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The Startup Marketing Playbook: 30 Effective Startup Marketing Ideas

Published May 4, 2023
/ Updated March 1, 2024

You’ve done Instagram ads, published a blog post, and sponsored a podcast – what else is there? As a startup, marketing can be one of the most challenging aspects of a business. It can be difficult to know where to start and even harder to know which tactics will succeed.

Create a winning marketing strategy and lay the foundation for future success with the following 30 startup marketing ideas.

Essential Startup Marketing Ideas

1. Set Clear Marketing Goals

When strategizing a startup marketing plan, begin by defining clear marketing goals. A well-written goal provides direction, guides marketing efforts, and determines the success of a campaign. Be careful to avoid setting vague goals that are difficult to accomplish or hard to measure.

To aid in the process, think SMART.

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

CoSchedules marketing process is an acronym of SMART, which stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, timely.

Here’s an example of a SMART goal: Increase email subscribers by 25% by the end of the first year. The goal is specific (increase email subscribers), measurable (by 25%), and timely (by the end of the first year).

Some common broad goals for marketing startups include:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Drive website traffic
  • Convert leads to customers
  • Increase social media presence
  • Turn customers into brand ambassadors

Recommended: Marketing Campaign Idea Generator

2. Understand Your Buyer Persona

Building a buyer persona – a representation of an ideal customer or client – is a vital step in any effective marketing strategy. The persona will help gain insight into buyer concerns, goals, decisions, and preferences. And by understanding who they are, their needs, and their motivations, you can specifically design marketing strategies 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. Get A Website

A website serves as an extension of your brand, providing an accessible portal to anyone, anywhere, at any time. And regardless of industry, that online space can have a massive impact on business success. Additionally, a website can:

  • Strengthen brand image and credibility
  • Help prospects understand the products or services available
  • Provide important contact information
  • Answer FAQ
  • Offer a high ROI

4. Print Business Cards

Despite all technological advancements, printed business cards remain an irreplaceable aspect of any business. They easily share contact information, provide a neat snapshot of your business, and increase personal network opportunities.

On the card, be sure to include the basic details, such as a name, title, contact information, and logo. If desired, add a call to action or slogan, but keep it simple to avoid clutter and unprofessionalism.

5. Create Printed Promotional Materials

Printed promotional materials are an excellent way to introduce or extend customers’ knowledge about your business.

Common Promotional Materials Include:

  • Brochures
  • Flyers
  • Stickers
  • Business cards
  • Pins
  • Calendars
  • Bookmarks
  • Branded thank you cards

6. Establish A Presence On Social Media

There are approximately 4.76 billion social media users worldwide. So, publishing online content and establishing a social media presence is vital in boosting brand visibility. Additionally, being active on social media can:

  • Generate interest and leads
  • Promote products
  • Establish a reputation
  • Enable crisis communication
  • Provide customer service and support
  • Provide audience reporting and analytics

7. Create An Email Newsletter

Email newsletters are a powerful digital marketing tool for communicating with prospects and customers. It serves as a direct consumer touchpoint, offering recent company news, product or service updates, events, or other relevant information. Common newsletter ideas include:

  • Monthly newsletter recap
  • Product launches
  • Customer success stories
  • Team spotlight with pictures and bios
  • FAQ
  • Internal employee news (anniversaries, promotions, or birthdays)
  • New practices or tips
  • Industry news

8. Organize Your Marketing

Agile marketers are 469% more likely to report success than industry peers – which isn’t necessarily surprising given agile processes are designed to understand the digital market, respond to new opportunities, and stay aligned with business objectives. Take control of your marketing process with the CoSchedule Marketing Calendar.

CoSchedule Marketing Calendar Top Features:

  • Receive instant clarity into all projects through a cross-functional calendar
  • Seamlessly create, schedule, and publish integrated social campaigns
  • Collaborate with team members, communicate progress, and provide feedback
  • Pivot quickly when priorities change by easily rescheduling calendar projects

Create your free marketing calendar today.

Startup Marketing Ideas To Promote Your Brand

9. Start A Referral Program

Referral programs rely on current customers or brand users to share positive feedback in exchange for a reward (i.e., a discount or freebie). Benefits of referral programs include:

  • Producing quality leads
  • Bringing in new customers at a lower cost (only pay for successful referrals)
  • Improving customer retention through word-of-mouth marketing

10. Offer A Signup Bonus

Consider offering a signup bonus for service-based businesses (i.e., a salon, automotive repair shop, fitness center, or consulting business). For consumers who need an extra nudge to complete a purchase, a welcome bonus might be just the trick.

Signup Bonus Examples:

  • A discount on a product or service
  • A free book or e-course
  • A free product with a purchase
  • Company swag

11. Invest in Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the organic process behind ranking higher on the results page of Google, Bing, or alternative search engines. Because search is a significant way individuals discover online content, ranking higher on a search engine page can dramatically increase website traffic.

To improve SEO, start by analyzing:

  • Site Architecture: Check user experience and ensure good crawlability
  • Quality Backlinks: Verify backlinks are natural and from high-trust sites
  • Good Content: Regularly add fresh content that matches search queries

12. Try Pay-Per-Click Advertising

PPC (pay-per-click) is an advertising model in which advertisers onlypay when an ad is clicked, and a consumer is brought to a landing page. It is a highly cost-effective method and can be monitored easily.

The average business receives $2 in revenue per $1 spent on Google Ads. Meaning PPC advertising offers a 200% ROI.

13. Offer A Free Version Of Your Product

A freemium business model offers free basic features of a software, game, or service, with the option to upgrade for premium features. With freemium, consumers can explore a product at no cost and no time limits, which offers freedom, and flexibility while increasing the chances of converting to a paid subscription.

14. Start A Blog

Blogging is a marketing tactic in which a company creates content related to its product or service to improve its online presence. At its basics, starting a blog can:

  • Increase website traffic: Businesses that blog receive 55% more website visitors than businesses that do not.
  • Drive leads: B2B marketers who use blogs receive 67% more leads than those who do not.
  • Establish Credibility: Blogs have been rated the fifth most trusted source for online information.
  • Increase Engagement: 70% of consumers prefer learning about a company via an article to an advertisement.

15. Sponsor An Event

Nearly every event (i.e., fundraisers, conferences, trade shows, sporting events, etc.) requires a sponsor and what better way to put eyes on your business than through a community event?

Attendees will be a mixture of supporters, previous customers, and potential leads. Sponsoring guarantees strengthening brand awareness, getting social clout, and influencing consumer perception.

16. Create A Social Media Plan

Social media has become a must for small businesses and large corporations alike. A sound social media plan should include how, when, what, and where content will be published to achieve marketing objectives.

17. Publish A Press Release

A press release can build a strong brand reputation, earn media coverage, and grow an online presence. And when launching a startup, press releases are vital in providing business information, such as store location and product or service information.

18. Join Online Forums

Forums are online discussion groups focused on a singular topic. It acts as an excellent knowledge-sharing platform for consumers to reference for tips, suggestions, and guides while sparking conversation.

19. Gamify Your Product Or Service

Games are inherently fun, so applying gamification to a marketing strategy is an incredibly effective way to increase customer engagement.

Starbucks, for example, uses its mobile app to encourage consumer purchases and, in exchange, receive “stars” – a representative of loyalty points. These “stars” can later be traded for a free coffee, food item, or merchandise. By gamifying the app, Starbucks has mastered engagement.

Information on Starbucks rewards such as how to earn stars, how to reload your card and what you can get with your stars.

The Starbucks app is free and easy to download on your device’s app store.

20. Launch An Affiliate Program

An affiliate program is a partnership between a brand and an affiliate, where the affiliate agrees to promote a product for commission. It is low budget, with low effort, at a well-contained risk level, and guarantees a return on investment.

Under Amazon’s affiliate program – known as the Amazon Associate program – affiliates earn a commission each time someone makes a purchase through the affiliate link associated with their recommendation.

Instructions on how to sign up for Amazon's affiliate marketing program.

Amazon has made this process quick and easy for those interested in being a part of their program.

21. Offer Exclusive Access To Your Products & Services

When a product or service is exclusive or limited, customers are frequently engaged, striving to gain access to that exclusivity. And once the top loyalty tier is reached, there is a strong feeling of belonging and community.

22. Give Away Free Company Swag

Similar to the analogy, “an eye for an eye,” what is given is often received. By giving away company swag, consumers are likely to buy something in return, increasing sales and raising brand awareness.

Common Swag Ideas Include:

  • Notepad or journal
  • Bluetooth speaker
  • Water bottle
  • Coffee mug
  • Backpack
  • Tote bag
  • Candle
  • Bottle opener
  • Cooler
  • Lawn chairs
  • Bluetooth headphones
  • Portable charger
  • Hats
  • Ice scraper
  • Travel pillow
  • Lanyard
  • Phone wallet

23. Get Recognized

Getting recognized can be difficult, but earning local fame is vital to expand your network and achieve business growth. Start by:

  • Utilizing local chamber of commerce resources
  • Engaging on social media
  • Writing for a local paper or business journal
  • Asking for referrals
  • Securing public speaking gigs
  • Publishing a press release

24. Host A Webinar

Webinars are a high-engagement opportunity to generate interest and leads. It is an ideal medium to demonstrate a product, answer questions, nurture quality leads, and boost brand awareness.

25. Attend Industry Events

In nearly all industries, annual events occur where business owners and experts come together to share ideas and start conversations. Attending an event can develop relationships, offer content ideas, and spark creativity.

Common industry events include:

  • Meetings and conventions
  • Product launches
  • Trade shows
  • Retreats
  • Holiday parties

26. Speak At A Conference

The most obvious benefit of speaking at a conference is networking. Whether with industry connoisseurs or potential clients, it is an opportunity to socialize and expand personal networks. Additionally, speaking can establish expertise, boost brand awareness, and enforce credibility.

27. Offer Free Resources & Downloads

Generosity is thought of highly, so by offering a free resource, with no expectation of something in return, consumers are more likely to buy into a brand. And, because a digital download is not there to generate website traffic but to create lead magnets and push consumers through the sales funnel, your “free” item becomes profitable.