Digital marketing for startups is so important because it’s fast, it’s real time and it gives startups the ability to have a voice right out of the gate.
You can test different digital marketing strategies. You can easily measure the results and make adjustments. There are so many facets and choices when it comes to digital marketing, it’s like a marketer’s playground. But because startups have limited resources, they need to prioritize these efforts and align them with overall business goals.
What is Digital Marketing?
We’re all at different places — literally and physically — and we consume information in different ways. We’re all on our phones and laptops, scrolling through social media, shopping, researching, working, you name it — probably more than we should be.
The personas you’re targeting are all in different stages of what they’re researching or what they’re looking to purchase, and you may not know where exactly they are on that journey.
Digital marketing is about figuring out who your audience is, where they spend their time online and connecting with them where they are.
Types of Digital Marketing
Digital marketing is a critical component of the marketing mix, which includes everything from direct mail to events. And within digital, there’s a mix itself: Think social media, advertising, content marketing, email, search engine optimization. But it’s also more than that. It’s how companies represent their brand and connect with their customers and prospects in the modern age.
Organic and Paid Social Media
Setting up social handles and presence is a first step. It allows you to have a voice and get your perspective and content out there. And doing things such as boosting posts helps amplify what you’re saying and doing in the market at a low cost.
Programmatic advertising is when you target your prospects by showing digital advertisements to them wherever they are on the internet. The goal of this channel is typically focused on building brand awareness and brand favorability.
This is a common tactic used in digital marketing as well. Paid search is when you bid on keywords that map to your business. When people use a search engine and include your targeted keywords in their search, your ads are shown within the search results, giving you a chance to bring that traffic to your website. Out of all of the paid channels in digital marketing, paid search tends to bring in the highest-quality visitors because of the high intent around your business.
Digital Marketing Priorities for Startups
It’s easy to forget the journey, whether you’re a startup or a large organization. And it’s even easier to fall into the trap of creating content for the sake of creating content, or feeling like you need to market to market.
All business are different and have different goals, but I typically prioritize digital efforts in this way:
- Do your research: Who are your competitors? What’s their value prop? How can you differentiate yourself? What does their digital presence look like? Where does your audience hang out online?
- Build out your foundational content: You can’t run robust digital marketing programs if you do not have quality content that is valuable for your prospects.
- Understand your goals: Are you starting your brand from scratch or do people already see you as a player in your industry? This will help you determine which tactics you deploy next.
- Find the right mix of upper-funnel awareness and mid- to bottom-funnel conversion tactics: It’s important to have a well-rounded mix of digital marketing programs that span the buyer’s funnel. It’s very common for organizations to want to focus 100% of efforts on driving bottom-funnel conversions, but it is a marketer’s job to help the business understand the negatives to that approach. Digital marketing thrives at the top and middle of the buyer’s funnel, and it’s important to use data and analytics to prove where digital marketing is making the biggest impact so you are spending your money wisely. When it comes to driving demand, there needs to be tight alignment between digital marketers, demand generation teams and sales.
Measuring the success of your digital marketing efforts is going to come back to your overall business goals, and that’s something that people don’t spend enough time on. Marketers can have a tendency to just do, and one of the things that I like to push on with my teams is, why are you doing what you’re doing?
Digital Marketing Tips for Startups
My favorite digital marketing tip for startups and established companies alike is to pick something and create derivatives around it. This is one reason I love blogs.
A blog post is a real-time piece of content that lives on your website (where you want to drive people back to; I think that is also something companies forget!) that you can chop up into different pieces, build upon, ideate from and repackage in a variety of digital ways. This approach is something companies should be thinking about no matter their size, but it’s more critical for startups because we don’t have unlimited time and resources. Also, if you focus on fewer pieces, it gives you an opportunity to really zero in on who your target audience is and who you’re creating the content for.
Remarketing is also a favorite strategy of mine. Remarketing is when you are advertising to people who have already visited your website and were exposed to your brand. This allows you to continue the conversation with people showing interest in your business and ultimately try to drive them back to your site. I also like testing our messaging to this audience so we can better understand what is driving the most engagement among people who are showing interest in doing business with us.
A/B testing and personalization are also popular strategies. In digital marketing you are able to expose your marketing to a very large audience of people, which allows you to easily A/B test your messaging to this audience and get quick results around what resonates the most. You can then take an extra step and personalize your ads or even your entire website for specific personas you care about. This ensures that your messaging is laser-focused on your audience, which gives you the best opportunity to gain customers.
The last tip I will mention is around marketing attribution and the importance of measuring all of the touchpoints a customer had with you before they became a customer. Most organizations go by a last-touch attribution model because it is easy to measure. Essentially these organizations are giving all or the majority of credit to the last tactic before somebody became a customer. But in digital marketing, you are typically bringing in the contacts, nurturing leads throughout the journey and then handing off these leads to demand gen or sales to close the deal. A last-touch attribution model does not show the full value of digital marketing.
Investing in an attribution tool is the best way to get an understanding of all of the digital touchpoints that occurred during the sales cycle, and it helps show the value of digital programs — something to consider as you look to ask for additional budget.
Kara Banosian is CMO at Stavvy and an advisor and investment partner at York IE.