Marketing for startups: a three-step guide to creating your strategy

Creating a marketing strategy for a startup

Building a new business from scratch is exciting. You’ve put time and effort into creating your product or service, and now you need to make sure your market is as excited as you are.

In this three-step guide, we cover the essential components of creating a successful marketing strategy that will help you grow your startup and get the attention of the right people: your ideal customers.

The basics: messaging, buyer personas and positioning

Before you start thinking about marketing tactics, you need to build a solid foundation for your brand and messaging. This is a step many startups skip, which, along with a lack of user research and market demand, can be a reason 9 out of 10 startups fail.

After ensuring there's a demand for your product, get clear on these fundamental questions before you start planning your marketing strategy:

  • Who are you helping? Before you start marketing your product, you need to define your target audience. And within your target audience, go further and identify your different buyer personas.

  • What problems are you helping your customers solve? What are the pain points and challenges that you offer a solution to? Take care to define this thoroughly; getting this one right will determine whether your marketing message resonates with your ideal customer or falls flat.

  • How are you helping your customers? It’s no coincidence that we’re talking about the how after the who and the what. Starting with the how is a classic startup mistake that will set you up for failure. As tempting as it is to dive into the details of your product, the harsh truth is that nobody will care unless you first answer every prospect’s most important question: "what’s in it for me?"

Once you have the answers to these three questions figured out, it's much easier to craft compelling marketing messages that effectively resonate with your ideal customers. This provides the framework for any startup's successful marketing strategy.

A three-step guide to marketing for startups

Here's our framework for an effective marketing strategy for your startup. Think of it as the foundation you can build upon and add to as you scale, bringing in new tactics such as email nurturing and other marketing automation.

But get these three steps right first and your future marketing team will thank you...

1. Your website

  • Get your SEO right from the start
  • Optimize your site for lead generation
  • Blog and guest blog

2. Social media marketing

  • Choose the right channels
  • Provide value
  • Interact with your audience and with influencers
  • Experiment with ads

3. Customer ambassadors

  • Create systems for referrals
  • Leverage testimonials and case studies

1. Your website

To get your startup's marketing strategy underway, the first thing you need to focus on is optimizing your website.

With great search engine optimization (SEO), landing pages optimized for conversions, and a blog to drive traffic and build trust, your website will become a marketing machine in its own right.


- Get your SEO right from the start

Pay attention to SEO at the beginning of your startup's journey and you'll reap the rewards later.

Make sure you identify which keywords your prospects are looking for online so that you can start building your site and your content to rank for them.

Tools like Ahrefs or SEMrush are great for this purpose and can be used both for checking which keywords your competitors use and for auditing and improving your site.


- Optimize your site for lead generation

Once a visitor lands on your site, make sure there’s a next step for them to take. Offer something of value to your visitors to incentivize them to leave their contact details.

If you're stuck for ideas, a download of a white paper or free trial of your service are classic and effective lead magnets. Once you have their email, you can keep marketing to each prospect and nurture them down your sales funnel with automation and personalization.


- Blog and guest blog

Did you know that a B2B buyer on average consumes 13 (!) pieces of content from a provider before deciding to purchase?

To build trust with your prospects, it’s essential to showcase your expertise and build credibility by publishing useful and valuable content on your website.

Guest blogging on other sites is also a cost-efficient way to drive traffic and get exposure.


2. Social media marketing

Once you have your website in good shape, social media is the next arena to conquer. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of options, so where should a startup begin?


- Choose the right channels

Where does your target audience like to hang out online? If you target Gen Z kids, then maybe TikTok is the place to be. And if you’re selling a B2B product? Then LinkedIn is probably a better channel.

Choosing your channels thoughtfully with your key personas in mind will help you create more targeted messaging and avoid spending time on channels where ROI is low.


- Provide value

When you’ve chosen your channels and platform, it’s time to consider what to publish. Your guiding star should be to help, not to sell. In social media, people tend to filter out or block anything that feels too salesy.

Aim for content that is either educational, inspiring or entertaining, depending on your product and your target audience.


- Interact with your audience and influencers

There’s a reason social media is called social media. These are not platforms for one-sided communication; one of the keys to success is interaction.

Always respond to questions and comments as soon as you can, and interact with the influencers in your industry to build relationships and awareness of your startup.


- Experiment with ads

Advertising can be tricky to maneuver, so starting small to avoid spiraling costs is usually a good idea. Start by targeting the most low-hanging fruit and experiment to see what works.

Trial and error is often the best way to go, starting with minimal spend and amping up only when you begin to see real results.

3. Customer ambassadors

- Create systems for referrals

The best marketing you can get is happy clients recommending you to their peers. It’s the type of marketing that is the most trusted, the most effective and the least costly.

Start building processes for referrals into your funnel from the beginning, such as offering current clients incentives for referring new sign-ups.


- Leverage testimonials and case studies

Social proof is gold in marketing. 92% of people trust recommendations from a peer, and 70% of people will trust a recommendation from someone they don’t even know.

Testimonials and case studies are highly effective ways to leverage happy customer stories at scale, and well worth the investment. A well-written case study is one of the most influential pieces of marketing content you can produce and can be leveraged in all stages of the sales funnel.

Start early to collect testimonials from happy customers and write case studies describing how your product is helping them. (You can check PieSync's Customer Stories for some inspiration!)

Preparing to scale: experiment, measure and iterate

When building a marketing plan for your startup, be prepared to continually experiment, measure and iterate.


Traditional marketing campaigns are a dying breed. Today, the most successful businesses are the ones who are continually tweaking and adapting, allocating funds where they get the most bang for their buck. Being agile and adapting is vital.


It's also important to get your core KPIs in place early on in your startup's marketing journey. These should be closely aligned with your overall company metrics (and stay that way as your startup scales).

Choose a few important KPIs to focus on and visualize these transparently and accurately on reporting dashboards. These can include:

  • Number of marketing leads by channel
  • Conversion rate by channel
  • Cost of acquisition per channel

To get quality data that informs actionable insights, avoid getting swamped by vanity metrics that don't matter, sync data between your apps and create a culture of data integrity in your business for optimal accuracy.


Don't fall into the sunk cost fallacy trap: you can always pivot away from what's not working, and often a startup should do just that.

To be able to learn from your experimenting, make sure to document what you’re doing and the money you’re spending on different channels. This way, new hires in your team won’t have to reinvent the wheel, and you’ll be able to track your expenses and measure ROI.

Remember to start by defining who you are you helping, what you are helping them with and how you’re doing it.

When you have your story and messaging in place, it’s time to move on to the channels you use to communicate it: including your website, social media, and customer-generated content such as case studies.

If you follow these steps, you will have an excellent foundation for a marketing strategy for your startup. To help your future marketing team, don’t forget to document your results to keep learning and tracking performance along the way.

To get your startup in the best position for quality customer data now and as you scale, use PieSync to connect your apps. Create seamless two-way syncs between your CRM, email marketing app, customer support software and other key apps for reliable and up-to-date customer data everywhere.

Get started with a 14-day free trial of PieSync to sync contact data between all of your apps now.

About Lucy Fuggle

Lucy Fuggle writes for PieSync, the two-way contact sync tool for hundreds of apps. She also works with her clients to make their brand matter with a content-rich marketing strategy.