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8 Marketing Strategies for Startups That Actually Work

Maria Shelaieva

Maria Shelaieva

Marketing Expert

14 min

When you’re just getting your startup off the ground, marketing can seem overwhelming. With a small team and limited budget, you need marketing tactics that deliver real results without breaking the bank.

The good news is there are proven, affordable marketing strategies that can help startups connect with potential customers and grow their business.

These don’t require expensive ad buys or celebrity sponsorships. In fact, some of the most effective techniques won’t cost you much at all.

In this blog, we’ll share 8 marketing strategies that actually work for startups based on real-world experience and data.

You’ll learn how to get your messaging in front of the right audiences, build buzz, and drive growth even as a small business.

From leveraging social media and influencers to optimizing your website and crafting content, we’ll break down actionable tips for startups in any industry.

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8 Effective Startup Marketing Strategy Ideas

You will find 8 marketing ideas for startups below.

Some startup marketing ideas work alone. At the same time, you may need to combine a couple of others with building your startup’s audience.

Rest assured that these ideas have worked in the past. They show results.

But, it depends on your execution and implementation.

So, as long as you follow the right approach, success is approachable.

1. Make Your Product an Exclusive Offering

It is basic human nature to crave the things that we can’t have.

So, when you show exclusivity, people will respond.

When you open the App Store or Google Play Store, some apps here have a Beta version.

Basically, this Beta version has new features and integrations that are accessible to a handful of users.

The benefit of this strategy is to let the users get a feeling of exclusivity.

They feel great at using something which only a handful of people can use.

Now, for a new business, this kind of digital marketing startup strategy and ideas can be great.

You are lending that unique experience to your target audience.

Be it any product; you can invite the audience to have a go at your product, free of cost.

How will it help?

Giving users access to your product is beneficial in many aspects.

  • It builds trust with the customer. As you are considering them as someone special.
  • This feeling of exclusivity begets confidence, which leads them to share your product. Thus, giving you free word of mouth advertising.
How to do it?

There is a way to implement such startup marketing ideas.

  • Define your Beta testing group.
  • Use conventional marketing channels to attract your audience.
  • Create a level of excitement.
  • Use the test results to further boil down to the right audience.
  • Use a couple of industry-specific influencers to create your beta testing group.
  • Make sure to take surveys, opinion polls, and conduct interviews to refine the product.
Things to take care of

Make sure to share your product or offering with the right audience.

Otherwise, you are risking implementing the right digital marketing startup ideas with the wrong audience.

Either they will be uninterested to use it, or the review won’t be constructive.

Examples

A lot of startups have used this type of startup marketing ideas in the past.

  • Slack (2013)
  • Cloudways (2014)
  • Eero (2015)
Close beta testing is one of most common startup marketing ideas

2. Pay to Acquire New Customers

There are two ways to do it.

One, you pay your customers money to use your product.

Second, you pay them a commission to convince others to use it.

You might not want to pursue this type of marketing ideas for a startup, but PayPal has done it in the past.

The thing is that you are already spending money on other marketing channels, so why not give it directly to the customers.

Propeller shares the average customer acquisition cost (CAC) for various industries.

  • Travel = $7
  • Consumer Goods = $22
  • Financial = $175
  • Banking = $303
  • Technology (software) = $395

Now, how much is PayPal paying?

$20

That is, they are saving $375 in acquiring cost.

Combine direct payments with referral payments.

Research points out that even though the Word of Mouth Marketing is a decisive factor in new businesses’ success, it is not easy to procure authenticity and credibility.

How will it help?

This type of startup marketing strategy ideas requires spoken words exchanging between friends and relatives.

But today, instead of spoken words, customers use digital communication methods.

However, the motive is similar.

To market, share, and refer to the main product with other people.

Plus, this kind of digital marketing startup ideas leverages the basic human emotion to share.

We share what we like.

So, if a user has a good experience, he is more likely to share.

How to do it?

Running a direct payment and a referral program follows a procedure.

  • Set your goals prior to the launch.
  • Finalize the referral and direct payments.
  • List out all the possible sources you want to approach.
  • Send out alerts to your target audience via several channels.
  • Track the progress and identify the conversion rates.
  • Delight the converted customers with your product.
Things to take care of

Cash payments to new customers can be made at any point with any motive.

As long as your customers are happy with the service or the product, they will engage with it.

With the referral system, however, time is of the essence.

You need to approach the customers at the right time.

If you want to combine both aspects, make sure to create a sequence.

First, get new customers with direct payments.

Then give referral rewards asking them to get new customers.

Examples

  • Paypal: Direct payments and Referrals.
  • Dropbox: Followed PayPal to get 4 million new users in 15 months.
  • Airbnb: Referral program giving out travel credit.

Out of them, only PayPal makes direct payments.

Rest, Dropbox gave free data storage, and Airbnb is giving cash credit in the account.

Pay directly to customers is costly, yet effective startup marketing strategy ideas, used by payPal

3. Offer Free Products

Another one of great startup marketing strategy ideas is giving free products to get new customers.

This might seem similar to the cash payments, but people resonate more with the merchandise.

Giveaways might be old, but think about it. You should do it as personalized as possible. To reach this destination, you may collect customer input using NPS and know the preferences of your audience better.

Not only is it one of the most successful marketing ideas for startups, but it is also one of the oldest.

In this, you can also combine contests and challenges.

So, there are two to three methods you can combine together.

This system works better with physical products.

The idea behind this is that if you are doing something nice for the customers, they might feel compelled to return the favor.

The best part is that you can innovate as per your needs with such marketing ideas for startups.

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How will it help?

These startup’s effective marketing strategy ideas will work better if you send a useful item; they will feel good.

The motive is to initiate a dialogue between your startup and the new customer.

Once they have interacted with your brand, then you can implement other strategies to further delight the new customers.

Plus, you can modify the process as much as you want.

You observe that something is not working, change it.

In all of this, make sure to lend a close ear to what your customers are saying.

Be it on social media or any other channel.

Listen to their review, absorb the feedback, and make the required changes.

How to do it?

The primary question in such startup marketing strategy ideas pertains to the offering.

What is it that you can give for free to your customers?

Do you want to give the product free with another product?

Or are you running a contest and giving it as a prize?

Other ways to do it are:

  • Product sampling
  • Show tickets
  • Sweepstakes
  • Member Benefit
  • Virtual rewards

But in every aspect, the end result will be the same.

Your brand will get more attention.

Things to take care of

Always limit the number of customers you can give the reward to.

Otherwise, this is a surefire marketing idea for startups to go bankrupt.

However, once you have reached the limit, you can innovate and change the reward.

Gradually, when you have got the requisite recognition and customer base, you can change the terms of the reward.

Examples

Several startups have benefitted from the rules of reciprocity.

  • RaffleCopter
  • vyper.ai
Giveaways is another common trick in digital marketing startup ideas

4. Email the Right Audience

Another of the greatest digital marketing startup ideas is sending cold emails. You can put the campaign on autopilot mode and generate leads with the help of cold email software.

The secret here is that you need to send the emails to the right person or risk non-responsiveness. Using an email verification tool can improve your chances of contacting the right prospects.

The best thing about email marketing is that it is the most cost-efficient startup marketing idea.

All you have to do is write an engaging email and send it to the users.

But not just any user, you need to send the email to the target audience.

For every dollar you spend on email marketing, you will get $38 in return.

The USP of email marketing is sending the emails in bulk.

Imagine sending 10,000 emails to your contacts.

Out of 10,000 emails, 5000 will open the email.

Out of these 5000, 1000 might engage further with your product or offer.

Out of these 1000, even if 10 customers have bought or subscribed to your brand, you are still getting revenue.

Combine email and bulk SMS campaigns to maximize your reach and employ multichannel outreach for better marketing effectiveness.

How will it help?

The best thing about these startup marketing ideas is that it works for all kinds of products.

Even if you want the customers to visit your store, you can do so by inviting them to your store.

Plus, emails can be customized to the last detail.

From the name of the customer to the product they are buying and giving related suggestions, it covers everything.

Furthermore, emails have a transactional nature.

So, whatever the motive, emails can be used to direct the customers towards your motive easily.

How to do it?

Working with a startup email marketing strategy and ideas has five main considerations.

  • Personalization messages
  • Segmentation of customers
  • Mobile-friendly emails
  • Designing and testing
  • Automation

Plus, there is a lot of A/B testing with email marketing campaigns.

Things to take care of

Always keep an eye on the metrics.

Make sure to identify the stuff that gets the highest conversion.

It can be the writing, images, creatives, or anything else.

The key is to create a workable sequence and then stick to it.

Examples

  • Hotjar
  • Siege Media
Cold email outreach mostly the core of marketing ideas for startup as its boost up the engage of audience

5. Crowdfunding – Raise Money and Awareness

Crowdfunding marketing ideas for startups rests on either of the two motives;

  • Great product
  • Customer belief system

Crowdfunding has indeed helped several entrepreneurs become successful.

The collaborative startup funding model calls several people to contribute to help build a startup from scratch.

Yes, they will do it for monetary returns.

But, startup owners will receive free marketing.

So, you are getting capital plus marketing in one go.

However, implementing these startup marketing strategic ideas requires a systematic approach.

Because you cannot ask people to give you money.

You need to convince them.

That is why you need to go ahead with either of the two motives;

  • Offer a great product.
  • Make people believe in your product.
How will it help?

Crowdfunding helps with four important ideas for startups marketing;

  • Investor audience and outreach
  • Creating customer experiences
  • Confidence building
  • Efficiency in growth

Solo investors use social media to share their contributions and let their friends know about the product.

Simply because they want to get their money back.

Secondly, when you share your product with probable investors, you get either of two results.

  • Good review
  • Constructive feedback

Both aspects build confidence.

How to do it?

In the crowdfunding-based digital marketing startup ideas you need to prepare for;

  • Pre-launch strategy
  • Putting together a crowdfunding campaign.

In the pre-launch phase;

  1. Build your target audience.
  2. Create blogs, send emails, and use social media to get user’s attention.

To put together a marketing campaign;

  1. Set up the funding campaign.
  2. Make videos.
  3. Continue posting relevant content.

Crowdfund, like any other startup marketing ideas, is an ongoing process.

Things to take care of

While creating the crowdfunding marketing campaigns you need to take care of your message.

Identify which message sticks out from the most and continue developing it further.

Use the customers review to add to the marketing message.

Try to include the user’s personal experiences in the campaigns.

Examples 

  • Pebble E-Paper
  • Ouya
  • Pono Music
Leveraging crowdfunding could help startups at early stage to implement other startup marketing ideas

6. Build Reputation With These Ideas

This point seems irrelevant here.

Doesn’t it?

We are talking about startup marketing ideas and how can a startup get marketing from building reputation.

Here’s how you can do it.

There are several reputation building measures prevalent in the market.

But, a few work for the startups.

  1. Get featured in a major publication.
  2. Partnering with other brands.

However, startups need to focus on personal branding and reputation branding simultaneously.

Because at a nascent stage, your startup is more connected to your personal self than your brand.

The motive is to let people trust you more than the corporate image you want to build.

That comes in the future.

For now, as a part of such marketing ideas for startups, focus on building trust with the people.

They should learn to trust you.

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How will it help?

Branding fosters credibility which gives way to authenticity.

Also while building brand reputation you need to prioritize your efforts.

Your brand is a black slate at the time of its inception.

You need to create an image that resonates with the target audience and enhances engagement.

Brand reputation is also effective in negating the impact of negative reviews.

With such startup marketing ideas focus on getting more positive reviews before you launch the brand.

How to do it?

Initially, get yourself features in a major publication. You may use a template for press release or create it on your own.

Use social media to get access to big publications and online communities.

The easiest way to start (and that’s one actually worked for SpdLoad) is to use LinkedIn search bar.

Type there “journalist”, “writer”, and “editor”, choose well-known resources in your niche (we tried Forbes, Entrepreneurs, Inc., and so on).

Start by building relationships with big publications.

Start engaging with them subtly.

Don’t overdo yourself and keep your hands in the pocket.

Share their posts, comment, follow the people of the publication, get in touch with their editors.

Once you are confident enough, approach them to publish about your brand.

Secondly, you can also partner up with other big brands.

This might not be easy or even doable in the beginning.

But, keep the hustle on.

Things to take care of

Find publications in your industry.

Contacting publications that are different from your industry won’t help.

Because the success of this sort of digital marketing startup ideas also depends on the right type of readers.

Every publication has a niche set of readers and potential customers.

If your product is published in the right publication you will surely get better traction.

In brand partnering, it may not be possible to get access to big brands.

So, weigh your options accordingly.

If you are getting an opportunity to get in touch with a brand that has an appropriate level of popularity, go with them.

Examples 

All the press releases that you see with the PR websites is an example of this.

  • Diageo and Thinfilm
  • Coca-Cola and Wonolo
  • Telefonica and Social and Beyond
PR tools and direct outreach to journalists is a powerful idea among startup marketing strategy ideas

7. Increase Visibility

The last marketing ideas beneficial for startups talks about enhancing your brand’s visibility.

Here is the why, how, and when about increasing visibility for your startup.

For some timeless startup marketing strategy ideas, go with bumper stickers.

They are simple to follow, affordable, and create hype.

Also make sure to include the attributes of humor in the sticker design and content.

Plus, it is a free marketing opportunity that you can capitalize on.

Think about it.

You have your brand’s sticker behind the car.

Now wherever your car goes, the sticker and your brand’s identity will go with it.

Did you know that Reddit’s founder spent only $500 on marketing and it was on stickers?

Rest is history.

How will it help?

Stickers help increase the visibility of your brand.

Do you think that Apple needs any more branding?

Still, they have a logo on the back of every MacBook and Apple phone.

That is free marketing.

There are two ways stickers can be one of the best startup-friendly marketing strategy ideas.

  • It helps build an identity.
  • It helps initiate engagement.
How to do it?

Make sure to stick the company stickers in the places that you visit everyday.

Your favorite coffee shop, supermarket, friends home, etc.

You need to force the people to initiate a dialogue.

To do that, keep your stickers in the coffee shop and supermarket.

This way even if someone asks the teller about the sticker, they can hand it over.

And you open up another free marketing channel, just like that.

Also, you have to design the stickers perfectly.

Things to take care of 

Yes, sticker handout is one of the good marketing ideas for startups.

But, your sticker has to be;

  • Impressive
  • Brand-specific
  • Engaging
  • Humorous
  • Actionable

If you are not confident about your design skills, hire a professional to do so.

Also, hire a vendor to print them in bulk.

Examples 

  • Reddit
  • Cillit Bang
Using stickers is one of the fun, new and practically free digital marketing startup ideas

8. Leverage Social Media and Content

Both social media and content marketing can be a bit costly if you do not follow the right approach.

That is why we have kept it at last.

Social media might be new to the world of marketing ideas for startups.

But content marketing has been in practice for a long time now.

Both aspects have huge potential.

The extent of recognition you will get with them might be more than all of the methods combined that you see above.

However, as a startup, you need results before you spend another dime.

On the contrary, social media (ads, posts, images, videos, etc) and content (blogs, guest posts, guides, ebooks, etc.) need time and a relevant audience.

Plus, you will need to inject money frequently in these methods before you can see the results.

How will it help?

Social media is a great platform to get in touch with your target audience.

It helps begin a dialogue between your brand and the potential customer.

Moreover, with social media, you will get a great amount of free marketing.

Post shares, reshares, comments, likes, and everything gets attention.

If not a customer, you can get the hype that your brand requires.

On the other hand, content marketing is another one of the vital digital marketing startup ideas.

For this, you will also need to learn about SEO.

Good SEO agency helps curate relevant content which helps your website rank better and get attention.

How does it work?

In social media marketing startup ideas, leverage Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit, Tumblr, and whatnot.

Create an account on the relevant platforms and start posting.

Nurture your account.

Respond to the user responses.

Inspire user-generated content and share it on your account to showcase your brand’s reputation.

For content marketing, you will need to create a website and launch a blog.

Consider strategies to effectively record the events and webinars that showcase your brand’s journey and expertise.

Find the relevant keywords and start posting blogs.

Make sure to use both on-page and off-page SEO strategies to get attention.

Things to take care of

With social media digital marketing startup ideas;

  • Do not create an account on all the platforms.
  • Identify your audience and where they are.
  • Reach out to your audience.

For startup marketing ideas in content marketing;

  • Understand the Google content writing guidelines.
  • Hire professional writers
Examples

Almost every startup that you come across will have social media accounts and a blog section.

Leveraging SMM activities in relevant media is a classic in marketing ideas for startup

Read More about Startup Marketing

As you test these strategies, track everything and double down on what works. Soon, you’ll have an effective acquisition approach tailored to your brand.

SpdLoad can help you with product-market fit and custom software development for your unique needs.

Contact us to learn more about our services and how we can support your startup’s growth journey.

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