Where to start with digital marketing as a new startup

Speaking to startups, we find that most founders or co-founders have not managed digital marketing campaigns in their past careers, but now are eager to learn since it is clear it will be fundamental to the growth of their new company. This learning process typically arises from studying themselves online or by seeking advice from start-up advisors or specialists.

Based on our experience working with startups, we hope to give you some pointers on where you could start with digital marketing to enable you to make the best decisions for your company.

Step 1: Start with your objectives

Depending on the stage your company is at you will have different objectives. Your goals should be the main element that will feed into your digital marketing strategy. Think about your long-term goals, where do you want the company to be in 1 year or 5 years? Thinking about short term return often leads to a poor strategy since launching and building a brand takes time. Let’s look at some example objectives we have heard from start-ups:

  1. Funding objectives – crowdfunding goals
    • £250,000 funding within 3 months
  2. Growth – locations, company size, number of customers
    • To open a second office in year 2
  3. Income – year 1 revenue target
    • Drive £30,000 revenue year 1

Budget will be restricted for a startup company at the crowdfunding stage, since the aim is to grow funds to build the company infrastructure or perhaps manufacture a product. The objective is to spread the word online about an innovative idea but not spend a fortune and this relies on exploiting free opportunities.

Step 2: Exploiting free opportunities

There are so many routes to get the message out online about your startup company which are relatively low cost or free. All of which require a lot of creativity and determination in your approach to be noticed. Some ideas:

  • Create relevant content on your website, providing visitors with updates on your progress and at the same time you grow your remarketing audience for future use.
  • Develop your social media profiles, posting regular, interesting content which showcases why your company is different. Don’t be afraid to introduce your founders and team to add some personality behind the brand.
  • As well as the obvious social networks, think about posting on other highly subscribed sites such as Reddit, Google+ and StumbleUpon which have communities who might be interested in what you are sharing.
  • Share your story by opening as many communication channels as possible, not just external sites but also on your website by having live chat, phone number, email address and blog comments enabled.

It makes sense to really maximise your exposure through free channels first of all, whilst creating a plan to maintain them. This might simply be allocating half an hour every day to scheduling updates for social networks and working on blog updates. When it comes to beginning to build your digital marketing plan, these activities should all feature.

As well as low cost opportunities, there are other digital channels which might be beneficial depending on your objectives. Paid media channels can help to reach the audiences which are responsive to your early digital strategies. Channels such as pay-per-click (PPC) on search engines, social media adverts and display retargeting can all be effective to expand your visibility beyond organic reach.

Step 3: Explore paid media channels

For this again it comes back to your objectives to determine what will supplement the free channels and deliver the results you need. The benefit of investing in paid campaigns is that you can increase site traffic and/or conversions quickly which will in turn help you learn about what is effective. This really is a case of trial and error, being open to different platforms which each have their advantages and disadvantages is crucial.

At this point you might choose to get outside advice as to which channels to test and how to go about it. Here are some obvious ideas to test based on one given objective: ‘Drive £30,000 revenue year 1‘.

  • As a startup the awareness of your brand is likely to be limited. Paid search is a great way to introduce your brand to people actively searching for what you offer. It is easy to think that running campaigns using keywords relating to your business will work from the outset. You will need to be creative in your targeting and the messaging you use to stand out from other advertisers.
  • Promoting your posts on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter will increase the reach of your posts and provide you with a better understanding of which demographics and audiences are responsive.
  • Facebook advertising in particular offers amazing segmentation of your audiences which will not only verify that you do actually know your target audience but also it is extremely affordable.
  • Video provides a great opportunity for startups because they are more powerful than other media in explaining what differentiates your product/service. These videos can then be promoted online as a way to drive awareness, but also conversion, particularly if used to retarget your previous site visitors.

The extent to which you use paid media will often be dictated by your marketing budget. When budget planning, think about how you might increase your efforts over time allowing test budgets for new platforms and channels. Bear in mind that you will learn quickly what is effective which means that being flexible with your budgets by channel is important.

The world of digital marketing is complex and keeping up to date with the opportunities available can be tough. Here are some useful blogs to keep up to date with industry updates.

AdWords Blog

Search Engine Watch

Marketing Land



See who we work with: Startups

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