17 Startup Marketing Strategies To Grow Your Business

17 Startup Marketing Strategies To Grow Your Business

The survival of a new business hinges on its ability to build a strong customer base. Attracting new customers is one of the top challenges new business owners face, and developing a solid marketing plan can make all the difference.

We’ve put together a collection of time-tested marketing strategies that can help you attract potential customers and convert them into loyal brand advocates. We cover techniques that can help you achieve a range of business goals, from increasing brand awareness to fostering long-term customer retention.

  1. Know your audience
  2. Build a high-quality website
  3. Set up a Google business profile
  4. Search engine optimization (SEO)
  5. Use pay-per-click (PPC) advertising
  6. Blog
  7. Social media marketing
  8. Influencer partnerships
  9. Video marketing
  10. User-generated content
  11. Grassroots marketing
  12. Email marketing
  13. Cross-collaboration
  14. Offer free trials or consultations
  15. Create a loyalty program
  16. Public relations and media outreach
  17. Analytics and data-driven marketing

1. Know your audience

A key to effective messaging is understanding your target audience—the group of people most likely to be interested in your products or services.

Many marketing efforts have gone awry when e-commerce entrepreneurs misidentified their target audience as the internet at large. This type of thinking risks making bland, generic ads that don’t really stand out to anyone.

Here are several popular market-research strategies you can use to help you avoid this type of mistake:

  • Unique value proposition. What problems does your product or service solve? Whether it be affordable pricing or high-quality materials, what do you offer that your competition doesn’t?
  • Target market. Whose problem was your business created to solve? Do your potential customers share a certain age demographic, set of interests, or career field?
  • Buyer personas. Buyer personas are fictional representations of ideal customers. Check out Upwork’s free Buyer Persona creation guide, which will walk you through everything you need to know to visualize your ideal customers.

2. Build a high-quality website

Whether you run a small business or large corporation, you’ll want to design a high-quality website to represent your business online. At the most basic level, a website can help legitimize your business by providing essential information such as hours, location, and contact details.

Like a physical storefront, a business website can leave a powerful first impression on potential customers, and ultimately guides their experience with you. If you plan to design your own website, make sure to do your research and select the right website builder platform for you.

While many site builders now offer beginner-friendly drag-and-drop features, resist the urge to settle for the bare minimum. Take your time to ensure that your site reflects your company’s unique personality and branding.

If you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of Upwork’s many talented independent web designers. Professional web design can offer a powerful return on investment by helping ensure your business has the best online presence possible.

3. Set up a Google business profile

In addition to a great website, be sure to set up a Google business profile, a free tool that can be particularly powerful for local business owners. Let’s look at a quick example to illustrate why.

Imagine that you run an auto repair shop near Sedona, Arizona. Your target demographic is local owners of vehicles that need repair. One way for people to find you is through Google’s search engine. Someone whose car has broken down may search for a key phrase like “best auto repair Sedona, Arizona.”

When they hit enter, Google presents them with what’s known as a search engine results page (SERP). The first thing they're presented with at the top of that page is an interactive map of auto shops in the area, complete with contact information and reviews.

Google Business Profile

What they’re actually seeing is a collection of Google business profiles that were filled out by each individual auto shop. Google allows business owners to customize their profiles with photos, FAQs, and even promotional offers, all of which can go a long way toward drawing in new customers.

Google Business Profile 2

4. Search engine optimization (SEO)

A well-designed website can be the cornerstone of an effective marketing strategy, but only if it manages to attract users. That’s where the magic of a strategy called search engine optimization (SEO) comes in.

The goal of SEO is to help your site link rank as high as possible on SERPs each time a user types in relevant keywords. When a user scrolls past the interactive business maps on a Google SERP, they’ll be presented with a collection of links that will take them directly to relevant web pages.

If your goal is to increase website traffic, you want your site to be listed on the first results page as high up on the list as possible. Research shows that users tend to click on the first highest-ranking organic search link over a quarter of the time. The coveted No. 1 ranking link is also 10 times more likely to be clicked than the link that appears in the 10th spot on the first SERP page.

While SEO can be a powerful way to increase brand awareness and attract new customers, it takes a certain degree of knowledge, skill, and time to implement correctly. If you want to use it as a strategy, we highly recommend either learning SEO through a digital marketing course or hiring an SEO professional.

5. Use pay-per-click (PPC) advertising

SEO is a great way to boost your site’s organic (unpaid) search rankings, but it’s a long-term strategy that takes time to generate results. That’s one reason that many marketers also use pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

PPC allows you to cut to the front of the line by bidding on the chance to have your links featured as sponsored search results for relevant keywords. You’ll often see PPC results, which are always clearly marked as either “ads” or “sponsored,” presented at the top of SERPs.

PPC ads

For instance, this search result for small business software as a service (SaaS) platforms presents several paid links before showing the organic results. PPC strategies can be helpful for boosting brand awareness, especially in the early days of your business.

The added bonus is the unique PPC pricing model. Much as the name implies, you’ll only pay each time a user actually clicks your ad, regardless of how many times it’s shown.

Google Ads is a solid platform to start with, as it offers plenty of customizable options. If you need help or want to bring in an expert to handle this part of your strategy, be sure to check out top PPC advertising specialists on Upwork.

6. Blog

Blogging is a popular form of content marketing, a strategy that revolves around attracting potential customers with helpful or entertaining content. Part of what makes this strategy so effective is that it focuses on solving a pain point the audience has, giving the reader more value than a simple advertisement and offering its products or services as only one possible solution.

From a marketing perspective, the goal of adding a blog to your website is to bring potential customers to the top of your sales funnel. A solid blog focuses on the awareness stage by bringing traffic to your website, introducing new customers to your brand, showing you understand their pain points and have solutions for them, and establishing your brand as an authority in your industry.

For example, imagine that you recently launched an e-commerce business that sells custom dog collars. Rather than trust that potential customers will find your sales page, you could start a dog-themed blog that will capture more long-tail keywords and guide more people to your site.

Someone typing your business name into a Google search bar will likely find your sales page. But if you also had blogs discussing the benefits of different types of dog collars, the times to use different kinds of leashes, the proper placement of a collar on a dog’s neck, etc., then you could bring in possible customers searching for this kind of information.

Tools like Google Trends can be a great way to come up with ideas for posts that cater to topics currently trending in your niche. Often, the more familiar a reader becomes with your brand, the more likely they’ll be to turn to you when they’re in need of the type of products you offer. Consistently creating high-quality blog posts over time can also go a long way toward boosting your SEO efforts.

7. Social media marketing

Social media platforms have the potential to reach 4.95 billion users around the world. This is one of the many reasons they’ve become marketing channels for spreading brand awareness and engaging customers.

Do a little research to better understand the demographics and marketing styles of various platforms. For instance, LinkedIn tends to cater to business professionals, while sites like Instagram are a great choice for visual ad initiatives.

You’ll want to familiarize yourself with the two types of marketing opportunities that social media platforms have to offer:

  • Organic. Organic (unpaid) posts are a great way to share content with your followers and interact with customers at any stage of the marketing funnel.
  • Paid. Paid social media marketing, which involves purchasing ad space on a platform, comes with plenty of perks. It’s a great way to increase your reach, boost brand awareness, and serve ads to very specific audiences.

Each type of advertising comes with its own set of benefits, which is why many businesses and startups choose to use a mixture of both. You should also research the many social media management tools now available and the features they offer to help you achieve your business goals.

8. Influencer partnerships

Influencer marketing involves forming partnerships with popular social media figures who agree to promote or endorse your products. This strategy has experienced rapid growth over the last decade alone—in 2023, it held a market value of $21.1 billion, up from $1.7 billion in 2016.

As long as you collaborate with the right influencers for your niche, a well-done influencer campaign can be a great way to reach a wider audience very quickly. In general, influencer partnerships tend to take one of two forms:

  • Brand deals. An influencer agrees to feature a product or service in a post for a pre-arranged flat rate.
  • Affiliate deals. The influencer includes a link to a product or service in one of their posts. Each time a customer uses it to make a purchase, they receive a commission from the sale.

9. Video marketing

Recent reports reveal that digital videos enjoy a global audience of 3.37 billion viewers.  In addition to being an effective marketing tool, video also offers plenty of versatility.

Marketing videos can take a wide range of different forms, from social media ads and testimonials to product reviews and tutorials. They can also be embedded into many online venues, including almost any social media platform.

Many businesses include videos on their landing pages or in their product descriptions. You might even choose to use longer content, such as webinars, as gated content—users can access the content in exchange for providing their email addresses. By editing the same video to different lengths, you can increase your return on investment across multiple platforms.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a professional cinematographer to use video in your strategy. Authentic and relatable videos often appeal to a different market than pricier, well-edited content, but can be just as effective.

10. User-generated content

User-generated content (UGC) refers to unpaid content that customers create about your brand. UGC can take many forms, including positive reviews, product photos, or social media comments.

Sometimes referred to as “earned content,” positive, authentic UGS can prove invaluable for your brand. Whether you post testimonials to your website or reshare photos and videos on social media, UGC can go a long way toward boosting your brand's credibility.

Just make sure that you reach out to each original creator and ask their permission before resharing their content. You might also ask if they’d prefer to be credited using their full name or first name and last initial.

Referral programs are also a great way to encourage your customers to promote your business to friends, usually in exchange for a small reward. For example, Dropbox offers free extra storage each time a new client uses their referral link to sign up for an account.

11. Grassroots marketing

Grassroots marketing can be a great way to inspire your audience to help promote your brand through word of mouth. When done correctly, a grassroots campaign can be a low-cost yet highly effective marketing tactic.

One approach is to inspire the creation of USC with strategies like TikTok challenges. Campaigns like Chipotle’s #LidFlip challenge and Chase’s #ShowMeYourWalk inspired mass user participation and millions of views.

Another popular approach is to partner with a charity or non-profit whose cause you support. For example, an e-commerce site that offers organic clothing might donate a certain percentage of each sale to their favorite environmental charity.

12. Email marketing

A well-done email marketing campaign can offer a higher return on investment (ROI) than nearly any other marketing channel. But keep in mind that we’re not referring to spam here.

You should always start by building an email list and creating a strategy for engaging your audience on a consistent (yet not overwhelmingly frequent) basis. You should also explore email marking tools designed to help you make the most of your email marketing efforts.

Today’s top email platforms offer plenty of templates that can help you create professional-looking emails, newsletters, and product announcements. Many also come with features like auto-scheduling and audience segmentation to help keep your campaign organized and on track.

You might even explore email automation features, which automatically send out emails when a customer takes a certain action. Being able to put welcome emails and purchase confirmations on auto-pilot can be a game-changing way to streamline your campaign.

13. Cross-collaboration

Forming mutually beneficial partnerships with other organizations can be a great way to expand your reach and foster a strong sense of community. A partnership could be as simple as a local art supply store and art school each hanging posters for the other’s business.

Other local collaborations might include sponsoring a local youth sports team or joining a coalition of businesses to co-fund a community event. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other businesses in your area and discuss potential ideas.

Collaboration can also be an effective digital marketing technique. You might offer to create a guest post for a fellow blogger and invite them to contribute to your blog in return.

14. Offer free trials or consultations

If there’s one word almost everyone loves, it’s “free.” Coming up with clever ways to capitalize on humanity’s collective love of freebies can be a great way to drum up new business.

Some businesses offer free trials or consultations to give customers the chance to experience their services firsthand. Others hand out free pens, keychains, or notebooks that have been customized with their company name and logo.

Many new customers appreciate these low-cost products, which act as miniature billboards that promote the business with every use. Rather than focusing on what potential customers can do for you, brainstorm ways to offer them value before they ever make a purchase.

15. Create a loyalty program

From fast food businesses to retail establishments, loyalty programs have now become a marketing staple for many businesses. A recent study made it easy to see why, as seven out of 10 Americans surveyed said that loyalty programs were a key factor in cementing their relationship with certain brands.

No matter what type of products or services you offer, make sure to reward customer loyalty with special perks. Whether you offer a free product after a certain number of visits or a $10 credit for each $100 a customer spends, a little incentive can go a long way when it comes to retention.

16. Public relations and media outreach

If your business achieves a major milestone, don’t be afraid to reach out to relevant publications and media channels for help spreading the good news. The key to using public relations as a marketing strategy is making sure you’ve got a great story to tell.

Try to focus on stories that inspire emotion in readers. A company that achieves its goal in a donation campaign might reach out to local news stations or even Facebook groups to share the story of the positive impact in the local community.

Or a company nominated for best female-owned business might place ads in local papers, or reach out to groups on social media that are relevant to its industry. Approaching journalists with stories that you’d be interested in reading yourself can increase the odds of sparking people’s interest.

17. Analytics and data-driven marketing

Marketing analytics tools make it possible to get consistent feedback on the performance of every aspect of your digital marketing campaigns. Tools like Google Analytics can track hundreds of different metrics, from website traffic to conversion rates.

The good news is that you don’t have to track every single metric at once. Instead, most marketers choose a select group of key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of each campaign.

While analytics can offer powerful hints on how to refine your marketing strategies, some tools can take more getting used to than others. If you’re new to the world of marketing analytics, then hiring an independent expert to help you get started can be a priceless investment.

Craft a tailored marketing approach

You have many different types of strategies to choose from when crafting the right marketing plan for your startup. The important thing to remember is that there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to getting the word out about your new business.

Feel free to tailor any of the strategies discussed above to best suit your target market, business goals, and resources. If you should come across any challenges along the way, Upwork’s got you covered with access to top independent professionals who are happy to help with any phase of your marketing journey.

From social media managers to top SEO experts, Upwork is home to professionals with all the skills needed to fill any gaps in your startup’s marketing strategy.

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17 Startup Marketing Strategies To Grow Your Business
The Upwork Team

Upwork is the world’s work marketplace that connects businesses with independent talent from across the globe. We serve everyone from one-person startups to large, Fortune 100 enterprises with a powerful, trust-driven platform that enables companies and talent to work together in new ways that unlock their potential.

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