The Ultimate Startup Marketing Strategy

Two fundamental truths exist when marketing a startup. One is that a great product alone is not enough to succeed. The other is that no amount of marketing will make a crap product gain a mass audience.

“Nothing kills a bad company faster than good marketing”

Successful startup marketing requires that you have both a great product and great marketing. For that reason, I’ve focused this guide on both customer acquisition and improving your product-market fit.

What’s in this guide?

I’ve split this guide into four parts. Feel free to skip to the section that you’re currently working on. If you have any specific questions, you can go straight to the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Chapter 1: The Foundations of Startup Marketing


For early-stage startups, feedback is more important than customers. The faster you can resolve customer objections, and improve the product to match market demand, the more likely you are to win over the long run.

In this chapter we’re going to look at seven essential aspects of laying the foundations for an aggressive marketing strategy.

  • Growth hacking – building marketing into your product
  • Conversion rate optimisation
  • Using Facebook ads to understand your audience
  • Customer feedback loops
  • The diffusion of innovation & targeting early adopters
  • Fine-tuning your messaging
  • Differentiation

#1 Viral Marketing & Growth Hacking: Building Marketing Into Your Product

“Marketing is for companies with sucky products”Fred Wilson, VC

I disagree with Fred Wilson’s quote, yet I can’t dispute that the most successful startup marketing strategies are those that embed marketing into their product.

Dropbox, Hotmail, Eventbrite, Mailbox, and Snapchat famously acquired millions of users with almost no money spent on marketing. Their secret? Building virality into their product.

A startup’s ability to go viral depends on two variables: time, and the ‘viral coefficient’ i.e. the number of new users each user generates.

Below is a graph to illustrate startup growth at different rates based on varying viral coefficients. Imagine that the Y-axis represents your number of user signups, and the X-axis represents time.

Viral coefficients

If your viral coefficient is 1.0 (each user generates one new user), you will achieve linear growth, assuming you retain your users. If you have a viral coefficient above 1.1, you will achieve exponential growth as illustrated by all of the lines above the lower green line.

How do you embed marketing into your product?
Every startup is unique, so I won’t discuss tactical methods in great detail. There are two broad strategies I’d recommend, though: The first is to build a product worth recommending. If every single user recommends two new users, you have exponential growth.

The easiest method of measuring a user’s likelihood to recommend your startup is by using the Net Promote Score, a simple test where you ask users “on a scale of 1-10, how likely are you to recommend our product to a friend?” If the aggregate score is above 9.0, you will likely achieve exponential growth.

The second strategy is to align your ‘growth hack’ with the channel(s) that your ideal customers use to learn about your product. Brian Halligan from Hubspot put it best when he said:

“To be successful, you must match the way you market your products with the way your prospects learn about and shop for your products.” – Brian Halligan, Hubspot

In the context of growth hacking, it’s no good if your growth hack generates enormous exposure for your brand on Facebook – when 99% of your best-fit customers coming from reading B2B whitepapers. If that were the case, a better approach would be to produce user-generated content that could be used to scale producing high-quality whitepapers.

It may be less sexy than the growth hacking case studies covered by TechCrunch, but it’ll work.

#2 Conversion Rate Optimisation: Increase your signups with split-test experiments

Conversion rate optimisation (CRO) is the science behind understanding why your visitors are not ‘converting’ into customers, and then improving your messaging or value proposition to increase this rate of conversions. Contrary to popular belief, it does not start with running A/B experiments; it starts with understanding your visitors and their objections.

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How to identify customer objections:
The fastest way to understand why potential customers are not converting is to ask them. Below are several tools and techniques that I’d recommend.

  • Install Intercom – a great tool that allows you to talk in real time with website visitors.
  • Ask visitors to fill out a survey using Survey Monkey. Usually, you’ll need to incentivise this with some kind of giveaway.
  • Ask for feedback in a forum your customers participate on.
  • Commission some user tests from UserTesting.com.
  • Invite someone you know (a customer) to lunch / Skype.

Following this, hopefully you will have a good idea of what is preventing your visitors from converting. Now it’s time to make changes to your landing page to counter these objections.

The first thing I’d recommend is focusing on the areas with the most leverage. Focus on your headlines, call to actions, and lead capture forms. Use tools like Leadformly, which will give you a high-converting form without having to spend months split testing different variations.

The following model by WiderFunnel is also a fantastic starting point for understanding how to improve the likelihood of a conversion. Whenever I am presented with a CRO project, I like to consider how we could improve each point. For example, can we reduce the navigation to minimise distractions? Could we increase the urgency by having a countdown timer or a “Only X left” next to our call-to-actions? In 2012, I managed to quadruple a website’s conversion rate from 2.5% to 10% using these methods.

Lift conversion rate optimisation

Once you have your mockups designed, I recommend using Visual Website Optimizer to test them against your existing landing page. VWO has a great user interface, making it very easy to quickly test variations of your website without needing to make backend coding changes.

Visual Website Optimizer

Conversion rate optimisation is not something you do once. You should strive to constantly tweak and improve your landing pages to make incremental improvements.

At the same time, always remember the model below. Incremental tweaks will always hit a limit. There’s often far more opportunity in being bold and testing something very different.

Iteration vs. new versions

#3 Facebook Advertising: Finding your perfect audience using segmentation

Most people think of Facebook Ads as an acquisition channel for driving signups. The truth is that it’s also one of the best customer research tools we have available to us.

Let me explain. There is no limit to how finely you can segment a Facebook advert. If you wanted, you could run an identical adverts to 500 different demographic and psychographic audience segments. Using conversion tracking, you can see which demographics and psychographics then have the highest conversion rate on your service.

Here are a few examples. I work with many music startups, and I’ve found time and time again that guitarists are typically more likely to sign up to a music service than a drummer or a bassist. For one of our clients, FanDistro, we found that 23 year old Canadians are approximately 3x more likely to convert than 21 year olds. We know that musicians in New Zealand are more likely to convert than Australians.

Facebook Ads are, in my opinion, the best way to quickly and affordably verify who your audience are, and what your cost-per-acquisition is for different demographic groups.

#4 Installing a Customer Feedback Loop

It’s worth reiterating that the most important asset for most startups is to be told what needs improving, and have an agile system for making those improvements. Anyone who’s read Eric Ries’ book The Lean Startup will understand this as the ‘Iteration Cycle’.

The iteration cycle

A simple ‘give us feedback’ form is not enough. Most people will not go out of their way to give you feedback. Use incentives, meet your users, and study user behavior data to understand where people fall off in your funnel, and more importantly – why?

#5 Diffusion of Innovation: Targeting Early Adopters

Many inexperienced marketers make the mistake of targeting the mass market too soon. The reason this rarely works is because the majority of people resist change, and are not receptive to products / services that are not already recommended by early adopters.

Law of diffusion

I learned this lesson through A/B testing. Two years ago, while running an experiment to see whether additional social proof increased signup rates, I found that by simply adding the number of likes and users already signed up next to the signup button, had a dramatic impact on increasing the website’s signup rate.

If you want to own the majority market share, your initial launch strategy and messaging must appeal to innovators and early adopters. Once you have a number of case studies, testimonials, and respected innovators singing your praises, then it’s time to approach the majority. The laggards will follow.

#6 Why, What, How: Fine-Tuning Your Messaging for Conversion

If you haven’t read Simon Sinek’s book ‘Start With Why’, I’d strongly recommend putting it on order.

The gist of the book is that, if you want to inspire someone to take action, you must begin by explaining why you do what you do. Not what or how.

Apple is a great example of a company that sells “why”. Apple challenges the status quo with everything they do – MacBooks, iTunes and iPads are just how they do that. Dell don’t have a why – they just sell reasonably good computers. While Apple talk about pushing humanity forward and challenging the status quo, Dell talk about the size of their processors and RAM. Is it any wonder why people queue for hours to get the latest product, while Dell receive nowhere near the level of advocacy, despite their products being very similar.

In the example below, Leadformly’s headline is ‘Capture & convert up to 300% more leads’. This doesn’t tell visitors anything about what or how the product works, but it gives a compelling ‘why’, followed by a subheading that explains what the product is and how it works.

Screen Shot 2016-06-03 at 09.47.10

Does your messaging communicate why your startup exists? Do you know your why? If not, this is an important step that I would not advise skipping over.

#7 Differentiation in your marketing

Various studies predict we see between 1,000 – 5,000 advertisements per day depending on where we live. How do you compete and stand out with your marketing in such a saturated space?

The answer is by being the shepherd, not a sheep.

Our brain categorises similar pieces of information together, a process known as Gestalt. Because of this, the more of a similar thing we see, the less impact each additional thing has. When Lady Gaga wore a dress made of meat it made headlines all over the World. When others copied her quirkiness, hardly anyone talked. This pattern has repeated itself millions of times over.

This is not about first-mover advantage; this is about observing what everyone else is, and being the opposite. Apply this from the most macro aspect of your strategy down to the micro, and you’ll be amazed at how significant this is.

Now that we’ve covered off the foundations of messaging and preparing your product for a successful marketing strategy, let’s move on to customer acquisition. I’ve split the section on customer acquisition into three chapters, paid media, earned media, and owned media.

Chapter 2: Paid Media Marketing for Startups


There’s a school of thought that says startups should spend as little as possible on marketing. I disagree. I believe that marketing should focus on positive ROI (return on investment). If a paid media channel can profitably drive qualified users for your startup, it’d be foolish to refuse it on the basis that it’s paid for. Another reason for using paid media is to establish a cost-per-acquisition, as this will act as a benchmark to compare all other marketing activity.

Paid media channels fall into three broad categories: display, search, and affiliate marketing. Below are some of the main online channels I’d recommend looking into, along with some tips on each.

#8 Facebook Advertising

We’ve already discussed Facebook Ads from a research perspective, but let’s consider it now as a channel for acquiring users.

While it’s possible to write a guide of this length on Facebook Ads alone, I’ll quickly summarise some of my recommendations based on a considerable amount of Facebook Ad campaigns that I’ve worked on.

  • Use page promoted posts targeting people in the news feed. These ads have the highest click-through and engagement rates.
  • Test as many advert variations as possible. The weirder, brighter, and more unique your ad is, the better. When everyone else zigs, zag.
  • Don’t create ads using the Facebook Ad Manager (it’s awful). Either use the power editor, or a dedicated tool like Qwaya. This will make segmentation much easier.
  • Use conversion tracking – by installing the conversion pixel you enable oCPM for conversion bidding. This basically means that Facebook will algorithmically optimise your budget for more conversions.
  • Use fine segmentation – If you use Qwaya, you can split your ad campaign into tens or hundreds of individual ads each targeting a specific segment of your audience. This enables you to quickly see which ad segments perform well and which don’t, so you can move your budget to the segments that are most profitable.

I’ve written about Facebook Ads in more depth here.

#9 Google Adwords (Search)

If your product solves an issue that people search for, there’s a high likelihood that Google AdWords will be a great acquisition channel for you. For example, if your startup helps people find the cheapest gig tickets, you may want to bid on terms like ‘cheap gig ticket’, ‘London gig tickets’, and ‘Gaslight Anthem London Roundhouse tickets’.

Google Adwords

#10 Google Adwords (Display)

Similarly to above, Google enable you to purchase banner adverts through their display network. You can specify which websites your banner ad appears on, or bid to appear on websites related to certain keywords.

Display network

An example of Nikon using Google Display Network to run adverts on Billboard.com.

#11 Reddit Advertising

Reddit is often overlooked as a paid marketing channel. I have to admit, the results I’ve had in the past are extremely varied, but it’s very cheap and always worth testing.

Reddit advertising works by running ads at the top of any subreddit of your choice. For example, for a music client, we may advertise in the subreddits ‘WeAretheMusicMakers’, ‘Music’, and ‘Guitar’. Each subreddit has a very distinct community, so it pays to get involved in each one for a bit of time first before running ads.

One specific reason why I’m a fan of Reddit Advertising is because Reddit seems to attract the early adopter types. It’s a great place for getting honest feedback and targeting people who are likely to be receptive regardless of what stage your product’s at.

#12 Google Remarketing

Google Remarketing goes one step beyond the standard display advertising mentioned above. Essentially, when someone visits your website a cookie is dropped on their computer. When they visit other websites, an ad will appear encouraging them to come back to your website.

You can get very smart with this by running different remarketing ads for different stages of your signup funnel. For example, if they visited the signup page but didn’t complete the form, you could run an ad with an incentive to finish signing up.

Remarketing

Google Remarketing is generally very effective as the people you’re advertising to are qualified and already aware of your product. The trick is to get the frequency right and not be overly annoying!

#13 Facebook Exchange

Facebook Exchange works in a very similar to Google Remarketing, but using Facebook Ads instead. In other words, someone visits your website and bounces. When they go to Facebook they’ll find your ads encouraging them to come back.

To use Facebook Exchange you’ll need to use one of their partners. I’ve tested a handful of them and recommend AdRoll.

#14 StumbleUpon Advertising

While the quality of visitors from StumbleUpon is generally quite low, the cost per click is exceptionally low also, enabling you to buy a large amount of traffic for a low cost.

I’ve yet to see astounding results from StumbleUpon ads, except for travel related content. StumbleUpon is very visual social network where inspirational and stimulating content seems to spread virally. If you’re a luxury travel operator, this is a gold mine. If you a SAAS company promoting an app, it may be a little bit trickier.

#15 Twitter Advertising

Twitter Ads can be very effective, but the reason I haven’t recommended them sooner is due to the budget limitations. Currently, the minimum budget for a Twitter Ad campaign is £5,000/month, which is outside of most startup’s budget. If you do have this sort of budget to invest, then Twitter Ads do tend to be pretty effective when done right.

My advice would be to promote an amazing piece of content rather than directly promoting your services. View Twitter as a 1:many platform where, if you run your ads correctly, you can launch your content to a large audience who will introduce your content to an even larger audience.

If your campaign dies after being promoted to the initial audience, start again.

#16 Content Discovery Platforms

There are a number of content discovery platforms that promote your content alongside articles on major news sites such as the New York Times and The Guardian.

I’ve tested a handful of these, including Outbrain, Zemanta, nRelate and Taboola. For driving backlinks and launching content they’re a powerful tool, although they can get quite expensive depending on the quality of your content.

Outbrain

#17 LinkedIn Advertising

While my personal experiences with LinkedIn advertising has not been particularly positive, I know of a few startups (particularly in the financial services industry) that have achieved great results by running targeted ads to people by their job title and sector.

In my opinion, the problem with LinkedIn Ads is banner blindness. The adverts don’t stand out, and appear in the same spot on every page, causing users to become ‘blind’ to them.

#18 Video Pre-Roll Advertising

If your startup has produced a compelling promo video, pre-roll advertising could be a powerful paid marketing channel for you. Using TubeMogul, you can pay for your video to appear as an advert before video content on major video networks, such as 4od, and YouTube.

One interesting ‘trick’ with pre-roll advertising is that you do not pay if your ad is skipped within the first five seconds (which most people do skip). The trick, then, is to go down one of two routes. The first route is to get the message out about your service within the first five seconds of the video hoping that people skip so that you can expose your message to a huge number of people without paying too much.

The second option is to make the first five seconds ambiguous and weird enough to intrigue people to watch the rest of the video. Here’s the best example I’ve seen of this tactic being put into practice.

#19 Affiliate marketing

If your startup benefits from offering a high margin product and has a good conversion rate, then you may benefit from offering an affiliate programme through a network such as Affiliate Window or ClickBank.

I wouldn’t advise diving into affiliate marketing until you’ve already established your brand and found other marketing channels. Consider it more of an accelerant rather than a base fuel for your online marketing strategy.

Chapter 3:Earned Media Marketing for Startups


Earned media can be thought of as any form of publicity generated by your advocates (customers, fans, partners). In my opinion, earned media is the most valuable, cost-effective, credible, and sustainable form of online marketing. It’s also the hardest to create and measure.

The reason earned media is so effective is because people trust their friend’s recommendations. Conversely, our trust in virtually all other forms of paid & owned media advertising is declining.

Trust in advertising

So how can you leverage this shift in trust to drive more sales / signups?

#20 Do Something Remarkable

The secret sauce of the PR industry is that remarkable things get remarked upon. If you want to earn word of mouth and have the press, your customers, and whoever else talking about your startup, you must give them something remarkable.

Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to build a full-scale dragon skeleton on a beach in Dorset, or fly jetpacks around New York City, but if you want to cause a ripple, you’ll need to do something beyond the norm. Perhaps your startup is remarkable in itself?

As much as I’d love to say “do X”, there is no simple answer here, because quite often it’s the things that haven’t been done before that are work the best. My best advice is to read Edward De Bono’s book on Lateral Thinking (he pioneered the word ‘lateral thinking’), get some post-it notes and blast out as many ideas as you can conjure up. Then go for the idea that’s most promising.

#21 Build Exceptional Resources

I struggle to go a week without mentioning Moz.com’s weather report tool. It’s an incredibly useful resource for the SEO industry and generates enormous amounts of publicity for Moz.

Moz weather report

Sometimes you don’t need to reinvent the wheel – you just need to ask yourself “what would our customers find useful?” and build something exceptional.

#22 Meet Your Influencers

How valuable would it be to your startup if you met Robert Scoble, Jack Dorsey, or some TechCrunch journalist? A large aspect of your success in PR and marketing does revolve around who you know, so it’s important to learn what affects the size and quality of your personal network.

Meeting anyone starts with being in the same space as them, either geographically or virtually. Last January I was speaking at Midem, a music conference in the South of France. While over there I met Robert Scoble, Mark Hoppus from Blink 182, and a number of interesting people who’ve become invaluable contacts. I don’t say this to boast, but to make the point that it was incredibly predictable and well publicised that these people would be at Midem on the specified dates – all I had to do was show up. The hardest part in meeting the people you need to meet is booking the ticket and showing up.

“80% of success is showing up” – Woody Allen

#23 Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Over 500 million people search in Google every day. Regardless of what some startup celebrities may proclaim, SEO is not something you should ignore.

The strength of search marketing is that, if you have a product that people are looking for, your site can appear at the perfect moment – when they’re searching for it.

This differs to Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube advertising, where you’re relying on distraction to pull people away from what they were doing to visit your website. With Google, you’re helping them find what they were looking for in the first place.

Organic search marketing is a broad field in itself, so I won’t go into much depth at all here. However, I will impart a few pieces of advice from my experience working at an SEO agency for several years, and overseeing hundreds of campaigns.

  • Don’t think you’re saving money by hiring a cheap SEO. Rankings go both ways, and if you get someone crap, they’ll cost you a lot more than you think. Be prepared to pay a decent price for good SEO services.
  • Focus on what’s best for the users – when in doubt, ask yourself “is this best for our users?” – if the answer is yes, there’s a very good chance that it’s also best for search engines.
  • Nothing is guaranteed. Anyone who guarantees results is most likely selling snake oil.
  • It takes time. I advise most of our clients not to expect any increase in SEO traffic for at least 3 months. Of course, sometimes we see increases in as little as a week, but SEO typically takes a long time to grow.

Chapter 4: Owned Media Marketing for Startups


Owned media relates to any marketing channel owned by your startup. In the online world, this refers to any websites and social media profiles that you operate.

There’s a great deal of crossover between owned and earned media, and I like to think of owned media being the ‘platform’ for increasing the success of your earned campaigns.

Imagine you created a great story on how your startup just broke a World Record. Without a platform to publish the story on, you’re best hope is to send out a press release and cross your fingers that at least one journalist will publish the story.

If you have a blog with a steady audience of 5,000 visitors per day, you can post your story to that audience, and rest assured that at the very least, 35,000 people will have been exposed to the story by next week. Hopefully, that initial audience will have ‘launched’ your story creating organic growth.

#24 Building a Blog That Converts

Building a blog that converts is hard. Most companies fail because they blog about what they want their customers to read, rather than writing about what their customers want to read.

There are a small number of companies who understand this. Buffer, for example, are a company that offer social media automation software. Instead of going on about their services, their blog contains insights on everything from happiness to writing tips. They write what their customers want to read.

My advice when building a blog is this: if you want to create a truly successful blog, you must be willing to commit at least 100 great articles. After you’ve written 100 articles you’ll not only have a good understanding of what works, but each article will be driving a little bit of traffic, a few links, and a few signups each day. From there, the results will compound.

If you’re not willing to invest a lot of time in building a blog, I wouldn’t advise starting. It’s hard work, but the results will pay-off if you stick with it.

#25 Email Marketing

Five years ago, email marketing was about building your mailing list and sending newsletters or autoresponder campaigns out.

Those days are long gone. Traditional email marketing is rapidly being replaced by marketing automation, which is software that gives you the ability to trigger personalised messages based on different rules. For example, if someone signs up for a free trial but doesn’t actually use a certain feature within a certain amount of time, you can trigger an automated email inviting them to check it out.

Marketing is ultimately a pursuit to send the right message to the right people at the right time. Marketing automation is about as close as we can get to scaling this.

There are lots of great email marketing tools that now offer marketing automation. I personally love ActiveCampaign, which has one of the best interfaces for building marketing automation campaigns that I’ve seen.

ActiveCampaign

The next step is to know what makes a good email. This isn’t just about writing clickable subject lines and crafting beautiful HTML templates, it’s about understanding what your audience wants to receive in their inbox. I can’t tell you the answer here, but I urge that you consider “would I want to receive this email?”

Be sure to experiment with different frequencies of emailing, days of the week, and types. Comparing the open and click through rates over time is the only sure way to know what works and what doesn’t.

#26 Video: Leveraging the second largest search engine in the World

We rarely think of YouTube as a search engine, but with over 50,000,000 searches made on YouTube every day, that’s effectively what it is. Using YouTube Traffic Estimator, we can see exactly how many searches are made for different queries every month.

Let’s say your startup offers time management solutions. A quick search on YouTube for videos on productivity reveals that many 3-minute videos have over 50,000 views – some have over 1,000,000.

YouTube Productivity Videos

The benefit of incorporating video into your search strategy is that YouTube, and other video hosting sites, are considerably less competitive than Google. Interestingly, Google are also featuring more and more videos in their universal search results, making it a powerful method of ranking in Google in itself.

video search results

#27 Content Marketing: Infographics, Videos, Case Studies, White Papers, and more

When it comes to digital marketing, I like to think about what will work in two years time. I don’t believe content marketing will be the future, but I do think that content-based online PR will be.

I think the overlap between creating exceptional content and relationship-based PR will be what the best digital marketers will focus on a few years from now.

I won’t focus on the relationship-based part here, as I’ve already covered that in some depth in the section on meeting influencers. Let’s instead focus on what makes content exceptional.

The first step in producing exceptional content is to define exceptional. For example, in the music industry I know that infographics, on average, out-perform every other format of content by roughly 198% (number of backlinks & social shares). I know that content relating to piracy, royalties, and music industry challenges is more likely to be shared than content relating to artist news or the live industry. I know this because I measure what works extensively.

Content marketing in the music industry

You too should know, with confidence, what works in your niche.

On producing content of exceptional quality, my rule of thumb is to spend more than 40 hours producing it. Anything that takes less time is easily probably easy to replicate. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create it, it just means it probably won’t generate amazing results.

Don’t start your content strategy with what can we create? Start with what would be amazing? You’ll find a way to create it.

For specific tips on content marketing, I wrote a post for Moz offering 97 tips on content marketing. Andrew Gale has also written a great overview of startup marketing strategies here.

#28 Building a Presence on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and other social networks

Like email marketing, social networks provide a great opportunity to launch content and drive potential customers to your service, but there’s far more to it than broadcasting your agenda. Social networks provide a great opportunity to gather feedback, build relationships, and add credibility to your service.

While a guide on social media is far beyond the scope of this guide, here are a few important points to consider in your social strategy.

Know why you’re using it
Because of the ever increasing number of social networks, and the endless possibilities of what you can do within social media, it’s important to know why you’re using social media from the outset.

You can have multiple reasons. Quantity is not the issue, clarity is.

Ultimately, retweets, likes, +1s and shares are meaningless. Your core business goals are what matter: user signups, retention, revenue, customer lifetime value, user satisfaction etc. Social media becomes valuable when you connect the two together. When you use Twitter to leverage PR opportunities, Facebook to increase the quantity of monetisable eyeballs, or Google+ to increase search rankings, that’s when social media has a tangible value.

Know what works
I spend a lot of time in the entertainment industry understanding what content is the most shareable. While it’s good to confirm these things with data, often it just takes a few hours of research to understand what people talk about in your niche. So many companies publish crap that no one in their right mind would have a conversation about – don’t fall into that trap. Start by knowing what sparks conversations in your niche.

Lead with content
We manage a decent number of social media strategies at Venture Harbour, and if I can sum up what differentiates the clients who are successful using social media from those who are less so, it’s having a content-centric strategy.

What I mean by this is that by having a regular stream of interesting content being created and shared within your social networks, the amount and depth of engagement seems to naturally grow and compound. It stops you from using social media for the sake of using social media, and instead focus on using it as a means to a more valuable end.

Conclusion

I’d like to wrap this guide up by making the paradoxical point that nothing in this guide is exclusively correct. It’s just one perspective. In many cases, the opposite of what I’ve said is equally correct and I advise experimenting to reach your own conclusions on what works.

The reason I’ve been able to reach many of these conclusions is through eight years of testing assumptions day in and day out. But this is a fast-moving industry where nothing remains static, so we must challenge what we’re told and work out for ourselves how to effectively market our companies.

Finally, if you have any experiences or points you’d like to add, please use the comments below, which I’ll keep an eye on. If you have any questions I’d be happy to answer them there. If you’d like to keep things private, or are interested in working with us, feel free to get in touch.

Comments 37

  1. Great ideas and insights into the various paid media channels. Would love to see additional links to really dive into each of the steps mentioned above, but love this as a high level overview. Thanks for compiling!
    • marcustaylor123
      Thanks Justin! I'm going to hopefully build on this guide as I test out various methods in more depth. Glad you enjoyed it as it is though! Marcus
      • Michael Good
        I would like to thank the author for this AMAZING post. There are too many internet marketers out there struggling to get traffic. How many people out there with mind-blowing websites that the world NEEDS that will never get enough traffic to get their ideas out to the public? How many people stuck at 9 to 5’s struggling to make money online only because they just CAN’T GET TRAFFIC? This is an extremely thoughtful post. The world needs more people who would create an article like this that could help the struggling moms out there trying to make money online. This article has helped me A LOT. You see, I’m starting a new venture. This is the first venture of mine where I will be really trying to drive good free traffic. I never really tried before. This new venture (site) is ‘the one’. It literally HAS to work if I can get enough quality, targeted traffic to it, and this site could make BILLIONS. So what I am looking for is high quality, PERMANENT (no work needed to maintain – long term – hands-free), targeted, free traffic, and this article has laid out some of these types of traffic sources. High quality, permanent, targeted free traffic is the best type of traffic you could get. It’s hands free and pure ROI. So I highly recommend that anyone reading who needs traffic look into it. Some good high quality, permanent, targeted, free traffic sources you could use are number one, BaLooZo ( http://baloozo.com/get-instant-autopilot-targeted-website-traffic.html ), an ad site where you could post a permanent ad and push it to the top of the search results for your keywords and your category’s page 10 times a day, and there are advanced ad statistics. There are also feature PPC ads that go on top of the free ads that you could bid on for the first position, with a $0.001 load minimum and a $0.001 click minimum, in case you want to eventually pay for traffic, as well. You just sign up, post a permanent free ad and you’re getting permanent, free traffic forever. Number two is http://flickr.com, a photo sharing site. To get traffic with this site you have to create interesting, niche targeted images or take interesting niche targeted photos or screenshots, sign up, upload the photos using proper tags (keywords) to make the traffic targeted, and say in the description of the photo: “Feel free to use this image, but give credits to http://www.yourwebsite.com.”, and then you’re getting permanent, targeted, free traffic forever from people sharing your photos and crediting your link. Thanks a lot. You really don’t know what this means for me and how much you’ve just helped me. Does anyone know any other ways I could get permanent, targeted, free traffic? I would be ever-thankful if you could share one with me.
  2. Awesome post, maybe I'm biased but would be great to see a section around contests/incentivization etc :)
  3. Jonathan mclellan
    Very impressive, thanks so much for sharing - now time to put all off this into action...
  4. Shehan Wijetillake
    Great Read! By a long stretch one of the better articles i have come across! I guess ultimately at the end of the day you have to ask the question "What would my customer want to read, see or hear"..
  5. Great article! It helps me to write down my own startup's strategy :)
  6. Dina M Mansour
    This is probably the GREATEST article on marketing for startups that I have ever searched for, found and read! Keep up the good work!
    • Ellie
      I completely agree. This article is so helpful and you've given away so much valuable information to help startups launch off the ground. Thank you
  7. Emil
    Thank you for this great article. I am working for a startup company now and I was put in charge of intergrating social media strategies into our marketing strategies and I feel like this article has helped me a lot. Are you available for a little Q/A through e-mail in the near future?
  8. Thanks for the great read Marcus! I'm trying to grow our startup, Paddle.com, but because we're focuseed on a very niche audience I've found the marketing process to be tricky so far. This guide has been really helpful.
  9. Wow. Thanks for this really insightful article. I will definitely integrate some strategies for our own startup.
  10. Wow, this guide is awesome. Do you guys give away some in-depth free marketing guides for startups (like us) who cannot afford big services like VH? Thanks!
  11. Josh
    What an amazing guide. I feel like I should have paid for the amount of depth and detail you went into with that guide. Thanks Marcus!
  12. divyapriya
    Great post. Interesting article for sure.
  13. Christine
    Hey Marcus, Just wanted to comment on how helpful this article was for helping me come up with a more concrete marketing plan and ideas for my start up. Looking forward to reading more tips and advice from you!
  14. Rohan Prakash
    I knew nothing about marketing strategies and how to bring them into action. Great read and i certainly now have an idea of my short term plans. Thanks a ton. Would be great if you email me some more content on Lateral Thinking as per your experience.
  15. shubham sharma
    I really loved the ideas that you have shared with us Marcus. They are extremely helpful for the budding entrepreneurs who don't know jack about how the things go, like me. I just have one question and it would really help me if you can find some time out to answer me. With so many options available to us to market our startup, how does one choose? I have a food delivery startup in the development phase, we are going to roll out our first prototype in a week and are planning to launch our upgraded version in a month, how should we go about marketing our startup? We are launching it initially for a small part of the city, then iterate and scale from there. Hope to hear from you!
  16. Marcus, Really refreshing post, perfectly pitched with enough insight into each topic to allow the ready to understand the subject and make a decision if they want to research further and use that strategy in their own marketing program.
  17. For a novice your in depth analysis of the online marketing space is extremely helpful. I am currently building a marketing strategy for my startup www.sullycard.com and have found your commentary and listing the pros and cons of each branch to be particularly useful. Thank you and keep up the good work.
  18. Nelly
    I've read many blog post about Marketing and Media for Entrepreneurs, and most of them say a lot but nothing at the same time (if you know what I mean). I really enjoyed reading your post and found it vey insightful. Thank you!
  19. Meerra
    Great article! Very helpful. Clearly you've put in more than 40 hours for this article :) Thanks for sharing :)
  20. Arash
    Thank you for very compelling and helpful roadmap!
  21. Awesome article, such a comprehensive guide!
  22. Hi Marcus, Very useful and interesting article. As all the other comments above show, ppl have found it very useful. We are in the process of launching our own startup HotTicket.in, and I am sure we would be using many of the tips provided by you above.
  23. ROHAN PARSEWAR
    This is one of the best articles I have read ever related to online marketing. useful inputs and tools which I will definitely use to market my start up effectively. Thanks a lot for such a great article.
  24. Thank you for your post! This is the best article I have read start-up marketing so far!
  25. Saulo Avelar
    Hi Marcus, First of all, I'd like to reinforce what everybody wrote about your article. It's an incredible tool for those who are trying to find a guide on the implementation for marketing activities on startups. I'd like to double check with you if you would include traditional methods as well, such as events, referrals and direct marketing on the pool of strategies for implementation. Regards, Saul
  26. Great article Marcus. You have covered most of the relevant marketing tools and strategies in this post. I personally would include mobile app marketing as more and more emerging mktg tool. I'll be sure to follow up on your guide. Best, Nate
  27. Jayson Lee
    As being a first-year start-up leader, this article gives me a great insight and a wake-up call to start according actions. This recalled some of practices I felt I should've begun, but I couldn't do so due to lack of knowledge in detph. This was it. Thank you.
  28. Thanks Marcus for sharing! One of the most clear and simple posts on this matter. I particularly enjoyed the separation between foundations and other means. Really useful for an early stage Startup. Looking forward to read more from you.
  29. It is one of the best articles i have ever read on marketing. Learnt alot. Thanks Marcus Would love to reach out to you for some suggestions on my start-up.
  30. Harsh Shukla
    Nice detailed article.
  31. Miguel
    Nice !
  32. You probably know by now, but while reading this guide I thought so many times 'This is fantastic!' that I felt I needed to let you know. Congratulations and thank you, I can see that there are far more than 40h work in this content and it is very kind of you to share it with the rest of us. Superb!
  33. Ger Keyes
    Hi Marcus, Thank you for taking the time to put all this practical knowledge gained from your experience in the real world together and for sharing it. Much appreciated. Ger
  34. Hi Marcus, completely agree with you and Simon Sinek about "starting with why" to make your marketing count. Having a brand vision is probably the master strategy of all. Maybe you could update this goldmine of marketing strategy to explore other conversion-driving marketing tools. Like explainer videos and quizzes. They too have a high ROI record.

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