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How To Create a Marketing Strategy For Your Startup

Updated: Apr 19

Are you ready to start building your go-to-market strategy? It's an exciting step for any startup founder, but it's also a ton of work. Strategic marketing is a critical part of that plan, especially in today's competitive business landscape.

This guide will help you understand all the important pieces to a marketing plan so you can best your target audience and make a lasting impression. By clearly defining your goals, identifying your target market, and implementing a variety of marketing strategies, you can set your startup up for success.

Understanding Strategic Marketing

Understanding strategic marketing is essential for startup success. But many founders struggle with a strategic marketing definition and have trouble understanding how to set the right marketing objectives and create a marketing strategy that is effective at reaching target audiences and driving business growth. After all, they're not in the marketing strategy business - they're in the startup business.

Marketing is a multi-faceted function - even the most established business are adjusting their marketing mix and tweaking the marketing plans outline all the time. So how do founders know how to set the right goals and build a makreting plan that will reach those goals? We'll cover the basics here today.

Defining Strategic Marketing

Strategic marketing is how a business achieves their goals of capturing new customers and communicating with existing customers. Strategic marketing leaders set goals, plan the tactics and strategies to achieve those goals, and execute them. Above all, remember the "four Ps" that define marketing: product, price, place, and promotion.

Think of this as the "realpolitik" of marketing - a grounded, no-B.S., realistic free marketing plan that's been at the cornerstone of marketing for over 60 years now. Achieving the full mix of those four P's and establishing the messaging - the right product, at the right price, marketed to the right people in the right way - is a good marketing plan template to have in mind as you work.

Importance of Strategic Marketing for Startups

Far too often, strategic marketing is "left behind" in the startup world. This is natural and understandable; after all, most startups focus on the billions of things that need to go right to launch the company—from a product development strategy, to hiring, establishing a sales team, and getting payroll in place.

However, without any thought put into strategic marketing, your startup can find itself quickly "behind the eight ball" at critical points of its development. The key? Start thinking about a successful marketing strategy right away. Let's break down some strategies for success here.

Key Elements of a Successful Marketing Strategy

Let's break down some of the "marketing strategy 101" aspects of a successful marketing strategy for startups. There are many different types of marketing plans and varying types of marketing strategy out there; what's right for one startup might not be right for another. However, there are a few absolute elements to every successful marketing strategy you should know.

  • Integrate within the business plan. This is critical. Too many startups sideline marketing, or only tackle it at the very last moment. Work with the broader organization to "budge in" and assert your importance right alongside sales, engineering, HR, and the other departments. Develop a sample marketing plan and share those marketing plan examples with the other departments to prove your bona fides.

  • Think about your marketing budget. Knowing your marketing budget is critical. Take into close consideration everything you need to launch your marketing efforts - from staff and grammar tools to online subscriptions or travel. Also, be sure to define what's in your marketing budget and what isn't. You might be surprised what other departments try to lump into marketing (event travel and associated costs is a good example).

  • Get people in the door that can do the work. Staff your marketing team with a good mix of people who can do the work. In a startup, versatility is key; you're likely not going to have the budget, space, or time for niche jobs, so look for marketers who have a multi-faceted background and can do things like rudimentary HTML work or graphic design. Additionally, remember that while startup experience might be nice, it's absolutely not a necessity.

  • Know the product inside and out. Sit down and get to really know the product lines you're going to be marketing. Talk to developers, engineers, sales people, and leadership. Find out what makes it tick, and what makes it different. Conversation is king; after all, many of these people are so close to the products that extraordinary things might seem quite ordinary to them. Patience and discussion is key to unlocking some true insights.

Incorporating Market Research in Your Marketing Strategy

Look up any marketing plan faqs, and they'll all say the same thing - market research is at the cornerstone of all good startup marketing initiatives. Develop a comprehensive step plan for market research as soon as possible; define your target market, think about potential customers, and develop well-thought-out buyer personas that you can use to drive the research.

Setting SMART Marketing Goals

Have you heard of the SMART template for marketing goals? It's a great marketing template to have in mind for ALL organizations - especially startups. SMART stands for specific, measurable, actionable, relevant, and time-bound.

SMART Marketing Goals for startups
SMART Marketing Goals

  • SPECIFIC: What's the specific opportunity this marketing effort provides?

  • MEASURABLE: What sort of metrics are we going to use to define the success of this marketing effort?

  • ACTIONABLE: How will this provide a real-world boost for the organization/product?

  • RELEVANT: Does this effort fit in with business and marketing goals?

  • TIME-BOUND: What's the realistic timeline for development, implementation, and analysis?

Let those five words be the guidepost for your term goals in marketing - both long- and short-term. It's a SMART thing to do.

How to Create a Marketing Strategy

Developing a Strong Value Proposition

What makes your startup stand out? If you can't answer that simple question in a clear, concise manner, you aren't ready to start on any marketing position. The very first thing on your startup marketing plan list should be to develop this strong value proposition (with the help of organizational stakeholders), distribute it to the team, and let that messaging underline all of your content.

Want to know a good place to start with a value proposition? Check out this blog we posted recently.

Identifying Target Audience and Personas

What kind of customer are you going for? Identifying your target audience and defining your buying personas needs to be at the top of the list for any startup marketing plan. In this area, collaboration with other teams throughout the organization is key; marketing can often get a touch myopic when defining audiences and personas.

The perfect mixture for defining your audience and personas is healthy mix of metrics-based analysis - what the numbers show - with a detailed, well-thought-out customer definition provided by the people who know the product best. Remember, "What is the problem we're trying to solve?" is the key question that should guide all audience and persona definition work.

Creating a Competitive Analysis

No true marketing plan is complete without taking a close look at what your competitors are doing. Developing a comprehensive competitive intelligence report focusing on heir marketing activities is an extremely valuable tool for a startup organization.

Put together a report on the market, identifying who your closest competitors are and giving a brief overview of their pertinent marketing activities. Where are they advertising? What social outlets are they using? What are their themes and messaging? Decide what works and what doesn't, and reflect those strategies in your own startup marketing plan.

Establishing Brand Positioning

What sort of flag do you want to plant in the ground as a startup? When you think of all of the most successful brands in the world, a message should immediately spring to mind - athletic shoes, soft drink, online shopping. Obviously, your startup won't be Nike, Coca-Cola, or Amazon right away. However, you do need to think about how you want to position yourself in the market. Think back to that value proposition and build on it. What's the first thing you want customers to think about when they hear the name of your organization?

Selecting the Right Marketing Channels for Startups

Budget might drive the selection of your marketing channels - at least at the beginning of your startup journey. It's highly unlikely, for example, that your product will have the money to show up in an ad on Superbowl commercial. But still, you do need to put some thought into which channels your marketing strategy will work best in.

Again, studying competitors is a good benchmark for this element; where did they focus their energies? Where are their ads and copy showing up? Also (to approach it from another angle), what channels are they not using where you might be able to gain some traction?

In the beginning of your marketing efforts, it may very well be a "see what sticks" effort for marketing. Don't get discouraged. With some work and some creativity, the right paths will expose themselves.

Implementing Your Startup Marketing Strategy Using The Right Marketing Mix of Tactics

Once you've built your marketing strategy, you're done, right? Wrong - that's when the real work begins. Let's take a look at some of the most popular marketing tactics implemented by startups today, and how you can get started.

Content Marketing Strategies for Startups

Content marketing is an effective marketing strategy for small businesses, for a few reasons:

  1. It can set your business apart - sharing original founder perspectives through blogs, long-form content, webinars, and social media and more can be very powerful in connecting with a prospective customer. Most founders have a lot of knowledge about their industry and passion for their mission - tapping into that will enable you to create truly original content.

  2. It can be (relatively) inexpensive - Unlike other strategies like advertising, event marketing and other sponsorships, there's not guaranteed level of spend for creating and publishing content. Outside of operating or tech expenses (like hosting a website or a webinar software) content marketing is cheap. Good content can come easily for free by reviewing your value proposition, your differentiators, and asking your founding team the right questions.

  3. It can set a strong foundation for future growth - Building an SEO-friendly content marketing plan is a powerful way to set your business up for growth in the future. An SEO strategy takes time to show results, so as you build your first website build SEO goals from the very beginning. They will pay off over time.

When building a content marketing plan, consider your audience first and foremost. What are they looking for online to help solve their business problems? What are they searching on Google, or browsing LinkedIn to discover? What types of content resonate the most with them, based on their needs - are they looking for a library of educational videos, or a series of free templates? Use the target audience and persona information you've collected to guide your content plan in the right direction.

Social Media Marketing Best Practices

Social media marketing is a natural next-step after your content marketing plan has been built. Social is fueled by good content. A good blog post can be sliced and diced into a ton of social content. Here are a few tips for your social media strategy:

  1. Start with one channel - don't do everything at once. Think about your target consumer and where they're getting their information or spending their time online. Are your buyers on LinkedIn or Facebook? Are they scrolling Instagram or TikTok, or both? Pick the channel with the biggest cohort of your buyers and start there.

  2. Don't just post - engage! - Social media is a two-way street. Often companies fall into the trap of only pushing out posts but not engaging with relevant content from others. But discourse with people on social about a topic relevant to your company could turn out to be shortcut to your next big customer. And social algorithms tend to favor brands who are engaging with other pages content as well.

  3. Repurpose existing content - It can feel daunting to write a new post every day, but the pressure to be original on social a bit of a fallacy. Use what you've got from existing content or web copy, and write it from different angles and perspectives. Ask AI tools like Writer, Narrato or Jasper to do this work for you. Remember - Your audience is nowhere near as engrained in your messaging as you are. So what might feel repetitive to you won't feel the same way to them. Repetition is actually critical to building a brand and consistent message on all your channels.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Guidelines

It's a strange time for SEO. If we were writing this post 2-3 years ago, the advice for startups to leverage SEO would be pretty straightforward. But AI tools have started to change peoples search behavior and flood the digital landscape with AI generated content. So the rules are all in flux.

Here are a few best practices to keep in mind:

  1. Build topic clusters - A topic cluster is a way for your brand to link together all your strategic content marketing efforts that surround a particular topic, and convey to search engines that you're an expert on that topic. Hubspot are truly pioneers of inbound marketing and they published a great guide to the topic cluster strategy here.

  2. Keep it resourced - Don't bother with SEO if you're not going to invest in it long-term. It takes time, planning and dedicated resourcing.

  3. Don't expect quick results - SEO is not a quick-win play. Again, it needs long-term investment. The organic traffic benefits can be great, once you're starting to rank higher for particular keywords or phrases. But that doesn't happen overnight.

  4. Think about both technical and content sides - SEO is a mix of technical website functionality and content marketing. It's not enough to only have one side of the engine humming. You need to invest in building your website in a truly SEO friendly way - from a technical perspective - for your SEO content to be successful.

Email Marketing for Startups

One of the most powerful tools in a startup's marketing arsenal is email marketing. By following best practices for email marketing campaigns, small businesses can effectively engage with potential customers and drive conversions. Here are some strategies to keep in mind to help your startup stand out in a crowded inbox.

  1. Research compelling subject lines - There are plenty of best practices published about subject lines, depending on your audience and industry. Here are a few pages to review for inspiration from Hubspot, Wordstream and DripDrip.

  2. Segment your email list for targeted messaging - The more personal the message in the email, the better. If you have a few target audiences, segment your email lists by these audiences. Customize the content to appeal to their needs, wants and pain points.

  3. Think quality over quantity - It's better to send fewer, more compelling messages and offers, than to send emails regularly. You want to retain the trust of your audience and you don't want to be flagged as spam or ignored.

  4. Leverage various formats - including gifs, videos and photos in emails have proven to increase open rates. Invest the time in creating content of varying formats to see what resonates best with your audience.

Monitoring and Adjusting Your Marketing Efforts As Your Startup Grows

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for Startups

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) should serve as the numeric backbone of your marketing activities. Spend time on the KPIs early, as part of your marketing plan outline; sit down with the key stakeholders and figure out the roadmap for metrics success. What are the cold, hard numbers that will show what's working - and what isn't?

Figure out what these definable business goals are. Is it the number of customers reached? Number of deals converted? Number of qualified marketing leads passed on to the sales team? Once you have a handle on these KPI metrics, integrate them into your overall approach and let them be your "north star" of a guide.

Here's a great resource for marketing KPI's for startups from Forbes.

Analyzing Marketing Data and Metrics

Another cornerstone of an effective marketing strategy as your startup grows? Analyzing the marketing data and metrics that you receive - and then adjusting as necessary. There is an extraordinary amount of data you'll be able to gather as part of your market development strategy, like customer metrics, email hit rates, social media reach and much more.

Sift through the data and - just as you would with your Key Performance Indicators - determine the most important data that you can use to gain a competitive advantage with your marketing. What audience segments are standing out? Which marketing or promotion mediums - social, email, etc. - are bringing in the most/best leads?

Continuous analysis (on a biweekly, if not a weekly, basis) and course correction based upon these metrics should be a cornerstone of any robust marketing strategy for a startup.

A/B Testing and Optimization Techniques

A/B testing and optimization is a key element of a complete marketing strategy. Any outstanding marketing plan deploys an A/B testing model for its messaging - sending out different marketing messages (A and B in this example, although you can do more) and exploring the results.

It's a simple, easy, and efficient way to test out your messaging proposition; make this type of testing a cornerstone of the marketing strategy process. However, don't just stop at A/B testing. You can always work to optimize your results. Continually examine and adjust with the data that comes in to your organization to determine which of your marketing strategy components need that little bit of a tweak in order to secure success.

Responding to Market Feedback

Market feedback should serve as a critical guide in a strong marketing strategy for a startup organization. Your customers, after all, are the reason you're in business. Without them, your organization cannot exist. It's essential to listen to what your customer base is saying (especially your target customers) and adjust your overall marketing efforts to match. Here are some questions to ask yourself on a regular basis:

  • Did they respond to a specific message in a piece of social media or other advertisement?

  • Did campaign messaging or imaging resonate or not?

  • What types of marketing are succeeding - and which are falling short?

Your marketing department should have regular "download" sessions in order to take in feedback from customers and take steps to adjust as necessary.

Additionally, try to put together a working group of 3-4 steady customers to conduct market research (internally, in this situation) and get some frank feedback. You might be surprised at how often this feedback can help fuel a good marketing plan.

Crisis Management in Marketing

Crisis management is a critical - yet often overlooked - element of a comprehensive marketing strategy for startups. Just as you have a fire extinguisher and first-aid kit stored around the house, ensure your marketing team has a crisis management marketing strategy in place.

Think about all of the things that could go wrong or sideways from a product or commercial angle and discuss how you'd address these things in a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency situation. Define spokespeople, set up an emergency social media template, and have sample press releases and other communications ready to go just in case the worse happens. Remember, the best time to prepare for crisis management is well before you're ever in this type of crisis.

Strategic Marketing Is Critical to Startup Success

Building a marketing strategy should be a priority in your early stages of your startup. By defining strategic marketing, incorporating market research, setting SMART goals, and crafting a comprehensive marketing plan, startups can establish a strong foundation for growth.

Once those foundational pieces are in place, you can focus on implementing the right mix of tactics such as content marketing, social media strategies, SEO, and email marketing, and continuously monitoring and adjusting based on data analysis and market feedback are crucial for sustained success. Finally, crisis management should not be overlooked, as having a plan in place can help navigate unforeseen challenges and ensure the resilience of the startup's marketing efforts.

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1 Comment

May 14

Thanks for sharing this insightful guide on crafting a startup cox cable tv and internet packages marketing strategy! Understanding the importance of market research, defining target audiences, and leveraging various channels is crucial for success in today's competitive landscape. Your emphasis on flexibility and adaptation resonates well with the dynamic nature of startups. The actionable tips provided offer a solid framework for startups to navigate through their marketing endeavors effectively. Looking forward to implementing these strategies and seeing the positive impact on our startup's growth journey!

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