Have your startup been focused on sales? Is it time to jump into marketing, but you aren’t sure where to start? This post is for you…

How Do I Begin Marketing My Startup?

Secretly, for most companies, the answer is this: The founder(s) liked something they’ve seen elsewhere, or a competitor is beating them in a specific activity.

Few companies make this decision based on research, or any variables we will discuss below.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve met multiple companies who want to be the HubSpot of Cold Emailing, Big Data, Remote Work and more.

Instead, companies should base their marketing journey on the following variables.

Budget- It’s foolish to consider a plan without a budget. You simply must know how much you can spend in time or money, from the beginning.

Budget Considerations

  • Entire department allocation
  • Project number of team members and their costs
  • Tools & technologies needed
  • All expenditures you may incur

Write a Budget Estimate for Each Marketing Activity

There are two ways to do this. Take your entire budget allocation and start subtracting the most important expenses, and with the remainder choose activities based expected cost. OR add your expected costs together, while keeping your total budget in mind.

Timeline- How quickly do you need results?

Pay Per Click (Adwords, Facebook Ads) return results quickly, so adjustments can be made, and results scaled, while content and SEO take months to see results.

Talent- Who will work on your campaigns?

Do you already have team members who will contribute? Some CEOs create their own content, and happen to be very successful with it, like Steli Efti, Alex Turnbull, or Neil Patel.

With no in-house help, you’ll have to hire or outsource. Keep costs in mind, including posting the position, interviewing (it takes your time), on-boarding, and of course, replacing if necessary.

Market- What do you know about your potential buyers?

You want to know who exactly you are targeting, how much it costs to do that on different platforms, and how difficult it is to break into that market.

Check into prices for PPC, Facebook Ads, newsletter promotions, etc. Then check for content saturation, and the proposed difficulty of search keywords.

With those three things in mind, start considering the following activities or avenues of marketing.

Earned Media

Email marketing– Often combined with another activities email should always be a part of marketing’s role. Email can be costly to build a list, but with proper nurturing the list should provide ROI for years to come.

  • Talent level- average
  • Time investment- average
  • Cost investment- medium
  • ROI timeline- average

Social media– Considered free, social media is time intensive, but can deliver ROI if properly used for immediate traffic, research, and networking.

  • Talent level- average
  • Time investment- high
  • Cost investment- low
  • ROI timeline- varies but can be immediate

Content, Content, Content

Content marketing– will require thousands upfront for a complete system of blog posts, landing pages, downloads, emails, and content promotion.

Though blogging could be started on a shoestring budget, some assets need to already exist (landing pages, emails, etc).

Keep in mind that a content marketer for a full-time position will cost close to $100k for the first year with benefits, taxes, signing bonus, etc. If only one person is hired for all of the work of a content marketing system, it will take months to get everything in place, and then months to see a return (3–6).

  • Talent level- high
  • Time investment- extensive
  • Cost investment- low
  • ROI timeline- long

Blogging– If you don’t go with a full content marketing system, and you only work on blogging, your budget can be much lower, especially if someone on the existing team is doing the writing.

Consistency is an absolute must here, you will need content promotion, this is where earned media pays off.

As an aside, I charge $300 or $.25 per word for blog posts that are outsourced to me, so keep in mind the outsourcing budget when blogging.

  • Talent level- average
  • Time investment- high
  • Cost investment- low
  • ROI timeline- long

Search and Google

Search engine marketing– Adwords is still effective, if you have the budget to court your market. It can be an expensive investment though, even when it does return on investment quickly. To further your return be sure to collect email addresses, and nurture leads.

  • Talent level- expert
  • Time investment- average
  • Cost investment- very high
  • ROI timeline- immediate

Search optimization– search traffic from Google is often considered the top converting traffic. But, it is also some of the most difficult traffic to get. It can take months to start seeing a return from SEO investments, even with an expert on the team.

  • Talent level- expert
  • Time investment- high
  • Cost investment- low (except for time)
  • ROI timeline- long

Facebook advertising– A great selection because of the preciseness of targeting for demographics.

Facebook gives you complete control over showing your ad. At the same time though, it’s important to have additional tactics in place, to get the highest ROI possible (namely email).

  • Talent level- average
  • Time investment- very low
  • Cost investment- high
  • ROI timeline- immediate

Events– Another way to get leads and network with your industry is events.

Relationships can lead to life long business partnerships, streams of revenue, and referrals. On the other hand, events are very expensive (a write off) and require an impressive follow up system to reap the rewards.

  • Talent level- average
  • Time investment- low if you are not hosting
  • Cost investment- very high
  • ROI timeline- fast

Considerations for Every Marketing Budget

Measure Everything– you need analytics, metrics, and stats to know how well campaigns perform. Your marketing budget must include the tools, talent, and reporting time to show your team and the rest of the company.

Optimize for Growth– even if you start with all best practices, you’ll need to experiment to see if they work best for your startup. Include resources to make testing a part of your marketing plan, it will serve to improve ROI.

Go Mobile– our ever evolving world is using more mobile devices to access the Internet, and your company needs to deliver to these people too. This could mean responsive websites, mobile apps, or web apps. It also means a lot of cost.

Design for Users– an interface that is designed to help users reach success with your product is a foundational piece of your marketing plans. Word of mouth is still one of the most effective types of marketing today.

Branding/ Message– every person on your team should understand the message, mission, and image your brand wants to portray. Every marketing decision should reflect these branding elements.

Automation– tools like Zapier and HubSpot are moving marketing and entire businesses further ahead in productivity than any point in history. Continuously consider the opportunities available, and implement where you can.

Outsourcing– it’s rare to find a company that doesn’t need to outsource for some tasks, and it makes sense.

Outsourcing to experts helps cut costs by allowing you to pay for the work only, no on-boarding, benefits, lost time, etc. Until you can justify the costs of a full-time employee, use outsourcing for tasks like design, copy, etc.

Be Flexible & Stay Organized

Once you’ve considered all of your options, put together a few marketing plans that fit your budget. Make decisions based on research, talent, and affordability, not because you like what someone else is doing.

For what it’s worth, many startups begin with sales, move to Facebook ads for quick results, and then to content, for longer returns and results.

Disclaimer– This post is written based on my experience working with growth teams, in marketing positions, and as a freelancer for startups and SaaS companies. Hope it helps.