The best and most efficient way to grow your startup business is to follow a solid digital marketing strategy. Growing a startup is a huge challenge and if you don’t have a plan in place, you may end up spending your time and budget on the wrong activities.
In this guide, you’ll learn step-by-step how to use digital marketing to grow your startup business.
The strategies outlined below cover everything you need to do to succeed with digital marketing and boost the online visibility of your business.
Best Digital Marketing Strategies for Startups
Here are the most important digital marketing steps to follow to grow your startup:
- Build your website and brand
- Use social media marketing to raise brand awareness
- Create a content marketing strategy
- Start with email marketing from the very beginning
- Start advertising on Google and Facebook
- Run Retargeting campaigns
- Invest heavily in SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Build your website and brand
The first step in your digital marketing strategy is to establish your web presence and build your brand.
Branding is very important for an online business. Google loves to showcase brands in its search results and users like to follow and interact with brands.
To get started with branding your startup business, follow these tips:
Create a unique logo
A logo represents your brand’s identity and it will be used in all places (website, social media pages, browser icon) so you need to come up with a logo that tells your story. It doesn’t have to be something complicated or too artistic but it needs to differentiate your business from the rest.
Create a website that accurately represents your brand
The next big step is to build your website. This is an obvious step for many people but it’s a fact that a lot of startups either omit this step or don’t give it the necessary attention.
Having a website is essential because it’s the focal point of all your digital marketing campaigns.
Through branding and marketing, you’ll try to get people to visit your website, sign-up for your email list, become fans and eventually buy your products or services.
A website for a startup business doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does need to accurately represent your brand. Don’t forget that a website is the ‘front door’ of your business and something to be proud of.
When building your website, follow these guidelines:
Pay special attention to your homepage – It should clearly explain who you are, what you do and how your products or services can help people solve a problem.
You can mention your achievements, goals, mission statement but what is more important is to explain how you can help your potential customers.
Use a hierarchical structure – having a good site structure is important for both usability and SEO reasons. Your website structure should not be more than 3 levels deep and all your important pages should be linked from your homepage.
Essential pages – besides having pages about your products and services, your business website needs to have a great about us page, a contact page, a privacy, and disclaimer page.
Speed and mobile-friendliness – a modern business website loads fast and is mobile friendly as most of your visitors will most probably using mobile devices.
Other than that, you should choose a design and layout that is easy to use and looks professional.
Claim and optimize your business pages on all major networks (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest)
The next step that is closely related to branding is to create a business page for your startup on all major social networks.
As we’ll see below, social media plays a key role in a digital marketing campaign but the first step is to claim your brand name.
What do we mean by claim your brand name? All social networks allow you to create a username that is used as the page slug.
For example, our FB and Twitter pages are:
If you don’t claim the username from the very beginning, then it’s likely that someone else will register it and this can create a lot of problems in the future. The last thing you want while promoting your startup is to be confused with some other company.
So, go to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and any other networks you know, create a business page and configure the username to be the same on all platforms.
On your business page make sure you add your logo, your website URL and any other relevant information about your business.
You should do this even if you don’t plan to use all social networks in the future.
Resources to Learn More
- Best Digital marketing courses – A collection of the best courses on digital marketing. Ideal for startups and beginners to digital marketing.
- How to start an online business – A step-by-step guide on how to build an online business.
- Website Marketing – A complete guide on how to promote your website.
Use social media marketing to raise brand awareness
Once you have your website ready and your social media presence is secured, the next step is to jump into the social media marketing wagon and start building brand awareness.
Social media marketing has many benefits to offer to startups, one of them is brand awareness. In fact, it’s the most effective digital marketing strategy for spreading the word about your brand, products, and services.
How to promote your brand using social media networks?
Start with Facebook – Follow the steps outlined in this article to get more Facebook followers. Having a decent number of followers helps a lot with social proof and it’s the first step for building a community around your brand.
Unfortunately, you may have to allocate some budget for this since growing your Facebook fans organically is very difficult and time-consuming but it’s something you have to do especially at the beginning.
Create customer personas and choose your next network – Facebook is a must for all startups but not necessarily all other social networks.
Once you get started with Facebook, the next step is to create customer personas and identify which networks your potential customers will most likely use and jump on those.
For example, if your target customers are people between 20-30 years of age then Instagram and YouTube and great networks to be in. If on the other hand, you are targeting executive managers then you’ll have more chances on LinkedIn than Instagram.
The table below shows the user demographic information per social network.
What is important to understand at this stage is that you don’t have to maintain an active presence in all social media networks, it can be overkill especially if your budget and resources are limited.
Include in your digital marketing plan the networks that are more likely to generate better results.
Keep your social media pages active – In the next step, we’ll see how to create a content marketing strategy so that you have content to fetch your social media networks but until you get to that point, you need to ensure that your social media pages are active.
By active, we mean to have fresh and up-to-date content. People that will find your website or brand, are likely to visit your Facebook page as well so make sure that it does not look abandoned.
As a general rule of thumb, don’t make your posts too promotional. Users don’t care for your achievements but how they can benefit from purchasing your products or using your services.
Resources to Learn More
How to successful social media campaigns – Tips on how to increase your chances of succeeding with social media marketing.
Create a content marketing strategy
It’s impossible to talk about digital marketing for startups without mentioning the importance of content marketing.
Content marketing is the process of creating, publishing and promoting relevant content to a pre-defined online audience.
Through a well-defined content marketing strategy, you’ll have content to use on your social media pages, website (blog), paid advertising and SEO.
Follow these steps to create a content marketing strategy:
Analyze your market and identify your target audience – You already went through the customer profiling process above (in deciding which social media networks to use), what you need to do now is to find out what kind of content your target audience needs.
Is it informational articles on how to complete a task? Is video content more relevant to your audience?
This is the stage to get deeper and try to understand what type of content will help you promote your business and at the same time solve people’s needs.
Create a content marketing plan – After you identify the type of content to create, the next step is to create a plan with tasks and milestones.
Your content marketing plan doesn’t have to be complicated but it does need to specify when and who will create the content.
Create the actual content – The process of creating content for an online audience has three steps:
Step 2: Create content that is unique, interesting, evergreen, based on studies and real data.
Step 3: Optimize your content for search engines and users.
Having a process for creating high-quality content on a regular basis it’s critical to your startup business online success.
The above statement is EXTREMELY important. Businesses that want to secure their online presence need a LOT of content. This is how the online world works and failure to follow this guideline will minimize your chances of creating a successful online business.
Learn how to promote the content in the various channels – It’s not enough to create great content but you have to promote it as well. As part of your content marketing strategy, you need to specify which channels to use to promote each of the content pieces you’ll create.
Resources to Learn More
Start with email marketing from the very beginning
Once you get to this point, you should already have a great website, a brand presence on all networks and a content marketing strategy in place to generate content for all your needs.
The next step is to start thinking about conversions and sales and this where email marketing comes to the rescue.
Through email marketing, you can build a community of people that want to hear about your brand and products.
These people that voluntarily sign-up for on your email list, are more likely to convert i.e. to buy one of your products and become customers.
Isn’t’ this the same as social media marketing? Not exactly. The difference between email marketing and social media marketing is that you own the data and you can use your list in any way you want.
You may choose to contact your subscribers individually or segment your list in a number of ways and provide them with a more personalized experience than social media networks.
The more good news is the email marketing is still a great sales channel so the earliest you can start with building your list the better.
To get started with email marketing, you need to:
Sign-up with a lead generation software – tools like Optinmonster offer a number of features that can help you grow an email list fast. Things like exit popups, flyout boxes, top bar banners work great in getting the attention of users.
Give incentives to people to sign-up to your list – Adding the sign-up boxes on your website is not enough. You need to find ways to get people to subscribe to your list and incentives (like free stuff, ebooks, discounts, offers) help a lot in this manner.
Set up marketing automation campaigns – The beauty of email marketing is that is can be fully automated. So, while you’ll be working with the other digital marketing channels to grow your startup business, email marketing will generate leads and sales for you.
Start as early as possible – As your business grows, you’ll be spending more money on advertising (will discuss this below) and content marketing so you don’t want to lose any opportunity to collect those highly valuable leads.
Resources to Learn More
Start advertising on Google and Facebook
So far what we did is to prepare the ground for the next big step, which is to get traffic to your website and start making sales.
The fastest way for a startup company to get traffic and sales is through paid advertising. It’s not the only method, as we’ll see below there are ways (think about SEO), but its the fastest.
All networks have advertising platforms you can use to promote your products and services but the most popular and most effective are Google Ads and Facebook Ads.
How to use Google Ads to grow your startup business
Google Ads (previously known as Google Adwords), is the platform to use to advertise on Google search, on other Google products like YouTube and Gmail and to the millions of websites that participate in Google AdSense.
What makes Google Ads a very effective channel is that you can specify for which keywords you want your ads to appear in the Google search results.
Google Ads is a PPC (pay-per-click) system which means that you only pay when someone clicks on your ads.
The amount you pay depends on a number of factors like the popularity of the keywords, competition, country, device, quality of your ads and many other factors.
It is worth noting that Google Ads is an auction-based system. When a search is made on Google, the system will run an internal auction and decide which ads to show on top of the results.
As a digital marketing agency, we’ve spent (on behalf of our clients) more than $2 million on Google Ads, and this is what we’ve learned:
It’s very easy to lose money on Google Ads – While the whole idea is very attractive if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll probably lose money than make money. There is a lot of optimization work to be done in Google ads and if you don’t have the necessary experience, it’s better to leave this to professionals.
Google Ads works better for products with high-margins – If your profit margin is low then Google Ads is not the platform to use. When calculating your net profit per sale, you need to take into account the advertising costs and the cost of goods sold and if your margins are low, you won’t make any money.
Always start with a low budget – When you start with Google Ads don’t use your maximum available budget from the beginning. Always start with a low budget to give the system time to learn more about your campaigns and potential customers and gradually increase your budget.
Setting your max budget from day 1 is a practice that can cost you thousands.
Increase your budget as long as you are making a profit – Most clients wonder “How much should we spent on Google Ads?” and the answer is simple. Increase your spending as long as you get a positive ROI. When you reach a point that the ROI is below what you want, then it’s better to move your marketing budget to other digital marketing channels.
Test, test and then test some more – Google Ads has a plethora of campaign types you can use and a number of options related to ad copy, audience targeting, bidding, and budgeting. You need to be patient and have a plan to perform A/B tests to find out what generates better results for your business. In fact, continuous testing is a must if you want to succeed with Google Ads.
How to promote your startup with Facebook Marketing
Facebook is the king of social networks with more than 2.5 billion monthly active users. Besides being an awesome tool for building brand awareness and connecting with your customers, it’s also a great sales tool.
To make sales with Facebook, you need to use their paid advertising platform, which is called Facebook for Business.
Through Facebook for Business, you can create paid ads and target users on Facebook and Instagram.
Unlike Google Ads, you cannot target users based on what they search but you can segment audiences based on their interests, demographics data, and location.
To use Facebook ads effectively you need to have well-defined customer personas and use different types of Facebook campaigns to replicate the traditional marketing sales funnel.
This is how it works:
On Facebook, you have a pool of users that can be classified into:
- Cold audience – Users that are not aware of your brand or products.
- Prospects – People that visited your Facebook page or website in the past.
- Leads – People that interacted (liked, shared, comment) with your Facebook ads or page but are not yet customers.
- Customers – People that already purchased a product from you and have a Facebook account
For each pool of users, you can use different types of campaigns and ad copies to get users from the awareness stage (cold audience) to the consideration stage (prospects and leads) and then to conversion (customers).
Visually this is how it looks:
The good news is that Facebook gives you the ability to group users into audiences based on actions they perform on your website and with Facebook so you can target each group with different ads and messaging.
Typically, for the first group (cold audience), you will show them ads to introduce your brands and products.
For the second group (prospects), you will show them ads explaining the benefits of your products.
For the third group (leads), you can give them offers and deals to help them make the decision to buy your products or services.
For the fourth group (customers), you can keep them engaged by informing them of product updates and send them cross-selling and up-selling campaigns.
Resources to Learn More
Run Retargeting campaigns
In addition to using Google Ads and Facebook to find new customers, you can also use retargeting to go after the people that visited your website because of an ad but have not yet purchased.
Retargeting (also known as remarketing) is very effective and can generate sales at a lower cost because the users are already aware of your brands and products.
Both Google Ads and Facebook offer a number of retargeting options that are worth testing.
As a rule of thumb, retargeting campaigns work best when you present users with a special offer or a limited-time deal.
Offers and limited-time deals are the main tools of the scarcity principle, which has been successfully used in traditional marketing for years.
Invest heavily in SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
So far we have utilized the following digital marketing strategies:
- Website marketing
- Social Media marketing
- Content Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Google Ads advertising
- Facebook marketing
What is missing from the list, is perhaps the most efficient digital marketing tactic, SEO (search engine optimization).
SEO is the process to optimize your website to achieve higher rankings in search engine results pages. Higher rankings mean more targeted traffic to your startup business from search engines.
Before we go deeper into SEO, let me explain why I added the most important channel as the last one in the digital marketing plan.
I know from experience building and working with startup companies that when you get started you want ways to get results as fast as possible and not wait for months to get your first visitor or customer.
While SEO is by far the best way to boost your visibility in Google and get a constant flow of free traffic 24/7 without paying for advertising, it takes time to work.
So, the correct way to approach digital marketing for your startup is to concentrate first on the channels that can get you immediate traffic, like paid advertising, and in parallel to create and start implementing an SEO strategy.
Make no mistake, there is no way you can survive online if your SEO is not working.
The benefits of SEO for startups are a lot:
- It helps with brand awareness and trust
- It can get you traffic without having to pay the advertising bills each month
- Organic traffic converts better than any other form of traffic
- SEO is good for social media as well
- SEO will guide you on creating a better website
- SEO is the key to bypass your competitors
How to use SEO to grow your startup
Even if you’re not an SEO expert, there are ways to use SEO to achieve steady business growth.
Follow these steps:
Start with Technical SEO – Technical SEO is about making sure that the technical infrastructure of your website is properly optimized for search engine crawlers.
This step will ensure that anything that you publish online can be read by crawlers without issues.
Work on your on-page SEO – On-page SEO has to do with techniques you can follow to help search engines understand your content better.
Things like optimizing your page titles, adding meta descriptions to your pages, using keywords in your content, help in making your content friendlier to both users and search engines.
Promote your website with off-page SEO – Off-page SEO has to do with ways to promote your website online and convince search ranking algorithms (by acquiring backlinks), that your website deserves to appear on the top positions of the search results.
When you follow the above steps and consistently work on your content marketing (i.e. creating content that people want to read), your website will get found on Google and everything else will become easier.
You’ll then be able to gradually reduce your advertising spend and allocate more money and resources on SEO and content marketing and experience constant growth in traffic and sales.
Resources to Learn More
Digital marketing for startups is nothing new but it’s a process to follow to grow your startup business using all available online channels.
To get the ball rolling, the first thing to do is to create a website to showcase your startup.
Create a professional website that loads fast and looks good on both desktop and mobile. Make sure that users can understand by visiting your homepage, who you are and how you can help them.
Next, establish your social media presence and claim your brand name on all networks. Optimize your profiles and add a couple of posts to your pages.
Work on your content marketing strategy and decide what to publish, when to publish it, where to publish it and who will create the content. This is an on-going process so make sure that you create a realistic plan.
Next, create an email list and set up your email marketing automation campaigns. You have to do this early in the process so as to take advantage of your email list as soon as possible.
To get more eyeballs to your content, website, and products you need to spend some money on advertising.
The actual amount depends on a number of things like your budget, the price of your products or services, the cost of goods, your target market, competition and many more.
What is important is not to spend the money blindly but closely monitor your campaigns and keep spending money as long as you get a positive ROI.
If you reach a point that your paid campaigns are generating a loss and not profit, you should stop them and move the budget to other activities like SEO.
You don’t have to run paid campaigns on all networks. Advertise on the networks that are more relevant to your audience and business.
Last but not least, do whatever you have to do to make SEO work for you. You can either build SEO experts in-house and let them do the work or outsource to professionals.
Don’t make the mistake that a lot of startups make to rely solely on paid traffic methods, it’s too risky and hinders growth.
If you get to a point that most of your business is generated by SEO, then you can safely predict your growth and turn your startup into a successful company.