15 Fundamental Startup Marketing Strategies + Examples and Ideas

Whenever I’m watching a movie, and the dumb character just dives into the fight without a strategy, I know that they will regret it and regroup to make a strategy.

Everyone knows that that action won’t help with anything.

But this is real life.

So if you screw up, you might not have a second chance to ‘’regroup and come up with a strategy’’.

And luckily, we’re not dumb enough to launch a startup and start marketing it without a killer startup marketing strategy:

What is a Startup Marketing Strategy?

A Startup Marketing Strategy is a marketing plan that fits the limited budget of a startup and promises quicker growth than traditional marketing strategies. This strategy can either include some growth hacking or growth marketing, depending on whether you need fast results or a solid base to build your business on.

In my experience, no matter how many investors your startup has or how solid the source background is, no startup has risen to the top with only paid advertising or paid partnerships.

Don’t get me wrong:

I’m not a gene, and unfortunately, I can’t teach you ‘’how to rise to the moon with $0 spending,’’ or I can’t even tell you that paid advertising is bad.

On the contrary, if done correctly, paid advertising can be a savior.

However, this doesn’t change the fact that all the biggest companies got big, mostly to growth hacking along with correct advertising.

If we’re cool on what a startup growth strategy is, let’s get to learning how to do it:

How can you market your startup effectively?

How can you market your startup effectively?

Let me list 3 golden rules before getting into detail:

  1. Don’t be afraid to try.
  2. Don’t be afraid to be extra.
  3. Don’t try to invent a new marketing strategy.

Just to make sure that we’re on the same page:

#1 – Don’t be afraid to try.

If you have an idea, don’t think of how people will react.

You having that idea means that there might be other people who need what you have in mind.

Go for it.

The most challenging thing after convincing yourself to turn your idea into a product is making people realize that they need your product.

That is where marketing comes into the game.

You probably know this very famous image of iPods,

16 essential marketing strategies for startups ipod original

What if the description said ‘’the newest way to listen to all your favorite songs.’’

16 essential marketing strategies for startups ipod edited1

Or ‘’A new product, just for your songs.’’

16 essential marketing strategies for startups ipod edited2

Would it have the same impact? Who needs a new way to listen to songs, right?

But apparently, Apple realized that people needed an easier way to store more songs. They just needed to make people realize the actual point of the product.

Someone must have said, ‘’this is a ridiculous idea’’, I wanna find them and yell in their faces ‘’apparently not as ridiculous as you’’…

#2 – Don’t be afraid to be extra

This is actually the main idea of growth hacking too.

The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.

Mark Zuckerberg

It is 2022 already, Elon Musk is Elon Musk because he took risks in leaving college, founding SpaceX and Tesla, and sending Dogecoin ‘’to the moon.’’

marketing strategies for startups dogecoin

A marketing strategy that plays it safe invests in google and facebook ads and maybe creates clickbait content for their blog might get from point A to point B. 

If they’re lucky enough to gain recognition within all the competition that’s going on in our age, though.

Who can argue that playing it safe is the worst risk to take?

Don’t be afraid to publish an article on your blog that will confuse people and make them talk about you.

Don’t be afraid to go wild with your advertising campaign.

The first idea that comes to your mind, with just little editing, %70, turns out to be the best idea.

Don’t be afraid to contact that big name with the fear of a negative reply. What could you possibly lose by only reaching out to someone who’s already in the place you wanna be?

Let me tell you how companies would be if they played it safe:

  • Paypal wouldn’t even exist since guaranteeing 100% safety is the biggest risk when it comes to money transfer.
  • Netflix wouldn’t be any different from a pirate movie platform; I mean, who doesn’t like the Netflix originals?
  • Instagram would fade away within the competition of Twitter, Pinterest, and Reddit.

You get the point, which brings us to our final golden rule:

#3 – Don’t try to invent a new marketing strategy.

I know this sentence sounds cheesy.

It has been done before. Reinventing the wheel won’t make people like it.

Remember the iPod example? They didn’t invent a new way to listen to music, they made it easier and more accessible. 

The same gors for marketing strategies.

No one can guarantee you full success if you jump from a plane with a parachute with your brand name on it, if not every person that is walking on the street is your tarket audience.

Trust me.

There are tens of thousands of articles, tools, books, podcasts to help you when you get stuck. 

Starbucks, Marvel, Adidas, even Bill Gates faced failure but came back into the game strong and it’s not because they were the first to do what they did.

Do you pay Starbucks for the amazing taste, or because you know that it’s good?

If you need a int of inspiration, I have some good tips for you, with examples:

15 Startup Marketing Strategies You Should Try

#1 – Make a product that you will use

You know they say that ‘’the best liars are those who elieve their own lies’’

Of course I’m not telling you to lie.

I’m telling you that you need to convince yourself that your product is worth. A product that you don’t even use can’t become as big as you need it to be.

Also, knowing the best aspects of your product, and using it yourself will make it easier to predict wich marketing methods are more likely to work for your product.

As for proof:

I’m going to mention Elon Musk again because he is ‘’the one’’ of correct marketing, I think.

Back to the point: of course we can’t expect Elon Musk to go to the moon himself with SpaceX.

But he uses his Teslas. Almost all of them.

growth strategies for startups - make a product that you will use

He even sent one of his teslas to space with SpaceX. Talk about using your own product…

Would you trust in Teslas if he didn’t even use it?

Fun fact:
BMW took advantage of knowing the importance of using your own product in marketing, and took advantage of the retirement of the CEO of Mercedes Benz.
Here is their commercial:

#2 – Understand the Product-market fit

This is kind of related to using your own product.

If you are not able to use your product, or if you think that some other product might be better than yours, it means that your product doesn’t fit in the market.

Marketing is convincing people that they need your product, right?

If you don’t stand out in one aspect, or your product isn’t worth the cost or effort, people won’t even bother getting to know your product.

So how do you know that your product is a need and fits perfectly in the market?

Easy.

Go to Quora.com, search for the related questions with your product.

You can either answer those questions, or reach out to the people who asked the questions and introduce your product.

Solve their problem.

As for proof:

By the time Youtube launched (2005), no other platform allowed users to share their own videos.

They found an opening in the video sharing system that no one else was aware of.

People probably didn’t even know that they wanted to be able to share their videos easily in 2005 considering that Apple launched the first iPhone in 2007.

The process of publishing videos online was catastrophic back then. People needed proper plugins, extensions, and tons of other things. Oh, and of course, their own fully designed website.

Anyone who is older than 20 has seen been through the struggle of such websites:

growth strategies for startups - make a product that you will use - website

Right?

#3 – Virality

I often hear people say ‘’don’t be fooled by viral things, they come and go’’

They have a point. 

Virality doesn’t last long. 

That’s why it’s called ‘’viral’’ at the first place.

But it doesn’t change the fact that viral things get spoken about for a long time, and reach out to massive cowds (just like the coronavirus).

Same logic.

Two people interact, one says something about your product to another, a curiosity spark occurs, and now you have new possible customers.

As for proof:

Hotmail used a method that way faster and easier than telling people that you have a good product.

They added an automatic message to the end of every e-mail that has been sent:

growth strategies for startups - virality

This small line helped Hotmail grow. Grow to 12 million accounts.

#4 – Give customers something to benefit.

Sometimes it takes a little bit more than a catch line.

People love getting things for free. 

So what if you paid people to spend more than you pay on your product?

I will make it clearer in the example:

As for proof:

Paypal gave $10 of credit to anyone who signed up for it.

growth strategies for startups - Giving customers something to benefit.

Giving 10 dollars to one million people will cost you 10 million dollars. But this is a small piece that comes along with a 50 million dollar net worth.

#5 – Give away small things

If you were walking down the street, and a person whom you don’t know approached you with a poker face, you would probably feel at least a little bit of distrust.

5 minutes later, another person approaches you with a smile on their face, a happy tone of voice, and proper clothing. You would be less likely to be afraid of that person.

It’s funny but the same goes with products and companies.

I always found companies that give free stickers and magnets more friendly.

It was the same when I was a teenager, and it’s the same now.

As for proof:

There are 120 companies that don’t spare the expenses, and give away stickers.

There are more than 20 companies that send free t-shirts.

RJMetrics and AdvanceB2B gave free cupcakes.

Yes, cupcakes.

Considering that American Airlines saved $40.000 in a year just by cutting down an olive from the catering, the cost of free giveaways is not one to be underestimated.

But if it didn’t word, all those companies wouldn’t keep doing it.

#6 – Hacking human psychology

I’ve mentioned growth hacking a lot throughout the article; what about some real hacking?

I mean, hacking people’s minds into thinking that your product is a must (regardless of this being accurate or not).

I mean, we can live without Instagram. But I personally don’t want to live without Instagram.

There is a phenomenon called ‘’fear of missing out’’ (FOMO).

Apparently, people tend to rush for things that might help them gain recognition and approval.

A TikTok song becoming a trend or downloading an app just because the people you like downloaded it can be examples of FOMO.

If you manage to make your product become a ‘’limited edition must-have’’, I promise you that you will have a nice rise in your revenue rates.

As for proof:

Gmail was an invite-only platform before it opened to public use.

growth strategies for startups - FOMO

It had features that made emailing easier, such as better categorizing and easier access to files and replies.

So it stood out.

It was a great fit for the market, and people wanted to use it.

Most importantly, people wanted to become sone of the first users of the platform, so that they could choose their account names before someone else did. They didn’t want to miss out such an opportunity.

It became so popular that people started to sell Gmail invitations on eBay.

No wonder how Gmail escalated so quickly.

#7 – Be undeniable

The most difficult part of marketing a startup is making people believe that your product is ‘’the’’ product for them. The competition among companies and startups gets heated up every second; therefore, people feel the need to do more research and be sure that yours is the one.

I myself read every comment before even watching a movie.

Disappointment is not even a choice anymore.

But the COVID-19 made comfortable clothing undeniable.

Netflix made easy access to high-quality movies and series undeniable.

Zoom made easy video conferencing undeniable.

As for proof:

A surprising and fascinating use of FOMO is Monzo. Monzo is a web-based banking system in the UK.

The demand for Monzo cards became so high, thanks to the virality, that people had to wait for long times to get theirs.

Monzo could have lost half of those people if it weren’t for the hack that made waiting in a queue something fun:

growth strategies for startups - be undeniable

See, people knew how many people were behind and in front of them, along with being able to jump up in the queue by sharing the product on social media.

So, instead of waiting in the unknown, people saw how much the product was demanded and felt like they made the right choice.

The free advertisement became the spice of the increasing number of customers of Monzo.

#8 – Send personalized emails

The heading is pretty self-explanatory, I think.

Letting people that might use your product or people who you mentioned in your posts know that you recognize them will both increase your credibility and the chance of them telling people about you and your work.

As for proof:

Brian Dean, internationally recognized SEO expert and founder of Backlinko, shared some of the emails he sent and the replies.

growth strategies for startups - send personalized emails
growth strategies for startups - send personalized emails and get replies

His methods made him become featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc., and HuffPost.

What else is there to say?

#9 – Know your audience

If you go to a grocery store, you don’t expect to buy a car. If you go to Krispy Creme, you don’t expect to buy chicken fries.

If you try to sell your product to a crowd that isn’t looking for it, you’re not gonna sell it.

As for proof:

Hubspot.

A B2B SaaS company that literally any SaaS business needs.

They have a vast amount of diversity in their blog. 

But everything is related to SaaS one way or another.

They know their audience.

And they have built a SaaS empire with 113,000 customers in 120 countries.

#10 – Post content

This is actually a golden rule of marketing, especially for startups whose target audience is the newer generations.

Post content. Either on a blog or social media, long or short. Just make sure people know that you exist.

3.96 billion people use social media.

My 12-year-old sister uses social media.

My 70-year-old granny uses social media.

It’s not a secret that CEOs, investors, founders, and marketers are on social media too.

As for proof:

growth strategies for startups - use social media

My favorite person to mention, Elon Musk, is on social media, and he’s rocking Twitter.

I knew his tweets way before I knew him, and now the only electric car I know is Tesla.

#11 – Use more than one source of publication

If you have a blog, you need people to know about your blog. Those people need to be people who like reading things.

If you have a youtube channel, you need to build an audience who likes visual material.

If you have a strong Linkedin account, big people will be more likely trust you.

But not all those people use the same platform. Why not reach out to them?

As for proof:

Harry Dry is the founder, developer, marketing manager, and everything else of Marketing Examples.

With 0 contenting or marketing experience prior to his website, Harry managed to get 50k subscribers to his newsletter in a year and a half.

He shared some of the communities and sources that he uses:

growth strategies for startups - use more than one platform

He says that Twitter and Linkedin are his top 2 platforms to get new subscribers.

Then he adds, ‘’twitter became a success because not many people were using Twitter for marketing.’’

You might wanna start before it becomes just a common thing, like Facebook ads.

#12 – Use a logo in/on your product

This one is actually a broad method to combine a few strategies I mentioned before, but make it cost-efficient.

Especially photo editing apps, mass mailing products, side products, in summary, most SaaS products use their logo on the final product.

This doesn’t only awake curiosity in people’s minds that are exposed to the logo but also gains you recognition.

In other words, take the giveaway stickers, make them digital, and use them just like Hotmail used their catchline.

As for proof:

I always wondered what Salesforce was because I saw the logo under almost every website I knew.

growth strategies for startups - use a logo

Also, the Remax posters can be a great example. Even without knowing what Remax’s ARR is, it’s impossible to not see the Remax posters at any corner.

The increasing number of posters means an increasing number of customers.

#13 – Conduct a partnership, or at least integrate with popular platforms

Two heads are mostly better than one. 

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

Henry Ford

If you’re not rewriting an entire market, there are probably platforms that can make your (and their product) fly up to the moon.

Think of it like getting a helping hand from someone who has the same struggles as you, or in some cases, who has more experience than you.

As for proof:

The best example for this strategy is, indubitably, Slack.

Some” of Slack’s integrations are:

  • Simple Poll
  • GrowthBot
  • Troops
  • Marker
  • Giphy
  • Diggbot
  • Tettra
  • Google Drive
  • Google+ Hangouts
  • Statsbot
  • Tomatobot
  • Monkey Test It
  • Lunch Train
  • Trello

And so on… 

#14 – Cause a breakthrough and get written about

This one is similar to going viral, but the means that you go viral are a bit different.

Instead of getting people to talk about you, you can get the press to talk about you.

It’s not easy to become a good quality news material.

But major ideas cause major events, resulting in major outcomes.

As for proof:

Peak games is a Turkey-based game company (yes, the country Turkey, not the deli turkey).

They launched a video, simultaneously on 42 of Turkey’s most-watched tv channels.

Even though they got sued because the commercial was too similar to Audi’s ‘’safety code’’ commercial, the idea is genius.

#15 – Cringy may sound bad, but people like it

Another self-explanatory heading.

You know they say ‘’there is no such thing as bad publicity.’’

I kinda agree, not totally. Hear me out:

Since the amount of content on the internet is just out of control, people tend to like or dislike things according to the determination of the crowd. If the general public marks one thing as ‘’cringe’’, there might not be a way back.

But;

People post their own reactions on ‘’how cringy the trend or product is’’, and people just want to go and see it for themselves. 

So they become more exposed and familiar with it.

The more you are exposed to something, the more you normalize and want it.

As for proof:

TikTok. No one liked TikTok at the beginning. The concept was amazing, but the content was ‘’cringy’’

But something happened over time, and now Instagram has its own version of TikTok: Reels.

My brother who hated Tiktok now wants to become a TikTok influencer.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the power of being exposed to something for a long time.

Conclusion

Anyone who has marketing experience knows that marketing can be overwhelming.

If you’re a newbie to marketing, let me tell you, there is a great chance that it’s gonna be overwhelming.

Convincing people requires strong nerves.

Even wars are won with preparation, so, being prepared is essential when you are about to do something difficult.

Thank goodness it’s 2022 and we have major successes, comebacks, and failures to learn from.

Combine 2 or 3 of the strategies I listed above and I can guarantee you that your nerves won’t hate you.


Frequently Asked Questions


How much should a startup spend on marketing?

Younger companies (up to 5 years old) should spend 12-20% of gross revenue on marketing, and others should commit 6-12%.


When should you start marketing a startup?

When your product is tested and has a smooth UX, when you can measure, learn, and repeat your KPI rates, you are ready to start marketing.


How to build a startup marketing plan?

  • Step #1: Design and decide on your strategy.
  • Step #2: Reach out to your target audience through various channels.
  • Step #3: Measure the outcome of your marketing strategies, along with your product.

15 fundamental startup marketing strategies, examples, and ideas

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Hilal Yıldırım

I’m UserGuiding’s growth-obsessed creative content writer and junior journalist. I like to research and write about growth, onboarding, and inbound marketing. If you feel like we could exchange ideas, feel free to reach out via LinkedIn or email! P.S. If I don’t respond, please know that I’m on a road trip with my camera and motorbike.

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