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Hey founders! As a marketing consultant who has helped over 50 startups launch and scale, I’ve seen a lot of rookie mistakes. But I’ve also seen some ingenious growth strategies!

In this post, I’ll share my top 10 marketing tips specifically for early-stage startups, from someone who has been in the trenches. These are hard-won lessons on what works – and what doesn’t.

So bookmark this page and refer back to it as you build your marketing machine!

#1: Talk to Real People

I can’t stress this enough. You absolutely need to speak directly with your target customers early and often. Sit down over coffee, call them on the phone, whatever works. Ask tons of questions, shut up and listen. Too many founders hide behind their laptops, never directly engaging the people they are supposedly building products for. Big mistake!

#2: Test Channel Fit

How do your ideal customers actually discover and research new products? Take the time to methodically test marketing channels one by one. Facebook ads, Google search ads, influencer partnerships, etc. See what resonates and drives real user action, not vanity metrics. Double down on channels with traction, pause ones without.

#3: Launch a Blog Yesterday

Seriously, what are you waiting for? Starting a company blog on your website should be one of the first marketing tasks you knock out. Optimize those posts for search, promote them on social. A blog builds authority, traffic, leads over time. And the content will fuel all other marketing efforts.

#4: Turn Customers Into Fans

Deliver over-the-top value, experience and support to the early users who take a chance on you. Convert them into diehard fans who actively promote you via word-of-mouth and social media. They will become an army of brand advocates you couldn’t afford to pay for.

#5: Use Video to Tell Your Story

Users today have zero attention span. You have about 3 seconds to grab their interest before they bounce. Short, punchy videos are your friend here. Film product explainers, customer testimonials, behind-the-scenes company culture videos. Video builds far more emotional connections with prospects than plain text ever could.

#6: Get Eyeballs With Retargeting

Running broad advertising to cold traffic can be pricey and inefficient. But remarketing and retargeting existing site visitors allows you to keep your brand front and center as they visit other websites. Don’t let them forget you! There are some killer low-cost remarketing platforms out there now.

#7: Craft a Memorable Brand Name

I’ve seen too many founders choose generic, forgettable names that become easily lost in the startup noise. A unique, catchy name that taps into key brand themes can work magic. Just look at disruptive brands like Airbnb, Dropbox, Zoom. Their names instantly communicate what problem they solve.

#8: Harness Account-Based Marketing

Rather than endlessly blasting outbound sales emails that get ignored, use an account-based approach. Identify and research your ideal customer profiles (personas). Then craft targeted outreach campaigns, content offers, and messaging that speaks to each persona specifically. This shows you truly understand who they are and what keeps them up at night.

#9: Participate in Forums and Groups

Want to connect with highly engaged prospects for a fraction of the cost of paid ads? Then participate actively in key industry forums, Facebook groups, Reddit subs, and communities relevant to your product’s purpose. Here’s a guide by HiveAge on how to do forum marketing for Startups. Provide genuine help and advice, build authority. When appropriate, highlight how your product can provide even more value.

#10: Continually Test and Optimize

Treat your marketing campaigns like scientific experiments in a lab. Form hypotheses, establish key metrics, run tests, then analyze results to determine statistical significance. Rinse and repeat, while refining elements that lift key metrics. This testing mindset is what data-driven marketing is all about.

There you have it – 10 of my top marketing tips for early-stage startups. Below are some other actionable tips to actually manage marketing of startups.

Additional Startup Marketing Tips

Structuring Marketing for a Startup

  1. Identify your target customer and value proposition. Who needs your product/service and why? Be very specific. This focuses your efforts.
  2. Set SMART marketing objectives and key results. Having specific, measurable goals keeps you on track.
  3. Determine the right marketing mix – product, price, place, promotion. For startups, focus on brand building and direct-response digital tactics.
  4. Map out a sales funnel to move prospects from awareness to leads to customers.
  5. Build in metrics, analytics, and optimization from the start. Continually track performance and refine efforts.
  6. Document your activities, budgets, and projections in a lean startup marketing plan.

Basic Tools Required for Startup Marketing

Here is a list of basic tools required for startup marketing mentioned with their use-case:

  1. Google Analytics – Web traffic and performance analytics
  2. Social Media Tools – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, etc.
  3. SEO Tools – SEMrush, Ahrefs, Moz
  4. HubSpot – Marketing automation
  5. Other Automation Tools – ActiveCampaign, Mailchimp
  6. Canva – Graphic design
  7. CRM – Salesforce, HubSpot CRM, Zoho
  8. Hootsuite – Social media management
  9. Mailchimp – Email marketing
  10. Wix – Website builder
  11. Buffer – Social media scheduling
  12. SEMrush – SEO, content marketing, and competitive analysis
  13. Design Tools – Adobe Creative Suite, Visme, Venngage
  14. Hotjar – Website feedback and analytics
  15. Project Management Tools – Asana, Trello, Jira
  16. Startup Marketing Tools – Product Hunt, AppSumo, BetaList
  17. WordPress – Content management system
  18. Accounting Software – QuickBooks, Xero, FreshBooks
  19. Ahrefs – Backlink and keyword research
  20. Email Tools – Gmail, Outlook, SparkPost
  21. Email Marketing Software – Constant Contact, ConvertKit
  22. Content Tools – CoSchedule, Kapost, Skyword
  23. Kissmetrics – Funnel and performance analytics
  24. Google Tag Manager – To track your conversion of paid ads campaigns
  25. Zapier – To connect different tools you manage with No-Code APIs integrations
  26. Survicate – Get User Insights Forever

How to Calculate Marketing Budget of a Startup?

Percentage of Revenue

A simple approach is to allocate 5-15% of your projected annual revenue towards marketing. The more reliance you have on marketing for growth, the higher percentage you assign. For early stage startups, 10-15% is reasonable if funds allow.

Stage-Based Budgeting

Allocate marketing budget based on the current development stage of your startup:


Focus on brand building, materials. 5-10% of seed funding. Launch – Heavily promote the new product/service. 10-20% of funding. Growth – Scale efforts to deeply penetrate market. 10-15% of revenue.

Cost Per Acquisition

Determine your customer lifetime value (LTV) – projected value derived from a customer in 1-3 years. Your cost per acquisition (CPA) via marketing should not exceed a set target, such as 30% of LTV. This ensures your marketing costs are covered by profits.

Zero-Based Budgeting

Calculate budgets starting from $0, having to justify every line item instead of basing it on previous year. This allows for optimization based on changing market conditions and focus areas. More work, but efficient use of funds.

Split Testing

Allocate a test budget per campaign or channel, set key performance indicators (KPIs), stop spending when KPIs aren’t hit. Continually test new ideas with small test budgets to avoid risking massive spends.

As the business grows, refine rules of thumb. Read case studies of successful companies like Apple, Refrens, FlipKart on how they started with their marketing budget to shape your own.

Hopefully you picked up some new ideas to apply to your customer acquisition efforts right away. Reach out if you need any help bringing creative growth strategies like these to life!

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