How to get started with marketing your startup

As appealing the idea of being your own boss, setting your own hours and working for yourself appears, there’s more to it than that meets the eye. Beginning a business on your own is a thrilling prospect that has few equals.

You might have a rosy picture of the future with so many overnight success stories to inspire you. But the truth is failure comes easy. Success is a difficult dream.

The initial reality will be way different than what you pictures. If office was 9 to 5 you’d be working your butt off with a startup with no fixed hours with nary a nightcap.

The millions you dreamed of won’t come in the first few years. Instead you’d be praying to be just able to pay those salaries. Money will be tight, budgets even tighter. You will find yourself donning several roles that of a CEO, CMO, CFO, employee and less attractive clerk, sweeper and driver.

Marketing a startup is a challenge. Getting those first few clients is an uphill climb and you’re always in a pinch for resources balancing money, talent and other resources. Even in the absence of a cash crunch, you could be embattling several things on several fronts.

Recently Tesla’s CEO Musk was all over the news with his revelations on little to no sleep, battered body and soul and thinning funding and yet-to-arrive profits.

Startup marketing requires more than what traditional marketing asks of you.

For instance traditional marketing never had to deal with content. Content is at the front and center for most startups today.


Before you start laying bricks, you need a solid foundation. A successful startup marketing strategy follows that same principle. Before you jump into marketing your startup, make sure you have the following bases covered.

1. Doing market research

I’ve completed hundreds of market research tasks. And with that experience, I can say that available data is often sketchy and thin to arrive at a decision.

In conducting market research properly, it’s better to invest a sizeable amount into pre-made reports (if available). They cost 2 grand or more and are well worth the price.

These give you complete details on the market size, research, clients, client history and competitor info which is very valuable.

Secondly, proper research is of the essence to figure out as to who would buy your product. You may want to sell it to everyone and someday probably you will, but it’s better to identify a niche market. Even though almost everyone likes pizza, the primary audience for Pizza Hut could be college-going students who love to party.

I am sure you’re not selling pizza and as such it’s even more important to figure out who’d buy the product.

What to consider?

  1. Market Size – The market size of your product is the proportion of people whom you intend to reach. They can be divvied up into several segments. One particular geography. Or say men. Or women. Or men over 40 who are balding. And so on. There could be several segments with one segment more profitable than the other.
  2. Market Wealth – Determine income levels of this market. You need to know if this is a market that would spend.
  3. Market Competition – Are there already too many competitors. The subscription business is one such example with razor thing margins and too many wannabes.
  4. Value Proposition – Do you offer something that competitors can’t

2. Establishing initial goals

Initial goals are essential to determine if your brainchild is galloping towards success or way from it. These goals are different for each startup.

For some it’s the number of free signups per month. For others it might be a specific revenue figure.

Early on define what success is for you and stick with it.

Also stay consistent with that value. All that matters is you’re able to convert that many people every month or get that particular figure in revenue. Page views, number of social shares, virality of an article and mentions from a coveted influencer are all good things and signs of growth but don’t be so lost in vanity metrics you forget to track real signs of growth, eventually stagnate and die off.

3. Baseline Metrics

Just as you shouldn’t indulge vanity success, you shouldn’t indulge vanity metrics. Eric Ries refers to working with vanity metrics as “playing in success theatre”. While vanity metrics are appealing, if only to your ego, they are useless. They are not tied to real growth, meaning you won’t know if your startup is a roaring success or total flop until it’s far too late.

Be sure your core metrics are accurately measurable and specific. For example, let’s assume you’ve defined success as 500 new signups per month. You might measure the conversion rate of three calls to sign up. The idea is to have a few highly valuable metrics based on actions taken throughout the customer acquisition funnel (e.g. signups, newsletter subscriptions, eBook downloads). Don’t try to measure everything. Focus on the key indicators of success.