How to Create a Startup Marketing Plan
Startup marketing success takes more than just checking boxes and ‘being on Twitter.’ Learn how to build a well-considered startup marketing plan that gets results.
Is your startup marketing plan destined to become yet another failure?
You know the story: A newcomer thinks they know how to market a startup, so they launch a Twitter account, set up a LinkedIn company page, build a website, start running ads…but then nothing happens.
Despite all that precious budget they spent, they’re not getting many visitors, and almost none of those are converting into buyers. Why? Because they didn’t understand the factors that make startup marketing successful. And when you’re just getting off the ground, wasting all that time and energy can be catastrophic.
A startup marketing plan that really works takes a lot more than just checking off boxes and being on Twitter. In this guide, we’ll explain how to build a startup marketing strategy that actually succeeds.
- In Part 1, we’ll discuss why you need to focus on building your brand.
- In Part 2, we’ll lay out five tips for building your startup marketing plan.
- In Part 3, you’ll learn about the seven most effective types of digital marketing for startups.
- In Part 4, we’ll look at how to work with stakeholders and resources outside your marketing team.
- 1. Part 1: The Secret to Your Startup Marketing Plan—Build Your Brand
- 1.1 What’s in a Brand?
- 1.2 Startup Marketing is Brand Building, Not Brand Maintenance
- 1.3 Don’t Jump the Gun on Your Startup Marketing Plan
- 2. Part 2: 5 Tips for Building Your Startup Marketing Plan
- 2.1 Identify Your Strengths and Focus on Them
- 2.2 Look at What Your Competitors Are Doing
- 2.3 Set and Manage Your Startup Marketing Budget
- 2.4 Build Your Startup Marketing Plan
- 2.5 Execute, Track, and Test
- 2.6 Additional Marketing Resources for Startups
- 3. Part 3: 7 Types of Digital Marketing for Startups
- 3.1 Content Marketing for Startups
- 3.2 SEO for Startups
- 3.3 Social Media Marketing for Startups
- 3.4 Email Marketing for Startups
- 3.5 Advertising for Startups
- 3.6 Websites for Startups
- 3.7 Event Marketing for Startups
- 4. Part 4: Startup Marketing with External Teams
- 4.1 How Marketing Can Work With Sales
- 4.2 Working with an Agency as a Startup
- 5. Feeling More Comfortable with Startup Marketing Now?
Part 1: The Secret to Your Startup Marketing Plan—Build Your Brand
Here’s the startup marketing plan that finds success:
- Step 1: Build a brand
- Step 2: Sell it
The full process is way more complex, but in the end, it boils down to those two steps.
Your goal is to establish a footprint in your audience’s mind. You want your startup to be known as an entity that solves a specific problem using a high-quality solution. Once your brand’s reputation is cemented, it drives purchases and builds business momentum.
Example: Dollar Shave Club. The startup saw an issue—namely, having to buy expensive razors. The solution: Subscribe to have affordable razors delivered straight to your doorstep.
Dollar Shave Club was so successful at building its brand through positive product experiences that it was eventually bought out for $1 billion.
What’s in a Brand?
So what exactly is a brand? It’s a promise you make to your buyers: “If you buy our product, you’ll get a quality solution.”
Your brand travels through word of mouth. It’s discovered when people interact with your product. They have to like what they find—no amount of advertising can make a bad product good, like a breakfast cereal that burns people’s tongues. You get one chance to make an impression.
Create a strong brand by building a product that buyers will genuinely enjoy. Word about your product will begin to spread on its own. The stronger your brand and the better the product experience, the more durable your impression and the more effective all of your marketing will be.
It’s as true for consumer packaged goods as it is for marketing for tech startups.
Startup Marketing is Brand Building, Not Brand Maintenance
When you think “startup marketing,” the first thing that comes to mind is probably “advertising,” but ads aren’t the answer. Establishing a brand that’s backed by trust and quality isn’t something you can do with just advertisements.
“Most marketers confuse brand building with brand maintenance,” say marketing experts Al Ries and Laura Ries in their book, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding.
Brand maintenance is what you see most big brands using advertising for—think billboards, banner ads, radio spots, and Superbowl commercials. However, you’re not at that stage (or budget) just yet, young startup. Before you can maintain your brand, you need to build it in the first place.
Don’t Jump the Gun on Your Startup Marketing Plan
You may be champing at the bit to get started with this whole “startup marketing” thing, but don’t go sprinting out the gate. Resist the initial pressure to act immediately—whether it’s coming from your peers, from the board, or from the CEO.
Instead, study. Invest in building a real brand. Know—don’t just guess—why people buy. It’s the only way you’ll get through those next few months of blistering activity and see the results you wanted.
Part 2: 5 Tips for Building Your Startup Marketing Plan
1. Identify Your Strengths and Focus on Them
As a startup, you can’t afford to spread yourself thin. It’s better to dominate one channel than to bore audiences on many, and better to produce one remarkable asset than to write many mediocre ones.
So what are the best marketing strategies for a startup business? The answer: The marketing strategies that play to your strengths.
What are your startup’s unique advantages? What’s remarkable about your product or process? What do you have that those big brands don’t? Identify it and double down.
For instance, many startups find that their small size and low budget are actually benefits to their marketing efforts, not detriments. When it comes to approaches like video marketing, those scrappy, small-budget videos can make your startup feel far more human and relatable than your larger rivals.
2. Look at What Your Competitors Are Doing
Whether your competitors are large or small, they’ve done valuable legwork that you can learn from.
How is your competition approaching its marketing? What audiences are they targeting? What angle are they taking? Which concepts and keywords are they linking to their brand?
This can tell you where to focus your efforts (because it’s working in those markets) or where to avoid (because those markets are already saturated).
Don’t duplicate their marketing initiatives wholesale, but don’t miss out on the valuable insights you can gain from their marketing decisions. If your competition is doing something, figure out why, then put to work in a way that complements your own brand.
3. Set and Manage Your Startup Marketing Budget
Next, you’ll need to decide on your startup marketing budget. Here’s a common question: “For early stage startups, it’s advisable to spend what percentage of your revenue on marketing?” The answer is always “it depends.”
Most mature businesses spend 10% of their budget on marketing. The marketing budget for startups will likely be higher—you’re in the insurgent stage of the corporate lifecycle where it’s build a brand or die. Though Gartner says the average marketing budget for a startup is 11.2%, up to 20% is acceptable.
Within that startup marketing budget, spend 85% on conservative activities that you know work—branding, PR, email marketing, content marketing—and 15% on moonshot projects. Most moonshots won’t pay off (or break even), but some will succeed wildly and help you learn, grow, and pivot to channels and assets that work best for you.
Learning what doesn’t work is just as important as learning what does. After years of spending four to five hours each month selecting images for its blog posts, one startup agency learned that the blog actually looked better without them. The time and startup marketing budget they had spent was worse than just wasted—it had diverted time and money from more profitable activities.
4. Build Your Startup Marketing Plan
With all that reflection, competitor research, and budgeting work finished, you may feel ready to get rolling on your first startup marketing program…but there’s actually a little more prep work to be done before you can get on the road.
Writing blogs and buying ads willy-nilly isn’t going to get you anywhere. First, build a detailed, carefully considered startup marketing plan. It’s the roadmap that will guide you all the way through the execution and refinement of each marketing program you run.
A lot of the things you should be doing at this stage share commonalities with standard, non-startup marketing strategy generation. But if it’s been a while since you read your last “marketing 101” guide, here’s a quick refresher.
Build Buyer Personas
You’re probably no stranger to the concept of the buyer persona. It’s a fictionalized individual who represents your larger customer base. Based on what you know about your target audience, you nail down the type of job they’re most likely to have, their probable lifestyle choices, their most common values and fears, etc.
Drilling down to this level of detail lets you hyper-focus on the marketing activities that are most likely to pay dividends. Example: Instead of deciding to run ads on all major social media outlets, you can consult your buyer persona to winnow down to the social media your target persona is most likely to hang out on.
This leads to less wasted resources—which is especially important when you’re working with a small startup marketing budget.
Crystallize Your Core Value Proposition
Now that you know who your audience is (via the buyer personas), what do they care about? What desires drive them, and what fears keep them up at night? What questions are they asking Google?
Those findings will be invaluable levers for your startup marketing plan. You may be selling a product, but truly effective startup marketing strategies also sell an outcome.
Use those wants, needs, and fears as cornerstones of your messaging. Use your marketing to explain how you’ll solve a problem, or attain a goal, or avoid a pitfall that is relevant and authentic to your audience.
Presenting a strong value proposition is so important because your startup is a new player on the scene. When was the last time Coca-Cola told you about what its product does or what problems it solves? Big brands can get away with brand maintenance because they’re so entrenched in the market’s consciousness. Your startup, on the other hand, needs to tell consumers exactly what a purchase will get them, and why.
Tailor Your Startup Marketing Strategy to Your Resources
You probably don’t have the startup marketing budget to throw at every idea that comes along, so you need to refine your choices down to the options that are most likely to work for you. What approaches best suit your staffing, skillset, and budget?
If you’ve got great content creators, lean into content. If someone has an eye for design and can write a punchy headline, consider an ad campaign. Have a naturally charismatic presenter on the team? Events and webinars might be more your speed.
(More on each of these types of digital marketing for startups in Part 2.)
5. Execute, Track, and Test
You’ve done your homework. Now it’s time to actually develop your marketing program, execute it, and see how it fares.
Don’t forget to set performance goals before launch, then reflect on them after the program concludes. Did you get the results you expected? If not, it’s back to the drawing board. Tweak the way you talk about your product, the imagery you use, and the methods you use to reach your audience. Permutation makes perfect!
Additional Marketing Resources for Startups
- The Best Small Business Tech Stack (Vidyard)
- How to Build A Startup Marketing Budget (HubSpot)
- SMB Video Marketing Guide (Vidyard)
Part 3: 7 Types of Digital Marketing for Startups
There are many ways to market your startup based on what it is and who your buyers are. The smartest marketers narrow their options and pick one or two things to do well before expanding.
Below, we detail seven strategies for (mostly) digital marketing for startups:
1. Content Marketing for Startups
The fundamental goal of content marketing is simple. You produce content that establishes your startup as an authority on the topic, which is great for attracting the attention of both prospective customers and search engines.
But a lot of people misunderstand content marketing for startups. The goal isn’t to write as much as you can—it’s to write a few things that are exceptionally useful.
Take the Michelin guide and star rating systems for restaurants. Michelin started that in the early 1900s by publishing maps for drivers, hoping that if people knew where to eat, they’d do more driving and buy more Michelin tires. It worked so well it became an institution.
Content marketing for startups is more than writing, too—it can be anything, really. You could produce guides, brand-agnostic case studies, videos, blogs, infographics, tools, checklists, or calculators. If you’ve ever tried CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer, you’ve experienced great content marketing firsthand. The headline analyzer exists primarily to help, and people learn to know and trust CoSchedule by association.
Great content is rooted in a deep understanding of how your buyers think, and many startup marketers don’t invest enough in this.
Most startups are understandably intoxicated by the opportunity they have perceived. It’s why they started the company. In marketing that can cause a sort of willful blindness, particularly among first-time entrepreneurs. They think everyone else is as excited as they are, and that they don’t have to put the hard yards in to persuade their target audience. It’s often a problem if the company is led by a first time engineering or sales leader. Marketing often ends up being more ‘look at me’ and less about romancing the opportunity or explaining the problem they solve.Stan WoodsVelocity PartnersCEO
Content marketing fails when it gets too solicitous, or when it has too obvious a conflict of interest. The Sisyphean struggle of content marketers is stopping others on the team from inserting calls to action or pitches for the product. Readers sense a fake immediately and flee.
To create great content, follow the four Es: Engaging, educational, emotional, and empathetic.
Content Marketing Strategies for Startups
72% of people would rather watch a video than read.
Keep it 90% product-free.
Use your content to educate, not shill your product. Non-customers should still find your content useful. A piece of content that’s obviously trying to sell them something will make them click away, especially when it’s coming this early in the buyer’s journey.
Showcase your customers.
46% of adults in the U.S. say they trust consumer-written online reviews, while only 10% trust ads on websites and 9% have faith in written messages from brands.
Map your content to where it belongs in your marketing funnel. You can create what’s known as a content matrix where you list off all the assets and where they belong in your funnel so you can see coverage gaps.
Create once and share everywhere.
Put the effort in to create a pillar or hero piece of content and figure out how you can break it up and use it across all your distribution channels—web, email, social, sales, review sites, and co-marketing opportunities—to maximize value.
Startup Marketing Resources for Content Marketing
Startup Marketing Tools for Content Marketing
- Design and stock photography: Unsplash, Canva, Powtoon
- Writing and freelancers: Grammarly, Hemingway Editor, Upwork, PeoplePerHour, Narrato
- Content management: WordPress, HubSpot, Vidyard
- Collaboration and productivity: Google Workspace, Microsoft Teams, Slack, Trello, HeySpace
2. SEO for Startups
If you’re focused on inbound marketing, it means you’re trying to get people to come to you. Your biggest traffic driver here will probably be from search engines like Google. This is known as organic traffic.
You’ll see a lot of search engine optimization (SEO) advice out there that makes it seem like magic. It suggests if you only have the right combination of keywords, you can “trick” Google and rank high on the first page. Banish that idea. Google updates its algorithm more than 600 times each year to thwart SEO hacksters.
Instead, understand what Google wants—to show people the answers they enjoy. This is content that’s so useful or entertaining that they click, stay to read or watch, click around some more, and share.
Google expresses this using its “E-A-T” methodology. It elevates sites that demonstrate expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
So really, good SEO for startups is primarily about having a website full of well-written and well-designed content. That’s why video is such a big help. People love videos, which is why adding a video to your website increases your chances of ranking on the first page of Google results by 50x. That makes it well worth the effort—especially when 75% of people never venture past that first page of search results.
SEO Marketing Strategies for Startups
Do your research.
Identify what keywords you want to own and what your competitors are using.
Use keywords consistently across your site—blogs, campaign pages, case studies, and product pages.
Ensure you use customer language, not internal corporate jargon.
Crosslink and backlink.
Link relevant content across your site and find backlink opportunities with third-party content on other sites, i.e., integration partners, resellers, industry-related posts, and influencers.
Startup Marketing Tools for SEO
3. Social Media Marketing for Startups
Social media for startups has extreme upsides and downsides. Nowhere else in the world except on a site like Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter can you go ‘viral’ and reach massive audiences—to say nothing of having an algorithm recommend your profile and content to millions of others. But there’s a cost.
Growing a startup social media following is often equated to building a house on rented land. Social networks can change the rules overnight, for any reason, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
When LinkedIn changed its algorithm to deprioritize organic posts from companies to force them to buy more ads, most businesses had no choice but to pay. When Facebook suddenly pivoted away from video in 2018, a flight of startups, including Mic, went bankrupt.
When social media marketing for startups works, however, it can work wonders. The data startup CB Insights has built the largest newsletter of any B2B brand thanks to its riotously funny and useful Twitter presence. Their CEO and brand personality Anand Sanwal credits their success to daring to post provocative topics.
You don’t want to be boring ever, but in B2B, the bar is so immensely low that if you’re not boring, you will stand out. The reality is most B2B marketing is self-promotional, jargon-infested drivel. And that is because people think that in B2B, you need to be boring, serious, and buttoned up. Most B2B marketers forget that people reading their content want to be educated but also like to be entertained.Anand SanwalCB InsightsCEO
What exactly should you post? Social tends to be a great place to share your startup’s content marketing, but that’s not your only option.
Test to see what works for your audience. Try text posts, videos, polls, memes, quotes, GIFs, infographics, and PDFs. Cross-promotion is often highly effective and helps you tap into other larger but related audiences—you can hand your account over to a social media personality for a day. Also, don’t forget to leverage your employees to like and share.
Hear from Vidyard’s Social Media Manager, Charlie Rogers, on strategies for growing your social presence.
Social Media Marketing Startup Pro Tip: Court Controversy
The customer data platform firm Segment ran a brand campaign that was so successful, it bled over into social media. It featured billboards in major cities greeting inhabitants with their rival city’s name, to poke fun at the idea of bad data. For instance, in San Francisco, the sign read, “Good morning, LA!”
“It made a lot of people laugh, but one in 10 people would write in thinking we were dummies,” says Maya Spivak, Head of Global Brand Marketing at Segment.
“In the comments, the people who understood the joke would jump in and correct them. My favorite part is that this actor in LA got caught up in the joke and posted a picture of our billboard to his followers asking if we meant it to be there—twice. We got tens of thousands of these wonderful organic impressions.”
Startup Marketing Resources for Social Media
- The Ultimate Social Media Video Guide
- How to Use Each LinkedIn Video Format
- The Ultimate Guide to Facebook Video Marketing
- How to Use Twitter Video
- Social Media Marketing Society
- Hootsuite blog
Startup Marketing Tools for Social Media
- Social media management: Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Buffer
- Design: Canva, Adobe Spark
4. Email Marketing for Startups
Don’t think for a second that just because over half the world’s population—3.9 billion people—use email, it’s old and boring. It’s a direct line of communication to all those people, and they check it as much as 15x per day, for a total of five hours.
Plus, email has one massive advantage over other channels like social media: It’s a way to build an owned audience. Nobody can take your email list from you or stop you from using it.
There are many different ways to go about email marketing, but the most common is to set triggered emails to respond when people take actions, like subscribing to your newsletter on your site. Triggered emails will form the foundation of your communication with prospects and customers if you do business online, and they offer opportunities to educate and cross-promote products.
Another way to use emails is what’s known as email nurtures. You set a series of emails to go out to someone based on an interest in a product or solution you’re offering. Nurtures can also be used to activate, onboard, or upgrade a customer. Whenever someone indicates that particular interest, they get that same series of emails. With more complex products, nurtures can drip information to educate people until they’re ready to buy.
However—and here’s the big caveat to email marketing—you have to be careful not to abuse it.
Just because you have an email doesn’t mean you should send offers right away. Think about your audience, understand their relationship to your business and why they gave you their email, anticipate their interests and needs, and only then, craft an email to send the right message at the right time.Mollie BodensteinerGranularEnterprise Data Architect
You also have to do the hard work of providing enough value for people to share their email in the first place.
“A purchased list is never as good as an earned one,” says Mollie Bodensteiner, Enterprise Data Architect at Granular, an Iowa-based software startup. “There’s no shortcut, and then you have to work hard to ensure people are actually receiving and understanding your emails. Just because they opened it doesn’t mean they read it.”
The biggest mistake Mollie sees in email marketing? “Not having the right technical foundation to get into the inbox. You have to set up things for deliverability, configure the right authentication (SPF, DKIM, TLS, DMARC), monitor performance, avoid spam traps, keep your lists clean, and optimize your email templates.”
Email Marketing Strategies for Startups
Don’t buy too much email software.
The software that’s best for you depends on how much time you can dedicate to it. You may want to eventually have workflows, triggers, website integration, and lead scoring, but if all you can dedicate now is a few hours a week, better to choose a simpler, cheaper platform.
Test, test, test.
A/B test your email content on a regular basis to see what yields the best open and clickthrough rates. Test things like personalization, emojis, memes, subject lines, button colors, etc.
Send videos in email.
Using “video” in your subject line can increase open and click-through rates.
Startup Marketing Tools for Email
Email was a core distribution channel for our Holiday Campaign, which won a Telly Award for its innovation and creativity. Playful and relatable video content, an irresistible email subject line, and a personalized user experience helped us stand out in inboxes.
5. Advertising for Startups
Another big inbound channel is running startup ads—known as paid traffic.
How do you advertise your startup business? It’s pretty simple: Create and run ads that identify and solve your prospective customers’ problems.
When someone clicks your ad, you want to send them to a specific landing page that shows exactly what you promised. The biggest error in startup advertising is sending people to your homepage and hoping they figure it out from there. Direct them to exactly what the ad showed—down to the model type or product color. Otherwise, your ads will be penalized and they’ll actually cost you more.
To improve your conversions, you have to track them, revisit, and tune constantly. Nobody ever created a successful startup by launching a site, setting an ad, and then sitting back and relaxing.
As Andy Crestodina, CMO of Orbit Media, a Chicago-based web design and marketing agency, explains, website marketing and advertising for startups is a relentless game of trial and error.
“Why does someone become a lead? Consider the psychology of the visitor,” says Andy. “People come to a website with a story that led them there. They have a problem. They are asking themselves a series of questions. Am I in the right place? Does this company offer solutions that are likely a fit for my problem? Do I have reasons to believe this is a credible website? Is there evidence here? Have they helped other people? What are the statistics or stories, data points, or testimonials, that make me believe this?”
Only when you know the questions people are asking can you build a useful website for marketing.
Every person in every market has to have a series of questions answered before they will convert. Your website’s job is to answer them. That’s it.Andy CrestondinaOrbit MediaCMO
Advertising Marketing Strategies for Startups
Use ads to test messaging.
A/B test ads to see which messages work best and reuse the winners elsewhere in your marketing.
If you show one ad to everyone, it may be mildly interesting to all. But if you group your buyers into several segments and show them each something specific to them, you’ll get them excited.
If it works, keep running it.
Startups often stop running an ad when the marketing team tires of it. Don’t. Let it run until the market tires of it.
Switch out visual ads often.
The exception is with ads with photos, as with Facebook. Facebook’s granular targeting means the groups seeing your ads see them a lot. If they see them consistently for more than two weeks, they grow fatigued, and the ads stop working.
Startup Marketing Resources for Advertising
6. Websites for Startups
Your website is often the cornerstone of your digital marketing—all roads lead to it. But many startups fail to consider their site’s purpose. Is your site the place where buyers add items to their cart or just a digital business card? Is it meant to collect people’s emails so you can market to them further, or is it just a series of pages to reinforce what your sales team says?
Each goal necessitates a different approach. Our rule for startups is this: Build the fewest number of pages you can while still answering your customers’ questions well enough to get them to take a desired action. If you have too many pages, the website becomes a labyrinth. Your visitors get lost and close the tab.
This ideal path through your website is known as the ideal buyer journey or golden path. You should map out this journey based on the questions you expect them to ask, and make navigating to the next anticipated question a simple process.
Once you have an ideal user path, you can apply various strategies to increase conversions. That is, you pick an outcome tied to revenue—maybe purchases, form fills, or sign-ups—and then work backwards to see how many people you can drive there, and how many of them take that desired action.
User Experience (UX) Optimization
Make your website brain-dead simple. Assume nobody will figure anything out, and always inform visitors what will happen on the next page if they click.
“A website’s job is to answer questions but few do,” says Andy of Orbit Media. “Say I fill out a contact form. I actually don’t know what happens next. The channel is unknown and the timing is unknown. This is the key moment—the moment of truth—and all I’m left with is uncertainty. Are you going to call me back? Will you email me? Will you do it today or in the future? All these uncertainties are a problem for the prospect and a big reason they feel a need to submit several forms on several websites.”
User Flow Analysis
Website analytics tools like Google Analytics allow you to see which pages people are visiting most, and which page they tend to visit next. If you see high “drop-offs,” it means someone exited the page at that point. That generally means they didn’t find what they were looking for; otherwise, they would have taken action.
Landing Page Optimization
When you’ve found a page that performs poorly—lots of people dropping off—you can begin to test that will improve that conversion rate.
Adding video to your landing page is a great way to inject more information and engagement into a poorly performing page (with the added bonus of making the page more attractive to search engines). For instance, an explainer video can lay out the concept behind your product in just a couple of minutes, making it a great addition to your homepage.
Aside from SEO and ads, what brings people to your website? And just as important, what brings them back?
If all your site shows is product information, there’s not much there for people who may buy one day, but aren’t yet ready. To attract a broader audience, build authority by answering questions on a topic through a blog, a resources section, or a frequently asked questions (FAQ) page. It’ll make you look good both in the eyes of prospective customers and of search engines.
The best way to understand your site’s strengths and shortcomings can be to ask your users themselves.
With usability testing, real people run through a sample workflow on your site, then offer feedback on the experience. This can shed light on functionality issues, points of confusion, and opportunities for improvement to the user experience that can only be spotted with fresh, unbiased eyes.
Website Marketing Strategies for Startups
Keep things simple.
Use a simple domain name, short URLs, and concise messaging on your pages.
Invest in branding.
Ensure branding and design is consistent across your site.
Guide the user.
Have clear primary and secondary calls to action.
Ensure your site has a mobile-friendly design and layout.
Pick the right platform.
Do your research on the web platform that best fits your needs (i.e. do you need ecommerce vs. portfolio). Security, server space, speed, and support are essential factors to consider.
Top Website Tools and Resources for Startups
- Optimization and conversion: Intercom, Calendly, Unbounce, Optimizely
- Design, hosting, and ecommerce: WordPress, Shopify, Balsamiq, Wix, Squarespace
- Grow and Convert blog
7. Event Marketing for Startups
Believe it or not, events can be one of the most cost-effective marketing strategies for startups. Event marketing can be a wonderful way to not only connect with your prospects and customers but also connect your prospects and customers with each other. (Even if it’s only virtually.)
Unlike a webinar, which is a one-to-many message, events are many-to-many. People network, connect, learn, meet, and associate all the positive things that come out of that with your startup.
Types of Event Marketing for Startups
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that lots of events still work online, though you may have to make adjustments to the format. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, however.
“My best advice for startups considering events as a new initiative is to think in terms of your event as a minimum viable product (MVP),” says Christine Farrier, Senior Director of Partner and Channel Marketing at Demandbase.
“What’s the smallest possible version of an event that you can launch and still extract lessons that could later be scaled up?”
Want to start hosting a virtual event big enough to feed your SDR team for an entire quarter? “Begin with the ‘friends and family’ size event,” says Christine. “If it works, conduct pre- and post-event briefings, begin documenting what works into a webinar playbook, and then double the goals for the next iteration.”
Vidyard has been running our virtual Fast Forward event for years. However, with the move to all things digital in 2020, we knew we had to step up our virtual user experience.
We leveraged a third-party provider (HeySummit) to help us manage the event logistics and Zoom Webinars to host the sessions.
Coupled with highly-targeted relevant content and speakers, we executed our most popular event to date—tripling our standard registrations and achieving a 55% attendance rate.
Where it’s practical, regional events are an approachable entry point for startups who can’t shell out cash for a convention center. You can hold them in coworking spaces, partner offices, and boutique venues.
Our Video in Business Lunch and Learns are small (usually 20 to 30 attendees) regional events. They bring together local marketing professionals looking for actionable tips for activating their video marketing plans with minimal budgets.
User Conferences and Industry Trade Shows
You can market at other people’s events too. The budget option here is to simply send your salespeople to wander the showroom floor and take meetings. If you have a bit more budget, you can book a booth, speak at breakout sessions, or host a panel.
Startup Marketing Tools and Resources for Event Marketing
- Event Manager Blog
- Vidyard: Hubs, Live Streaming, video hosting, and video creation
Part 4: Startup Marketing with External Teams
How Marketing Can Work With Sales
In B2B marketing for startups, sales and marketing teams often clash. But don’t forget that you’re on the same team—the revenue team. The best way to work with your sales counterparts is to spend a lot of time together and measure the same metrics.
It’s difficult for a marketer to blame sales for not closing enough deals if they’re in the proverbial room and hearing how some of those leads were a really bad fit. And it’s tough for sales to blame marketing for driving bad leads when they can see how hard marketing is working. Both teams need to exist in constant communication and constantly ask, “How can I help you help me do my job better?”
Top Tools for Startup Sales Teams
Working with an Agency as a Startup
As a startup, you may not have the bandwidth or resources to do it all when it comes to executing or even developing your marketing and sales strategy.
Luckily, there are hundreds of agencies specializing in inbound and growth marketing that can help get you started (like IMPACT, Revenue River, SmartBug, and New Breed, to name a few).
Focus your marketing attention on where you’re most comfortable and look to bring in consultants or agencies to help you in other areas.
Feeling More Comfortable with Startup Marketing Now?
Digital marketing for startups can seem intimidating at first look. But with the right planning, strategy, and execution, your startup can be making waves in the market in no time.
Now go forth and make a splash.
This post was originally published on July 9, 2020. It was updated on October 14, 2021.