5 Marketing Strategies for Startups

5 Marketing Strategies for Startups

The blog article below outlines 5 marketing strategies for startups.  Many people starting companies do not necessarily have a commercial background.  They could be engineers or have worked in an operational role.  Others simply don’t know where to start. 


As many as 90% of startups failing and 75% of venture backed startups fail.  Startups therefore need every assistance they can get at the beginning of their journeys.  By considering and implementing these strategies you will have a far better chance of success.


1.  Lean Startup


The lean startup concept was coined by Eric Reis in his best selling book The Lean Startup: How Constant Innovation Creates Radically Successful Businesses.  The basic premise is to start small and firstly find a few customers with a minimum viable product.  This validates the idea that your business idea will work.  The Lean Startup is about learning what your customers really want. It’s about testing your vision continuously, adapting and adjusting before it’s too late.


Lean startup


There is not much point in spending time and effort trying to get investment if you can’t prove you have a viable business idea.  Ideally it addresses some sort of pain.  The lean startup approach is an iterative one where you keep testing ideas, change according to customer feedback (pivoting), learn and grow.  The most important thing is to bring customers on board as early as possible.  You can involve them in the development of your product or service at every step.


The Lean Startup methodology supports the belief that every startup is a grand experiment that attempts to answer a question. The question is not “Can this product be built?” Instead, the questions are “Should this product be built?” and “Can we build a viable business around this set of products and services?” 


This experiment is more than just an idea, it is a first product or service. If it is successful, it allows a CEO to get started with his or her idea, finding customers as early on as possible. By the time that product or service is ready to be distributed widely, there are already established customers. It will solve real problems and offer detailed specifications for what needs to be built.  


Getting customers and ideally high profile ones early on is a good opportunity to tell the world that the business has acquired those customers.  This can be through press releases, on social media and in case studies.  These marketing activities will raise brand awareness and help generate more leads.


2.  Great Marketing


It sounds common sense but one of the best marketing strategies for startups is simply great marketing.  This starts with market research or customer feedback.  This is the strategic side of marketing.  According to Venture Harbour, the faster you can resolve customer objections, and improve the product to match market demand, the more likely you are to win over in the long run.


VentureHarbour has built a number of successful startup software products and recommends that right from day one the product or service is geared to be recommended.  This would explain why Google reviews are so important for search engine optimisation.  Some companies even encourage customers to recommend their product in return for a gift.




You can expedite interest in your product or service by considering the following:


  • Clarity – does your website clearly communicate your value proposition
  • Anxiety – is there anything on your website that indicates that an action should be taken now
  • Distraction – are there elements on your website that could distract someone and not keep them focused on what you offer
  • Relevance – does your website correspond with what the customer wants to see


The above ideas come from the  Widerfunnel model.


Addressing pain in your marketing is important but so is identifying market drivers.  Marketing either has to appeal to a pain or a desire.  A great product, marketing and creative team combined can make products like the Apple iphone sell like crazy. Apple, however knows and understands its marketing evangelists who want an Apple everything.  They will evangalise for the company as brand loyalists. So again this is another reason for getting customers on board early because they could end up your most enthusiastic customers.


3.  Knowing your Why


When considering best marketing strategies for startups it’s important to think of your company as well your products or services.  It is important to think about why you set up your company, ie its purpose and what values it wants to communicate.  People buy from companies who share the same values as themselves.  This is even more the case for companies selling to millennials or employing them.


knowing your purpose


In his book Start With Why, Simon Sinek says that if you want to inspire someone to take action, you must begin by explaining why you do what you do.  Check out the Ted Talk here.


It is based on the idea that the leaders of the best companies act in the same way by focusing on why, how and what.  This separates the leaders from the non leaders as those that are able to inspire and build brands rather than just companies.  Simon bases his idea on the premise that people buy why you sell first.


So before you start thinking about the best colours for your website and what you are going to say, it is crucial to think of your brand values and story.  Some example brand values could be “friendly”, “cutting edge” and “honest”.


Contact Cambridge Startup Help for a brand sprint to help define your brand values.


4.  Growing all elements equally


According to Chris Coleridge, Lecturer in Strategy, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Cambridge Judge Business School and founder of the cleantech accelerator Carbon 13, it is important to grow all elements of your business equally in order to achieve success. 


5 Marketing Strategies for Startups


Components such as a team, funding, problem/customer, resources and relationships and the value proposition have to be grown equally.  If, for example if you spend too much time and effort on simply growing the team and not on the value proposition your model will be out of sync and not work.  


With regard to the value proposition, one idea is to live in the future and build what is missing.  Another is to copy an idea and refine it but to increase the value and to bring uniqueness to it to differentiate.  It is important to build something people really want or that other people don’t want to solve.  Other success factors are a management team that embraces diversity, an inclusive corporate culture and the value of listening to consumers.


5.  Be Disruptive


Startups may feel that they need to be disruptive to be successful.  The term “disruptive innovation” was first coined by Clayton Christensen, and perfectly describes the mindset that many entrepreneurs are seeking today.

It is defined as “a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves up market, eventually displacing established competitors.”


For companies to be disruptive they need to clearly and effectively communicate what they do.  Messaging and copy writing are important and writing in layman’s terms can be more effective than lots of jargon.  Messaging of disruptive companies is invariably simple.  At the end of the day consumers are busy and only have a few seconds to understand a product or service through the copy on a website.  Successful disruptive companies think about the way people consume products and services and make them easy and convenient to use.  You only have to look at Amazon to see how it easy it is to order almost anything and receive it the next day.


One cleantech company example of a disruptive company is a solar venture named PVcase. It has changed the way solar engineers plan solar parks by automating the design in a 3D terrain. This allows solar engineers to complete their designs in a much shorter time frame for traditional 2D models, while also avoiding the potential for miscalculations that comes from the constraints of 2D. This type of innovative feature is poised to displace traditional 2D work, completely altering the way solar engineers create site plans.


A further characteristic of a disruptive company is one that focuses on a target audience that is under served by industry leaders.  It can be disruptive by making a market more accessible by using its technology.  Companies like M1 Finance disrupt the finance industry by removing the financial advisor and enabling consumers to manage their own finances on their smartphones.


For help with getting started with marketing for your startup, please get in touch.







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