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The Startup’s Marketing Playbook: 10 Effective Marketing Ideas for Startups

Published February 28, 2022
/ Updated January 9, 2023

As a startup, marketing can be one of the most challenging aspects of your business. It can be difficult to know where to start and even more difficult to know which tactics will be the most effective.

Whether you’re just getting started or ready to take your marketing efforts to the next level, these 10 startup marketing ideas can help you reach your target audience and grow your business.

1. Set Clear Marketing Goals

When designing a marketing plan for your startup,  start by defining your marketing goals. These goals help keep your team on track by giving them a target to aim for. Setting clear goals also helps you measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.

When setting startup marketing goals, the aim is to make them SMART:


  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Smart goals breakdown

Avoid setting goals that are too vague, difficult to accomplish, or hard to measure. Here’s an example of a SMART goal: Increase the volume of traded cryptos to $2 million by the end of the first year. This goal is specific (volume of traded cryptos), measurable ($2 million), and timely (by the end of the first year).

Here are some common goals in marketing for startups.

Common Startup Marketing Goals

2. Know Your Buyer Persona

One of the most important steps in any effective marketing strategy is understanding your buyer persona. This is simply the term used to describe the ideal customer or client you are trying to reach. By understanding who they are, what their needs and wants are, and what motivates them, you can tailor your startup marketing ideas and strategies specifically to appeal to them.

This is essential as it allows you to focus your efforts on reaching the right people rather than casting too wide a net and wasting resources, particularly scarce in the startup scene. It also allows you to understand your customers better and what they want from your product or service, which can help you improve your offerings.

3. Create A Marketing Budget

A marketing budget is an essential part of any effective marketing plan. Once you’re clear on your goals and define your ideal customer, you’ll need to decide how much of your funds to set aside for your marketing efforts. Here are 4 ways to calculate your marketing budget:

4 Ways To Calculate Your Marketing Budget

  • Percent Of Revenue: Pick a percentage of revenue to spend on marketing, then choose your marketing projects and tools based on what fits within the budget.
  • Top-Down: Your boss determines marketing spend.
  • Competition-Matching: Budget is determined based on the tactics your competition is executing.
  • Goal-Driven: Set goals first then plan your budget around your goals.

4. Track Your Marketing KPIs

One of the most important aspects of measuring the effectiveness of your marketing efforts is tracking your key performance indicators, or KPIs. These are the metrics you use to track how well you’re achieving your marketing goals. By setting up tracking for your KPIs, you’ll be able to see exactly how successful your campaigns are and make changes accordingly.

Common Startup Marketing KPIs

  • Website traffic
  • Number of leads generated
  • Conversion rates
  • Cost per lead
  • Customer acquisition cost
  • Customer lifetime value

Using Google Analytics is a great way to track many KPIs, including traffic and conversion rates. It’s also ideal for keeping track of your paid advertising campaigns, such as Google Ads and other forms of pay-per-click marketing.

5. Launch An Affiliate Program

An affiliate program is a type of relationship marketing that works by enlisting other people, usually bloggers or website owners, to promote your product in exchange for a commission on any sales they generate.

This can be a great way to get your product in front of a larger audience and can help you to build a network of advocates who are excited about your product.

CoSchedule's affiliate program

Some tips to keep in mind when setting up an affiliate program for your startup are:

  • Set SMART goals for your affiliate program.
  • Use affiliate software tools to manage your program.
  • Set the most attractive commissions your startup can manage.
  • Choose affiliates that align with your startup’s values.
  • Create an affiliate agreement.
  • Set up efficient communication channels with your affiliates.
  • Keep track of all your affiliate sales.
  • Avoid affiliate networks.

6. Start A Referral Program

Referral programs rely on your current customers or users to spread the word in exchange for some sort of reward (i.e. a discount on your product or service).

Benefits Of Referral Programs

  • Cost-effective (you only pay for successful referrals)
  • Leads to more user-generated content
  • Consumers are more likely to buy when they are referred by someone.

7. Use Signup Bonuses To Your Advantage

An effective way for startups to grow their customer base is to give out welcome bonuses to new customers. This is a tried and true strategy that large corporations like global credit card companies use all the time. But it’s also a good choice as a startup marketing idea because it’s another cost-effective strategy that pays for itself and requires minimal financial investment on your side.

Signup Bonus Examples

  • Access to an exclusive Facebook or Slack group.
  • A free e-book or e-course
  • A free sample of your product
  • A discount on a product or service
  • Company swag

8. Launch A Social Campaign

There are more than 4.2 billion people on social media, which makes it so important for a startup to have a strong social presence. Create a social media campaign to promote your brand, spread awareness, and build relationships with your customers and target audience.

An example of a successful social media campaign was Coke’s “Share a Coke” campaign. Consumers were encouraged to find bottles with names that held personal meaning to them, share them with friends and family, then tweet about their experiences using the hashtag #ShareaCoke.

Share a coke was a great social media campaign

9. Gamify Your Product Or Service

People love challenges and games. That’s why things like quizzes and surveys are so popular on the internet, and they get shared so much on social media. As a startup, you can take advantage of that aspect of our human nature to build brand awareness.

Think of how you could turn using your product or service into a challenge. For example, if you’re running an EdTech startup, you could craft a challenge around learning a particular skill in a set number of days.

This is what Codecademy did back in 2012. They launched a challenge to learn how to code in one year, which brought them 200,000 new users in only seven days.

Getting included in a well-known publication is a great way to reach larger audiences. There are so many print and digital platforms available. Start by googling publications that are related to your industry. Put together a press release and send it out to as many people as possible.

You can also use press release distribution sites, like PR Wire, to target specific audiences and get picked up by a variety of different outlets.

The Bottom Line

Marketing budgets for startups are always limited, and it can be difficult to know where to allocate those funds. However, there are various marketing ideas that you can try as a startup without breaking the bank. Strategies like affiliate and referral programs are surefire ways to get the word out and find new leads, but it’s also important to stay up-to-date with the latest trends to keep your business afloat.