5 Startup Marketing Strategies That Work Even When Things Are Tough

You may not be able to predict the future, but these tried-and-true marketing strategies will help you create opportunities even in the most difficult of times.

5 Startup Marketing Strategies That Work Even When Things Are Tough
Startup Marketing Strategies

The startup world is in disarray, and the economic outlook is bleak. Many businesses are laying off large numbers of employees, cutting back on initiatives, and rethinking their entire sales and marketing strategy. It won't always be this way — it's a cycle — but that doesn't make it any easier to deal with now. Every marketer seems to be wondering, "What can we do?"

Begin with these five startup marketing strategies. Even in the best of times, they make an excellent foundation for any marketing strategy, but they are especially prudent in the worst. Implement these, and you may find yourself head and shoulders above your competitors when the cycle turns.

1. Communicate with your customers!

When in doubt, consult with your customers. What are they going through, what do they require, and what do they expect to happen in the next three, six, or twelve months? What bothers them may be news to you, and what bothers you may not bother them at all. Here are some starter questions to get the conversation started:

  • How are things now in comparison to this time last year?
  • Do you want to spend more, less, or about the same in this category?
  • What is your current biggest challenge?
  • What do you believe the most difficult challenge will be in the next six months? 12?
  • What would compel you to purchase this item or upgrade your account?
  • What would prevent you from investing in this?
  • What do you like about what we're doing? That you don't know?

Use the results of these customer interviews to shape your marketing.

2. Provide smooth purchasing experiences

Everything that stands in the way of a customer making a purchase is removed in the best customer experience. "Frictionless" is always a good target, but in uncertain times, you need to look for outlandish ways to remove friction.

Here are a few ideas to get your wheels turning:

  • Create a migration tool that allows customers to transfer their data from competitors to you.
  • To get people in the door, offer something incredible for free or at a massive discount — your lowest tier plan, onboarding, shipping, a managed service, etc. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Hubspot excelled at this.
  • Display the product or pricing and give the buyer control.
  • Create templates, packages, widgets, or anything else that customers would normally have to invest time and energy in.

You can use this to turn a bad landscape into a great opportunity for both you and your customers.

3. Be consistent and clear in your communication

The businesses remembered are those that were there. This is particularly valid during periods of unpredictability, volatility, and crisis. The restriction is that you cannot merely restate what has already been said. Lead by example.

Take a position on a subject, develop your positioning and messaging, and express it. Share if there is so much volatility that you are unsure of your position or lack the information necessary to decide. Include others in the process. Become the thought leader or go-to brand. Gaining widespread attention gives your sales and marketing efforts significant leverage.

4. Place larger bets when you can

Cutting back is a natural response in uncertain times, but consider this: All of your rivals are also doing so. Now is the ideal time to expand on what is effective. You can widen the separation between yourself and your rivals. When the cycle eventually turns around, you'll have gained so much momentum and are going so far ahead that nobody will be able to catch you.

You still need to manage your resources responsibly. It would be great if you could put money into initiatives and distribution methods that are already successful or that you are aware of your customers need. Invest your time instead of money if you don't have any.

The following choices involve more time than money:

  • enhancing your social media presence and brand
  • creating content for your blog and other platforms
  • Discover outlets and ways to tell your story through earned media and public relations.
  • updating your website, workflows, and existing content
  • optimization for search engines
  • Increasing the size of your customer or fan base

Note: Account upgrades and repeat purchases are probably your lowest-hanging fruit if you need to boost revenue right away. If not, make investments to widen the gap between you and rivals.

5. Review your procedures
Operations are frequently put in the "we'll worry about that later" category. Operations are frequently neglected because there are so many other things to do, such as creating and capturing demand. But during these pauses and reassessments, now is the ideal time to evaluate your operations and metrics, such as:

  • Cost of obtaining a customer
  • Retention of clients and subsequent purchases
  • annual spend or contract value
  • Workflows
  • Automation
  • Purchase journeys and customer personas (see section 1)
  • Objectives and KPIs for the current quarter

"What gets measured gets better," they say. Determine how good or bad of a situation you really are in, where you can improve, and where you can afford to bet more by auditing your operations and other metrics (see section 4). Use the information here to guide your marketing strategy.

Avoid making a snap decision.

Everything moves through cycles. Despite how difficult the present situation may seem, there will be bright days when your company can prosper. Avoid making such rash decisions; you don't want to endure long-term suffering in exchange for momentary relief. Watch your metrics, look after your customers, be clear and consistent in your communication, and place a few large bets. How well things can work out for you may surprise you.