From Seed Stage To Funded, Digital Marketing Tactics For Every Stage Of Startup
By: Madeline Jacobson
Content Marketing Team Leader at Leverage Marketing
Startups face a catch-22: executing their marketing plan is often dependent on the revenue generated by increased sales. Without sales, their marketing budget is limited to the capital they have raised, or invested themselves. These funds are almost always stretched thin. Most startups won’t have a predictable, revenue-funded marketing budget until their revenue gets to $500,000 to $1,000,000. As a result, early-stage marketing is largely dependent on what the founder can do themselves, at a low cost.
Fortunately, many effective digital marketing tactics don’t require a huge budget or a full marketing team. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the online marketing tactics that startups can use at every stage. We’ve defined each stage by annual revenue. It’s important to recognize that early-stage businesses are diverse and won’t all go through the same phases or use the same marketing strategies. Each business’s digital marketing tactics will largely be dictated by their budget and the founder’s aspirations. However, we believe the stages and tactics below can act as a general roadmap for new businesses.
First Phase: Zero to $250k
In its earliest phase, a startup is focused on finding its market. Pricing and product changes occur frequently, and marketing is typically a learn-as-you-go process. The founder may try a variety of inexpensive but labor-intensive marketing activities. Essential activities include:
- Creating a simple, SEO-friendly website. Platforms like WordPress allow business owners to set up low-cost websites without extensive coding expertise. After setting up their site, business owners can use a tool like Moz Keyword Explorer or Google’s Keyword Planner to identify relevant words and phrases that internet users are searching for. From there, they can begin building out their essential web pages and incorporating keywords.
- Developing a strategy to build an email list. Tactics may include starting a monthly newsletter, offering a downloadable eBook, or giving a special discount to people who sign up for the mailing list.
- Creating business accounts on the major social media networks, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+. Businesses with visually-appealing products may also want to set up Pinterest and Instagram accounts.
Second Phase: $250k-$500k
A startup at this stage is in the process of becoming cash flow positive, and the founder is likely beginning to get paid. However, they’re still investing sweat equity in their business. Product refinement, inventory, and staffing are priorities, and marketing will continue to focus on low-budget strategies. However, the business should be putting effort into planning and testing their marketing strategies at this point. Tactics could include:
- Running email campaigns. Having built up their email list, a business can start testing campaigns that encourage subscribers to buy.
- Doing outreach to industry influencers. A startup may try to increase their brand visibility by getting their product featured on influential blogs or social media accounts.
- Developing basic videos. It doesn’t take a huge budget to develop short, professional buildings explaining a product or providing viewers with a how-to guide.
- Continuing to build out content on the website. Some of this may be done by the founder, but there may also be a budget to hire a few employees or contractors.
Third Phase: $500k-$1 Million
Businesses at this stage should review their marketing plan and dedicate a larger budget to their most successfully tested activities. However, they should also allocate some of their budget to testing new tactics, such as:
- Running paid search and social media ads. Paid and organic campaigns can work together to drive website traffic and sales.
- Repurposing existing content. For example, a business could turn one of their top-performing blog posts into a video, infographic, or webinar to attract a larger audience.
- Publishing sponsored posts on industry blogs. Businesses should identify blogs that appeal to their target audience before investing in sponsored posts.
Fourth Phase: $1-$3 Million
As a startup grows, one of the biggest mistakes a founder can make is to assume that their marketing efforts will scale linearly. At some point, the cost of customer acquisition will increase as the business expands its market reach, and the business decision makers will need to conduct a thorough analysis of the online marketplace. They should evaluate the competitive landscape, their target market, and the costs and opportunities associated with different online marketing strategies. This will help the founder make data-backed decisions about which online marketing tactics to pursue.
Madeline Jacobson is the content team leader at Austin based Leverage Marketing, a full service marketing firm helping companies from early stage startup to large enterprise, meet their digital marketing needs. Find out more at theleverageway.com