Many things in life come in stages. The same holds true when discussing startups. While the exact number might vary depending on where you learn about it, there are various stages startups go through.
One of the most critical stages is the early stage. If you own or work for an early-stage startup, marketing is typically a must.
In this post, you’re going to learn about marketing strategies that work well for early-stage startups.
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What are early-stage startups?
The exact look and feel of an early-stage startup varies by company and industry. However, there are a few general characteristics of these types of startups.
An early-stage startup could be in its first, second, or third round of funding. Typically, a valuation for a startup in the official early stages ranges from $10 to $30 million.
Marketing strategies for early-stage startups
Let’s now get to why you’re here, finding out marketing tactics for early-stage startups. Start using these techniques to stand out and reach and convert potential customers.
1. Find your startup’s most popular channels.
A good early part of any marketing strategy involves finding where your target audience is. One way to do that is by creating and sharing content on many platforms.
These platforms can include the web, email, social media, and others. If your startup’s on a tight marketing budget, it can stick to no-cost services like blog posts and social media.
After a little bit of time and consistent posting, you should start noticing more followers and engagement on certain platforms over others.
As your startup continues learning about its audience through the analytics available on these platforms, it also becomes easier to create customer personas.
2. Try a soft launch.
After forming a go-to-market strategy, sometimes unexpected things happen. That’s not to freak you out. Instead, it’s rather to encourage you to consider soft launching your business.
What’s a soft launch? It’s a way for a company to launch on a small scale, typically to a smaller group of people or companies. If you’re a gamer, think of a soft launch as a beta release: the final product’s not ready, but users can access it and report any problems.
3. Set up branding guidelines.
Many startups in their early stages are trying to raise awareness in new markets. A great way to achieve this goal and make a great impression is with proper branding.
For instance, we recommend coming up with guidelines for colors, fonts, and words that should be in all marketing materials. You begin brand-building the moment people and companies recognize your startup’s style.
One tool we’re big fans of for branding purposes is Canva. Available in both free and paid versions, you can use this tool to create fonts, designs, and logos for use across all marketing channels.
4. Create a content marketing strategy.
Another important thing to have in your marketing campaign is a content marketing strategy. Content marketing typically combines text, images, and videos to form a bond with an audience.
Different companies have different goals regarding content marketing. Some startups want to raise brand awareness. Others might be strictly looking for leads.
Regardless of why you need leads, a content marketing strategy can help ensure they come your company’s way.
5. Build a referral network.
One of the disadvantages early-stage companies face is building trust with new customers. During this point in the customer acquisition stage, this person might choose a competitor with a more established business history.
Fortunately, your new business can cut through the competition and gain loyal customers with referral marketing. Your startup can have plenty of options for setting up a startup. Some companies use programs or tools – others want to build everything from scratch.
Regardless of how you build your referral program, you’ll need to find a few raving fans to get started. We’d recommend reaching out to these existing customers through email, social, whatever other channel you think you’re most likely to reach them through.
Plus, according to Invesp, referred customers typically convert at a 30% higher rate than other leads.
6. Don’t discount the power of free stuff.
As your startup tries to generate leads, there’s one strategy that almost never goes out of style: free stuff. If your budget allows for it, giving out freebies pays off in two ways.
First, freebies can help encourage leads to become customers. Second, swag can also be a powerful form of advertising. It only takes one person asking, “where did you get that shirt (or sticker or bag)?” for this marketing strategy to start paying off.
We’re not saying you need to go broke sending freebies to the world. But sending a little swag to a few customers or otherwise interested parties can be a great thing to have in your marketing plan.
7. Pay to be featured in a publication.
As a new startup, you might not have a lot of traffic coming your way. Fortunately, you can solve this problem with a good outreach strategy. We’d recommend finding a writing down or typing up a list of popular sites in your industry (that aren’t competitors).
You can also zoom out a bit and check out major publications like Huff Post, Forbes, and others to see if they’re accepting guest authors. Depending on the authority and popularity of the publication, be prepared to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for a spot.
There are also plenty of online publications with less (but still worthwhile) traffic that can cost anywhere from $10 to $100 to get your startup’s story shared with larger audiences.
8. Look for relevant partnerships with other companies.
As you conduct market research and look for advertising opportunities, you might come across other startups that could be great potential partners. If that’s the case, find out if these companies would be up for partnerships with your startup.
Of course, not every company will say yes. But finding even one decent partnership could get your startup in front of the right target audience.
9. Find relevant online groups to join.
While we live in a digital-first culture, that doesn’t mean we don’t still maintain strong group relationships. Social channels, forums, and other online groups remain popular places for people to communicate.
They’re also great as part of a go-to-market strategy.
We don’t recommend gaining access to these groups and hammering them over the head with sales pitches.
A. That activity will get you kicked out so fast your head will spin.
B. You’ll be nowhere closer to gaining paying customers from your marketing activities.
Instead, the key to success in gaining potential clients from online groups is to provide information and share value.
When used properly, marketing efforts can pay off in a big way for startup companies. Include these strategies in your business model for potentially incredible results. It might take some trial and error (maybe lots of errors), but these timeless marketing methods can help any startup reach its ideal customers.
Alex Eagleton is a copywriter and digital marketer passionate about helping companies connect with customers. Throughout the past decade, he’s worked with companies including Referral Rock, Connecteam, and Ramsey Solutions. He’s a versatile writer who understands how to align with companies, truly matching their voices and tones.
When he’s not writing, he enjoys spending time with his dogs, reading, and playing guitar.
You can reach him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.