Marketing for Startups: A Three-Step Guide to Creating Your Strategy

Marketing for your new startup is exciting. You’ve put time and effort into creating your product or service, and now you need to make sure your market is as hyped about it as you are.

In this three-step guide, we'll cover the essential components for creating asuccessful marketing strategy and help your startup grow faster by capturing the attention of the right people: ideal customers.

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Messaging, Buyer Personas, and Positioning

Before you start thinking about marketing tactics, you need to build a solid foundation for your brand and messaging. This is a step many startups skip, which, along with a lack of user research and market demand, can be a reason nine out of ten startups fail.

After ensuring there's demand for your product, get clear on these fundamental questions before planning your marketing strategy:

  • Who are you helping? Before you start marketing your product, you need to define your target audience. And within your target audience, go further and identify your different buyer personas.

  • What problems are you helping your customers solve? What are the pain points and challenges that you offer a solution to? Define this thoroughly; getting this one right will determine whether your marketing message resonates with your ideal customer or falls flat.

  • How are you helping your customers? It’s no coincidence that we’re talking about the how after the who and the what. Starting with the how is a classic startup mistake that will set you up for failure. As tempting as it is to dive into the details of your product, the harsh truth is that nobody will care unless you first answer every prospect’s most important question: "what’s in it for me?"

Once you have the answers to these three questions, it's much easier to craft compelling marketing messages that effectively resonate with your ideal customers. This provides the framework for any startup's successful marketing strategy.

A Three-Step Guide to Marketing for Startups

Below is our framework for an effective marketing strategy for your startup. Think of it as the foundation you can build upon and add to as you scale, bringing in new tactics such as email nurturing and other marketing automation.

1. Optimize your website.

To get your marketing strategy underway, the first thing you need to focus on is optimizing your website.

With great search engine optimization (SEO), landing pages designed for conversions, and a blog to drive traffic and build trust, your website will become a marketing machine in its own right.

Get your SEO right from the start.

Pay attention to SEO at the beginning of your startup's journey and you'll reap the rewards later.

Make sure you identify which keywords your prospects are looking for so you can start building your site and your content to rank for them.

Tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush are great for this and can be used both for checking which keywords your competitors use and for auditing and improving your site.

Optimize your site for lead generation.

Once a visitor lands on your site, make sure there’s a next step for them to take. Offer something of value to incentivize visitors to leave their contact details.

If you're stuck on what to offer, a download of a white paper or free trial of your service are classic lead magnets. Once you have their email, you can reach out to prospects and nurture them down your sales funnel with automation and personalization.

Blog and guest blog.

Did you know that a B2B buyer on average consumes 13 (!) pieces of content from a provider before deciding to purchase?

To build trust with your prospects, it’s essential to showcase your expertise and build credibility by publishing useful and valuable content on your website.

Guest blogging on other sites is also a cost-efficient way to drive traffic and get exposure.

2. Design a social media marketing strategy.

Once you have your website in good shape, social media is the next arena to conquer. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of options, so where should a startup begin?

Choose the right channels.

Where does your target audience like to hang out online? If you target Gen Z kids, then maybe TikTok is the place to be. And if you’re selling a B2B product? Then LinkedIn is probably a better channel.

Choosing your channels thoughtfully with your key personas in mind will help you create more targeted messaging and avoid spending time on channels where ROI is low.

Provide value.

When you’ve chosen your channels and platform, it’s time to consider what to publish. Your guiding star should be to help, not to sell. In social media, people tend to filter out or block anything that feels too salesy.

Aim for content that is either educational, inspiring, or entertaining, depending on your product and your target audience.

Interact with your audience and influencers.

There’s a reason social media is called social media. These are not platforms for one-sided communication; one of the keys to success is interaction.

Always respond to questions and comments as soon as you can, and interact with the influencers in your industry to build relationships and awareness for your startup.

Experiment with ads.

Advertising can be tricky to maneuver, so start small to avoid spiraling costs. Start by targeting the most low-hanging fruit and experiment to see what works.

Trial and error is often the best way to go, starting with minimal spending and amping up only when you begin to see real results.

3. Recruit customer ambassadors.

Create systems for referrals.

The best marketing you can get is happy clients recommending you to their peers. It’s the type of marketing that is the most trusted, the most effective, and the least costly.

Start building processes for referrals into your funnel from the beginning, such as offering active clients incentives for referring new sign-ups.

Leverage testimonials and case studies.

Social proof is gold in marketing. Research shows that 91% of people read customer reviews and 84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

Testimonials and case studies are highly effective ways to leverage happy customer stories at scale. And they are well worth the investment. A well-written case study is one of the most influential pieces of marketing content you can produce and can be leveraged in all stages of the sales funnel.

Start early and collect testimonials from happy customers. Then write case studies describing how your product is helping them.

Now that you have a baseline marketing strategy to build off of, let's talk about how to properly scale it as your business continues to grow.

Preparing to Scale: Experiment, Measure, and Iterate

When building a marketing plan for your startup, be prepared to continually experiment, measure, and iterate.


Traditional marketing campaigns are a dying breed. Today, the most successful businesses are the ones who are continually tweaking and adapting, allocating funds where they get the most bang for their buck.Being agile and adapting is vital.


It's also important to get your core KPIs in place early on in your startup's marketing journey. These should be closely aligned with your overall company metrics (and stay that way as your startup scales).

Choose a few important KPIs to focus on and visualize these transparently and accurately in your reporting dashboards. These can include:

  • Number of marketing leads by channel
  • Conversion rate by channel
  • Cost of acquisition per channel

To get quality data that informs actionable insights, avoid getting swamped by vanity metrics that don't matter, sync data between your apps, and create a culture of data integrity at your business for optimal accuracy.


Don't fall into the sunk cost fallacy trap: you can always pivot away from what's not working, and often a startup should do just that.

Learn from your experimenting, and make sure to document what you’re doing as well as the money you’re spending on different channels. This way, new hires won’t have to reinvent the wheel, and you’ll be able to track your expenses and measure ROI.

Remember to start by defining who you are helping, what you are helping them with, and how you’re doing it.

When you have your story and messaging in place, it’s time to move on to the channels you use to communicate it: including your website, social media, and customer-generated content such as case studies. And, don’t forget to document your results to keep learning and tracking performance along the way.

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