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Startup Marketing Strategies and Tactics

by bjcook Founding Gooru(October 2008) (rank 20th)

Startups are volatile entities that shift and change with the ebb of the economic flow. Many startups lack in the areas of "How do we make money?" and "How do we build critical mass?" Two questions that usually 1 or 2 people at a startup are tasked with figuring out while the designers and developers plug away building the product. And the easy answer is ... well, there isn't one. Unless you've got great connections and access to a network of partnerships through your Founders, Angels or VC; you're in the same boat like the rest of us. How can we get the word out about our product so we can generate revenue from advertising or some type of freemium model? So, I wanted to share some things that I've actually planned and executed that have worked so far.

If you want people to come, forget about the Field of Dreams and get real. Build a plan that identifies who the stakeholders are from customers, staff, influencers, decision makers, ambassadors and so on. Know who you are creating messages for. Learn about the little things that make the tick. Understand your audience. Next, identify the channels (I'll stick to online since this is an online community) that can connect your message to your audience's ear. Maybe it's SEO, maybe it's this thing called social media that everyone is trying to figure out how to measure or maybe it's buying sponsored placement on a niche website. Whatever it is, here is a list of strategies and tactics that might help you out. I'm only listing things I've actually implemented and that have shown a positive return.

Drive Member or Customer Acqusition:

SEO - This is your bread and butter, long-term foundation that will propel your CPA down and ROI up. Find your core keywords, create a theme for your website and devise a list of keywords to build from and integrate them into each page. Don't forget the long tail, the more keywords, the better chance someone might find what they're looking for.

Link Development, Link Building - So you've optimized your website. That's good, but you're not done. Identify sites that are relevant to what you're doing and build inbound links using your targeted keywords. I find the best way is to talk to people, bloggers and writers about your product and see if they'll write a post. Maybe in exchange for some cross promotion, they'll use your keywords in the anchor text that link to your website. Don't forget about those old school web directories. Also, a little gold nugget, build some social bookmarking links to the blog posts about you using your target keywords, reinforce the theme.

Online PR - This is where most of your time will be spent. Find the people who are interested about your product or subject matter and connect with them. Create conversations and better yet, invest the time to add value to their research by providing them with data. These are key relationships down the road as you launch new features, but don't inundate them with bug fixes and micro upgrades. Give them the good stuff before you announce it. It's two way street out there now, so you got to give to receive. To support that SEO tactic, build an optimized press release, send it out via some online news wire, add it to your site, link to it via social bookmarks; extend your online market share.

Social Media - This lovely channel is where you need to invest the time connecting with the people who can someday be brand ambassadors for your cause. Sign up on Twitter and get into the conversation, do a video on, create a Facebook group or app, build a Myspace page, signup on StumbleUpon, get in Digg, etc. BUT ... identify if your audience is even on any of these websites. If not, don't waste your time, unless you're going to through the process of educating current members/customers or creating new markets for yourself within each of these networks. Classic ... bulletin boards, chat rooms, forums. This is where it all started.

Advertising - Most startups don't have enough funds to buy beer let alone invest in Paid Search, Media Buys, Sponsored Links or sponsorship placement in newsletters, blogs and other websites. If you do, be smart, build a media plan. I won't get into that process here, but I'm sure there are some great planners on here with access to tools like Comscore, Nielsen and so on.

Blogging - I'll extend this to be not only setting up your own blog, but also commenting on others' blogs. If you want any traction on your blog, you need to get it exposure and the best way is to get out there and add value to other blogs. Take your time, don't just banket random comments around the blogosphere. Quality over quantity. This also provides great PR and some good pull marketing. Develop goals for your blog, measure it like any other tactic. Be authentic, have your own unique voice. I feel good ole transparency goes a long way. If you want to build subscribers, people need to feel like they want to read more and know when to expect you to launch your next post. Not all of us have the time to sit each day and write blog posts like a thesis. So get yourself on a schedule, plan out what you're going to write about, invite some guest bloggers, interview some people via email and post it. A blog is a great way to build brand equity and engagement with your target audience.

So now that you've got some community members or customers, what do you do now?

Build Member and Customer Retention:

Experience - Obviously the first thing is the experience people have with your product. If it's bad you can guarantee that they're leaving and you'll need to pay double to market to them again and win them back. If it's great, well, then they'll probably become an evangelist for you and help you grow your revenue through them. We all know the classes customer relationship model.

Content - If you're focused on advertising revenue, you better have fresh content going up everyday on that website. People crave fresh content to consumer and sometimes can't consume enough. The more content, the more pages, the more impressions for that CPM.

Widgets - Everyone calls these something else, but let's say it includes badges, buttons, Javascript doodads; let your members and customers help you promote by giving them the tools. I believe that Gooruze has a couple of these that you'll find on blogs and websites.

Email - Cultivate those relationships with customers and members by connecting with them each month. Let them know what you're up to, what to expect or even ask them for feedback. If customers are key to you, send them links to white papers and resources that can help them make an easier purchase decision. Monthly newsletters are a great tool. Another great thing that I did was took the time to personally email 5 people a day that signed up as customers or community members. If you want to show people that you wouldn't be there without them, then show them by reaching out.

Feedback - As the CMO of, we prided ourselves on customer feedback and making it easy for companies to capture, manage and respond to feedback. Find a way to give your customers, staff and members a way to provide you with their ideas. It takes the guesswork out of what people want to see next. They'll just tell you.

There are some other things you can do like contests, affiliate marketing, RSS, but the core is above. Please feel free to add to this list your own startup marketing strategies. In a time like this, sharing with each other can only help us succeed and grow past the current economic downturn. Good luck, test, test, measure, measure and smile when it goes as planned.


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Related keywords: acqusition, bjcook, customer, marketing, start-up, startups, strategies, tactics

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Re: Startup Marketing Strategies and Tactics


November 2009

these days it seems acceptable not to have a business model from the outset, look at twitter, their flying high and still dont know how they'll make money!

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Re: Startup Marketing Strategies and Tactics


May 2009

thanks loanfast! Have you implemented any of the tactics above?

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Re: Startup Marketing Strategies and Tactics

5.00 (Excellent) Vote: WOW! WOW! WOW! WOW! WOW!

February 2009

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