7 Essential Startup Marketing Do’s and Don’ts

Fran Jakubowicz, CEO of SunHouse Marketing | Reading Time: 5 min.

In the last ten years, our digital marketing agency has been privileged to work with dozens of startups in North America, the EU, and Israel. We have met with some of the most brilliant thinkers in the Startup world - masterminds that are enhancing the human experience  – from medical and pharma to education, tech and agriculture. It’s humbling to meet these thought leaders and see how they are transforming our world for the better.

And yet, despite all the success stories, we’ve seen even the most dazzling startups, with the most ingenious technology,  great initial funding, and awesome backing, fizzle out without fanfare after a few years into the great abyss of the startup graveyard.  On the flip side, we’ve seen superhero startups use their ingenuity to stretch their marketing dollars to get the attention of global market leaders, investors, and customers. 

Take heed of our wise advice early-stage startup!  Don’t be too supercilious in the growth stage of your startup! Follow the ’do’s’ and ’don’ts’ below so that you’ll survive another year to talk about it:

1. Don’t Aim For Perfection
We’ve met with way too many startups that have poured all their funding into their technology and have allocated zero funds to market research, intellectual property, and marketing.  As founder Phil Masio states on the danger of perfection –

“…shy away from wasting time, energy, and resources trying to be perfect […] You need to remain lean and nimble so you can pivot as you learn. Conserve your precious early-stage capital […] Get 80% of what you need to get your business up and running. Use your capital to get users. Users are going to tell you what is working and what needs to change in your business model. Wasting time trying to make things perfect is stopping you from being successful.” 

2. Don’t Forget to Allocate a Marketing Budget

The biggest challenge for startups that are just getting started is allocating funds for marketing.  However, no startup can survive without investors or customers and in order to approach these decision-makers effectively and consistently, you will need to have a marketing budget and plan in place.  This budget will be determined by your short and long-term marketing goals, the ad channels you plan on leveraging, the volume of users you need to reach monthly, and other variables.  There are lots of hidden costs in marketing a startup. So be prepared to spend.

3. Don’t Spend Irresponsibly

With 29% of all startups failing because their money just ran out, I get really nervous when I walk into an early-stage startup with super cool offices. You know, those open-concept workspaces with comfy couches and cool glass-enclosed spaces for the VIPS? Don’t forget those fully stocked kitchens (and at least one expensive coffee machine). Totally cool if you can afford it – but few startups can maintain this without giving up on other way more important budgeting decisions – like marketing.

4. Do Hire A Marketing Agency 

Even if you don’t yet have the funds to hire a full-time Marketing Director, do hire a marketing agency with a solid track record in bringing startups to market successfully.  Ensure they have an expertise in driving a pipeline of qualified leads in the door while keeping their brand front and center among decision-makers.

5. Do Create An Organic Fanbase

  • Reach out to non-competitive, strategic partners who work in your vertical and become each other's cheer-leading squad.  Engage with and share each other’s content on social networks, reciprocate guest blogs, provide and receive testimonials and make intros, and open doors for each other.

  • Connect with decision-makers and influencers in your vertical – not to solicit them at first – but to ask them for advice and introductions (many people, even VIPs are surprisingly generous of their time and like to mentor startups). Reach out on LinkedIn: follow, like, comment and share their posts, join their groups and get them to notice you. Then message them directly to meet with you. Go to industry conferences & meetups, and network.

  • Ask friends, family, and colleagues to champion your cause through engagement on social media, introductions to investors and market leaders, or through an angel investment.

  • Create an organic fan base digitally by consistently creating engaging, relevant industry content that positions your company as the experts. The most engaging content is through video, but blogs, whitepapers, polls, and giveaways work too. 

6. Do Invest in Video Ads

Traditional lead generation campaigns can be costly for a startup. One ad type that is cost-effective across Google and all social channels are video view ads which allow you to gain exposure to a large, targeted audience cheaply.

Once you start gaining video views, now is your time to create lead generation ads, targeting those users who viewed at least 50% or more of your video. The cost per lead acquisition will be much lower as this custom audience has already interacted with your brand and those users will be that much deeper into your marketing funnel.

7. Do Get Media Exposure

Every company craves media exposure, but for startups it’s almost mandatory.  Getting into relevant media gets your company in front of decision-makers while providing you with much-needed credibility in the form of social proof. It also positions you as the expert and can open doors.  If you don’t have the funds for a PR agency you can do a lot of leg work on your own. Here are some possible strategies:

  • Use channels like Haro (Help A Reporter) and Cision where you can pitch your story to journalists manually. According to Haro, their platform “provides journalists with a robust database of sources for upcoming stories and daily opportunities for sources to secure valuable media coverage”.

  • Make a top 20 list of industry-related media outlets and target specific journalists at those outlets. Don’t just rely on email but use LinkedIn outreach and Facebook if you aren’t getting through the front door. Try and personalize your outreach by finding out what angle they most like to write about and ensure your story is based on their needs and not just yours. Don’t just submit a stand-alone press release but support it with a great video, infographic, or captivating images to grab their attention.

Fran Jakubowicz is the CEO of SunHouse Marketing, a full-service digital marketing agency with a track record of excellence. A digital lead generation expert, Fran and her team have generated hundreds of thousands of leads and millions of dollars in sales for their clients. Working across multiple verticals including tech, health, pharmaceutical, finance, law, education, non-profit, and eCommerce, Fran and her team have been helping startups to global companies reach their digital goals since 2009.

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