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So you’ve built an awesome product, you’re past the beta tests, and now you’re ready to scale. You think that digital marketing might be the silver bullet to acquire new users or customers, but what do you do next?

Using Digital Marketing to Learn, Collect Feedback, and Improve

Scaling is sexy. With connotations of having your content spreading virally, meeting celebrity tech writers for lunch, and making that all important vision become a reality it’s no wonder that many startups skip the opportunity to use digital marketing to learn and improve the product.

Last year I ran a campaign, which I had spent 4 months creating. After the 4 months were up the whole campaign was going to be over in just 100 hours. I needed to ensure those 100 hours were a success, so here’s what I did:

Rather than planning a huge online PR campaign, I spent those four months running a series of over 37 individual experiments, which told me everything I needed to know – from the perfect pricing point for the product, which buttons to use, which product description, which advert headlines to use, and even which shopping cart system would be best. By running a variety of split test experiments I was able to boost my conversion rate from 2% to 11%, increasing the success and profit of the campaign by 450%.

I can’t emphasise just how important it is for startups to have some kind of learning element in their digital marketing strategy. For most new startups, the challenge with this is acquiring enough traffic to test these experiments, and so I often recommend using a combination of PPC (pay-per click) advertising via Google Adwords or Facebook Advertising and conversion rate optimisation experiments to test any assumptions or variations that could increase the rate of sign-ups / sales. KISSmetrics and Google Analytic’s Content Experiments are my weapons of choice when it comes to running these experiments

Using Digital Marketing to Grow / Scale

Now here’s the fun bit. How do we take our idea with 500 early adopters and make it reach 10,000,000 users?

For really aggressive scalability, I advise building viral mechanics into your product. While I consider my ability to help clients achieve ambitious goals with digital marketing very good, getting from 500 to 10,000,000 users in a relatively short space of time (not an unusual request!) requires something a bit heftier than a bit of SEO or social media marketing!

What I mean by ‘building viral mechanics into the product’ is that your product should have some mechanism that encourages the customer/user to engage at least 1 new customer or user, so that the growth of your customer acquisition snowballs. This is how Facebook, Spotify, and Twitter do their thing.

I took this approach with a comfort zone calculator app that I built last year. By making a strong case for the user to share their score from the app with friends I was able to reach over 10,000 users in a very short time at no cost.

But let’s say your expectations are perhaps not quite ‘I want 10 million users by next Monday’, and you just want to explore which area of digital marketing will help you grow your customer base most effectively over the next year or so. Which areas of digital marketing will work best for you?

Search Engine Optimisation

SEO is fantastic if your customers already know about your product / service and are actively searching for it online. Let’s say your startup offers a breakthrough method of buying gig tickets online, SEO is a potentially great channel for you, as hundreds of thousands of people are already searching online to buy gig tickets.


If however, you’ve built a social game that’s a hybrid version of Farmville for the music industry, then you may not want to place as much focus on SEO, as it’s unlikely that anyone will be searching for the product you’ve built yet.

Pay-Per Click Advertising

If you can pay for new users at a lower cost than the profit you receive from acquiring them, then PPC can be a very attractive option.


Let’s take Tunecore as an example. Tunecore are currently bidding on the keyword ‘music distribution’, which for argument sake we’ll say they’re paying £1.75 per click on. If we presume that the lifetime value of a Tunecore customer is £82 (the cost of distributing and hosting an album for 3 years). For this advert to be profitable, Tunecore must convert at least 1 in 46 clicks (2.1%).

If, hypothetically, Tunecore converted their visitors at 10%, then Tunecore would make £82 revenue for every £17.50 they spent on PPC. With over 40,000 monthly searches for ‘music distribution’, there’s also huge opportunity for scaling up their paid advertising efforts, making it an excellent channel for them.

It’s good to remember that there are so many different pay-per click channels. I know of many startups that have had a terrible time with Facebook Advertising and Google Adwords, but have succeeded tremendously with Reddit Advertising, StumbleUpon’s Paid Discovery, or BuySellAds.com. If you can afford to give each one a £50 test run, you can identify where to most effectively channel the rest of your budget.

Content Marketing & Online PR

While it may have buzzword connotations attached to it, content marketing certainly represents huge opportunities for music tech startups. Over the past 3-4 years we’ve grown TheMusiciansGuide.co.uk by over 4,000% using content marketing, so we know it’s power!


The motives for content marketing vary from project to project – you may want to create infographics to gain links that will improve your rankings, or perhaps you want to create content that journalists write about, mentioning your startup as the source. Maybe you want to create your own blog and fill it with interesting content for your audience. Whatever your motivation, content marketing always works best for companies who’re sitting on interesting information that they can either articulate or visualise in a way that’s worth talking about – or sharing.

Social Media Marketing

With over a quarter of the planet now actively using social networks, there are huge opportunities within social media marketing that can help startups scale up their audience. As I mentioned before, I tend to use aspects of some of the more technical aspects of social marketing (viral mechanics) to help startups that seek aggressive scaling of their user base. But it can also be used for the more gradual benefits of building an online community, and improving the startups reputation and loyalty with users / customers.

I probably don’t need to tell you why social media is beneficial or what it can be used for, but what I will say is that social media marketing is not just about posting images to news feeds and scheduling tweets.

A good social media strategy focuses on a core measurable goal (or a number of the startup’s goals) and contributes to reaching them quicker. While the activity of the social media engagement may not be measurable, what it contributes to must be.


In reality, you don’t need to pick one over another, as all aspects of digital marketing fit very neatly together – social media can improve SEO, PPC can improve SEO, and content marketing can improve SEO, social media, and PPC. My main advise would be to realistically think about what you’re trying to achieve, quantitively, and then weigh up the amount of time and money that each approach would take. If you’re not quite sure how to do that, then drop me an email and i’ll be happy to help.

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Marcus Taylor

Marcus Taylor

Marcus Taylor is the founder of Venture Harbour. He’s also an early-stage investor, advisor & the youngest Patron of The Prince's Trust.