In 2013, Slack made its first-ever preview release, and 8,000 people signed up for the platform purely based on word-of-mouth marketing. In 2023, this number has slingshotted to over 18 million users.
What led to this tremendous growth? Slack’s airtight, customer-centric digital marketing strategy.
The SaaS company doubled down on content marketing to win discoverability on search engines. They relied heavily on Twitter to humanize the brand and build a community of customers. Plus, they created custom landing pages for paid and organic channels.
Want to crack the code and replicate Slack’s success? Follow these nine actionable tips to succeed in digital marketing for startups.
1. Launch an MVP to find product-market fit
Imagine spending weeks and months building your final product only to discover there isn’t really a demand for it. That sounds like a recipe for disaster, right?
That can happen if you don’t test your product’s functionality against your buyers’ needs. This is called the product-market fit, where you determine that your product can deliver on your target customers’ expectations and solve their pain points.
Here’s a simple method for deciding your product-market fit:
- Identify your ideal customers and interact: Talk to your target buyers to understand their pain points, expectations, and jobs-to-be-done. You want to do the groundwork before defining your product’s primary purpose.
- Create a minimum viable product (MVP): Design an MVP to test your product’s core value propositions and validate the need for the product. Work with a small group of potential buyers to test this MVP.
- Define and validate your value hypothesis: Explain how your product can help users solve their challenges, then test whether this explanation holds true by surveying your potential customers. These surveys would reveal if people would actually try such a product.
User feedback is your best friend in this step. You need to acknowledge that your product isn’t fully ready, and you’ll rely on users’ insights to make strategic improvements. Once you’ve nailed your product-market fit and positioning, you can keep your churn rate significantly lower post-launch.
2. Invest in branding and website personalization
If you’ve heard of a company named Lemonade, you’d probably think they’re a clothing brand. But in reality, Lemonade is an insurance company with a pink color palette and quirky fonts. Surprised? That’s the shortest lesson on the power of branding.
The marketing world is noisier than ever today. You need to do something extraordinarily unique to stand out as a startup. The good news is: branding can be that differentiator for you.
Before laying down your marketing strategy, spend some time crafting a thoughtful brand identity by defining:
- Company name
- Logo and color palette
- Typography and brand voice
- Mission, vision, and core values
Take this as your opportunity to share your story and purpose with the world in every aspect of your branding. For example, Lemonade wanted to make insurance seem more exciting and less dreadful. So, they created a fun brand identity with a starkly unique brand name, logo, and colors.
While strategizing your brand identity, focus on your single biggest marketing asset and first salesperson: your website.
Personalize your website to make an immediate impact on website visitors and build brand recognition. If you run a SaaS, you can create a personalization based on country, industry, or company size. Some tools even allow you to personalize a website based on the visitor’s company name or logo. If you’re selling products on your website or running an eCommerce, then show the website visitors content based on their interests and behaviors.
Besides personalizing the user experience with dynamic content, invest in making your website visually appealing, easy to navigate, and hassle-free.
3. Prepare an SEO strategy
53.3% of all website traffic comes from organic search. That means more than half the people landing on your website discovered your site in the first place from the search engines. This figure alone explains the importance of creating an SEO-driven content marketing strategy.
Here’s how you can start with SEO from day one of your marketing strategy:
- Define concrete goals: Start by laying down what you want to achieve through SEO. Instead of going for something generic like brand awareness or lead generation, go for specific goals — ranking on the first page for two keywords or getting 10 backlinks from high DA sites.
- Set up technical SEO: Technical SEO prepares your website for search engine crawlers. It includes fixing and optimizing everything that would help these crawlers quickly understand and index your pages.
- Focus on on-page SEO: On-page SEO covers all bases on your website to improve your search engine rankings. It includes optimizing H1 tags, adding meta titles and descriptions, creating SEO-friendly URLs, and similar to help search engines crawl your site.
- Work on off-page SEO: Off-page SEO includes all activities beyond your website to improve your domain authority on search engines. It focuses primarily on building links through guest blogging, reviews, local SEO, and other means.
A solid SEO strategy is key to unlocking better discoverability and greater traffic from organic search.
4. Create a dedicated budget for paid channels
Paid marketing is tricky for startups. When you don’t have enough cash flow, investing in a non-revenue-generating activity like marketing is a big challenge. But when done right, paid channels can drive enough ROI to cover the costs and produce profits.
Let’s look at a few ways to use paid channels with a dedicated budget effectively:
- Run paid ads: Google ads are a safe bet for your paid marketing budget if you have a team or ad expert to do the heavy lifting. You can also launch ad campaigns on social media depending on where most of your customers hang out.
- Partner with affiliates: Affiliates can spread the word about your brand among their network and drive guaranteed sales. It’s a surefire way to get your business off the ground in the initial months.
Here’s a great example of Scribe using affiliate partnerships to boost brand visibility.
- Create video ad campaigns: Video is all the rage today. Between Instagram reels and TikTok videos, small businesses have immense potential to reach a bigger audience and get more followers on Instagram and the likes. Invest in video ads to get started with video marketing.
Remember: use paid channels to only supplement your organic marketing efforts. Paid marketing can create a lot of demand, but continuously pumping money into marketing is only sustainable in the short run.
5. Leverage inbound marketing to win leads
Materialize your inbound marketing goals with:
- YouTube marketing: Go big on video production to build an audience on YouTube
- Content marketing: Create content assets like a blog, newsletter, podcast, etc.
- Chatbot: Deliver help to new website visitors with a chatbot platform and collect their information in your lead database
- Lead magnets: Offer valuable giveaways to your leads like research reports, templates, playbooks, eBooks, etc.
- Social media: Generate leads from social media with a compelling content strategy that strikes a chord with your target audience
Once you’ve set up these marketing avenues to generate inbound leads, design a lead-scoring framework to qualify your leads before handing them over to sales.
6. Tap into multi-channel outbound marketing
While scaling your inbound marketing efforts, don’t overlook the importance of outbound marketing. Outbound marketing takes you closer to prospective leads than leads coming to you. It’s a long, complicated process but it also increases your chances of securing some of the biggest clients.
A multi-channel approach to the outreach can work wonders for startups. Why? Simple — instead of keeping all your eggs in the same basket, it’s always better to diversify your tactics.
Here are a few promising outbound marketing avenues to explore:
- LinkedIn: Cold outreach on LinkedIn is a must-try for B2B startups. Use filters on Sales Navigator to find the ideal prospects according to industry, company size, and more. Reach out to the main decision-makers to pitch your brand and make a solid impression. You can also schedule LinkedIn posts to stay on top of your performance.
- Twitter: Twitter is also ideal for B2B businesses and creators to see great results from cold outreach. Connect with influencers, industry leaders, and leads through Twitter DMs. Dive deep into Twitter analytics to find influencers that share the same audience. Make sure you leave a persuasive message for them to notice you.
- Cold emails: Marketers have sworn by cold emails for many years now. It’s the ultimate weapon to win at outbound marketing. While there’s no magic formula to make cold emails work, you can maximize the impact by verifying your email address, writing a convincing message, and researching to personalize the mail.
You can also automate your LinkedIn outreach or put your cold emailing workflows on auto-pilot with strategic automation. Let’s break down the benefits of automation in digital marketing for startups and how you can leverage it.
7. Double down on marketing automation
Most early-stage startups work with a lean team. With a smaller team strength, you might struggle to expand the scope of your marketing strategy and progress at full throttle. But you don’t have to.
Marketing automation allows you to automate different workflows, especially the repetitive ones, to use your team’s potential on the more critical tasks. Automation makes you more efficient and accurate in executing your marketing processes. More importantly, it also helps scale your strategy without adding more people to your team.
You can leverage marketing automation to:
- Schedule social media posts on LinkedIn, Instagram, and other platforms
- Automatically capture customer data and derive meaningful insights
- Track your performance and see what resonates with your buyers
- Automate email campaigns for the entire user journey
An email marketing automation tool like Encharge can simplify all your email workflows — whether you have to send transactional emails to existing customers, segment and personalize outreach emails for leads, or optimize emails with A/B testing.
8. Get the best out of referral marketing
When it comes to setting the foundations of a digital marketing strategy, referral marketing is the name of the game for startups. It’s a cost-effective tactic for bringing more leads and increasing brand recognition without blowing up your marketing spend.
Referral marketing gives your startup:
- A community-led brand reputation
- More credibility among target buyers
- A means to identify top brand advocates
- Better relationships with existing customers
- Lower costs on marketing and lead generation
When building a referral program, start by defining your critical objectives from this initiative. Make these specific and data-backed objectives for tracking progress. Use your CRM tool to keep a record of referrals and metrics.
The main part of your program is the incentive offered to your customers. This can make or break your program. Conduct user research to identify what customers genuinely care about, then decide your rewards.
Here’s how Airtable uses a referral program to bring more users to the platform. It offers Airtable credits worth $10 as a reward for every successful referral and lists the terms and conditions for receiving these credits.
9. Run PR campaigns to improve brand image
Digital PR is one of the most crucial aspects of marketing for startups. It’s a failproof solution for building a positive brand image and promoting your business to new audiences, bringing more potential buyers into the sales funnel.
You can leverage startup PR for your business with these tactics:
- Unlinked brand mentions of your company on social media or blogs
- Launch your product on ProductHunt and spread the word about it
- Guest posts on third-party websites talking about your company
- Newsworthy press releases getting published on media pages
- Directory entries for your website on niche-based directories
- Securing brand mentions from social media influencers
Instead of figuring out everything about PR, you can also outsource your PR campaign to an experienced agency for quick results.
Level up your digital marketing game
With so much competition in the marketing world, launching a new brand can be daunting. You’re starting from scratch and constantly iterating your strategy based on what’s working and what’s not.
Thankfully, you don’t have to go through a lot of trial and error. Bookmark this exhaustive guide on the nine best tactics for digital marketing for startups and set yourself up for long-term success!