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Get Your Business Running: Making a Marketing Plan for Startups


Marketing and marketing for startups: they sound the same, right? Or at least similar?

The funny thing is… they’re not.

Marketing is the activity, set of institutions and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners and society at large (thanks American Marketing Association!).

Marketing for startups is really just one thing: hustling. And that definition doesn’t make writing a marketing plan for startups easy. Here are 4 tips for creating a marketing plan for startups:


1. Plan short term.

Many of Accelity’s clients begin with the desire to write a one-year marketing plan upfront. This is what I ask them:

“Why would you write a plan for a year when everything you know will change by then?”


Your startup will not be the same on day 1 as it is on day 365; in fact, it will probably be substantially different by day 30. As you develop a product and do market research, you’ll learn that you can reach your target audience in some ways and not others. As an example, if you have a marketing plan on day 1 that revolves around social media and learn that your audience simply isn’t there (unlikely, but it happens!), you have to scrap the plan.

We plan quarterly with our clients, and I suggest that every startup does the same. Then, when your marketing plan inevitably has to change, you’re simply refining every 90 days instead of starting over.


2. Less is more.

One of my favorite activities is speaking to the Madworks Seed Accelerator about marketing for startups. Every time I’m there, I walk into the room and ask new, eager entrepreneurs about their marketing plans. Each founder typically has 5-10 ideas they want to try. It’s great to be motivated, but as a startup, you can’t do it all.

It’s simple: If you try everything, you’ll succeed at nothing. (Unless you have a giant budget to pour into marketing—wait, your company is a startup?—nevermind.)

My advice? Choose 2-3 marketing strategies to start and execute them to the fullest. Define your target for success and work toward it. For example, if your company has an email list, you may be shooting for X number of clicks, X number of leads and X number of conversions within 90 days. If after 90 days you’re nowhere close to those goals, it’s time to abandon that plan and move on to another strategy. Startups typically don’t have time or money on their sides and hanging on to a strategy for too long, or trying to market in 8 ways, are both a waste of time.


3. Do it on the cheap.

No startup should pay more than a small monthly fee for any marketing tool. We have a few clients that went through the Hubspot Jumpstart program, which offers Hubspot to the company at 90% off the list price for the first year. If your company meets the requirements, this is a great step as the platform allows companies to manage many marketing activities in one place. Other free or inexpensive tools include:

  • MailChimp, a popular email tool that is free (to a point); you can upgrade to send automated emails. It’s a great starter marketing automation tool.
  • Buffer, a social media scheduling and monitoring application that’s free to a point, and companies can upgrade for a small monthly fee.
  • Google Keyword Planner is free and an excellent way for startups to do keyword research and implement those keywords into their SEO strategies.
  • Hotjar allows startups to view heat maps of their websites and optimize the site for conversion. The live surveying tool is pretty cool, too.
  • Wordpress is a well-known and always free way to build a beautiful website.
  • SumoMe allows companies to use those annoying(ly effective) website pop-overs that prompt visitors to opt-in to email marketing.
  • Check out this extensive list of free marketing solutions for more ideas.


4. Don’t forget to hustle.

One of the main things that I see founders forget in their marketing plan for startups is the hustle. Look in the mirror and tell yourself this: “My startup is not going to get its first 100, 500 or 1,000 users solely from digital marketing.” Repeat it again. 

Founders have to hustle to quickly gain an enthusiastic user base. Hand out flyers; find your potential users at festivals, farmers markets, grocery stores, anywhere. Bring an iPad and have them sign up for your product on the spot. Launching a startup is no easy task and you must be willing to work to succeed.


Founders, what other strategies have you used in a marketing plan for startups? Drop me a line in the comments below. Are you looking for help marketing your startup? Contact Milwaukee marketing agency, Accelity Marketing.


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