Mon 30 May 2016 | By:

Get Your Business Running: Making a Marketing Plan for Startups

Making a Marketing Plan for StartupsMarketing and marketing for startups: they sound the same, right? Or at least similar?

The funny thing is… they’re not.

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners and society at large (thanks American Marketing Association!).

Marketing for startups is really just one thing: hustling. And that definition doesn’t make writing a marketing plan for startups easy. Here are 4 tips for creating a marketing plan for startups:


1) Plan short term

Many of Accelity’s clients begin with the desire to write a one-year marketing plan upfront. This is what I ask them:

“Why would you write a plan for a year when everything you know will change by then?”

Your startup will not be the same on day 1 as it is on day 365; in fact, it probably will be substantially different even by day 30. As you develop a product and do market research, you’ll learn that your target audience can be reached in some ways and not others. As an example, if you have a marketing plan on day 1 that revolves around social media and you learn that your audience simply isn’t there (unlikely, but it happens!), you have to scrap the entire plan.

We plan quarterly with our clients, and I suggest that every startup does the same. Then, when your marketing plan inevitably has to change, you’re simply refining every 90 days instead of starting over.


2) Less is more

One of my favorite activities is speaking to the Madworks Seed Accelerator about marketing for startups. Every time I’m there, I walk into the room and ask new, eager entrepreneurs about their marketing plans. Each founder typically has 5-10 ideas they want to try. It’s great to be motivated, but as a startup, you can’t do it all.

It’s simple: If you try everything, you’ll succeed at nothing. (Unless you have a giant budget to pour into marketing—wait, your company is a startup?—nevermind.)

My advice? Choose 2-3 marketing strategies to start and execute them to the fullest. Define your target for success and work toward it. For example, if your company has an email list, you may be shooting for X number of clicks, X number of leads and X number of conversions within 90 days.

If after 90 days you’re nowhere close to those goals, it’s time to abandon that plan and move on to another strategy. Startups typically don’t have time or money on their sides and hanging on to a strategy for too long, or trying to market in 8 ways, are both a waste of time.


3) Do it on the cheap

No startup should pay more than a small monthly fee for any marketing tool. We have a few clients that went through the Hubspot Jumpstart program, which offers Hubspot to the company at 90% off the list price for the first year. If your company meets the requirements, this is a great step as the platform allows companies to manage many marketing activities in one place. Other free or inexpensive tools include:


4) Don’t forget to hustle

One of the main things that I see founders forget in their marketing plan for startups is the hustle. Look in the mirror and tell yourself this: “My startup is not going to get its first 100, 500 or 1,000 users solely from digital marketing.” Repeat it again.

Founders have to hustle to quickly gain an enthusiastic user base. Hand out flyers; find your potential users at festivals, farmers markets, grocery stores, anywhere. Bring an iPad and have them sign up for your product on the spot. Launching a startup is no easy task and you must be willing to work to succeed.

Founders, what other strategies have you used in a marketing plan for startups? Let me know by joining the conversation on Twitter!

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About Jackie Steinmetz

Jackie Steinmetz is a digital marketing consultant specializing in B2B SaaS startups. Jackie's virtual marketing agency takes pride in being fast and flexible--two qualities vital to marketing small businesses effectively. Check out Jackie's blog or connect with her on Twitter.