Before we delve into this list of marketing ideas for startups, you must know two things:
- All marketing ideas need money. So, forget the "zero-spend" miracles; they don't exist!
- But fortunately, you don't have to outspend your competitors to make your startup a success. Instead, focus on growth hacking.
That said, this list will combine online, offline, and guerilla marketing tactics. And rest assured that we handpicked the best of the lot.
Note: the marketing ideas below are not limited to tech startups. You can adapt the insights to your freelance business.
Building A Personal BrandUnderstandably, you want to get more signups and subscribers right away. You want users to commit their hard-earned money to your product.
But are you deserving of the commitment?
Indeed, you created the best product or service (or so you think). Does your audience know that?
In a nutshell, work on your brand before any marketing. Create a voice and style for your product. And be consistent with it.
So, what do you want users to think of your product? How will you distinguish yourself from your competitors?
Only your personal branding can answer those questions. So, ensure it's well thought out. And often, you can start the process with a clear and brief statement.
For example, our personal branding statement at Legiit is "get more stuff done." It summarizes our offerings to users.
You don't have to make your statement that short. But "short" is better; you can use it as a slogan for your marketing campaigns.
Announce Your Product With A BetaAfter personal branding, delay launching your product full-scale (at least, not yet). Why?
Putting your product all out at once doesn't stir interest. And trust us, you need to stir "lots of interest."
Remember: you must gather the most interest and signups with limited spending. That's growth hacking!
That is why you should launch a beta version of your product first. By doing so, you will stir the interest of users. More importantly, you will create a sense of exclusivity.
So, does beta work?
People want to brag about being the first to test a product. They want to tell stories down the lane of how you started. So, yes, beta works!
But say you have reservations about the idea. Know that SaaS giants such as Slack and Cloudways have employed beta for marketing success. Also, Eero adopted the same tactics for her home Wi-Fi system.
At Legiit, we encourage freelancers to offer review editions as a form of beta to prospects. Sellers will receive feedback and build confidence. On the other hand, buyers will get a chance to test a promising service with zero-rating.
Get Featured On Product HuntOffering a Beta version of your product won't yield results if you don't put the word out in the right place.
So, where should you list your product?
Short answer: Product Hunt!
If you are a tech startup, there is no better place to get enormous traffic to your innovation than on Product Hunt.
Plus, Product Hunt can help you monitor similar innovations to yours. What are people saying about them?
Can you improve your product with the feedback?
That said, how can you get featured on Product Hunt?
- Contribute to the community through comments and upvotes; give and build a following to receive!
- Check the eligibility of your product.
- Check the products on the "newest" page. If they are all (or mostly) similar to your innovation, postpone the launch.
- Don't launch your innovation the same day tech giants release a new product or update.
- When you launch, build your product from the "newest" page to the front page. Now is the time to reap your efforts from step 1.
Content MarketingFrankly, you can only do so much with your engagement in the Product Hunt community. Outside there, you should have a personalized following, made by you, for you.
For that, content marketing can help.
And beautifully enough, content marketing is considerably affordable. You don't need a huge outlay to start.
In fact, your expertise on the subject will suffice. And since this is your product, you should have more than enough.
That said, how can you go about content marketing for your product?
The easiest way is to start a blog.
Create a blog, and populate it with informational, audience-focused posts. Most importantly, answer crucial questions about your products with the blog posts.
Note: "simply" starting a blog won't fetch your product tons of traffic or move it to the front page on Product Hunt. You must actively grow the blog.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)SEO is one way to grow your blog. But it is much more than that.
For starters, SEO is critical to branding and reputation management. More importantly, it funnels organic traffic to your product, blog, and website faster.
Unfortunately, SEO can be complex. Optimizing your content for search engine result pages is one thing. How about the background link building? Or the technical and off-page SEO?
Your best bet: hire an SEO expert to handle the technical parts!
Streamlined Email MarketingUndoubtedly, email marketing is one of the best ways to grow any business. Top companies like Hotjar have significantly scaled their revenue with it.
However, email marketing can be expensive.
Good news: you can apply growth hacking to your email marketing too. Here is how:
Don't send generalized emails for the sake of it. Else, you will keep spending too much for too little. Worse: your emails might never get opened.
So, ensure you find the right audience. For that, you will need email scraping and data enrichment tools.
And even with the tools, ensure that the contents of your email are highly optimized for success. Most importantly, make your messages mobile-friendly.
Try TikTokDon't roll your eyes yet; TikTok is not just about Khaby Lame, people overcomplicating simple chores, and viral dance moves.
TikTok is one of the fastest-growing social media platforms. You'll find their posts re-shared across other platforms.
You can check the reels on Facebook, IG, and even YouTube to confirm the popularity of TikTok. That is an indication that TikTok has come to stay.
So, instead of saying TikTok is for kids, think of how to exploit the fame for your innovation. And BTW, who are you targeting for your product if not young people (young-at-heart generally)?
Are gen-z not the most technology-inclined?
Bottom line: use TikTok to market your startup. We have used it for Legiit and seen some unexpected traffic from there.
But say you don't know how to start on TikTok. You can follow and adopt other successful TikTok campaigns.
Forums And GroupsIn addition to TikTok, explore other social media marketing channels. Specifically, check Facebook groups.
And thankfully, most Facebook groups are already streamlined. For example, say your product is for B2B SaaS companies. You can find groups specifically for that.
In such groups, you can introduce your product (beta) to a ready-made audience. More importantly, you will learn what other startups have done, their pitfalls, and their successes.
In the long run, we will advise you to create your group too. It will further help solidify your visibility.
Moving away from Facebook groups, you should check slack forums. We recommend the "Product Led Growth" workspace.
You can even list your product in the "shameless-promotion" channel.
Use Your ProductThe cheapest marketing strategy ever is using your product. Affordability aside, doing so increases credibility.
Imagine creating a perfect solution that you don't use. How do you expect strangers to use your tool when you don't?
If you are ashamed of your product or don't think it is efficient, why must others think otherwise?
So, use your product. If possible, be the biggest user. And mind you, this strategy is not weird.
Quora founder, Adam D’Angelo, used the same strategy. He was answering all questions on the platform when it was still new. By doing so, he set the much-needed credibility among other users.
Perhaps Adam D'Angelo is going too far. Does the name Chris M. Walker ring a bell?
In case you don't know, Chris is the founder of Legiit. And to date, he sells his services and buys from others on the platform.
In fact, Chris is one of the top 5 in both sellers and buyers categories on Legiit.
Fun fact: you'll almost always see Chris in his Legiit black tees. So, be like Chris. Use and wear your product.
Expert Interviews & Round-upsThere's nothing wrong with seeking experienced eyes on your startup. The "experts" have already surpassed what might seem like a hurdle to you now.
More importantly, experts now have their own following. People trust them and listen to their recommendations.
So, key into that fame.
Reach out to experts in your niche. It could be through a cold email. Just reach out! While reaching out, add links to your beta product and subtly seek feedback.
Once you receive feedback, seek interviews too. Some experts might reject it, but you won't get negatives every time.
And to reduce the "nos," seek experts in your niche who are known for their interviews and roundups. Get your product into their web and gain an audience.
Leverage Other BrandsIn addition to expert interviews, reach out to other brands. Often, it is best to work with compatible brands, but not necessarily within your niche.
Think like Nike; see how they use sports personalities to promote their brands.
Say Nike is somewhat too obvious. Check the recent MasterCard partnership with Messi.
See how the company leverages Messi's huge following to gain traffic to their services.
Outside sports, developers also leverage candy companies. Android 4.4 developers did it with KitKat.
So, be introspective. You don't necessarily need an ENORMOUS brand to partner with. Find a company with more audience than yours; form a strategic partnership with them.
Press ReleaseAnother marketing strategy for startups that works wonders is press releases . Unfortunately, they are often overlooked.
Often, we hear startups claim that SEO is enough. Some even go as far as saying "no one reads major publications these days."
In reality, press releases have their uses and are not to be confused with SEO. And yes, publications are still a thing - and will always be.
But how did we know that?
Recently, we launched the first phase of Legiit 3.0. And the news gets featured on Yahoo news. Since then, we have seen a spike in the number of signups on Legiit.
Our 3.0 launch aside, "I Done This" used the same strategy to grow her project management tool.
So, yes, press releases work. However, it gets tricky. The process can be tedious. You have to maintain close relationships with major publications and their editors. But you likely won't have the time.
Good news: you can outsource your press releases. Both the writing and distribution!
Launch A Referral Or Affiliate ProgramThe marketing strategies for startups so far have been about gaining an audience. But when you eventually have some users for your product, how will you ensure they stay?
Even better, how can you turn your users into marketers of your product?
Start a referral program. And here's the best part: affiliate programs run themselves at no cost to you. Let's explain.
For example, at Legiit, we run an affiliate program that helps the referrer to get 15% off the sales of the referred.
In other words, we don't pay the referrer. Instead, the buyer pays both the referrer and the referred.
In the end, all parties are happy!
Offer Users CashFrankly, some users will never subscribe to your affiliate programs. They would readily recommend your product without collecting a penny, as long you offer what was promised.
So, how can you repay the kindness to these users?
Offer them cash!
Wait, you don't have to dash $1M out to users. You probably don't have that much to give.
Instead, you can adopt the Payoneer strategy. You can award new users cash for reaching a particular level while using your product.
With Payoneer, a new user, after receiving $1000 through the platform, will receive a $25 bonus. If referred, the referrer will earn the same.
Another way to offer users cash is through contests.
For example, at Legiit, we often organize trivial contests on our Facebook Group. We ask members to guess the new updates on our website. If they win, they receive Legiit bucks (not less than $10).
But here is the INTERESTING part: unlike Payoneer $25, you can't withdraw Legiit Bucks. You must spend it on Legiit.
That's another way to commit your users to your product.
Treasure HuntsIf contests aren't adventurous enough, why not try treasure hunts?
Make your users work for the freebie. Give them the thrill of the hunt!
Several e-commerce websites adopt this strategy, especially during their anniversary sales. And it works.
But you don't have to wait till anniversaries. Excite your users now!
Don't know how? Let's give you an insight.
At Legiit, we have what we call the Legiit Pizza. It's a $6 gift hidden randomly across the pages of the Legiit website.
Users can only find the pizza once daily. The best part: the Legiit Pizza will go to the Legiit buck balance.
In other words, users can only spend it on the platform.
You can adopt a similar strategy for your startup too. It works, especially for engagement among users.
Free MerchYou might not be a fan of cash gifts. In that case, give out free merch to your users.
Fortunately, there are endless merch ideas. You could give out branded tees, stickers, or mugs.
However, remember the keyword: branded. Whatever merch you give out must have your product name.
That way, you can subtly market your business. Your users will advertise your product anytime they wear your tees or drink coffee from your mug.
But the tricky part is how to distribute the merchandise. Who is eligible? What are the requirements?
Well, the decision lies with you. But you could add merchandise as a bonus for bulk orders. Or, you could it to users through a contest.
For example, at Legiit, we give out free merchandise during our live sessions. We ask participants to pick numbers randomly. Then, we simulate the limits with a tool; the correct guess (or very close without going over) gets the merch.
Unfortunately, gifts must come to an end. So, what next?
Target Users Of Competing ProductsRemember you had to delay your launch on Product Hunt because similar innovations are on the "newest" page.
Now, revisit those similar innovations. Check the comment section; what are users complaining about? Is there a way to reach out to the users?
But first, ensure your product doesn't have similar faults.
Outside Product Hunt, check the forums and groups you joined. See what users are saying about similar innovations. Answer their questions if there are any.
And, subtly introduce your product as the solution.
Note: While targeting the users of your competitors, be strategic. Know when to follow a lead. Some customers will always leave bad reviews regardless of a product's merit; don't target such people.
Explainer VideosNow that you have some users, try to gain more on a large scale. One way to do that is through explainer videos.
Make your explainer videos highly creative, precise, and humorous. And to gain attention as fast as possible, short videos are better.
Another beauty of explainer videos is that they can further boost your content marketing and SEO. If your video goes viral, you'll not only recoup the money spent on producing it but attract a spike in traffic, signups, and sales.
Furthermore, don't make videos on enigmatic topics. Steer clear of "bad" PR. While such publicity might be good for entertainment, it could crush your startup.
Lastly, the quality of your explainer videos is crucial to your brand representation. Always use the best tools.
And if you can't create the video, hire a freelancer to help.
Now, let's show you some guerilla marketing ideas for startups!
Attend Offline EventsOnce your startup gains some ground online, try offline marketing ideas. The first place to start is trade shows.
So, don your suit, and attend that event.
While you are attending events, prioritize the kinds where you'll meet influencers in your niche. You're not going to show up alone; connect too.
Also, don't throw your product at everyone's face. Contribute to conversions and offer insight-rich solutions. By doing so, attendees will ask about you and what you do.
That will be your chance to sell your product to influencers that will further improve your reach.
Sponsor A Local EventRemember we said press releases require building relationships with publications, sharing content, and connecting with editors.
Well, you can bypass that long approach without a press release expert. By sponsoring a local event, your local publication can source your story without you reaching out.
So, sponsor a local event. And while you are at it, don your branded tees. Even better, share some of your merchandise at the event- free of charge.
But most importantly, genuinely sponsor local events to help people. Using the act for marketing should be the secondary aim.
Hire A Flash Mob
Flash mobs are the most difficult to pull off of all guerilla marketing ideas for startups. But when done right, they could make a difference for your business.
In flash mobbing, a group of dancers (or actors) delight the audience in choreographed moves. However, those moves are a result of careful planning and weeks of practice.
Again, if done right, flash mobs will attract the curiosity of passersby. They (the audience) will even draw out their phones and put your company on their social media platforms.
The more viral the dance becomes, the more chances of a publication covering the story. And BOOM: another opportunity for a press release!
CrowdfundingAfter your product must have gathered waves, seek crowdfunding. People will rarely pledge their money to an unknown cause. But now, you have some following. So, leverage that.
Also, you should reserve crowdfunding for a new product. That way, you can prepare your strategy within your pre-launch processes.
Note: while crowdfunding, you must learn to persuade contributors instead of just showing.
Beyond your large following in the industry, how can your investors profit from funding your product?
Bottom line: ensure you fine-tune your product to be the best. More importantly, convince people to believe in your innovation as much as you.
Marketing Ideas For Startups: Frequently Asked Questions
How Can I Promote My Startup Business?
Before the promotion, build a product that solves a common problem. Afterward, list your innovation on platforms such as Product Hunt where your audience visits for answers. Even after that, continually push traffic to your product.
What Are The 4 Types Of Marketing?Ideally, all marketing can be summed up into these 4 categories:
- Cause Marketing - highlight how you solve a social issue
- Relationship Marketing - e.g., partnership with other brands
- Scarcity Marketing - e.g., beta products
- Undercover Marketing - e.g., sponsoring a local event
How Can I Attract Customers To My Business?First, improve your product to be the best. Secondly, show how your products can help. Lastly, and most importantly, add magnets such as free gifts to gain the attention of your ideal customer.
What Are Some Low-budget Marketing Ideas?Generally, all online marketing ideas are affordable. From the lot, content marketing is arguably the most budget-friendly.
Marketing Ideas For Startups: Final ThoughtsOverall, learn how to measure your marketing strategies. Otherwise, you won't know which tactic is working and which one needs tweaking or eliminating.
So, always check metrics such as website traffic, leads generated, and customer acquisition cost before and after implementing your marketing strategies. Then, compare the two; you'll find your answers.
We hope this piece has been helpful.
Need more marketing strategies to scale your business?
Check the other posts on our blog!