3 Tips for Creating Your Startup Marketing Strategy

A group of four diverse women having a conversation in an office environment

Startups often face intense competition, even in niche markets. A well-executed startup marketing strategy empowers you to stand out from the crowd, highlighting what’s unique about your products or services. How you position your business is often as important as what you offer to prospective customers.

Marketing fundamentally impacts your business. For most small business owners responding to Campaign Monitor’s State of Small Business Marketing report, customer acquisition is marketing’s top priority, followed closely by increasing prospects and leads. Without acquiring customers and generating leads, you won’t have a viable business — and a great marketing strategy is essential to bringing those goals to life.

That’s why 2023’s Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week (BREW) featured several sessions discussing the many components of an effective startup marketing strategy. Read on for highlights from these experts and ideas for how to market a startup.

Take Your Personal Brand Seriously

Marketing for startups starts with you. Who you are and how you present yourself to the world has a huge impact on your ability to build trust and foster long-term relationships. That includes your “likeability,” said Thomas Karam, an expert on name, image and likeness and instructor of sports marketing at LSU, during the BREW presentation “Deal or No Deal.”

“Likability is the emotional impact you have on somebody. … It could be an employer or employee, it could be a colleague, it could be a future customer,” he said. You are the primary representative of your startup. If potential customers don’t feel a connection with you, that can take a toll on your business brand.

Some of the biggest elements of likeability are tone of voice and default look, Karam said. Most people, he said, find tones that come across as boring, whiny or arrogant to be least likable, he continued.

How you present yourself has a big impact on how people perceive‌ you — and your business. Your choice of clothing, demeanor, and speech are just a few factors in whether people trust you and find your business credible. When you’re promoting your startup via word of mouth, every aspect of your personal presentation counts.

And you don’t have much time to make a good impression: Most people will size you up and come away with a fully formed opinion of you within a matter of seconds, Karam said — even if you haven’t spoken a word. If people form a poor impression of you, your personal brand drops. For a startup, when so much of your business brand is tied up in who you are, that matters.

Practice Selfless Communication

Beyond how you present yourself, the way you communicate and present your ideas matters, too. The BREW presentation “Life’s a Pitch” featured Abbey Kish, communication consultant and founder and CEO at Kish Consulting. She explained how great marketing communication starts with building trust.

“After six years of coaching, public speaking and communication, I’ve determined that the No. 1 thing that you need to get people to buy into what you have to say, or a product that you’re selling, is trust,” she said. “And without trust, people will always miss your potential.”

Engaging in selfless communication — the practice of putting your listener first — empowers you to build that trust. During her presentation, Kish outlined two steps to achieving selfless communication.

First, you need to know your audience. “You should use every resource that is possibly available to you to know who your audience is,” Kish said. At the very least, go to LinkedIn or other social profiles to find things in common.

Second, hold yourself accountable. Before any speech or one-on-one conversation, ask yourself, “‘Who am I speaking for?’ If the answer is anybody but the listener, you need to reassess,” Kish said. You need to believe that you’re providing something of value to your listener, not just trying to make a sale.

With an appropriate focus on your target audience, you can make them feel that they’re all that matters. That’s an important step toward positive brand awareness and achieving your business goals.

Lean Into Influence

Influencer marketing has already taken off in bigger cities like Los Angeles and New York, and it’s picking up in Louisiana, too, said Maameefua Koomson during her and Mohammad Alkurd’s BREW presentation, “The Real Behind the Reel.” Koomson, founder of Quirk-E Creative, and Alkurd, a content creator showcasing the best of New Orleans cuisine, explained how influencer marketing is becoming a more powerful channel.

Influencer marketing is often thought of in terms of virality, but that’s not its only value. “There’s so much shelf life in that, as well. A video I posted last year could still be giving someone business,” Koomson said.

Before paying an influencer to tout your brand, you need to vet them to make sure they’re right for your needs. Business owners can do their own research simply by looking at a content creator’s page to see the number of likes, comments, shares or other interactions, as well as the ratio of followers to engagement. You can also ask influencers for metrics, Alkurd said, such as engagement rates and other data from a defined period, such as the past 30 days.

Relationships come into play in the sphere of influencer marketing efforts, too. Social media creates a higher potential return on investment when you’re curating a community, suggested Dr. Sanjay Juneja, a medical oncologist who’s also a content creator and influencer. In his BREW session, “Owning Your Influence,” Juneja noted that aggregating top content and creators in your industry helps you discover valuable points of connection.

Help your startup stand out by curating your personal brand, mastering communication and leveraging communities of influence. An effective marketing strategy helps you attract and retain customers by effectively communicating your unique value proposition and building strong relationships. By consistently delivering value and engaging with your target audience, you can cultivate customer loyalty and drive long-term growth for your startup.

Stay in the know!