Startup marketing is a big challenge for most startups because of limited resources: time, money or talent. Your marketing strategy depends on several factors,  including product, market and the business model.  But ultimately, marketing strategy implementation comes down to the money.

Your budget dictates the strategy. If you have limited budget, you should be looking for almost  all the free strategies that converts and works best for your industry. Better still, if you have the money, you should be focusing on the marketing strategies that have proven successful for some of the best startups.

How much can you afford to spend on your startup marketing strategy?

At the end of the day, it all comes down to the money. Remember that while inbound marketing leads cost 61% less than outbound marketing leads, they are not free. Set a budget early in the game and accept that limitation.

“57% of startup marketing managers are not basing their marketing budgets on any ROI analysis.”

More importantly, carefully plan how you intend to divide that budget. Maybe your blog has been your most powerful tool to date and you want to invest 40% of the budget on it. Or maybe you want to spend 35% of the budget to develop a new eBook or online course. Just be sure you have the logistics settled before you start spending (or you might just lose your hat).

More reading: The Ultimate Guide to Startup Marketing

Differentiation is your marketing!

4. People buy the benefit – not the feature

The secret sauce of the PR industry is that remarkable things get remarked upon. If you want to earn word of mouth and have the press, your customers, and whoever else talking about your startup, you must give them something remarkable.

Various studies predict we see between 1,000 – 5,000 advertisements per day depending on where we live. How do you compete and stand out with your marketing in such a saturated space?

The answer is by being the shepherd, not a sheep.

Related: The Smartest Product Launch Strategy You Should Be Using

Our brain categorises similar pieces of information together, a process known as Gestalt. Because of this, the more of a similar thing we see, the less impact each additional thing has. When Lady Gaga wore a dress made of meat it made headlines all over the World. When others copied her quirkiness, hardly anyone talked. This pattern has repeated itself millions of times over.

This is not about first-mover advantage; this is about observing what everyone else is, and being the opposite. Apply this from the most macro aspect of your strategy down to the micro, and you’ll be amazed at how significant this is.

More reading: The Ultimate Startup Marketing Strategy

Be purposeful.

In order to establish yourself as a thought leader, be purposeful in your strategy. Don’t do something just to check a box. Before you decide to jump on an initiative, take a step back to evaluate the following:

(1) Does the initiative help establish credibility for your brand?

(2) Will you be reaching influencers and decision makers?

(3) How you will measure success?

This mentality helps to frame future marketing decisions, leading to more successful efforts overall.

Use trial and error, then scale.

When executing new initiatives, embrace the process of trial and error. Carefully watch the results of the initiative, and if it works, double down. If it doesn’t work, tweak it, try again, and drop it if it ultimately doesn’t work. This tactic has been used by many of the panel participants to reach and/or expand their customer base, but it certainly applies to marketing and PR initiatives as well.

More reading: 4 Key Marketing Strategies from the Startup World

Create exceptional content

Don’t start your content strategy with what can we create? Start with what would be amazing? You’ll find a way to create it.

1. Create tools of self-expression: No matter what your platform does, users should be able to create something there which they would want to spread. A user may not want to spread the word about your platform but would definitely want to spread the word about what she created on it. E.g. YouTube grows every time a video goes viral because users personally invest in marketing it.

This is marketing that scales with adoption and super-effective. Kickstarter and Change.org allow users to spread their cause to the whole world. Users are vested in marketing it. Forget gamification, forget viral design… there is no bigger incentive for users than the ability to spread their creations, beliefs and causes in a manner that wasn’t possible before.

2. Content marketing is amazing free marketing: Blog away like the guys at BufferGrooveQuicksprout, and not about your product, just anything that your target market would want and that would make them want to explore the product.

Mint.com went around this is in a more planned manner and undertook several content marketing tactics during the pre-launch phase including writing a very high quality personal finance blog which ultimately became the #1 blog on personal finance in the US.

More reading: How Your Startup Can Acquire The First 100K Users With $0 (or Minimal) Marketing Budget

3. Give away downloadable content.  Provide downloadable case studies. Quick content idea tip: monitor Quora about hot topics in your niche and put together content piece about it. Your company blog is a place where you can instantly appreciate your customers – tell their story, good case study or simply post a thank-you note. Check out Buffer, KISSmetrics and Hubspot blogs. Write detailed answers to Quora questions in your sector. There really is no better way to show off what your product can do than with a case study.

More reading: 40 Actionable Growth Hacking Ideas Successful Startups Are Using

The inbound marketing funnel

inbound marketing funnel

Create a sustainable social marketing strategy

5. Tell memorable stories! Facts don’t usually trigger a response from readers. That’s because they’re hard to remember and even harder to relate to. But if you can get readers to empathize with a story, then it becomes easier for them to respond to your call to action.

6. Visual marketing is winning. Sharing photos is still the best way to get interaction.  Photos are more visible than sharing a link and take up more space in the newsfeed than any other type of post. —Andrea Vahl, co-author of Facebook Marketing All-in-One for Dummies.

7. Get your fans involved in product decisions. As close to the product launch as possible, ask your fans for their input.  Create a sense of urgency by sharing that you are making a final decision shortly and need their input now.  If appropriate, include photos of the possible choices. —PJ Jonasowner of Goat Milk Stuff, podcaster.

8. Tell, don’t sell! Social media is most powerful when you use it to tell personal stories, not to sell your products.  Consider your humble beginnings, your personal leadership characteristics, customers who have overcome obstacles, employee challenges, community or charity partnerships. Look at your employees, products, or customers, and identify a story people will want to talk about, and disseminate it across social media. —Dave Kerpen, chairman of Likeable Media and now founder of offshoot Likeable Local.

More reading: 12 Experts Reveal Their Social Marketing Ideas That Actually Work

Make it Easy to do Anything

This particular hack can take many forms but the idea behind it is that you should offer no roadblocks in doing anything useful within your app, this includes:

  • Unsubscribing
  • Signing Up
  • Upgrading/Downgrading Plans
  • Contacting Support
  • Finding documentation

Making our customers lives easier reduces our need to support for various situations, which means we can spend more time on growth.

More reading: 16 Growth Hacks That Helped Gleam Grow Their Business By 200% (Without Any Press)

 Incorporate human emotion in all your marketing practices

Psychologist Robert Plutchik discovered eight basic, primary emotions that guide all behaviors: joy, trust, fear, surprise, sadness, anticipation, anger and disgust. These emotions are product-agnostic, and over time, establish brand-to-consumer relationships that transcend traditional boundaries of engagement.

The question is, which emotions should marketers target, and how do they solicit these emotions? Elbert outlines the following correlations in emotion with user behavior:

  • Intrigue and mystery – creates a curiosity that drives initial exploration and clicks; important for advertising and emails
  • Desire and aspiration – stokes consideration; helpful for site imagery, product pages and lookbooks
  • Urgency and fear – provokes a feeling of missing out, which triggers a purchase
  • Surprise and laughter – drives sharing, as seen through April Fool’s Day

More reading: Startup Marketing And How Emotion Drives Customer Action

Your team is arguably one of your biggest marketing tools.

Their passion for what your startup is doing is called evangelism. Use it to your advantage. Send your team out into the world excited to tell your startup’s story to anyone they meet. But don’t stop there. Ride the buzz from a trending topic by writing a blog post on it or creating a video about it. Run a contest around a major holiday to drum up some hype. Be sure you’re not overlooking any marketing resources, big or small.

More reading: The Ultimate Guide to Startup Marketing