A Beginner's Guide in Marketing for SMB and Startup Founders

A Beginner's Guide in Marketing for SMB and Startup Founders

Startup marketing strategy is no different than marketing for SMBs. Why?

Well, they both require a marketing budget that operates with limited budgets and resources. The difference between the two are often not in its marketing strategy, but in how search engines define your startup business, too.

There are many similarities between marketing to both audiences, but there are also some differences you need to be aware of in your marketing strategy and search engine optimization.

This most will discuss less about a marketing plan or market research, but how startups can advertise effectively despite having a smaller budget and fewer resources available so they can be successful!

(But first, SMB and startups will be used interchangeably, so don't be alarmed if you see growth hacking tips for SMBs but not startups.)

A Good Startup Marketing Strategy Doesn't Follow Best Practices

Startup or SMB discussing marketing plans in an office

Your plan for your business will take shape soon. Great! Do I have any idea of entrepreneurship? Have you heard you need social media marketing — or that social media marketing will solve all problems?

As SMB operators, you'll hear about all sorts of strategies for startups — LinkedIn ads for B2B; Twitter ads and landing pages are the key; hire a Google ads guru; write a blog post about existing customers.

Ignore the "noise." Distinguish what is considered a startup marketing strategy for your SMB vs. someone selling you a targeted ads course or various analytics tools.

Marketing For Startups Is Not Following Other Successful Business’ Strategies

I've cut my teeth in social media marketing, and nothing grinds my gears more when some guru's marketing strategies define success by an SMB's ad campaign and website traffic.

First thing, recognize that a startup's marketing budget is small. Content marketing requires not just resources, but time. Sometimes there's no data about the "optimal" target audience — or if your potential customers love email marketing or social media.

Don't follow a best practice or a case study that tells you both what your key performance indicators are or what your business' value proposition is.

Startup marketing success will depend on the little things you do for your target customer, where honest feedback from your core customers will lead the business to customize your marketing efforts.

So Wait... No Social Media Marketing? Email Marketing? Google Analytics?

A sample analytics dashboard used by startups for marketing or SMB operators

Not really... I'm instead asking a startup business to look at its marketing strategies broader than an execution.

Startup marketing can easily get lost in terms like earned media marketing, user-generated content social channels strategy, customer lifetime value — and asking it to tie into core metrics and marketing team size.

When those tactics, which I'm defining further as a tool, often are framed for many startups as a way to save money, rather than asking SMBs if their marketing plan and marketing strategies can find, and nurture, satisfied customers.

Here's a headline: a startup's marketing campaign should only launch if your marketing strategies can be explained without tactics.

Build Marketing Strategies for SMBs Through New Thinking Framework

Here's something directly from a marketing plan:

  • Utilize marketing tools to automate content marketing that will provide our target audience with an integrated digital marketing strategy and distribute content on social media and email marketing

This marketing plan had more thoughts on search engines and cited case studies for startup marketing and target market saturations.

Um, what marketing plan?

All I saw were actions, but no logic/reasoning/strategy. Even to investors, that's not relevant content or a semblance of a marketing strategy. Instead...

Ask Marketing Teams To Write a Marketing Plan in This Framework:

(Oh, and by the way, you don't need fancy market research to do this.)

  1. Will the marketing efforts bother the target audience or provide literal value or convenience?

  2. Does the marketing strategy frame customer acquisition as a cost or what your ideal customers need?

  3. Is it more framed about marketing campaigns or is it more on how your business can help potential customers?

So let me put this framework with the example above, starting with the first one that is geared toward content marketing:

  • Previous: Utilize marketing tools to automate content marketing that will provide our target audience with an integrated digital marketing strategy and distribute content on social media and email marketing

  • New: Distinguish our product with heavier content marketing on social media as our market research shows our competitors do not educate the potential customers online and only in stores

This is a business strategy devoid of tools/tactics and in startup marketing, understanding the difference between a marketing channel and a marketing strategy is key.

How Else Can Your Marketing Team Write Its Marketing Plan

Startup marketing strategies book geared toward SMB advertising

Startup marketing requires a heavy knowledge of opportunity cost. Focusing on a social media channel is an opportunity cost to raise brand awareness in different marketing channels.

Early-stage startups should frame everything — and I mean everything — in a marketing plan to the marketing activities you else could be doing.

Paying customers and their preferences, especially when it comes to social channels or content strategy behaviors, will change tens of thousands of times.

But, a strategy that provides your prospective customers value in your marketing activity will make it a more strategic marketing plan.

But, Does Digital Marketing Work? Especially Social Media? (TL;DR, Yes — But Startup Marketing Should Focus More On Strategy > Tactics)

Pretty much any marketing for startups conversation I've had includes digital marketing, social media — and how to use those in a marketing plan to effective market to its customers.

But what if I wrote just about Facebook ad hacks, or Snapchat filters strategy, or what CRM tools I use?

Startup marketing focuses so much on marketing campaigns and someone else's blueprint rather than trying to understand how those startup marketers used social media, or email, or that referral program to effectively market its company.

I'm Asking a Job Title of Founder to Look at Startup Marketing Outside of Tactics

It is a challenge marketing for startups. In the past few years, I've had a lot of conversations about content marketing and startup marketing growth hacks more than think about what value a startup provides a customer.

Startup marketing, or SMB marketing, looked at the target market as a pool of people to get money, rather than define its marketing plan with a key value proposition that the company will provide customers.

Social media platforms have come and gone, and I've seen too many irrelevant startup marketing plan with a focus on content marketing on non-existent social media channels.

Neon sign of an Instagram like counter on a SMBs' wall

Strategies For Startups To Follow To Create Smarter Marketing Plans

  1. Startup marketing is no different than

  2. Strategies for startups should be less tactics-based marketing and customer-driven value

  3. Think not tools to automate, but think more systems that address market competition

  4. Startup marketing is more flexible than big company marketing — because SMBs can find more creative strategies in its marketing than Fortune 100s.

Marketing Strategies for Startups Conclusion

Remember that all tools that companies try to sell you a tactic are just doing that — selling.

It's easy to be tactics-driven when all the marketing strategies for startups look at tactics.

I'm asking the people with "Founder" in a job title to look at SMB marketing bigger.

Say it with me... "Marketing strategies for startups are bigger than tactics."

Frame things to help bring value to customers instead, and your strategies will be more evergreen beyond 2022. 

Originally published on the blockchain under sheckii.eth

Tony Lee (aka @sheckii) is a digital advertising entrepreneur who worked on brands like 20th Century Fox, Sam’s Club, ABC Entertainment, Nintendo, Starz, sweetgreen, outdoor voices, First Republic Bank, Kane’s Furniture and more. He currently works as a lead for Performance Marketing at Shopify for international paid social media acquisition. He’s also the host of welcome to sheckiiville podcast available on Apple and iOS devices.


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