Launching an Illinois Startup
Are you ready to launch your own successful startup company in 2023? Keep reading or use the links below to find a specific section in our startup guide.
Keep reading to learn more about starting a startup in Illinois, or simply have a professional service form your startup for you:
Form a Startup with Northwest ($29 + State Fees)
Note that forming a corporation is recommended for startups, especially those seeking outside investors, while forming an LLC is recommended for small businesses that do not plan to raise outside investment. You can learn more about which legal structure is right for you by reading our guide, Should I Form an LLC or Corporation for My Startup?
1. Assess Your Entrepreneurial Skills
Launching a startup is not for the weak at heart.
Starting and growing any business takes dedication. Launching a startup takes even more.
Although there are numerous types of entrepreneurs, there are a number of common characteristics often attributed to startup founders. Some of the most important entrepreneur characteristics include:
- Willing to take risks
Illinois has several advantages to offer entrepreneurs planning to start a startup in the state, such as:
- Close proximity to large markets
- Skilled workforce
Launching an Illinois startup is probably going to involve you doing a lot of learning. But, don’t worry. There are a lot of resources to help you along your entrepreneurial journey. Here are some great learning resources for aspiring startup owners in Illinois:
- Illinois Innovation Network - The Illinois Innovation Network aims to connect entrepreneurs with services and resources that will help them start and grow their businesses.
- SBDC Illinois - The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) provides resources for entrepreneurs and small businesses to learn about starting, growing, and maintaining their businesses.
- Small Business Advocacy Council - This is a nonprofit organization that aims to support small businesses through political advocacy, support programs, and educational services.
- Starting Your Business in Illinois Handbook - This handbook, provided by the Illinois Department of Commerce, outlines the necessary steps and information entrepreneurs need to know to start a business in the state.
Recommended: Are you ready to create an Illinois startup and become an entrepreneur? Take the Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out! You can also visit the Startup Savants podcast to gain insights and advice from founders themselves.
2. Develop Your Startup Idea
If you are looking for startup ideas for your business in Illinois, one of the first places to begin your search is by looking at what you already know. Keep in mind, however, you are not limited to your current skill set. For example, there are many tech startup founders that are non-technical.
Most often, startup ideas are developed from solving a problem. Whether it is a problem you personally struggle with or one you have identified that could use an alternate solution, forming your startup’s product or service around an identified problem can help you not only develop your minimum viable product (MVP), it can also help you find your target market before you get started.
Illinois boasts a wide range of popular, successful industries and startup sectors, from farming to developing innovative medicines. Some of the significant industries in Illinois are:
- Agriculture — General Mills, Sara Lee, and Del Monte are just a few of the food giants that produce their products in Illinois. With over 75,000 farms across the state, the opportunity for agriculture-focused startups is immense.
- Biotech — A long time contributor in biotechnology advancements, Illinois is still a strong leader in innovative medicines, medical devices, nutritional products, and environmental solutions.
- Advanced Manufacturing — With advanced manufacturing giants such as Boeing and John Deere located in the state, Illinois has a large and impressive manufacturing sector that provides opportunities for both businesses and skilled workers.
- Energy — One of Illinois’s major exports is coal, providing an energy source for states across the US. Additionally, Illinois’s energy sector has grown immensely as the demand for clean energy has increased.
Recommended: TRUiC’s free business ideas generator allows you to explore a curated list of business ideas according to your interests and capabilities with just three easy steps.
Analyze the Industry Landscape and Develop Your Idea
Before you launch a startup in Illinois, analyze the state of the industry landscape, including the:
- Funding environment
- Market size
- Competitive landscape
- Market structure
- Market size and demographics
- Projected growth
The goal of doing this is to establish whether there is ample opportunity within the industry to support your entrepreneurial goals.
An effective tool to establish market potential for your startup is studying Illinois demographic information provided by the most recent Illinois census. For example, if you’re developing a product that is geared toward younger people, you know the percentage of the population that is under 18 years old in Illinois is roughly 22%.
Validate Your Startup Idea
Now that you’ve got a basic understanding of your industry, competitors, and the industry’s projected growth, your next step is to validate your startup idea and solidify your MVP.
There are a few ways to validate your startup idea:
- Conduct interviews with customers you think might buy this product. Ideally, you will be able to use this insight to refine your unique value proposition or target audience, if necessary.
- Use tools and software available to discover, organize, and learn from industry and market data. Some popular tools are Statistica, Think With Google, KNIME, and PickFu.
- Utilize online startup communities, startup incubators, or startup accelerators in Illinois to network with other entrepreneurs that can help with brainstorming and fine-tuning startup ideas.
- Establish the product-market fit and, in turn, market validation.
Recommended: Looking for more inspiration to help you launch your Illinois company? Check out our list of the top startups to watch!
3. Create Your Startup Roadmap
Whether you begin with an informal or formal business plan, the process of writing your business plans down requires you to think through all of the key elements of your Illinois business such as industry, market, and competitive position.
There are many different types of business plans, depending on the stage of your venture and the purpose of your business plan. In the earliest stages of your business idea, you may want to start with an informal business plan such as:
- Business model canvas: Visualization of the key aspects of your Illinois venture, including customers, value proposition, infrastructure, revenue models, and cost models.
- Lean canvas: An adaption of the business model canvas. Visualizes your problem, solution, customers, value proposition, key performance indicators, and competitive advantage.
However, once you are ready to begin seeking investments, you will most likely be required to provide a formal business plan to lenders and potential investors.
A few business planning resources in Illinois include the following:
- State of Illinois Business Plan Workbook - This step-by-step guide is an extensive resource intended to help entrepreneurs write well-crafted business plans for their Illinois businesses.
- City of Chicago Business Plan Resources - The City of Chicago provides a list of helpful resources for business planning in the city and beyond.
Create a Pitch Deck
Before you secure funding as an early stage startup, there are a few things you need to have in place to increase the likelihood that your pitch is successful, whether you’re reaching out to angel investors or attempting to acquire a small business loan. The most important being your pitch deck. Crafting a compelling story is essential not only to the success of your startup in Illinois but also to creating an impactful pitch deck.
A startup’s pitch deck should include the following;
- An introduction to your startup
- Examples of problems or issues your startup aims to solve
- Examples of the solutions your product or service provides
- The size of the market and opportunity
- A clear description of your startup’s product or service
- An outline of the projected growth, major goals, and future steps
- An introduction to your core team members
- Define your competitors and establish your competitive advantage
- Prove your financial planning and management ability
- A description of how investment funds will be used and why you need them
4. Build Your Founding Team
Startups with two founders are 19% less likely to scale prematurely than startups with a solo founder. Research shows that aspiring entrepreneurs launching a startup without a co-founder take 3.6 times longer to see significant growth — enough to outgrow the volatile startup stage.
Despite these statistics, not all startup owners need a co-founder to be successful in their startup journey. Bringing on co-founders is all about filling important gaps to ensure all of the company’s needs are met, such as:
- Skills gaps
- Leadership experience
- Industry knowledge gaps
- Startup experience
- Fundraising experience
- Personality gaps
- Roles and responsibilities
- Anticipated roles (i.e., CEO)
- Expected capital contribution
- Equity or compensation
- Time commitment
Hire a Lawyer if Needed
The next step is learning how to find a great lawyer for your startup. What makes a good startup lawyer, essentially, is understanding the nuances of startups, such as establishing deal terms with venture capital firms and applicable business taxes.
Every company should build a relationship with a lawyer to help with all of the legal requirements associated with forming and operating a business. Not only will your lawyer be essential in ensuring that your startup in Illinois is legally formed without a hitch, they can help ensure that your business stays compliant if you plan to implement customized vesting schedules or share allocations.
To find a lawyer for your Illinois startup, you first need to establish your startup’s legal needs. Once you know this, you can move on to finding the right lawyer for your startup using these resources.
Network Network Network
Networking is one of the most impactful tools for startup entrepreneurs to grow and support their businesses. There are many different networking resources available to Illinois entrepreneurs, such as startup incubators, networking events, and local entrepreneur communities to make connections.
To develop the most impactful networking strategy, you need to connect with a wide range of people and resources, such as:
Another place many entrepreneurs turn to for advice is local SCORE mentor programs. SCORE is a network of more than 10,000 expert business mentors across the US that provides free mentoring to startup and small business owners. Find a mentor by visiting the Chicago SCORE website.
Some more startup networking resources in the state of Illinois include the following:
- 1871 - 1871 is a community-based hub for entrepreneurs to connect and grow their startups together. This organization offers networking opportunities as well as educational resources and tools for entrepreneurs.
- Illinois Incubators - A program by Illinois University, this network of incubators spans across Illinois with locations in major universities around the state. Each location aims to provide a space for startups to develop strong ideas and network with other founders, entrepreneurs, and experts.
- Entrepreneurs’ Organization: Chicago Chapter - This is a global network of over 14,000 business owners and founders. Access to this extensive network is available through a membership to the organization.
5. Formally Establish Your Illinois Startup
Name Your Startup
Naming your Illinois startup is a very important consideration. Choosing an optimal name depends on the type of business, industry, and target audience.
You can also search GoDaddy for available domain names:
Find a Domain Now
If the name you were hoping to use is already in use, you will have to come up with another. If you end up having trouble coming up with a name, here are a few tools that might help:
- How to Name a Startup: TRUiC’s How to Name a Startup guide discusses how to choose a name for your startup, register your startup’s name, and find a domain name for your business.
- Startup Name Generator: TRUiC's free Startup Name Generator makes selecting a unique startup name simple — just enter a couple of keywords and your industry.
- Business Name Generator: TRUiC’s free Business Name Generator allows you to search for available startup names by keyword, location, and industry.
Choose a Business Structure
One of the first things you will need to do to establish your startup in Illinois as an actual business is to choose your business structure (i.e., the legal form of your startup).
These are the main types of legal structures for startup ventures:
- Sole proprietorships and General Partnerships: informal business structures. In informal legal structures, the startup is considered an extension of the owners, and the owners bear the tax and liability burdens of the business.
- Limited liability companies (LLCs) and Corporations: two primary types of formal business structures. These forms of legal structures require registering your venture with the state as an independent entity. Because the venture is an independent entity from its owners, formal legal structures provide liability protection for the owners and unique tax benefits for the business.
Choosing the legal structure of your startup, in part, depends on:
- Whether you are launching your Illinois startup alone or with co-founders
- The stage and growth plans of the venture
The most popular corporate structure for startups with aspirations of high growth is the c corporation. This is because most investors prefer C corporations. A C corporation (C corp) has investor-friendly taxation rules, simple transfers of ownership, and natural exit strategies, and many angel investors and venture capitalists will not invest in ventures that are not incorporated.
For more information on establishing your Illinois business as a formal legal entity, read our comprehensive guide, How to Incorporate a Startup.
Considering Using an Incorporation Service?
Hiring a professional service will help simplify the formation process for you. Click below to check out our review of the best online incorporation services for startups!
Choose a Location
While some locations such as Silicon Valley have become synonymous with startup culture, generally the best location to start your startup is the state you’re already located in. Starting a business in a state other than the one you’re located in requires more complicated paperwork and complex tax requirements. However, if you’re thinking of starting your startup in a state other than Illinois, some states are more business-friendly than others.
For example, many founders choose to incorporate their startups in Delaware due to their immense business-friendly policies. Startups that form in Delaware are able to do business in other states and therefore bypass the state income tax — a huge tax advantage for any business. However, this isn’t the case in every state. We recommend consulting with a tax professional or attorney before deciding to do business in another state.
Choosing the right location to start your Illinois startup is crucial to its success. Illinois boasts several great places to start your business, whether it is an established startup hub or an up-and-coming locale that offers incentives for new startups.
- Chicago —Illinois’s biggest city is home to a multitude of startups with numbers continuing to grow. This is a hub for startups, tech, and innovation.
- Champaign — Routinely listed as a location to watch for startup growth, Champaign offers an educated workforce and opportunities for entrepreneurial success.
If you’ve chosen a physical location for your startup and understand the laws, regulations, and potential benefits of the state you’ll reside in, it’s time to start searching for office space. We'll help you decide the right office space for your startup based on the stage your company is at, its needs, and the many types of office spaces available with this guide to selecting and leasing a startup office.
If your Illinois startup is primarily run online, especially when it comes to ecommerce, your business website is most likely the lifeblood of your company. If you don’t currently have a website, consider building one or having one built for you. You can read more about business websites and their role in your startup’s branding in Step 8 below.
Create a Founder Employment Agreement and Vesting Agreement
Startup founders aren’t typically bound by severance agreements that would be applicable to other employees. Instead, founder employment agreements represent the legal agreement between the founder and company.
A vesting agreement is an agreement between the company and a shareholder (typically an employee) that provides restrictions for the shareholder’s ownership of the company. In short, the employee will not be granted their share until the vesting requirements are satisfied.
Formalize Advisory Agreement
If your Illinois startup chooses to involve advisors and equity is involved in the relationship, you will need to also formalize an advisory agreement. Essentially, this means that all the requirements and stipulations of the relationship between your company and the advisor are outlined, including terms of equity and confidentiality.
Startup advisors can be especially helpful during the beginning stages of startup ownership if you aren’t fully confident in a specific aspect of business ownership, such as legal and compliance requirements, marketing, or manufacturing. Additionally, startup advisors are helpful in making key introductions to help your Illinois startup grow as well as helping develop ideas and concepts for the company.
Depending on the type of startup you’re launching, there are two common methods for finding a startup advisor. For high-scale startups, investors (venture capitalists or angel investors, typically) are often great startup advisors. However, if you’re launching a business that doesn’t have high growth in mind, you can find startup advisors through resources such as Chicago’s SCORE or the Illinois Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
Create Cap Table and Issue Shares/Certificates
A capitalization table, otherwise known as a cap table, is a document (such as a spreadsheet) that outlines the equity capitalization of your startup company. The cap table outlines your startup company’s securities (e.g., stocks, warrants, certificates, etc.), who owns each security, and the percentage of ownership they have.
Next, you will want to issue shares or certificates of your company to each party based on the cap table you’ve created.
Establish Corporate Governance
Corporate governance is essentially the rules, regulations, and guiding principles that govern a company. Not only does the corporate governance provide much-needed structure to help the startup obtain its goals and objectives, it balances the needs of each company participant. From shareholders to employees and the community, corporate governance ensures every need is balanced and met.
Appoint a Registered Agent
A registered agent is an individual or entity who will receive documents and other legal communications on behalf of your startup.
We recommend hiring a professional registered agent service to help you stay compliant with the law and provide you with peace of mind.
Register Your Illinois Business With the IRS
It is recommended that one of the first things you should do is register your business with the IRS by obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN). An EIN is the IRS’s way to identify a business.
There are several reasons you may need an EIN for your Illinois business:
- EINs are required for many business structures such as corporations, partnerships, and multi-member LLCs.
- EINs are also required if you have any employees.
- Most banks require you to have an EIN to open a business bank account.
Register Your Business for Sales Tax
If you are selling a physical product, you’ll typically need to register for a seller's permit through Illinois’s My Tax website. A seller’s permit is required for businesses to pay sales tax in the state of Illinois.
Sales tax, or "Sales and Use Tax," is a tax charged by states, counties, and municipalities on the sale of certain taxable goods or services. Each state, and certain counties and municipalities, has its own set of rules and rates on what is taxable within that jurisdiction.
Obtain Permits and Licenses
In addition to registering your business, you will likely need to obtain a number of licenses and permits from your local, state, and federal government.
Federal Permits and Licenses
If your business falls under the regulation of any federal agency, you will likely need to obtain the appropriate permits from that agency. These include commercial activities in:
- Alcoholic Beverages
- Firearms, Ammunition, and Explosives
- Fish and Wildlife
- Commercial Fisheries
- Maritime Transportation
- Mining and Drilling
- Nuclear Energy
- Radio and TV Broadcasting
- Transportation and Logistics
For more information on federal licensing, visit the Federal Licenses and Permits page on the sba.gov website.
State Permits and Licenses
In order to do business legally in Illinois, you are required to obtain a business license through the Illinois's Business Services website.
To research additional required licenses and permits for your Illinois startup, use TRUiC’s Business License guide.
Local Permits and Licenses
Most businesses will need some kind of local license or permit to legally conduct business within their town, city, or county. These may include anything from occupancy permits and food and beverage permits to special permits and licenses for signage, lighting, and noise.
You will need to check with your county's office about the types of licenses and permits required.
Get Insurance for Your Illinois Startup
Most startups will need business insurance in one form or another. In Illinois, businesses with employees are required by law to have workers' compensation insurance and unemployment insurance. Other forms of insurance may be optional but are important to protect you and your company from disaster.
To learn more about the types of business insurance you may need, or search for our specific guides on business insurance recommendations in over 650 types of small businesses, make sure to read our Small Business Insurance guide.
Protect Intellectual Property (IP)
Protecting your Illinois startup’s competitive advantage means you need to obtain the proper patents, copyrights, and trademarks to ensure your intellectual property (IP) is protected. By registering ownership of intellectual property, you mitigate the risk of competitors utilizing the ideas, designs, or concepts that are protected.
Furthermore, developing a Founder Intellectual Property Assignment Agreement essentially transfers the founder’s IP rights to the company, allowing the startup to utilize the IP while still maintaining its protection. Since founders are typically also shareholders in the company, they still benefit financially from their IP.
6. Get Startup Funding
Startups require funding for a number of reasons. Startups often need capital to cover their initial expenses until they become profitable, and they need money again to expand, grow, build inventory, and even get through slow seasons.
When planning your business in Illinois, you should determine what types of business funding options your company will need and when. You need to be completely aware of startup costs and your financials and financial projections before seeking outside funding.
To know the right kind of funding for your startup, it is important to establish the stage of funding you’re at. With your expected startup costs in mind, does a small friend or family loan seem fitting? Or, do you expect rapid, sustainable growth that would be better suited to an investment from a venture capital firm? To answer these questions, get to know the various types of startup funding available.
The most common types of business funding are:
- Friends and Family Loans
- Business Loans
- Business Credit Cards
- Business Grants
- Angel and Venture Capital Investors
Keep in mind that your Illinois startup will require different funding sources during different stages of development. For example, during the seed stage, bootstrapping or friends and family loans may be the best funding choice. However, as your startup becomes more established and reaches the growth stage, a venture capitalist or angel investor are more likely to want to invest.
That isn’t the only factor you need to consider, however. The type of startup you’re operating also plays an important role in determining the right funding source.
The best way to meet potential investors is without a doubt networking and a warm introduction; the more you put yourself out there to get to know investors such as VC firms, the more likely you are to find funding.
There are also plenty of business resources in Illinois that can help you explore financing options and secure funding. Here are a few to consider:
- Illinois Business Financial Services (IBFS) - IBFS provides financial services for entrepreneurs through commercial lending, assisting with guaranteed loans, and express programs.
- Hyde Park Angels - Hyde Park Angels is a collective of entrepreneurs and investors that work together to grow the local economy by investing in the welfare of startup companies.
- Illinois Growth and Innovation Fund - Developed by the Illinois Treasurer Michael W. Frerichs, the Illinois Growth and Innovation Fund provides funding for startups using venture capital, growth equity, and private venture debt firms.
- Illinois Ventures - Illinois Ventures is a venture capital fund that chooses to invest in early-stage startups by providing seed funding as well as return-based investments in startups with potential for rapid growth.
7. Set Up Accounting for Your Startup in Illinois
Business accounting is an important (and required) aspect of operating a startup in Illinois. Accounting allows you to:
- Know how you are performing financially
- Track benchmarks and goals
- Know how much your startup is worth
There are a number of options for handling your business accounting, including hiring an in-house accountant, hiring a bookkeeper, using a payroll service, or using small business accounting software. However, no matter how you handle your Illinois startup’s accounting, you will need to have an accounting system in place.
Recommended: Schedule a consultation with a business accountant today to find out how much time and money your business could save on tax, payroll, and bookkeeping services.
8. Establish Your Startup's Brand
Just because you build an awesome product, service, or experience does not mean that customers are going to show up at your door. You are most likely going to need to find them first and let them know about your startup in Illinois. To generate startup success, you will need to build your brand identity.
Design a Logo
One of the first things you will need to do is to design a logo for your brand to begin building awareness and recognition. A well-designed logo helps people to identify and remember your brand and builds trust.
Build a Business Website
Every legitimate business needs a website. And sooner than later, your startup in Illinois is going to need its own website too.
If you have never built a website before, don’t worry. It is easier than ever, and TRUiC’s How to Build a Website guide walks you through it.
When choosing a website builder, there are many to choose from depending on your needs. Website builders like GoDaddy offer a multitude of features, functions, abilities, and applications based on your company’s needs.
One thing to keep in mind when designing and writing content for your website is your search engine optimization strategy. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of increasing your website traffic (and your brand) by designing your site’s content to rank higher in search engine results.
To learn more about how to implement SEO on your startup’s website, check out our beginner’s guide to SEO: How Do People Find Your Website - SEO 101.
Recommended: Build your startup website today with GoDaddy.
Establish a Social Media Presence
In addition to building a website, you will also likely need a social media presence to establish your brand identity and grow your startup in Illinois. Social media provides a way to reach, connect, and engage with customers and potential clients.
The most popular social media platforms include Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. However, additional platforms such as Yelp, Reddit, and Quora all have large followings of niche users. The social media platforms and strategy you choose to establish your startup will depend on the nature of your product or service and your target consumers.
To learn more about establishing your Illinois startup’s presence on social media, feel free to read our guide, How to Improve Your Startup's Social Media Strategy.
Distribute Press Releases
A press release is an official statement by your company written by you and distributed to the press to provide public knowledge and promote your Illinois business and brand.
9. Hire a Team
A company is only as strong as its team. Building a team that is passionate about what your company does, skilled at their jobs, and trustworthy is vital to the success of your startup in Illinois.
To begin, startups typically need to fill the following roles:
- Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
- Chief Operations Officer (COO) or Chief Technology Officer (CTO)
- Chief Financial Officer (CFO)
- Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) or Director of Marketing
- Product Manager or Designer
- Product Developer or Engineer
- Sales Manager
- Customer Service Representative
But, before you can hire for these essential roles, you need to solidify your startup mission statement to accurately describe your company’s purpose and values. Additionally, learning to write effective job descriptions helps parse out candidates that may not be a great fit for the role by providing them with accurate information about the job and your company.
Additionally, you can find state-specific employer resources for everything from the tax credits you’re eligible for to information about where and how to hire talented professionals on the Illinois Work Net website.
Once you’ve established the roles you need filled, the next step is to work towards finding the right candidates to make up your team. A few common methods for finding talented candidates to choose from are:
- Word-of-Mouth Recruiting
- Online Job Boards
- Recruitment Agencies
- Internal Hiring
Recommended: Find freelance talent with Fiverr.
Registering for Employer Taxes
In Illinois, if you have employees, there are two taxes you’ll need to register for in order to stay compliant with the state. You can register for both Unemployment Insurance Tax and Employee Withholding Tax through the state’s MyTax website.
Setting up Payroll
We have no doubt that your company is great; however, in addition to providing a great workplace, you will need to compensate employees for their time and efforts. If you have hired employees, you’ll need to set up payroll. Using a payroll service such as ADP makes issuing paychecks easy, saving you time and helping you navigate employee withholding taxes and state compliance requirements.
10. Launch and Scale Your Illinois Startup
The work doesn’t end at launch or after your first sale. You will then need to focus on carrying out your plan and growing your business in Illinois. This will require dedication, perseverance, and the willingness to seize opportunities to grow.
These opportunities might include expanding to new regions, seeking additional target consumers, or expanding your product or service offerings.
Opportunities for growth also might come along in the form of innovation, quality improvement, customer-focused development, and streamlining your business model.
Or, opportunities for growth might include internal growth factors such as building your entrepreneurial network, growing your team, and building a strong company culture.
Boost Your Startup Marketing
In order to start gaining more customers and grow your startup’s revenue, your team can build a marketing plan that’ll help guide you along the way.
When you have a solid marketing plan for your Illinois startup, you’ll know exactly who your target customers are, what marketing channels you’ll use to reach them, and the exact strategy your startup wishes to follow in order to boost your customer base.
A marketing plan should be the foundation of your startup’s marketing efforts and is intended to be the “guiding light” for your marketing strategy.
To begin, take note of all of your startup’s business-critical goals and what you’ll focus on in the near term. Ideally, you’ll want to make these SMART goals:
Once your goals have been identified, figure out who your target buyers are and what kind of compelling message you’ll use to draw your potential customers in. Having a clear, compelling message is critical in order to grab your future buyer’s attention.
After completing those initial steps, your team can begin implementing your marketing strategy and focusing on the marketing channels you believe will generate the largest return on investment (ROI). This can be content marketing, online advertising, PR campaigns, social media campaigns, and more.
Choosing the right marketing channels for your startup in Illinois can be challenging, but once you identify which channels bring in the best return on your investment, you’ll be able to leverage these channels further and scale up your marketing efforts.
Here are some popular startup marketing channels:
- Social Media: Whether through paid advertising or regular content publishing, social media is a great way to promote your Illinois startup’s products and services. Some examples of popular platforms to utilize are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and LinkedIn.
- Affiliate Marketing: Using affiliate marketing to sell more of your products and services is a great way to establish yourself as a trusted brand quickly. The first step is to compile a list of marketing materials that affiliates can use for their promotions, such as digital ads, emails, or landing pages.
- Loyalty Programs, Deals, and Coupons: A great way to bring customers back to your business in Illinois and get repeat sales. If one of your past customers loved your brand and the products or services you provided them in the past, a coupon or deal might tip them over the edge and bring them back.
- Sponsored Events: Sponsored events are another excellent strategy when it comes to getting your Illinois business in front of potential customers. Aligning yourself with events that are related to your business and getting your brand out there can pay dividends further down the road.
Create a Strategy to Motivate Growth
While growth can happen organically, you are more likely to reach your Illinois startup’s desired objectives if you create a strategy for growth. Once you’ve captured initial customers, expand your reach beyond early adopters and existing customers to establish a sustainable growth trajectory that includes tactics for both profitable and sustainable growth.
Start by asking yourself the following questions:
- If you plan to raise more funds in the future, what milestones will you need to hit in order to justify a new round of funding?
- How long will it take to get to the stage where you will need another funding round?
- What kind of “burn rate” is rational for your Illinois startup's expected growth and current operation needs?
Additionally, you will need to work toward not only understanding but improving unit economics such as:
- Payback period
- Customer retention rate
- Lifetime customer value (LCV)
- Customer acquisition cost (CAC)
These unit economics can be measured by channel, customer segment, and product line. By developing strong measurements to better track and understand this data, you’ll be able to more easily develop strategies to grow your customer base and product line as needed.
Recommended: Read our guide on How to Grow Your Business for tips on seeking and finding opportunities for growth.