How to Create a Marketing Plan for Startups
Table of contents.
Creating a killer marketing plan doesn’t have to be expensive. However, it requires your time, effort and creativity. You’ll need to encourage innovative thinking among your team to generate the best ideas.
Building your brand is a perpetual process that starts on day one. We’ll share 13 startup marketing tips and explain how your marketing plan relates to the sales funnel.
Attracting customers is just one of the biggest challenges startups must overcome . Others include finding funding, learning how to run the business alone, and achieving a positive work-life balance.
How to create a marketing plan for startups
When you’re starting a business, expenses can feel overwhelming. However, an excellent startup marketing plan doesn’t have to break the bank. Here are 13 marketing tips that can help you establish a solid framework.
1. Define your end goal.
Just as you wouldn’t embark on a road trip without knowing your destination, you must define your marketing and business goals before you can achieve them.
To reach your target audience and successfully convert leads , you need a well-defined approach with specific objectives. When creating your startup marketing plan, you must determine your short- and long-term goals and consider how you’ll achieve them.
For example, in the shorter term (the next six months), you may want to use social media marketing to increase followers by 1,000 per month and find ways to generate website traffic. Your longer-term goals (two to five years) may include expanding, increasing sales, opening a new business location and growing your team.
When you have end goals, you can use key metrics to gauge your marketing strategy’s success or failure.
2. Determine your target market.
No matter how excellent your marketing plan, product or service, customers are crucial to your business’s success. But who are these customers?
You must identify your target audience so you can structure your marketing strategy to meet their needs. Here are three ideas to help you pinpoint your ideal customer:
- Identify your target prospects’ essential demographics, such as their age and location.
- Analyze your target market’s personalities and behaviors to create customer personas for informing your marketing efforts.
- Establish your brand’s message, following your research.
Your product or service must satisfy your target customers, and your marketing messages should convince them that your offerings are essential.
Collect survey data via email, text and website forms to help build your customer personas and pinpoint your target market.
3. Conduct keyword research.
Keyword research is a crucial element of any digital marketing strategy. You must determine the keywords that best define your business and the keywords your target audience will search for online. Keywords are essential to your startup’s marketing strategy; you’ll use them on your website, blogs, social media channels and advertisements.
4. Develop KPIs and metrics.
You must determine your key performance indicators (KPIs) and core metrics to gauge your marketing campaign’s success. If you record baseline metrics early on, you’ll have a way to measure future growth or declines.
Ensure that your metrics and KPIs are specific and measurable. For example, instead of saying you want to grow your social media following, aim to gain 1,000 new followers every month. Or, instead of promising to build an email marketing list , say you want an average email click-through rate of 4 percent.
The precise metrics that determine success will be unique to your business. However, you must establish these metrics early and continually assess your results. As your business grows and becomes more successful, consider reevaluating which KPIs and metrics make the most sense.
5. Establish a marketing budget.
Before you can develop a marketing strategy, you must determine how much money you can realistically dedicate to it. If you’re in the startup phase, there’s a good chance that your budget is slim, so you’ll need to use it wisely. If you’re a small business owner, a business budget template can help you get started. Once you’ve determined how much money you have for marketing, you must divide it up based on the best marketing strategies for your business.
For example, if your target market is younger and interacts with your product only on social media, consider allotting a significant chunk of your budget to your social media campaigns. If you notice that your blog is your most powerful marketing tool, you may want to dedicate more resources to hiring expert writers.
Consider conducting a marketing analysis to better understand your customers, decide on your strategies, and determine how to spend your marketing budget.
6. Create a website and a blog.
Increasing brand awareness online is crucial. While your industry and target market will help determine the extent of your online presence, a website and blog are likely excellent tools for establishing your startup as a credible organization. Depending on your budget and skill set, you can build and manage your website yourself or use one of the best website builders and design services .
But it’s not enough to create the website and blog; you or a team member must continually update them and produce fresh content. For example, your blog should have a consistent posting schedule and produce valuable content.
7. Find the right social channels for your startup.
Many startups recognize the power of affordable social media marketing. However, only a few understand the importance of using the right channels. Each social media platform serves different personalities and audiences, who engage with each channel differently. You must determine which platforms work best for your startup.
- Facebook: Facebook is a social media powerhouse. You’ll find disparate audience types, but you must seek out your target customers and use appropriate Facebook marketing strategies to connect with them.
- Instagram: Instagram is an excellent marketing and advertising platform. Its algorithm is optimized for valuable content, so your strategy must include consistently helpful, high-quality Instagram posts .
- X (formerly known as Twitter): Consistency is also paramount when you’re using this social media site as a marketing channel. The ultimate goal is to provide relevant content for your audience.
Evaluate and test various social media platforms. For example, business-to-business (B2B) companies can benefit from a LinkedIn business profile , home services companies can generate referrals from Nextdoor, and Pinterest can boost e-commerce product sales.
Always use social platforms thoughtfully to avoid cringey brand fails that can harm your business and customer relationships.
8. Cultivate relationships with influencers.
Influencers can be as crucial as customers. Getting influencers to market your product can build brand trust, offer social proof and boost sales.
Evaluate influencers based on their audiences and personalities. Ensure their audience includes your target customers. Contact them to see if they’re interested in cross-promotional efforts with free products and services. An authentic, organic influencer relationship can raise brand awareness and propel your startup to a credible force.
Watch out for influencer marketing fraud . Fake influencers often purchase followers to make their accounts look popular, deceiving businesses into unhelpful relationships.
9. Create ads that appeal to people’s emotions.
Emotionally connecting with customers builds brand intimacy. So how can a business connect with its target audience through emotional content? Consider the following emotions and how they can influence customer relationships:
- Happiness: Positive posts with smiling, laughing and happy customers can increase user engagement. Coca-Cola is an example of a brand that has leveraged this kind of emotional content to reach consumers. Its ads feature photos of happy people and taglines such as “open happiness” and “taste the feeling.”
- Fear: Fear is an instinct that triggers reactions to threats and boosts our chances of survival. It creates a sense of urgency that prompts us to act or effect change. For example, public service announcements often employ fear tactics to prevent cigarette smoking and drunk driving. Use caution with this strategy to avoid upsetting and turning off consumers.
- Anger: Although anger is a negative emotion, it can spur people to act. You may want to create ads that prompt your target audience to ask important questions, and sometimes, anger is a necessary part of this. Again, aim for this reaction sparingly and responsibly.
10. Build a referral network.
Word-of-mouth advertising is a powerful marketing strategy that helps build brand advocacy . Because people make purchases based on trust and credibility, you can take advantage of their networks to get referrals.
Getting a referral is a two-step process. First, you must deliver top-quality results to clients. In addition to offering a stellar product or service, you must communicate openly and often with customers.
The second step is to ask for feedback — both good and bad. To build customer trust, lead with transparency when you handle mistakes. Asking for feedback is a great way to learn your clients’ personalities and find out how satisfied they are. You can then use their feedback to build on your service for the future.
11. Maintain a consistent brand and message.
Brand consistency is crucial for businesses of all sizes. Although your startup will undergo minor changes over time, consistency in your brand image and communication is vital, as it instills your credibility and customers’ confidence in your service.
12. Measure your results.
The only way to gauge success or failure is by consistently measuring your digital marketing ROI . How does your audience interact with your brand online? Do you have high conversion rates and low bounce rates? Are your Instagram posts driving more engagement than your Facebook posts are? Assess your strategy’s performance to identify areas of improvement.
How frequently you measure your results will vary by metric. You might need to check some metrics daily (such as website visits, total number of leads, and leads and visits per channel). In contrast, other metrics can be measured weekly or monthly (such as new versus returning visitors, click-through rates, and cost per acquisition).
After you measure your results, don’t hesitate to modify your marketing plan if needed. Your marketing strategy should evolve with your business.
13. Assemble the right team.
Individual talents and skills are essential for business success. However, teamwork and employee collaboration can take your business to the next level. To develop an effective marketing plan, you need the right team. Whether you hire full-time employees or a marketing agency, consider these factors:
- Identify the roles you need to fill to achieve your goals.
- Determine whether you need individuals to work on a contract or full-time basis.
- Interview each candidate for their strengths, skills and experience.
- Conduct regular assessments of team members.
Startups have limited funds, so you may need to get creative to build your team. For example, bring on an intern who’s a budding digital marketing expert or coding whiz. Use the resources at your disposal to gradually expand your team.
How your marketing plan relates to the sales funnel
When creating your marketing plan and its associated budget, you must include marketing initiatives and strategies to address every aspect of the sales funnel . This ensures that your business has a steady stream of potential customers and that you continually nurture prospects with relevant and engaging content to encourage them to purchase.
Here are some marketing strategies for every step of the sales funnel.
Building awareness is at the top of the sales funnel. Potential customers likely haven’t heard of you yet, so you must do something disruptive to get their attention. This is called push marketing ; it usually involves paid advertising paired with content, although it can also involve search engine optimization.
At this stage, you must get prospects’ contact information, such as their email addresses, so you can continue to reach them for your down-funnel initiatives. For example, you could place ads on Google or Facebook and drive prospects to a landing page or website where they could enter their contact information in exchange for a free e-book.
If your product or service is complex, consider creating a how-to guide in written or video form for potential customers to download or access. You can repurpose your blog content into a how-to format to save time.
Interest and evaluation
Now that your prospects know about your brand, you must feed them information over time that demonstrates the following information:
- How your product can solve their problem
- Why it’s a better solution than competitive or substitute products
- Why it’s a good value
An email nurture campaign is an ideal way to give prospects this type of content consistently, either in the body of the email or with links to your blog posts, videos, case studies, infographics or webinars.
Social media marketing is also an excellent strategy at this stage of the sales funnel because it allows you to distribute content to your followers while developing a relationship with them.
In this stage, prospects are getting closer to purchasing. It’s time to provide information that counters their objections. During the intent phase, consider one-on-one interactions with a salesperson or customer service rep, who can answer specific questions and objections personally.
For instance, if your product is expensive, tell customers it will last longer than competitors’ products, saving them money in the long run. Share testimonials, highlight good customer reviews , and display followers’ comments to present credible social proof to dispel objections.
This is also a good time to answer prospects’ questions via FAQ pages that proactively address common questions and concerns. For example, a B2B company could explain payment and financing terms and walk prospects through the purchase process and lead time.
User-generated content is an excellent way to share social proof that builds consumer trust and attracts new customer interest.
When a customer decides to buy your product, your work isn’t finished. You must ensure that your purchase-and-payment process is easy and smoothly executed to present a zero-friction approach to customers. Removing friction from the purchasing process will reduce abandoned purchases.
To eliminate friction from the purchasing process, consider the following tips:
- Evaluate your checkout pages and ensure they work perfectly.
- Examine your sales process to see if it can be streamlined.
- Create post-purchase text or email notifications that thank customers and share shipping and tracking information.
- After successful product delivery, send emails requesting reviews and sharing any additional instructions.
- Set up an email series with upselling and cross-selling opportunities and customer service follow-up.
Use email marketing to recover abandoned carts by offering discounts and incentives.
Now that a purchase is made, you have a new customer. But remember, existing customers are more valuable than new customers, so it pays to do whatever it takes (within reason) to retain them. In addition to providing excellent customer service, strengthen your customer relationships by providing valuable content, interacting via social media and offering customer loyalty programs .
Devoting resources to keeping your customers engaged and happy will pay off by increasing their customer lifetime value .
Jennifer Dublino contributed to this article.
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Startup Marketing Strategy: 18 Ideas and Tactics That Actually Work
Published: April 07, 2021
Are you new to the startup game, and even newer to the content marketing game?
With all the work that goes into starting a business, there's little time to think about marketing strategies that prove successful and are feasible for a startup's teams to execute.
If you find yourself in this boat, don't panic. You probably know the tools that are helpful for startup marketers to use when strategizing — a CMS, social media accounts, and graphic design software, for instance.
Now, what you need to know is how to use these tools, and similar methods, to create campaigns that align with your business goals. You may have seen other startups' glowing marketing techniques and found yourself wondering how to create a winning strategy.
For that, we've got you covered. Here are some of the ways you can build a winning startup marketing strategy designed to lay the foundation for future success.
Startup Marketing Strategy
- Use SMART goals to focus on business-critical goals upfront.
- Create detailed documents to distinguish who your target buyers are.
- Have clear, compelling messaging.
- Create a content marketing strategy to generate leads.
- Distribute the content you create.
- Run ads for short-term results.
- Implement a digital PR strategy to increase buzz around your brand.
- Measure and improve customer lifetime value (CLV).
- Establish and cultivate your reputation.
- Build a referral engine.
1. Use SMART goals to focus on business-critical goals upfront.
At Huble Digital , we use SMART goals. These are goals that are S pecific, M easurable, A ttainable, R elevant, and T imely. For example, a SMART goal could be:
- Increase organic traffic to our website by 50% by 2022
- Create 10 new sales focused blogs by Q3
The purpose of SMART goals is to set businesses up for success. They provide a sense of direction and help to organize efforts.
And, while SMART goals are invaluable for any organization, they're particularly beneficial for start-ups.
In most start-ups, employees have to wear several hats (often due to budget constraints or lack of resources). The founder, for instance, might be responsible for strategy, product development, and even PR, while the chief technology officer (CTO) might be involved in the design of the website, marketing, and social media. There's just so much to do!
Of course, for all start-ups, the principal focus is product development (and always will be until the "release" stage) ... but what about all the other elements that help sustain the business' growth?
It's here where SMART goals can really help. Instead of trying to do everything at once, focus on the most business-critical goals, put everything you have behind them, and tackle things in a strategic way. For instance, rather than spreading your time across several initiatives (some of which may not be important right now), focus on three or four that will lay a foundation for your activities or support your current efforts.
If you're launching with a new product, for instance, focus on the development but also set goals like:
- Create 10 new blogs to build awareness of the product by X date
- Publish 2 new web pages to promote the new product by X date
- Secure 5 placements in online media using digital PR by X date
These are just some examples, but they can undoubtedly help raise the profile of your business idea without costing much — the only real expenditure is time. Instead of spreading your capabilities across several initiatives, try focusing on those that will support what you're doing right now.
The key to sustained growth is consistency and focus, and SMART goals enable you to do just that.
2. Create detailed documents to distinguish who your target buyers are.
SMART goals give your marketing efforts direction and focus, sure, but who are you marketing to?
For your start-up's marketing efforts to bring in tangible results, those efforts need to be tailored to your ideal target audience.
Now you'll probably have a good understanding of who it is you want to do business with, but have you articulated that to the rest of your team or — at the very least — put together a document detailing who your buyer personas are?
It's here where buyer personas come in handy. Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers. They're based on market research, current data, existing customers, and a few educated assumptions. Buyer personas help you to understand the drivers, business challenges, and needs of those to whom you want to market.
It's also important to note that buyer personas are not real people, but archetypes of them.
Now that we've briefly covered what buyer personas are, you might be wondering — Okay, but what makes them so valuable to my start-up? Simply put, buyer personas allow you to refine your marketing and segment your audience(s).
You want and need quick wins during the product development and release stages, so why waste time (and money) casting the widest net possible when you can hone in on those most likely to buy from you?
Your buyer personas will provide you with a good idea of who these people are. Use that information to build marketing and PR campaigns that focus on the right people, at the right time and place of their buyer's journey.
3. Have clear, compelling messaging.
If you've ever seen a Ronseal advertisement , you're likely already familiar with the following phrase: "It does what it says on the tin."
In an age of slick, big-budget marketing campaigns and buzzwords, it falls to you to keep your messages clear and concise.
People don't want platitudes or jargon. They want to understand what it is your product does and how it can help them solve their business challenges. In fact – and this may sound harsh – it's not even about your business, it's about how you can help your potential customers.
With this in mind, any messaging that your startup creates (and this applies to all businesses of any size) needs to be created with the end user in mind. It needs to be simple, informative, and compelling. This will help convert the website traffic you generate into leads.
4. Create a content marketing strategy to generate leads.
Speaking of traffic, you'll want to have a plan for bringing prospects to your site. Content marketing is all about producing high-quality content that answers questions your prospects and customers have, and nurturing them to a point of purchase.
For instance, blogs are great for increasing your website's organic traffic and awareness of your brand. Each blog should be optimized for a long-tail keyword term, as this will help to drive targeted traffic (i.e. people definitely interested in what you have to say) to your website. It's a really easy way to increase your startup's digital footprint and start building its name.
The content you create also helps to generate leads and demonstrate your expertise. You could, for instance, produce informative ebooks and gate them behind landing pages on your website. Visitors can then download your ebooks in exchange for their details.
With this approach, you know that those that do download your ebooks are interested in hearing from you. The ebooks you create will be particularly useful for targeting "early adopters", i.e. those that want to be on the cutting-edge when it comes to new technology/software.
Over time, as more and more content is created, your website becomes a repository for information. Providing it's all optimized for the right terms, the right people will find it time and time again. Learning from the experiences of an outsourced marketing agency can provide valuable insights and strategies to enhance your content marketing efforts, and even drive more targeted traffic and engagement to your website.
5. Distribute the content you create.
It's not enough to hit "Publish" and wait for customers to show up. After all, content marketing doesn't only work for organic search engine traffic. To get the most bang for your buck, you can repurpose the content you create , distribute it on non-search channels such as social and email, and promote it to new and existing audiences alike.
Let's take a blog post for example. If you created a listicle that outlines 10 tips, you can create a social media graphic for each of the tips and do an informational series for your followers while promoting the full article and/or a related content offer.
A social media plan like this should be part of every content marketing strategy, and every content marketing strategy should be developed with distribution in mind.
6. Run ads for short-term results.
Content marketing is a long-term play. While it can be extremely rewarding over time, you likely won't see immediate results. As you build your content platform, you'll need a way to generate leads and ROI in the short-term, and the best way to do that is with ads.
Ads are "pay to play," so they're not as scalable as content marketing, but the benefit is that your ads will be shown to users shortly after you turn on the campaign.
But which ads should you go with first? That will be determined by your ad strategy, but a good rule of thumb is this:
- Google Search Ads - Best when people are already aware of the product/service you sell and search Google to find the right provider/vendor.
- Social Ads - Because people don't go on social media specifically to shop, these are best when people are not aware of the product/service and you can catch their attention in a fun/visual way. Also good for finding niche audiences.
- Display Ads - Best for brand awareness and re-targeting.
7. Implement a digital PR strategy to increase buzz around your brand.
Now if you want to get the most out of everything you do — particularly from a content creation perspective — why not amplify it with digital PR?
Digital PR effectively takes everything good about traditional PR: press coverage, events, outreach, thought leadership content — and does the same for the online space. Suddenly, the assets you've created for your marketing activity can be retrofitted to suit PR purposes.
In fact, digital PR goes one step further: the agency you work with will do their utmost to earn backlinks back to your website (editors and publications are notoriously difficult when it comes to keeping links in content). Subsequently, those reading your content via online publications can actually find your business, and the content itself is already optimized for search because you've done it already.
All-in-all, digital PR will help to increase your startup's visibility both online and offline, helping you to get featured in key trade media relating to what you do and cause a positive stir in your industry.
8. Measure and improve customer lifetime value (CLV).
Because it's easier and less costly to retain or re-sell to existing customers than acquire new ones, it's critical for startups to intentionally track CLV and improve on it by:
- Enhancing the customer experience and eliminating friction
- Tracking customer satisfaction and working to improve retention
- Creating a strategy for upselling and cross-selling
9. Establish and cultivate your reputation.
87% of customers read online reviews for local businesses in 2020, an increase from 81% in 2019 ( Bright Local ). The internet allows customers to be more informed than ever during the buying process. A poor reputation can therefore hurt your marketing and sales efforts while a good reputation may help seal the deal.
With this in mind, you should do what you can to make a positive impression:
- Ask customers for feedback and take action on it.
- Ask for testimonials when you've exceeded expectations.
- Cultivate other types of social proof such as case studies.
- Respond to online reviews in a professional manner.
10. Build a referral engine.
Despite all the digital marketing strategies and tactics out there, word of mouth is still powerful.
This is especially true for those who intentionally improve the customer experience.
Referrals often happen organically, but a referral marketing strategy can help you generate them faster. For example, you can:
- Identify promoters and ask them if they know anyone who would benefit from your product/service.
- Incentivize customers to refer their friends through a referral program .
- Leverage user-generated content.
- Build campaigns that are mutually beneficial or champion a cause your customers support.
Startup Marketing Ideas
The above strategies can give you a high-level sense of where to go, but executing it is a different story. To get a sense of how a marketing strategy can produce success for your startup, we're going to lay out some ideas. These ideas are from startups, and will help you visualize how a successful strategy can be helpful for your own marketing goals.
1. Use paid ads to build a community.
Starburst Data is a B2B company that helps companies understand their website analytics. They use a search query engine that organizes data, so customers can interpret large amounts of data quickly. This startup uses ads on LinkedIn to connect with its audience, like this one promoting their software:
A content marketer for a company like Starburst has a good chance of finding its target audience on LinkedIn, since it's a platform for professional networking. Part of this marketing campaign involves using LinkedIn Ads to build community and provide helpful information.
A similar B2B startup strategy could involve making use of a social media platform's paid ads offerings to cater to your audience. Alternatively, you can upload offers for free and use hashtags to get them seen by more prospective customers, like #B2BMarketing, or #MarTech.
2. Try social media to connect with customers.
Social media marketing doesn't have to include spending money — it can be used to grow your audience and connect with existing members. Take Paperless Parts , for example, a manufacturing company with a stellar Facebook page:
It's free to create a Facebook Business page and optimize it so leads and customers can find it. The Paperless Parts feed begins with recommendations and reviews from happy customers, showing that the business has a dedicated customer userbase. After that, the business posts videos that go behind-the-scenes of the manufacturing process, and also post reminders for webinars and other website content.
A social media page for a startup that showcases customers provides helpful content and encourages audience participation is a free strategy to expand reach, bring clicks to your website, and show credibility in the industry.
3. Crowdfunding marketing, which can generate press.
Are you thinking about starting a crowdfunding campaign? If you do, you could earn great press from publications, expanding your campaign's reach. Take NeighborSchools , for example, which is a child care startup. NeighborSchools offers unique daycares from licensed and experienced professionals.
When the minds behind NeighborSchools began to seek funding to scale up their service, they turned to crowdfunding to seek out people who believed in the service and were able to invest. This tactic earned the company $3.5 million in seed funding, and the success caught the eye of major publications .
Even if you have just a few customers, you can use your crowdfunding campaign as a marketing tactic to get more people interested in your business.
4. Host a virtual meetup instead of a conference.
Mabl is a Boston-based SaaS provider for machine learning test automation. It makes the lives of developers who have to test their solutions way easier. To build a larger community, Mabl hosted a virtual meetup with industry experts.
The meetup's speakers educated its attendees about software testing. This idea is a cool, low-cost way to expand your professional network and provide valuable content for customers without hosting a conference.
5. Use user-generated content to tell your story.
Startups don't usually have the revenue to produce big-budget social media campaigns. For travel agency Hopjump , their marketing team found that the best way to tell their story is on Instagram. The business page is filled with clients enjoying their destination vacations, booked using the service:
Customers who post their amazing travel pictures on Instagram can tag Hopjump for a chance to be featured on the page, and this also increases exposure for the startup. Satisfied customers can share their experiences with more of Hopjump's target audience.
A marketing campaign that includes user-generated content is an easy, free way to work in testimonials. You can use your social media channels to execute the campaign and include hashtags for the chance to appear in more feeds.
When thinking about campaign ideas, you might not have to look that far. You might be able to turn some of the tools you already have at your disposal to boost your campaign messages. Is there a webinar you can host about a topic, or a content offer you think will resonate particularly well with your LinkedIn audience?
6. Create SEO-optimized content to attract high-intent visitors.
SEO is another free, cost-effective strategy startup marketers can use to spread word about their business.
But here's the caveat: of all the strategies mentioned, this one takes the longest.
That's not to say it's incredibly time-consuming — it's not, but it is a continuous job. The more you optimize your website, the better it'll perform, which, in turn, will generate more leads for your company.
We have to let you know that at this point, SEO won't net you leads or opportunities immediately, but it will lay the foundation for consistent success in the months and years to come.
The idea behind SEO is that you optimize your web pages (and content) for keyword terms you know prospects use to find products or services like yours.
Better yet, you identify long-tail keyword terms with low to medium competition and high search volume that are relevant to your product or service, and use those instead.
You main service pages will, of course, be competing with other businesses in your space on many similar terms, but you can use the content you create to link to these pages, bolstering their SEO value over time and increasing their ranking on SERP results pages.
Updating and optimizing your website will ensure it continues to grow and attract interested prospects for the long-term, so it's an opportunity you don't want to miss.
7. Implement a referral program.
Referral-based marketing has become the hype over the last few years as people increasingly look at product/service reviews, testimonials, and case studies to validate their purchase decisions.
The aim behind this particular startup marketing idea is to leverage those who have already bought your product/service and ask them to advocate on your behalf — whether that's through a review, testimonial, or case study.
This kind of content is invaluable because it shows and tells your potential customers that you have solved for others like them in the past. To increase the chances of your customers doing this for you, offer them discounts or free product trials.
Additionally, you might consider giving away free keys, trials, or versions of your product to specific people. For example, a good way to gain press coverage and build brand awareness is to let tech journalists try your offering for free. They can then write a review and distribute it to the relevant online publications and link back to your website.
Lastly, make sure that you feature these reviews prominently on your website. They help build trust and authenticity, both of which are key to making sales in today's digital-first world.
8. Offer a free or trial version of your product.
One of the best ways to get your startup out there is to offer some kind of version of your product/service for free — and it's worked for a lot of businesses already.
Canva, Dropbox, Zapier, HubSpot — all of these high-profile tech companies offer some kind of free/trial version of their product or service to let people try before they buy (or upgrade). As people use them and realize just how great these products are, they feel compelled to buy the full, "unlimited" version for all the bells and whistles. Great, right?
But along with getting people to use your product — and inherently talking about how good it is as a result — it's all about lowering the customer's costs of acquisition. What a lot of businesses do with a freemium model is offer current trial users a discount on the full price of the software. This is significantly more appealing than paying the full price and can potentially convert more leads into paying customers very, very quickly.
Also, for those who don't convert to paying customers with this offer, it enables you to understand what features or parts of your service are lacking. You can ask for feedback, make the necessary changes, and then roll them out to see who bites on the full product offering.
For maximum effect, cross-reference what you offer against the main issues your buyer personas have in relation to technology like yours. Consider adding features to your product/service to address these problems (where possible). Maybe produce a roadmap and show people what they'll be getting. Transparency is a great way to increase users!
Lastly, bear in mind that this approach does come with the risk that people might not want to upgrade to the full version. That said, be as clear as you can with what users can get from the full version and highlight how valuable it can be for them. Keep your coolest features under wraps!
The Best Strategies Use a Combination of Ideas and Tactics
If you want to get the best possible results when it comes to marketing, you need to focus on what works.
While there are loads of different ways to achieve your goals, you should always focus on the most high-impact and cost-effective, and as a startup owner — I'm willing to bet you already know how important that is.
The best strategies use a combination of what we've mentioned above and then analyze the performance of them to determine which ones require more or less investment. No matter what you do, remember that your marketing activities are only as good as your goals and targeting. Good luck!
Editor's note: This post was originally published in July 2020 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
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How to Develop a Startup Marketing Strategy
Develop a marketing plan to boost the visibility of your startup business, establish a digital marketing presence through strategic positioning and promote your business.
Behind every successful startup is an effective market strategy. This will determine where, when, and how you interact with potential customers in order to sell them your brand. It needs to send a positive message to customers that will make them want to give you their business. You can do this by taking into consideration the reason your business exists. What purpose is it meant to fill? Use the answer to that question to guide the marketing strategy for your startup.
You'll want to create a strategy that makes your business relatable to its customers. This means using just the right language to communicate with them in a way they will respond to.
If your product targets serious professionals, you'll want the language you use to match. But if your products are targeting a more casual audience, it's best to converse with them in a more casual manner.
You'll also need to communicate with consumers online. The best way to get them to take notice of your business is to have a website in place that they can easily find. You can achieve this through SEO , or search engine optimization. For example, researching which keywords are the best to use for your products and business.
Take into consideration factors such as topics your business supports, the keywords your competitors have found success with, and any local keywords that will get the attention of the community. And don't forget that every successful marketing strategy helps answer the questions your customers are asking the most.
If you run a startup, marketing your business is key to your growth—and how you’ll set yourself apart from your competition .
In this marketing for startups guide, we’ll discuss marketing tactics for your startup—from developing a strategy and connecting with your audience to making adjustments and measuring your success.
What is a startup marketing strategy?
In its most basic terms, a startup marketing strategy outlines how you plan to achieve your business goals. It must address the direction the company will take, along with the approach you'll use to do so. To put it another way, think of your marketing strategy as a road map to your business.
The best marketing strategies start with constructing the outline for it. This should include the individual ideas that will create the framework for your plan. Necessary elements of a marketing plan include identifying your customers and any profitable marketing channels. It should also include ways to differentiate your business from that of your competitors. To do this, you'll need to figure out which marketing initiatives and ideas will help your business the most.
Why should I create a marketing strategy?
Now that you know what a marketing strategy is, you may be wondering why it's so important to create one. There are both immediate and long-term benefits to doing so. One of the immediate benefits is that a strategy will help you focus on the best ways to achieve the goals you've set for your business. By clearly stating the goals and objectives of your company's marketing strategy, you are keeping everyone responsible for it on the same page.
There is nothing worse than trying to run a business that has no direction. But once you've set your objectives, and measured the return on investment for each one, you are well on your way to success. Any move you make as part of your business strategy should further its value in your chosen industry. This especially applies to a digital marketing strategy.
One of the many objectives you'll want to set is establishing your brand on social media . It's best to choose the platform you think will allow you to connect with the highest number of consumers. For example, you might choose to focus on building your following on Twitter. The key is to start with customers who already frequent your business and expand in an effort to attract others.
This is where your marketing department comes in. Having a marketing strategy documented on paper or digitally gives them the tools they need to help you grow your brand. It's also a great way to brief new employees on the strategies your business uses. Regardless of the department they work in, they'll need access to your marketing plan to tie in their own ideas to it.
Here's how to get started in 3 steps.
1. Outline your strategy
No 2 startups are exactly the same, which means marketing strategies vary, too. But all successful marketing strategies include 4 key components: your goals, audience, market research, and budget. Let's break it down:
In the early stages of your business, your goals might vary depending on how you define success. But for many startups, goals often fall under 1 of 2 categories: raising brand awareness and acquiring new customers. And while both categories are important in the development of your startup, it can be helpful to prioritize the goals that make the most sense for you.
- Raise brand awareness. When starting a new business, it’s important to introduce yourself to your potential customers or clientele . You have to tell people who you are, what you do, and what sets you apart from everyone else. If you choose to prioritize brand awareness, your goals—and your marketing strategy—might revolve around getting people to recognize your brand name, logo, or products.
- Acquire new customers. If you choose to make acquiring new customers a priority, your goals might include getting new people signed up to your platform, encouraging them to become active users of your product, or converting existing leads into paying customers . To reach these goals, you’ll need to develop a marketing strategy using effective design, copy, and calls to action that grab people’s attention and make them want to engage with your business.
Define your target audience
No matter the type of startup, it’s crucial for your marketing to reach the right people with the right message. As you’re developing a marketing strategy, take time to think about who your ideal audience is—or who you want your audience to be.
Here are a few questions you might ask yourself as you’re deciding which audience to target with your marketing:
- What are you offering your potential customers?
- What makes you unique?
- Why would a customer choose you over your competitors?
- If you’re B2B , would your product be more beneficial to businesses of a certain size or within a certain industry?
- If you’re B2C, does it make sense to choose a preferred audience based on their location, demographics, or interests?
Find your place in the market
According to a study by CB Insights , lack of demand in the marketplace is the number 2 reason startups fail. Maybe the product or service being offered doesn’t solve a problem or isn’t unique enough to set itself apart from the competition. Maybe its focus is too narrow and the pool of potential customers isn’t large enough to build (and scale) a successful company. Or, maybe it just hasn’t been positioned correctly and never had the chance to reach the right people.
To give your new startup a better chance of avoiding these common pitfalls, take time to thoroughly research other products on the market and gauge interest from your potential customers. Once you’ve determined there is enough demand to sustain your business, you can start thinking about how you’ll tell your target audience about all the great stuff you have to offer.
Determine your budget
The marketing budget for a startup will be affected by several factors, including operational costs and revenue forecasts. But no matter how much money you’re able to set aside for marketing, it’s important to spend wisely.
Think about your goals, and focus your marketing dollars on the channels that will help you achieve them. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments along the way or to try something new if a particular channel doesn’t prove fruitful.
As your business—and your budget—grows, you can always start allocating more money toward your marketing and expanding your reach to previously untapped audiences.
2. Reach your audience on the right channels
These 5 channels are essential components of any startup marketing strategy:
Websites are versatile marketing tools that work around the clock to help you communicate with your audience and grow your business. Getting started is easy—Mailchimp has tools to help you build a professional (and free) website, even if you don’t have any web design experience.
If you’re not ready for a full website or you’d just like a single page encouraging visitors to take a particular action, start with a landing page . Landing pages are a great way to collect email addresses, sell an item , or provide people with a quick overview of your business, your newest products, or the services you offer. If you build a landing page in Mailchimp , you can even use your own domain name to customize your page’s URL and give it a unique, branded feel.
As you create your website, here are a few other aspects to keep in mind:
- Get a domain name: A domain name is your online identity, so it’s important to choose a name that’s recognizable, fits your brand, and will be easy to remember. As you’re considering all the options, be sure to check the availability of each potential domain name on social media. Using the same name across each of your channels can help you establish a unified brand identity and improve your reach. After making your decision, you can buy your new domain on Mailchimp .
- Set up Google ads : Google ads allow you to keep your business top-of-mind by displaying targeted ads to people who visit—and then navigate away from—your website. These ads are a powerful way to boost traffic and recapture sales from customers, no matter where they go on the web.
- Don’t forget SEO: Search engine optimization (SEO) helps increase the visibility of (and the traffic to) your website through search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. As a startup, there are a few basic SEO elements you can incorporate into your website to improve your search ranking, like keywords, title tags, meta descriptions, internal links, and high-quality original content. For more tips, check out our 10 steps to designing a successful website . Or, if you’re interested in starting an online store, c heck out this article for a step-by-step of the process .
Email marketing is an effective way to build a relationship with your audience and keep them engaged over time. Add a form to your website (or landing page) to collect email addresses from visitors, then start sharing updates about your services, content, products, and anything else that might be of interest to them.
If you decide you’d like to take things a step further, you can always ask for extra information from your new contacts, too. Requesting details—like their date of birth, interests, or location—can help you create even more personalized, relevant content .
(Note: Mailchimp makes it easy to add an embedded or pop-up form to any page of your startup’s website. And when you’re ready to start sending emails, we can help with that, too .)
As social media usage worldwide continues to grow, so does the importance of incorporating social channels into the marketing plan for your startup with a social media marketing strategy.
Whether you're creating and scheduling posts across channels , posting directly, or creating ads, social media can quickly communicate with your existing fans, friends, and customers. It can also help expand your reach and encourage more people to check out your website, store, or products.
- Facebook and Instagram ads : Facebook and Instagram each have more than a billion users worldwide, which means you’ve got a huge collection of potential customers at your fingertips. You can target specific segments of people with ads for your startup—like folks who live in a particular location or are within a certain age range. And if you’re a Mailchimp user, you can create both Facebook and Instagram ads directly from your account.
- Twitter ads: Twitter provides several advertising options that help you raise awareness of your startup, drive people to your website, attract new followers, and more. You can target people by demographics, location, interest, or even based on other accounts they follow or keywords they use in their tweets.
- LinkedIn ads: LinkedIn gives startups the opportunity to connect with (and promote themselves to) other like-minded professionals . They even offer the ability to focus your marketing efforts on specific collections of people, like those who work in a particular industry or have a certain job title.
Content marketing focuses on creating (and sharing) content like blog posts, articles, videos, podcasts, and infographics for your target audience. Unlike your other advertising efforts or promotional messaging, this content isn’t just about selling ; it should provide relevant, valuable information people care about—and actually want to engage with.
Over time, content marketing can prove to be a cost-effective tactic that leads to big benefits for your business. Not only can it help you attract (and convert) new customers, but it’s also a great way to establish yourself as a trusted source for information in your field.
Online marketing is the main focus for many startups, but there’s still plenty of value in offline promotion. Here are a few ideas:
- Create business cards or brochures: Physical items like business cards and brochures are a direct, convenient way to make a great first impression and tell new folks what you have to offer. Design and print professional business cards with the name of your business, your contact information, and your logo. Or, create brochures that explain what you do and what type of stuff you sell. Then, look for networking opportunities where you can hand them out to your peers and potential customers.
- Go where your customers are: When you’re just starting out, networking plays a key role in developing relationships and getting your business off the ground. Be on the lookout for opportunities to have face-to-face interactions with people who might be interested in your goods or services. Visit trade shows or conferences, attend meet-ups for entrepreneurs in your local area, or do a bit of research and seek out one-on-one meetings with people who can help you get your business to the next level.
- Send postcards: Postcards can help you stand out from the competition and give your audience something tangible to remember you by . They’re a fun way to introduce yourself to new contacts, announce a new release, invite folks to an upcoming event, or do anything else you’d like.
- Get people talking: Word of mouth is one of the most effective marketing tools for startups . When people hear that their co-workers, friends, or family members had a great experience with your business, products, or services, there’s a good chance they’re going to give you a try, too. Strive to create a great customer experience and exceed expectations every step of the way.
3. Measure the success of your startup marketing campaigns
Startups often have a limited amount of funds and resources available, so it’s important that every dollar spent leads to tangible, measurable results. Here are 3 ways to use data to inform your startup marketing campaigns.
Set (and track) your marketing KPIs
Key performance indicators are the metrics used to track the progress you’ve made toward your marketing and business goals. If your goal is to raise awareness for your brand, choose KPIs like website traffic, social shares, and new contacts to measure growth in your audience size. If, instead, your goal is to acquire more customers and make more money, measure your KPIs against daily or monthly sales and conversion rates.
Test, iterate, repeat
No matter what type of startup you operate, you’ll always need to listen to your audience—even if they’re only communicating with you through click-throughs, page views, and conversions found in your reports . Be ready to make adjustments when something isn’t working.
If you’re planning to include email in your startup marketing strategy, A/B testing is a great way to learn how small changes can have a big impact on your results. When you create A/B tests in Mailchimp , you can choose a single variable (subject lines, from names, send times, or content) and up to 3 variations of an email to see which one generates the most engagement from your audience. And since you’re also able to select the factor that measures your email engagement—whether it’s clicks, opens, or revenue—it’s easy to learn what adjustments will help you reach your goals faster.
Learn what works for your audience
With each marketing campaign you create, you learn more about your audience . And when you manage your audience in Mailchimp , it's easy to turn that information into action.
Using Mailchimp as a CRM , you can get an overview of the people you're talking to in your audience dashboard , and at the individual level in contact profiles . See how your campaigns resonate, learn more about who they are demographically, check out their interactions with your brand, and add any organization of your own.
With all of this data, you can improve your strategy based on who is in your audience and what's working for them. Let your audience drive what you do , and you'll hit those marketing KPIs in no time.
Startup marketing strategy FAQs
What's the difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan.
Though there are similarities between the 2, there is a clear difference between a marketing strategy and a marketing plan. Their purposes and applications are never the same, nor should they be. Where marketing plans are driven by goals, marketing strategy is driven by the business strategy you employ.
The purpose of a marketing plan is to clearly state the ways you plan to achieve your business goals. This is where you devise the plans and tactics you're going to use to help drive profits and brand recognition. It includes any events your company plans to attend in an official capacity, and any campaigns you plan to run.
In contrast, a marketing strategy addresses what and why your business exists. This includes any deliverables you plan on creating, as well as how you present your products or services to consumers.
Despite the fact that these two tactics are different, you need them both to run a successful business. It helps to think of your marketing strategy as the result of brainstorming your approach to building your brand. Whereas your marketing plan is about bringing the vision for your business to life.
What makes a startup marketing strategy different from a generic marketing strategy?
There is a significant difference between a generic marketing strategy and one used for a start-up business. A startup marketing strategy needs to position the new company to take its place in its chosen industry. But generic marketing strategies are used by already established businesses, for the purpose of being able to stand out from the competition.
What are the 7 Ps in a marketing strategy?
The 7 Ps in a marketing strategy are product, price, promotion, place, people, packaging, and process. When it comes to the product(s) you're selling, it's important to think of it in terms of sales conversions. You'll need to determine the want or need that your product or products will fill for customers. You can then use this information to market your product to the right demographic.
A product, no matter how useful it is, won't be successful unless you set the right price for it. This is another reason you need to be familiar with your customer base. The key to getting your sales numbers up is pricing your products for the consumers you are targeting. And once you have the right price set, you can drive sales through tools like email marketing promotions and discount programs for your customers.
This ties neatly into the promotion of your products. The more channels you use in your marketing, the more exposure your business will get. You'll want to use digital promotions, direct marketing, and advertising, and, if your business has brick-and-mortar locations, face-to-face promotional activities that customers can participate in.
To a large extent, the places you market your products are also critical to the success of your business. Your best bet is to go where your customers are. Determining where and when they want to shop will help you put your products in their line of sight. To do this, you'll need to determine the buying cycles of your customers, so you can effectively target them.
In order to learn their buying cycles, you need to connect with them. But you can't do it alone, so your team of salespeople needs to be as passionate and knowledgeable about your products as you are. And even if you use non-humans to connect with your customers (in the form of chatbots), they need to be programmed to be as professional and courteous as your human sales team.
Having connected with your customers and determined their wants and needs that your business can fulfill, the next step is to focus on delivering your product to them as effectively as possible. This is the part of the process where you take steps to support your brand. For example, when your customers are environmentally aware, you can help deliver a positive experience to them by producing sustainable products that they will want to purchase. If you and your competitor sell the same or similar products, you can sway consumers to give you their business when you have something to offer that your competitors don't. And that sustainable competitive advantage can really give you a leg up on the competition.
Last, but not least, physical evidence must be used to support the legitimacy of your business. Anyone can sell a product or service without necessarily having a business behind it. But this is not seen as a trustworthy way for consumers to acquire what they need. For that reason, it is important that your business has some kind of physical presence. While for many businesses, this simply means having one or more storefronts, in today's world, that's not always possible or even necessary.
If you run your business strictly online, you still need physical proof it exists. This can be something as simple as business cards that you hand out to potential customers or something as involved as a website promoting your business and its products. The best marketing strategies include a strong physical presence for your business.
Begin promoting your startup
Keeping all of this information in mind, you are now ready to begin promoting your startup. Everything from the tone you use with customers to your digital marketing strategies should be carefully thought out and planned. When it comes time to execute your plans, Mailchimp is there to help you rise to the top of the ranks.
- Business Strategy
- How to Start a Business in 10 Easy Steps
- Marketing for Startups
How to Create Your First Marketing Plan
Quick Summary Your business is just getting off the ground. So why do you need a marketing plan? It’s important to the success of your business to know where you want to take it in the future. And the only way you can get there is to have a roadmap – or plan – to help guide the journey. Consider your marketing plan the roadmap to your business’s future.
In This Section
Marketing plan: the basics, market situation analysis, use customer insights to create your marketing plan, determine your value proposition, how to craft a vision statement, identify your marketing objectives, create your marketing strategy, define your marketing tactics.
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What Is Marketing? Marketing Basics: A Quick-Start Guide for Beginners How to Create Your First Marketing Plan Branding for Beginners How to Create a Business Website Social Media Marketing How to Create a Social Media Marketing Plan How to Measure Digital Success Using Analytics and Metrics Market Research: The Basics Analyzing Your Place in the Market Six Principles of Small Business Advertising Getting to Sold - The AIDA Marketing Model
How to create a marketing plan for an early-stage startup (part 1).
There’s a lot of confusion about how to create a marketing plan for an early-stage startup.
Maybe it is a reluctance to put structure in whilst you’re finding your feet or a misconception that you’re going to have to part with some precious budget.
Whatever the reason, here’s a starting point to create a marketing plan to help move your startup onto its next phase of growth.
This is all based on activities that have worked in the past for me and the businesses I’ve worked in. Every startup is different. For example, if you’re in SaaS, it will be different to say, if you’re in eCommerce. Either way, I am hoping to show you all the good stuff you need to think about.
Creating a marketing plan for your early-stage startup
I want to take you through the initial steps of creating a marketing plan for your startup, with the aim of showing you that marketing ain’t just about popping up some Facebook ads. It’s so much bigger than that. > A quick note on my approach. A lot of the difficulty startups face when it comes to marketing - in my opinion - is that their expectations about what marketing can do - or should do - are aligned towards what performance marketing is. A startup founder may ask an intern to create a few posts for social media, say with a testimonial on, and after a month or so, they’ll get frustrated that this hasn’t turned into sales. (Of course it didn’t work, they’re using a tactic with a branding message, and expecting it to generate results, irrespective of what point their customer is in the buying cycle).
Then, they look at the bank balance, see there’s 3 months’ cash and automatically think - “yeah, marketing doesn’t work”.
It isn’t the intern’s fault. It’s not your fault. You just may not be accustomed to the different parts that make up a marketing strategy.
>> Startups need the right mix of brand and performance marketing when creating a marketing plan << What’s the difference? Okay, so brand marketing is around who you are. It’s a set of shortcuts that can: 1) be used by anyone in your business to ensure everyone’s on the same page 2) help audiences to get who you are, what you stand for and how you’d deal with a situation.
someone chooses you over a competitor
someone chooses a competitor over you
someone is happy to pay more to use you, they want that association.
(Oh, and if you’ve got plans to sell at some point, there’d be a valuation of the brand. It’s the brand that makes you unique and is the reason why someone may wish to acquire you).
Marketing is more about taking this brand work and how you reach audiences and generate sales. Performance marketing is when you pay to get results.
“If cash is short, why don’t I just focus on the latter?” I hear you cry!
For performance marketing to work - and I mean, really work - you need the brand part.
For example, if you’re presented with adverts for two sets of identical shoes, the only difference being the brand, you’re going to be swayed by the brand of a company when making your purchasing decision.
Are they credible? Do they have a website? Who’s used them previously? Is there a refund policy? I’ve worked at startups where my role was purely performance marketing driven. Yes we had a brand and a logo, but we didn’t really have a clear value proposition or way to genuinely serve a customer.
This meant my lead quota increased, quarter by quarter. We were getting the interest, but we couldn’t convert as many people as we needed because the brand, the story, our why, our positioning was all out of kilter.
This meant acquisition got SUPER expensive.
Step 1: Understand the context of your startup
Ask yourself these two questions:
What stage is the startup at? (This will determine what type of marketing you do)
What type of market are you operating in? (Are you re-segmenting a market with your niche take? Creating a new category?)
Your answers will determine what you’re going to get involved with, the types of metrics you need to work towards, and your budget, people and resources.
When working in an early stage startup, you have to accept that a flurry of sales isn’t necessarily going to happen over night. Actually, it may not even happen for a few months.
The thing is, that’s fine. At this stage, you’re trying to get as much feedback and insight so when you do turn on the marketing tap, you’re increasing your chances of putting your budget in the right channels.
Let’s look at the stages of a startup , based on Steve Blank.
There are four: Stages include: customer discovery, customer validation, customer creation, build company.
So if I am at stage 1, i.e. customer discovery - my metric can’t be sales. Which means my marketing metrics aren’t necessarily about lead quotas or customer lifetime value. It may also mean it’s not about running an Instagram campaign and driving conversions.
My output - and the one metric that really matters - is all about customer research. The metric goes from 5 sales a week to 30 customer interviews a month.
What type of market are you operating in? Okay, so I’ve written about this previously when talking about startup positioning .
When Careercake started out, we initially thought we were creating a new category, but in actual fact, when we looked at competitors and the way people described us, we were in fact re-segmenting an existing market by creating a niche.
In our case it was creating content for a particular age group - something our competitors weren’t.
By understanding what market you are in will affect who your competitors are, how you position yourself and what you may end up spending if you truly want to be a market leader.
(This is something that’s particularly useful if your founder starts shouting ‘Let's Take on Amazon!’)
Step 2: Build and articulate your company’s brand, purpose, why
The idea here is that you’re giving the brand a personality, a code. It’s something that will provide your employees and customers with a set of short cuts.
If you’re all over the place and have different ways to describe you, you’re going to look less credible, less safe… why would someone trust you?
Before we go any further, note that this work is going to change. A lot. Every time you get to know your customers, see what they want and react - it’s all intel that you’ll pull through and adapt into your brand work.
Start this process off by running a brand workshop - an exercise that’s geared towards ensuring everyone is on the same page. (Check out the 3 hour brand sprint ).
Key elements include:
What’s your story? What’s your why? Why do you do what you do? —Calling Mr Sinek.
A good output of this is getting to a point where everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet - they know how to describe the company to others.
I don’t mean just coming up with four words and shoving them on an office wall. Rather, I mean if your brand was a person, how would they deal with an awkward client? How would they treat an ill member of staff? How would you expect your team to scout for new business? How do you want others to describe your brand if you weren’t in the room?
Tone of voice
This is important because it’ll give your team a set of guidelines on how to communicate. Take innocent for example. Most people know how they talk to customers. Or, take phrasee - if you ever want a masterclass in personality through a brand’s tone of voice, sign up to their newsletter.
How you’d apply this is… let’s say you get a marketing assistant in and they are in charge of writing a newsletter. If they’ve got an idea of how to write in your language, it’ll speed things up. They’ll know the pictures they’re okay to post, if it’s okay or not okay to respond to internet trolls. That kind of thing.
There are other elements to explore, such as your mission statement, which I personally really enjoy working on on as it gives a sense of direction and aspiration.
The downside to this work (and what this looks like)
I’ve worked on products and initially you get the founder go, “yeah, I LOVE IT!” But then they don’t go on to use it. Or, the marketer spends ages creating a range of sales literature with the right fonts and imagery only to find a salesperson has ‘put their spin on it’.
If you’re seeing this, then you’ve got a problem. Maybe they don't understand the value and WHY the brand needs to be presented in a certain way or maybe they’re so used to being the sole person. Tackle this issue straight away, the sooner the better.
Step 3: Customer research: what do the market, the opportunity, and buying motivations look like?
Here is where we need to get you looking at the size of the opportunity, who could buy from you and why they may buy from you. It helps you to understand if there’s a business model that you can actually make money from.
The steps are to work out your TAM, SAM, and SOM . (Ya, what?) TAM (total addressable market) - e.g. total demand for a product SAM (serviceable addressable market) e.g. who can you actually service SOM (share of market) - i.e. who’s actually going to buy from you based on segmentation
For more info, check out TAM, SAM and SOM from Hubspot.
This will give you a starting point to build out sales and marketing strategies.
Next up: why would they buy from you?
There’s so much customer discovery to do in an early stage startup. Ultimately, you want to work towards uncovering what someone’s motivations are when buying you (or when they leave and go to a competitor).
You know that buyer persona exercise you were probably told to do at the start? You know:
‘Sally is married to boring Barry and they have 3 kids, and Sally likes yoga and shopping at Waitrose.’
Blah blah blah.
It’s an is an okay starting point in understanding who you audience is but in no way does it help you to understand what’s going through Sally’s head when she buys a subscription to Gusto.
A good way to think about it is by watching this short video.
Watch: Clay Christensen: The "Job" of a McDonald's Milkshake
You have to watch this video.
Based on the Jobs to Be Done framework, Christensen is tasked with increasing sales of milkshakes for McDonald’s.
When discovering why someone buys a milkshake his team realises it’s not what features the milkshake has (flavour, size etc) that determines the purchase, it’s about what job you’re hiring the milkshake to do for you.
(If you don’t have time to watch it, in essence, customers were ‘hiring’ milkshakes as a companion on a long commute. See, it’s totally worth watching).
Step 4: Start building out an anticipated customer journey with a specific focus on who you think is going to be the highest value. This is super important if you’re working with someone who falls into the camp of ‘we can sell to everyone!’
From Intercom’s Guide to Pricing
Not every customer is equal.
Some will generate you more sales than others. Some will be super easy to serve, others may require a direct sales person to go in and present. Others may need a customer success person to on-board them. All of which has implications on time and acquisition costs.
To get started, you need to understand the customer’s journey and experience with you to inform wider things like pricing, marketing costs etc. Don’t worry, if you’re super early, base a lot of it on guesses until you can collect the data.
Intercom’s article on Picking Your Pricing Model includes a great way to think about serving customers (see above).
Think about your customers or customers you’d like to serve and:
- how they’d buy from you - the average order size and frequency of order - their engagement rates with your product.
Then, map out their experience with you from initial enquiry, throughout the sales funnel and right through to retention.
In an early-stage startup, the key for you is RETENTION.
Nail this, and you’re on your way to optimising for a very profitable relationship. It’s not about acquisition at this point. It’s treating your early adopters like royalty, understanding the minimum number of features to ship and how to communicate this in marketing.
Do you want more info?
Check out the startup marketing template for one-person marketing teams.
“To be successful, you must match the way you market your products with the way your prospects learn about and shop for your products.” – CEO of Hubspot, Brian Halligan
An intro to startup branding for the skeptical founder.
“i’ve done the customer interviews… now what” applying it to your startup’s marketing..
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How to Write a Startup Business Plan
By Yuvika Iyer , May 28, 2022 - 10 min read
A startup business plan is an outline of your ideas and strategies for what you’ll need to do to start, manage, and even complete your startup’s mission. Creating one might sound simple enough, but because it’s a startup’s roadmap for success, it can be a complex document to create.
Writing a business plan can make a world of difference for entrepreneurs who desire external funding. It involves determining your target customers, understanding what makes them tick, and figuring out how to reach them through marketing campaigns.
In this blog post, we’ve explained why you should have a startup business plan, different types of startup business plans, and we’ve included 12 of the most effective tips for writing a startup business plan. If you’re ready to start with now, we have a product launch template to get you started quickly.
What is a startup business plan?
A startup business plan is a written document that outlines your ideas and strategies for launching, managing, and eventually exiting your new venture.
A well-constructed business plan can be crucial to the success of any entrepreneurial endeavor . As you prepare your proposal, keep in mind that it will evolve as you learn more about your market.
To start, create an outline of the most important items you'd like feedback on before writing anything down officially.
Then ask yourself these questions:
- What do I want?
- Why does my company exist?
- How will I make money?
- What are my long-term goals?
A detailed business plan helps you set milestones for measuring success. You can share the plan with investors who may want some reassurance on the viability of their investment in your company.
The best way to create a successful startup business plan is by including everything in an organized and easy-to-read document — marketing strategies, financial projections, team bios, timelines, and more.
What is a lean startup business plan?
A lean startup business plan is a method for developing products that relies on iterative experimentation to reduce uncertainty.
It has been used by companies such as Google , Amazon, and Facebook in the early stages of their development, and involves testing your idea with real customers early in development.
Lean startups are less likely to fail because they have tested their product or service with live feedback from consumers. Doing this allows them to make changes quickly without wasting resources on something no one wants.
The goal is not to build an extensive business plan but rather a "lean" one that can be changed based on customer feedback and then re-evaluated in regular intervals until it reaches market potential — or fails.
A lean startup business plan is a strategy that focuses on getting a product in front of customers as quickly and cheaply as possible. Use the lean startup business plan to validate your ideas before wasting time and resources.
Why do you need a small startup business plan?
A small startup business plan is one of the most important steps in building a company. Apart from helping you to focus on company goals, it aids in obtaining feedback from potential partners and keeps the team on the same page.
The best thing about starting small? You can change course at any time! If you need help developing or tweaking your small startup business plan, use this guide for entrepreneurs to get started.
You've built a product and you're ready to take the next step, but what's your plan? First, you need a strategy in place. Do you know how much money it will cost, or where exactly that funding should come from? What about marketing strategies for getting customers in the door?
You’ll also need to find ways to retain them afterwards so they keep coming back again and again (and spending more).
Obtain external funding
If you want to get funding from lenders or investors, you need a startup business plan. Lenders want to make sure they're investing in a company that will last and grow.
A well-organized idea shows passion for its purpose and outlines clear goals for helping customers. At the same time, having an exit strategy is also important.
Making a plan for when things don’t pan out as desired lets investors understand how much value there can be while giving customers (and yourself) peace of mind.
Understand your target market
One key piece of your business plan is knowing how to conduct a market analysis. To do this, consider the industry, target market, and competitors.
Are there any market trends or competitor factors that can affect your business? Review them closely and get ready to make required changes to your business plan.
Prioritize high ROI strategies
In business, ROI is important. Any business that doesn’t generate as much cash as it burns is likely to fail.
With a startup business plan in place, the strategies with the highest ROI become crystal clear. You'll know exactly what to tackle first and how to prioritize the rest of your tasks.
Accelerate financial health
Business plans are not crystal balls, but they can help forecast your financial health. Planning for expenses is vital to keep operations steady and identify problems as soon as possible.
Cash flow projections can help you see if goals are achievable or highlight upcoming issues that need correction before it's too late.
How to write a small startup business plan
Use this guide for entrepreneurs to develop or tweak a startup business plan. By following this easy six-step process, you'll soon have a clear path to startup success.
1. Clarify the startup vision, mission, and values
The first step to writing a startup business plan is understanding the startup itself.
Once you know what your startup does, ask yourself why. What is the startup's mission? What problem will it help customers solve? The startup's mission statement helps define its reason for existing.
It’s usually expressed in a simple sentence, but can also be written as a short paragraph.
Try to answer these questions: What does your startup do? How will it make money? How quickly do you hope it will grow? Are there any significant milestones or deadlines that need to be met?
2. Outline the executive summary
Now that you have an idea for your startup, its mission, and a vision in mind, it's time to write your startup business plan executive summary.
Keep it simple and precise. Begin by writing a one-sentence startup business plan introduction that showcases the core customer need/pain point and how you propose to solve it.
3. Develop startup goals and milestones
Next, write down the milestones and goals for your startup business plan. This is a crucial step that many entrepreneurs forget when they're starting out.
Do you want to focus on getting new customers? Or attaining a specific revenue number? Without clear short-term goals, it can be hard to know how to prioritize startup tasks.
4. Write a company description
Answer the two fundamental questions — who are you and what will you do? Then, give an introduction to why you're in business.
Provide a summary of introspective goals, clarifying intangible aspects such as values or cultural philosophies. Make sure to mention:
- Proposed business structure (limited partnership, sole proprietorship, incorporated company, or a general partnership)
- Business model
- Business vision and mission statement
- Background information of your team members
5. Conduct market analysis
Choosing the right market is crucial to your organization’s success. There are different kinds of products and services that a business can offer and each has particular requirements for a successful market fit.
If you choose one that doesn't have a large enough customer base or is not profitable enough, your company may end up struggling for every sale.
Ensure that there is a clear market niche — an ideal audience of customers with a need or a pain point that your business can help solve.
6. Develop startup partnerships and resources
When you're launching a small startup, one of the most important things that your business needs is capital. There are several ways to get going on this front.
When thinking about sources of funding for startups , consider startup grants, startup loans, startup investors, and startup accelerators.
7. Write a startup marketing plan and startup budget
Your startup business plan is almost complete! All that's left is to create a startup marketing plan and budget. Your startup marketing plan will help you define your company’s target audience and brand image.
The startup budget is an integral part of any startup that helps you take the guesswork out of writing expenses.
Examples of startup business plans
Business plans differ based on the nature of the business, target market, competitive advantage, delivery of product/service, scope, and size.
Though the core business plan template remains the same, the content and flow change. Here is an example of an accounting firm's business plan:
At our company, ABC Accounting Services LLC, we work hard to provide the best service and build a strong team. Our vision is for this brand to be recognized as #1 throughout NYC by both smaller businesses and larger corporations.
Our values are reflected in all that we do: integrity (ethical behavior), service (giving top priority to clients' needs), excellence ("doing it right"), teamwork (working together).
ABC Accounting Services LLC is the premier accounting firm in New York City and will handle various financial services. We specialize in audits, bookkeeping, tax preparation/compliance work, and budgeting assistance with high-quality consulting.
ABC Accounting Services LLC will be structured as an LLC — a Limited Liability Company in the state of New York. It will provide accounting, bookkeeping, taxation, auditing, and compliance-related services to small, medium, and large enterprises situated in New York City.
Marketing strategy and competitive advantages
Despite the fact that there are many established accounting services firms in our industry, we have a great chance of becoming successful because of the high demand for financial consulting.
Often, small businesses don't need full-time employees but would rather hire an accounting service provider like us to handle their bookkeeping and tax returns on time every year.
It is best to find a unique niche or carve out your own market in the financial consulting services industry. If you're able to create an identifiable brand identity for your accounting business, then you will likely see less competition from other firms.
ABC Accounting Services LLC will focus on delivering an exceptional client experience to grow the business and expand market share.
Startup business plan template
Here's a template you can follow when creating your startup business plan:
Top tips for writing a startup business plan
The following tips will help you create a compelling startup business plan without getting overwhelmed.
Know your audience
To write an effective business plan, tailor your language and level of detail to match the audience reading it.
Have a simple and clear goal
If you have a goal of securing funding for your business, it will be an uphill task with lots of work and research.
Simplifying and breaking down bigger goals into smaller, actionable tasks will assist you in getting through them faster.
Spend time researching
Avoid assuming anything about your target audience, product/service, or the market need.
Spending adequate time and effort on research from primary and secondary sources will help you develop an accurate business plan.
Build a startup toolkit
The process of creation becomes easier if you have the right startup tools and software by your side. Pick the right ones that will help you in your journey.
Keep it precise
Short and easy-to-read business plans are best kept within 20 pages. If you have additional documents, consider adding them as appendices or provide a link if available online.
Ensure tonal consistency
Keep the tone consistent by having just one author write your startup business plan. Otherwise, be sure to edit it thoroughly before you finalize it.
Add reference points
All information regarding the market, your competitors, and your customers should reference authoritative data points.
Be ready to pivot
A business plan should be fluid and flexible. Think of it as an evolving document that will continue to change over time.
How to create a business plan with Wrike
A good business plan is a powerful tool and can be a key predictor of future progress, but simply filling in a startup business plan won’t help you achieve success. You need to create action steps with accountability that will help you reach your goals.
Wrike’s project management software can help your organization deliver successful projects and maximize individual and team productivity, and our product launch template can help you turn your startup business plan goals into actionable steps.
Start a free trial of Wrike today to see how it can help to simplify work, showcase progress to stakeholders, and achieve startup success.
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