • LinkedIn Ads - This may not be a platform for everyone, but it gives you a platform to promote yourself to like-minded individuals, and you could set up ads for specific job titles if you are running a start-up that would benefit a particular role.

Learn more about using social media for your start-up with our guides:

Online advertising

As well as social media ads, there are many other forms of online advertising you can use to raise awareness, drive traffic and generate leads for your start-up.

Google Ads can be a great way to attract potential customers who are searching for your products or services and can be used as a ‘shortcut’ to getting search traffic while you wait for your SEO efforts to kick in – which can take months.

To set up Google Ads you effectively ‘bid’ on keywords, telling Google how much you are willing to pay for a click on your ad after someone has searched for the given keyword. This is why this form of advertising is referred to as ‘Pay-Per-Click’ or PPC. Google will take into account your bid as well as the quality of your advert and the website it is linking to when it determines which ads should appear in their search results.

Depending on the type of audience you are targeting and the keywords you are bidding, PPC ads can become very expensive. Some of the most expensive keywords to bid on in the UK can cost up to £80 per click, so it pays to have a specialist help you when setting up your campaigns.

You can also use the Google Ads platform to promote your start-up via display ads, which are images and banners that are shown on other websites your audience may be visiting e.g. news websites, industry blogs, forums etc. These can be a great way to raise awareness of your start-up, especially in the early stages.

Read our guide to learn more:

Email marketing

Email marketing is a cost-effective and targeted form of marketing that can be particularly valuable for start-ups. By collecting email addresses from individuals who have expressed interest in your business, you can create a highly targeted audience for your marketing campaigns. This can help you reach potential customers who are more likely to be interested in your products or services, increasing the chances of conversions.

Another benefit of email marketing is that it allows you to build a relationship with your customers. By sending regular newsletters or promotional emails, you can keep your business top of mind and establish yourself as a trusted source of information in your industry. Additionally, email marketing can increase brand loyalty and repeat customers, which is crucial for start-ups looking to establish a sustainable customer base.

Overall, email marketing can be a powerful tool for start-ups looking to increase brand awareness, generate leads and build long-term customer relationships.

However, as a business owner, it's essential to stay compliant with data protection regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). One key aspect of this is obtaining explicit consent from individuals before contacting them for marketing purposes.

One effective way to do this is by including a consent form on your website or having customers provide their contact information when they visit your physical location.

Once you have a list of email addresses from individuals who have given their consent, you can use email marketing tools like Mailchimp to send personalized and relevant newsletters. This can help increase brand loyalty, encouraging customers to continue doing business with you rather than turning to competitors.

For help with finding the right email marketing tool for your start-up, read our recent Twitter thread:

Content marketing

Content marketing is a strategic approach to creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content. The aim is to attract and engage your target audience with the goal of driving awareness, engagement, traffic, leads and sales.

It involves creating and sharing valuable information such as blog posts, articles, videos, infographics, and social media posts that provide value to your audience.

For start-up businesses, content marketing can offer several benefits. It can help establish the business as an authority in its industry, increase brand awareness and drive traffic to your website. Additionally, it can help generate leads and improve search engine rankings.

Here are some actionable tips for start-ups to get started with content marketing:

  • Define your target audience: Understand who your target customers are, their pain points and what type of content they are looking for
  • Create a content calendar: Plan out the types of content you will create, when you will publish them, and who will be responsible for creating them
  • Produce quality content: Focus on creating high-quality, informative, and engaging content that addresses the needs of your target audience
  • Promote your content: Use social media, email marketing and other channels to promote your content and reach a wider audience.
  • Measure and optimise: Use analytics to measure the success of your content marketing efforts and make adjustments to optimise your plan
  • Be consistent: Consistency is key, make sure to publish content on a regular schedule and keep your audience engaged
  • Use visuals: Use images, videos, infographics and other visuals to make your content more engaging and shareable

By following these tips, your start-up can effectively use content marketing to attract and engage potential customers, establish your brand as an authority in your industry and drive awareness and early adoption.

Referral schemes

Referral schemes can be an effective marketing strategy for start-ups, as they leverage the power of word-of-mouth recommendations. One way to implement a referral scheme is to offer incentives to customers who refer their friends and family to your business. Additionally, rewards for repeat business can help to encourage customer loyalty.

Social media can also be leveraged as part of a referral scheme, by partnering with promoters and influencers who can promote your products and services to their followers. This can be a cost-effective alternative to traditional marketing campaigns and can increase visibility among your target market.

Another approach is to reward customers who post about your product or service on social media platforms like Instagram. This can generate user-generated content that can be used for marketing purposes and also rewards customers for promoting your business. This is a win-win situation for both the customer and the brand as it saves on time and resources that would be spent on creating own content while giving customers an incentive.

Offline marketing

Finally, remember to add offline promotional strategies to your marketing plan. It is easy to forget about face-to-face interactions when so much is done over the internet now, but word of mouth is still one of your best assets.

Offline marketing strategies can complement the digital tactics of start-ups as they provide opportunities for face-to-face interactions and word-of-mouth referrals. It is important to include offline promotional tools in your overall marketing plan.

Networking events are a valuable opportunity for start-ups to connect with potential customers and other businesses in their industry. Attendees are usually looking to establish connections and learn from others in their field, which can help to position your business within the market. Make sure to bring business cards to these events to share with potential contacts.

In addition to networking events, start-ups may also consider participating in craft fairs, seminars, forums, open days and charity events, as they offer opportunities to build brand awareness and increase sales.

Measure the performance of your marketing campaigns

Measuring and tracking marketing campaigns is crucial for start-ups as it allows you to make data-driven decisions and ensures that your limited funds and resources are being used effectively.

By having a clear understanding of which marketing channels and campaigns are delivering the best results, start-ups can optimise their campaigns and allocate their resources more efficiently.

Here are three ways you can use data to better inform your marketing plans.

Tracking KPIs

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are important metrics that are used to measure the progress of business and marketing goals. These metrics can allow you to track the performance of different marketing efforts and see if they are working or not.

For instance, when trying to increase brand visibility, it's important to monitor website traffic, social media engagement and new subscriber or follower acquisition. This way you can see if your current marketing activity is working and having an impact on the numbers. On the other hand, if the goal is to convert more of your visitors into paying customers, then it’s important to measure and monitor KPIs such as click-through rates and conversion rates.

While monitoring and analysing data can be complex and time-consuming, it's important to establish a routine to regularly monitor these metrics. It can not only help to track progress consistently but also allows you to identify and adjust any areas that may require improvement.

KPIs can provide a clear overview of your marketing performance and are vital for any business or marketing strategy.

Set-up A/B tests

Understanding your audience is crucial for any start-up, and the best way to do that is by listening to what they have to say, even if it's just via metrics like click-throughs, page views and conversions. It's important to be ready to make adjustments when something isn't working.

If you're planning on using email as a part of your start-up’s marketing strategy, A/B testing is an effective way to see how small changes can have a big impact on your results. A/B testing allows you to test different variations of an email, such as subject lines, sender names, send times, or content, to see which one resonates best with your audience. By measuring engagement metrics like clicks, opens, or revenue, you can easily identify the adjustments that will help you reach your goals faster.

It's not just limited to email marketing, A/B testing can be applied to many different forms of marketing as well. For example, A/B testing can be used to test different versions of a landing page to see which design or layout generates the most conversions. Similarly, you can use A/B testing to test different ad copy or images in a social media or PPC campaign to see which one generates the most engagement or conversions.

In other words, A/B testing is a powerful tool that can be used to test different variations of marketing strategies, messages and campaigns in order to identify the best performing one. By testing different elements and measuring the results, you can make data-driven decisions that will help you achieve your goals faster and more effectively.

Focus on what works for your audience

Now you have robust KPIs underpinning your marketing plan and are carrying out regular A/B testing on your campaigns it is important to use the data you are producing to make better decisions.

Data analysis is a critical component for start-ups looking to make the most of their limited resources. By using data to learn about their audience, start-ups can make informed decisions about their marketing strategies and focus their budget on what works.

For example, by analysing website analytics, start-ups can learn about the behaviour of their audience, such as which pages are most popular, what types of content are most engaging, and where their visitors are coming from. This information can be used to further optimise their website and create content that is more likely to resonate with their audience.

Similarly, by analysing the performance of their email campaigns, social media posts, and other marketing efforts, start-ups can identify the strategies and tactics that are most effective at generating engagement and conversions. This information can be used to refine their marketing strategies and allocate their budget more effectively.

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Written by

Luke Glassford

Marketing Director at Gambit Partners