Digital marketing guide for startups

February 11, 2024


Startups usually focus too much on product development and lack the marketing skills to build a scalable product from the beginning. Read more about our digital marketing guide for startups.

Our modern society is driven by digital technology. Only in July 2020, almost 4.57 billion people were active internet users, and according to Statista, the number projected for people buying online and browsing products will reach 230.5 million by 2021.

In some places in the world, people may not have clean water, but they own smartphones, and they are connected to brands 24/7. Digital marketing is influencing the way people experience online buying and it’ll become even more crucial for online businesses.

Startups usually focus too much on product development and lack the marketing skills to build a scalable product from the beginning.

This guide will cover what a digital marketing strategy is, the digital marketing process for a Startup, and 6 steps to create an effective digital marketing.

What’s a digital marketing strategy for a startup?

A digital marketing strategy is a blueprint or a plan that helps your business achieve your digital goals with a structure and a better understanding of your customers and online channels.

There are different ways to position your website on search engines or have strong brand awareness and engagement on digital channels. And that's where digital marketing strategy comes in handy. Since every online channel and product is different, it's essential to take a tailored approach when creating your digital marketing strategy.

These are the different channels that you should consider when developing a digital marketing strategy:

- Search Engine Optimization (SEO):

SEO is the process of improving a website so it can be more easily found by your customers and on search engines and so it can bring organic traffic to your website.

- Content Marketing (Blogging writing):

The creation and publication of useful content designed to attract, educate, and maintain your target audience.

- Paid media:

Marketing efforts that involve paid ads and placements.

- Email Marketing:

A marketing approach that uses email as a way of marketing to and nurturing potential and existing clients.

- Social Media Marketing:

The practice of promoting a product or service on social media platforms.

Why is it important to have a digital marketing approach when building your startup?

Customers nowadays like to compare their choices and select the products/services that make the most sense for them. If your customers don't understand what you do, they'll go to your competitors in seconds and compare you against them.

The fastest you can start with your marketing efforts alongside with your product development, the better. You can learn so much from your audience that can also help you when building your product.

Start experimenting and having some direction for your digital marketing efforts, will help you learn so you can take the right plan on building your online presence.

Steps to develop an effective marketing strategy as a Startup

1. Start with user research

2. Define your customer persona

3. Evaluate your existing digital marketing channels

4. Set your goals, tools, and budget

5. Determine your online channels

6. Research for potential keywords

1. Start with user research

User research is a method to study your target users. In user research, it is important to understand your users' motivations, needs, and objectives to provide the best solutions targeted to your users.

What type of user research can you do?

Usually, doing user research can be time-consuming, but it's crucial to understand users better from the beginning. You could start by using the resources you already have on your Startup (if you already have employees). You can work along with anyone that is in a customer-facing role (sales, customer support) and ask them more questions related to your users.

Your sales and customer support team can help you understand your users' main concerns, the questions they have, and what they like or complain the most about your company.

The sales team most often knows which are the reasons why customers buy or not buy and how you can address them.

What are the essential aspects you need to know from your users?

- What needs do they have?

- What pains do they struggle the most?

- What are the motivations?

- What are they trying to achieve?

If you’re just getting started with your business, you could look at search terms that people are looking for related to your product/service. This would give you a better understanding of what people are searching for that you could use in your copy and your product/service.

You could also look in social
Search what your followers are writing or saying online, look what they are talking about, what they care about, who they are following.
Look for everything that is important to them.

Understanding in which social media channels they spend more time is crucial for you to target your marketing efforts and energy as a Startup.

Find inspiration in your competitors.

Go to your competitors' social media and analyze; what kind of people are following them? What content do they post? What questions are people asking?. These questions can help you better understand which content and channels work best for that type of user.

This doesn't necessarily mean that the same will work for you, but you have a baseline to guide some of your efforts.

2. Define your customer persona

In a digital world, customers have all the power. Customer personas are just an archetype of your customers. They are characters you create based on previous research and understanding of your potential customers.

Regardless of the stage of your business, creating personas can help you to better understand your users' goals, needs, pains, and behaviors. They are a valuable resource because they will guide every content you create and the value needed to have happy customers.

Remember that when creating value for customers is not what you want, it is what they are looking for and the problem they are trying to get solved. If you have your customers in mind and know them so well, you can create a better user experience for them and engage more deeply.

These are the most important aspects when doing a persona:

- Goals and pains

- What tasks are they wanting to complete?

- What questions do they have that you can answer?

- User/Client objectives.

- The journey they are on, so you can send the right message at the right time.

You could use a persona canvas to get started with defining your customer, and you could also make a customer journey to determine where your user is at each stage of the funnel.

3. Evaluate your existing digital marketing channels

Most of the startup founders start without fully knowing the possible digital marketing channels to spend their efforts. Part of this has to do with a lack of validation and testing during the early stage of their idea.

Why is it essential to evaluate your digital channels?

Sometimes there are many long-hanging fruits that you haven't even thought about. By testing your channels better you’ll have a better understanding of what's not working so you can make improvements into that.

If you know which digital channels are performing better or worse and why you can better adapt your marketing strategy to put more energy into the channels that are working and understand which other potential channels you could explore.

If you already have some digital presence, then you can audit your digital marketing channels as it is crucial to do before you create a whole new digital marketing strategy. After you understand your current channels, you can adapt and prepare better to tackle those channels.

So audit your digital channels, email, website, or social media and see what is working and what's not, and analyze why certain channels are performing better and how you can optimize the ones that are not performing so well.

If you’re just getting started with your business, you could do some experimentation to understand which channel will probably perform the best.

4. Set your goals, tools, and budget

If you are just working out on things without proper goals that help you set the direction you want to reach, then at some point, you'll be feeling lost and will probably lose all of your efforts.

A digital marketing strategy helps you define goals, so you know by heart why you are doing things and what you can do to achieve them. You can set metrics and resources (tools) needed to achieve goals. Without a proper goal, it is just really uncertain if things are working or not or if you will reach somewhere at some point.

How to define goals?
Start by determining what the 2-3 goals you want to reach, set a time frame for this, and define some (realistic) KPI's you can achieve over that period of time are. Constantly check on these and see if you are getting closer to your goals or if they are too unrealistic and impossible to meet.
These are some of the goals that you can set for your business:
  • Brand awareness
  • Lead acquisition
  • Brand loyalty
  • Traffic to the website
  • Traffic to your events/physical locations
  • Sells to your online course

The goals you need in your business only depend on your business ambitions and the direction you want for your business. It is different to create brand awareness than acquiring new customers, so your goals will define the strategy that needs to follow. Think about this before starting any digital marketing execution.

5. Determine your online channels

Once you have a better overview of what's going on with your existing channels and after you set some goals and defined your persona, it is time to define the channels that will work best for you.

Some examples of channels are:


- Email

- Social Media

- Paid media

Your channels will depend on your customer personas and the best channels to reaching them out.

6. Research for potential keywords

You can do this in many ways. I prefer using a tool like Ahrefs or Neil Patel to research keywords, but you could also use free tools like keywords everywhere or keywords planner from Google.

Google trends is also very handy to analyze how a keyword performs in a particular geographic area or compares it against another keyword.

Another great idea is to search the keyword you want to by typing the word on your search engine and see which other related keywords are showed.

A digital marketing strategy is a plan that can help your business achieve its online goals, having a better understanding of your customers, and increasing your sales through digital channels.

To develop an effective marketing campaign, you'll have to start by doing some user research, defining your customer persona, evaluating your digital channels, setting goals and budgets, determining your online channels, and researching potential keywords.

During our acceleration program, we help our startups to improve their marketing strategy to generate more traction and growth. Apply to our acceleration program.