How To Create a Startup Marketing Strategy

How to Create a Startup Marketing Strategy - Blog Post Feature Image

So you’ve started a business.

You’ve got an awesome product or service, you have loads of knowledge about what you’re selling and you just generally do a great job.

And now, you’ve got to market your fantastic business.

But wait.

How does social media, a website, digital PR, paid ads, blogging, SEO, and a whole host of other things, help your business?

And more importantly, where do you even start with all this?

Take. A. Deep. Breath.

That’s exactly what this guide is here for.

We’re going to teach you how to create a marketing strategy for your startup, from scratch.

This guide covers:

It looks like a lot, but this will be the foundation of a successful marketing strategy for your business.

Successful marketing = successful business.

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How to set SMART goals

Setting goals can feel like a big challenge, especially when you’re just starting.

Common mistakes we see are people creating goals that are too vague, too big, not setting goals, or setting too many goals.

So before we start anything else, let’s set some goals using the SMART method.

SMART stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-based

Here’s each of those parts broken down:


Be specific about what you want to achieve.

Saying “I want to get more leads a day” is better than “I want to make more money”.

The more specific, the better.


You need to be able to measure your goals, else you won’t know when you’ve hit them.

Keeping with the example above, it would become “I want to get ten leads a day”.


Is your goal achievable? If you currently get zero leads a week, then a goal of increasing this to ten leads a day might be too high. Make sure your goals are realistic, otherwise you won’t be able to hit them.

Our example will change to “I want to get ten leads a week


Make sure your goals are relevant to your wider business. Give some thought to why this is important and how it will benefit your business.

If you’re getting leads, but they’re not of the right quality, then they’re less relevant to your business.

Our goal becomes “I want to get ten sales qualified leads a week”


Setting a deadline for your goals makes it easier to focus on them and hit them. Without a deadline, you won’t know when the goal should be achieved, so how will you know if it’s been hit?

This section should also keep in mind the achievable element of your goal, so be realistic when it comes to the timeframe.

Our example has now become “Get ten sales qualified leads a week by the end of the quarter“.

We’ve gone from “I want to make more money” to a solid, clear, achievable goal.

By using the above framework to help you set your goals, you’ll create better goals and find that you hit them more often.

Don’t be downhearted if you don’t hit your goals to start with, just adjust them and try again. It could be that you just need to give yourself more time or be more specific with what you’re trying to achieve.

Smart Goals Infographic

Table describing SMART goals

The rest of this guide will explore different areas of marketing that you may want to set goals for. There’s a lot here, so you might not want to set goals for all of them right away. Start by deciding which sections are your priority, and then go from there.

If you’re struggling to prioritise your goals, download our 90 Minute Marketing Masterplan. We built it to help you get your marketing in order, especially when you have lots of marketing tasks but can’t decide where to start.

How to identify your target customers

There are several questions you need to ask when it comes to identifying your target customers.

It’s tempting to just say “everyone“, but that’s going to hinder your sales rather than help them.

You might have more than one target customer, which is completely normal. You may just need to have separate marketing strategies focusing on these customers.

You can get a better idea of who your target customer is by answering these six questions.

Table covering the six target audience questions

Table covering the six target audience questions

  1. How old is your target customer?
  2. Where does your target customer live?
  3. What’s your target customer’s gender?
  4. How do you promote your product to those individuals?
  5. Where do they get their information? Social Media? News?
  6. Which type of content works best?

Check out our guide, How To Define Your Target Audience in 6 Quick Questions, to help you get the most out of these questions, and sign up to our mailing list to download our easy-to-follow buyer personal checklist.

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How to create and communicate your brand’s message

Now you have your target audience in mind, identifying or adjusting your brand’s message will be much easier.

Think about why you started your business.

Now think about why that reason is important to your target audience.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What hobbies does your target audience have?
  2. What keeps your target audience up at night?
  3. What are your target audience’s values and beliefs?

Not all of these need to play into your brand’s message, but they will help you see if your messaging aligns with your ideal customer.

Let’s say you sell car insurance.

The way you communicate with someone who drives an electric car because they see it as a climate-conscious choice will be very different to how you communicate with an audience who wants the biggest and best car as a status symbol.

This will help set the stage for not only your brand’s message but also your tone of voice.

Think about how your tone of voice will impact your target audience. For example, if you’re connecting with a Gen Z audience, you may want to use a lighter, more fun tone.

Make sure you combine this with your product offering too. Your tone of voice will be different if you’re selling life insurance to if you’re selling perfume, even if your audience demographic is the same.

Here are two examples of life insurance providers with completely different tones of voice.

Screenshot of the DeadHappy website

Screenshot of the DeadHappy website

DeadHappy is a life insurance company aimed at a younger audience. They’ve opted for a more casual way of speaking, including words and phrases like “in a jiffy” or “we hear ya” to come across as more friendly and conversational.

Screenshot of the Deadhappy Life Insurance Brand Messaging

Screenshot of DeadHappy’s life insurance brand messaging

From their brand messaging, we can tell that DeadHappy identified some clear pain points their target customer experiences – life insurance forms being too long, needing to pick up the phone to get life insurance and being confused about pricing options.

They’ve got a very clear target customer, and they’re going all-in on matching their brand message and tone of voice to this customer.

Another life insurance provider with a clear target audience is Polly.

Polly’s life insurance is aimed at mums, and everything about their brand messaging and tone of voice reflect this.

Screenshot of Polly's life insurance brand messaging

Screenshot of Polly’s life insurance brand messaging

They use easy to understand language and pull on the heartstrings a bit. They want their audience to think about the consequences they might face (or their family might face) if they don’t buy this life insurance.

By focusing on this target audience of mums, they can easily identify pain points and base their offering around this, rather than trying to create a brand message that appeals to every person looking to buy life insurance.

It’s important to note that your brand messaging and tone of voice will evolve along with your business. If you always want to target 18 to 15-year-olds, then you will have to adjust your tone of voice based on current trends and changes in culture.

This goes for all parts of your startup marketing strategy.

How to identify your best marketing channels

By identifying your target audience and brand messaging, you now have the foundation on which you can build the rest of your marketing strategy.

Your audience demographics will help you identify the best channels for your business. You want to be focusing on the places your ideal customers are already spending their time.

Some of the most popular digital marketing channels are:

This isn’t a definitive list. If you are aware of other places you can connect with your audience in your industry, for example, forums, then feel free to add those to your marketing strategy.

Graphic showing the different marketing channels

Graphic showing the different marketing channels

So how do you choose which platforms to go with?

As a startup, it can be easy to fall into the trap of using channels that you like personally, rather than the ones your audience uses.

When it comes to social media, you should take a look at the largest demographic on that platform. Make sure you don’t focus on just one social media platform but don’t overstretch yourself. Start with two or three and work upwards from there if you need to.

According to Sprout Social, these are the largest demographics on each social media platform.


Largest Age Group: 25-34

Gender Split: 43% female, 57% Male


Largest Age Group: 25-34

Gender Split: 48% female, 52% Male


Largest Age Group: 10-19

Gender Split: 61% female, 39% Male


Largest Age Group: 18-29

Gender Split: 38% female, 62% Male


Largest Age Group: 25-34

Gender Split: 48% female, 52% Male


Largest Age Group: 50-64

Gender Split: 78% female, 22% Male


Largest Age Group: 15-35

Gender Split: 46% female, 54% Male

Note: LinkedIn is great for B2B businesses, but isn’t the only place you can share content. Remember your B2B customers are normal people, who likely use other social media platforms in their own time.


It’s a good idea to have your website set up before you branch out into any other channels so that you can direct all your traffic back to one place.

How to get started with SEO

Search engine optimisation can sound very complicated when you first get started with it, but we can reassure you that it’s not.

We’ve broken it down into sections to help you understand it more easily.

SEO is the process of optimising the pages on your website to appear in the search results for certain search terms relating to your business.

You can find these search terms and keywords by conducting keyword research, which is the best place to start with SEO.

Keyword research

Good keyword research is the foundation of any SEO strategy.

Starting off with the right keywords means you’ll be connecting with potential customers at different parts of the sales funnel, rather than spending your time on very broad keywords that aren’t going to get you any sales.

Let’s say you sell BPA-Free, recycled plastic water bottles. You’re going to have far more success with a key phrase like “recycled water bottles” over trying to optimise for “bottles” or “water“.


There are seven steps you should take when undertaking keyword research.

  1. Make a list of topics related to your business
  2. Find keywords your site is already ranking for
  3. Find keywords your competitors are ranking for
  4. Find questions your customers are asking
  5. Find related keywords
  6. Identify local keywords
  7. Analyse your keywords

You can learn more about each step in detail in our guide on how to do keyword research (like a pro).

We suggest you focus on 25 keywords to start with, with no more than 50. If you have too few, you’ll struggle to get any reach on search, but if you have too many, you’ll be overwhelmed and will have less time to optimise for your best keywords.

There are plenty of tools you can use to help you with your keyword research. Our favourite is Semrush, which you can get for free for thirty days by using our friend’s link,*

This list of keywords and phrases will build the basis for your content strategy.

Local SEO

If you’re a local business, make sure you target local SEO by covering keywords such as “plumber near me” or “plumber in Nottingham“.

It’s important to sign up for a Google Business Profile, and then fill it with as much information as you can, as Google will use this when deciding where to rank you in the search results for local searches.

Screenshot of the Google Business Profile sign-up website

Screenshot of the Google Business Profile sign-up website

How to do competitor research

Feeling nosey? Now’s the time to take a look at what your competitors are up to.

You may have a list of competitors in mind, but if not, start by typing your product or service into Google search.
Let’s say you offer project management software.

Screenshot of search results for project management software

Screenshot of search results for project management software


By searching for this term on Google, we can already see that multiple companies are running ads on this term, including:

The first two, Monday and Teamwork, are your direct competitors who offer the same software that you do.

Top 10 and PC Mag, however, are publications that are talking about software similar to yours. It’s just as important to take note of these publications, as you may want to reach out to them in the future when it comes to digital PR and backlinking.

Now you have some direct competitors, we can start the competitor research.

The type of things you will want to take a look at are:

  • Homepage, category and product page layouts
  • Amount of text used on site pages
  • Media usage – do they use photos, graphics, videos, or a combination?
  • Which social media platforms they are on
  • Their mailing list – sign up and read the emails they send you over the next few weeks
  • Use a backlink checker to see which websites and publications are linking back to them
  • Use an SEO tool to see which keywords they are ranking for
  • Use a marketing tool to see how much organic and paid traffic they are getting

You can use a tool like Semrush* to take a look at your competitor’s traffic, keywords and backlinks.

Let’s use Teamwork as an example here.

Screenshot showing Teamwork's traffic in Semrush

Screenshot showing Teamwork’s traffic in Semrush

Teamwork is estimated to be getting 31,500 visitors via organic search, and 10,100 visitors as a result of PPC. They also have over 518,100 backlinks from 11,900 different websites.

As a startup, you don’t need to be aiming this high, but it does give you an idea of what you can achieve.

You can also see the keywords that your competitors are ranking in position 1 for on Google, giving you an idea of what type of content has worked for them. You can see the pages that are ranking for these terms, and use them for inspiration for your own content.

If you see one of your competitor’s category pages is ranking in position one for a key term, take a look at the page and try and figure out why. Does it have a lot of good, informative text? Is the layout intuitive and easy to follow? Identify several great things about the page and then improve on them in your content.

Screenshot of Teamwork's top keywords in Semrush

Screenshot of Teamwork’s top keywords in Semrush

You can learn even more about competitor SEO research in our SEO competitor analysis guide.

How to create a content strategy

Once you have your goals, audience, brand message, chosen marketing channels, a basic SEO plan and you’ve conducted some competitor research, you’re ready to put a content plan in place.

As a startup, you want to make sure you’re being as efficient with your time as possible. Having a content plan based on your goals will help you stay on track.

If you have more than one target audience, you may want to create several content marketing strategies, although there is likely to be some crossover.

To break this down further, we’ll follow the AIDA sales funnel. This gives us four stages of content to work with, at four different stages of the customer journey.

  1. The awareness stage
  2. The interest stage
  3. The desire stage
  4. The action stage

We also like to consider a bonus stage – the customer retention stage.

Infographic showing the 4 stages of the sales funnel / conversion funnel

An infographic showing the 4 stages of the sales/conversion funnel

If you want to learn more about creating or improving your sales funnel, we created a detailed guide on exactly how to optimise your sales funnel.

Consider each of these stages and the type of content that would suit your customers best at each stage. We’ve also included a handy cheat sheet of the type of content you can use at each stage.

At the awareness stage, your potential customers are new to your business. You need to get a precise, clear and understandable message across to them.

They may see your content on social media platforms, see a PPC ad or be searching for questions or terms that your business can help them with. You could even try to create a digital PR campaign, focusing on something newsworthy, or share-worthy, related to your industry or business.

At the interest stage, your potential customers want to learn more about your business and your product.

Your category pages and product or service pages should be clear and easy to navigate. You want to include some social proof on your website in the form of testimonials or reviews.

Customers may want to connect with you via a live chat, which you can set up to be automated to answer the most common questions.

At the desire stage, you want to give your potential customers extra reasons to buy from you.
Is it clear that you offer free shipping over a certain spend? Do you offer a discount if someone signs up for your mailing list? This is also a great time to retarget them with PPC ads on social media.

At the action stage, make sure you follow up with them after their purchase.

Send an automated email asking for a review a few days after purchase or a few days after you expect the product to arrive. Referral codes are also a great way to get your customer to bring in even more customers – you could offer them a discount on their next purchase if they make a successful referral.

Finally, the retention stage. Keep the customer thinking about your business with follow up emails.

If your product is the type of thing that needs to be repurchased or renewed on a monthly or yearly basis, send out reminder emails.

Content Marketing Cheat Sheet

Here are some of the most common types of content used at the various stages of the sales funnel. You don’t need to use all of these, just pick the ones that fit best based on the research you’ve done into your audience and competitors.

Save this image to help you keep track of the content you want to focus on at each stage, or use the text below it to create your own checklist for your content marketing strategy.

Content marketing cheat sheet

Content marketing cheat sheet




  • Downloadable content
  • Bespoke landing pages
  • Optimised product pages
  • Benefits bar
  • Free shipping over a certain spend
  • Reviews and testimonials
  • Automated email campaigns
  • Basket abandonment
  • Discount codes
  • Automated chat-bot
  • Giveaways and competitions
  • Video content (for example, YouTube)
  • Targeted PPC (for example, basket abandonment)


  • Streamlined checkout
  • Suggest related products
  • Discount on recurring subscriptions

Customer Retention

  • Automated email campaigns
  • Discount on recurring subscriptions
  • Community spaces (for example Slack, Facebook Groups, Discord)

Content marketing does involve testing, so don’t be put off if some of these suggestions just don’t work for you. It’s also important to note that some types of content have a faster pay-off than others, for example, PPC will be faster than SEO optimised content.

Stuck on writing content? Here’s our very own content process that we use with our clients.


How and where to distribute your content

You’ve got all this great content that you’ve started uploading to your website, so what’s next?

How do you get it in front of more people?

You can use social media to share tips and tricks from your content while directing your audience to your website’s blog to learn more. We do this all the time at Exposure Ninja, with the goal of offering enough value in the social post that our audience can’t get to our blog fast enough.



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A post shared by Exposure Ninja (@exposureninja)

Another way to get your work out there is through guest posting.

Find some websites in, or adjacent to, your industry. Let’s go back to our example earlier of project management software.

One of the online publications we saw reporting on project management was PCMag, which focuses on technology as a whole rather than just business or project management.

They know that their audience will be interested in this topic as an aspect of technology, so have created content based on it.

Have a look at the types of websites that have featured your competitors and see if you’d be a good fit too.

Reach out to these publications and offer them a piece of content for their website. It’s best if this is a cut down version of your existing content that has been edited to fit your target publication’s audience and tone of voice.

Not only will a guest post get you a high-quality backlink back to your site, but it could result in referral traffic, which will hopefully lead to more customers.

Not sure how to get started with emailing publications? Download our free email outreach templates.


Outreach Email Templates

How to run PPC ads

As much as we’d love for all our customers to find us through search engines and social media, it’s just not always possible, especially for a startup.

Running pay-per-click ads on social media and search engines can help bring an audience in faster than SEO, but some of that traffic may not be as high quality as the traffic you get from organic search. Pros and cons, as with anything.

PPC is great for connecting with customers at different parts of their journey. You can use ads to raise awareness of your business, as well as retarget your website visitors for different reasons.

When to use search ads

Search ads are great for connecting with your audience when they’re already searching for terms around your product or service.

Type in a keyword or phrase you’d like to get traffic from and see if ads are being run there. If so, and they are advertising a product similar to yours, then this is potentially a good term to run ads on.

Screenshot of Google Ads for Best Accounting Software

Screenshot of Google Ads for Best Accounting Software

Pay close attention to the type of language being used, the benefits that are included in the text and if they are using any extensions, such as click to call straight from the ad.

When to use social ads

Social ads are great for raising awareness and retargeting customers. They’re especially good for products which are more of an impulse buy – people aren’t actively looking for these ads or products on social media.

They are perfect for very visual products but can be used by any business, no matter what product you offer. You may just need to get creative.

Semrush, for example, sells an SEO and marketing tool. It’s hard to show this off in an ad, so they use illustrations and text to help convey their message.

Screenshot of a Semrush facebook ad

Screenshot of a Semrush Facebook ad

You can retarget your customers on social media based on different things, such as if they visited your website, if they browsed certain products or if they added products to their basket but didn’t complete the purchase.

Meta Ad Library

Take a look at the ads that your competitors are running on Facebook and Instagram using the Meta Ad Library. Pay attention to the type of copy they use, the imagery, the call to action and how long the ad has been running. Then create something better for your ads.

If you want to take your PPC ads to the next level, check out our ultimate guide to PPC.

How to build a brand image

So you’ve got a bunch of content.

Your ads are performing well, and your website is getting traffic.

You just feel like something is missing.

How can you stand out from everyone else?

This is a common challenge faced by many startups. Once you have a marketing strategy in place, you feel like you need to find your place in the industry.

There are a few ways that you can build a brand image for your startup, that go beyond a nice logo and good website.

First, think about why you started your business. Was it because you wanted to help certain people? Was it because you needed a product or service like yours but no one provided it?

Whatever your reason was, don’t be afraid to shout about it.

Brands like Beyond Meat find a way to combine their product with their brand message. Don’t let one overpower the other.

Screenshot of Beyond Meat's website and brand message

Screenshot of Beyond Meat’s website and brand message

Patagonia is an example of a brand that has a message which has overpowered its product offering. We made an entire video explaining how Patagonia could find that balance again.


But, what if you didn’t have a particular reason why you created your business?

Maybe you just had a cool idea and ran with it.

Here’s where your customers come in.

It’s ok if you haven’t got any customers yet. Either you can wait until you have built up a customer base before taking this step, or you can make a list of all the qualities you’d like your perfect customer to have.

Take a look at your customers and see what’s important to them. You can do this by holding focus groups or simply sending out an email survey with a nice discount code for anyone who fills the survey out.

By doing this, you can then adapt your brand’s image to attract more of these types of customers.

Your brand’s image will likely grow and develop over time. It’s completely fine if it changes too.

Brewdog started as a rebellious and edgy company. Now they’ve moved their focus to promote sustainability and environmental issues.

When it comes to your brand’s image, it’s not the be-all and end-all. But it can help you stand out in your industry.

Recap – How To Create a Startup Marketing Strategy

You should now have all the tools you need to market your startup.

Some of this may have felt like a lot to learn, but remember, it’s ok to take your time.

Nearly all businesses find themselves in the situation you’re in now.

But you’re one step ahead by taking the time to plan.

Today we covered:

If you haven’t already, write down at least one action you’re going to take for each of these sections in the next week. Even if it’s just to think about part of it. here’s an example:

How to set SMART goals

  • Set a goal to complete in the next two months

How to identify your target customers

  • Identify the age, gender and location of my target customers
  • Identify some hobbies my ideal customer has

How to create and communicate your brand’s message

  • Think about why I started my business
  • Speak to friends and family about why I started my business

How to identify your best marketing channels

  • Use my audience demographics to pick the best social media for my business
  • Set up a blog on my website

How to get started with SEO

  • Find at least 10 keywords that I want my website to rank for
  • Optimise my homepage for one of these keywords

How to do competitor research

  • Identify my three main competitors
  • Analyse their website content

How to create a content strategy

  • Decide which content is best for my business
  • Write one blog

How and where to distribute your content

  • Make a list of websites I’d like to guest post on
  • Connect with some journalists and writers in my industry on Twitter or LinkedIn

How to run PPC ads

  • Research my competitor’s PPC ads

How to build a brand image

  • Take a look at the messages and missions my competitors have

Now you’re well on your way to creating a solid and successful startup marketing strategy.

You just need to put in the work.

What to read next

*Some links within this article are affiliate links which Exposure Ninja receives a fee for promoting (these links are not sponsored). Exposure Ninja only promotes services we already use within our marketing stack.

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