Marketing for tech start-ups – how to bootstrap your marketing

Julia Payne of Incisive Edge offers five ways to bootstrap your marketing when you’re a tech start-up

When it comes to marketing for tech start-ups, it’s always the founder’s dilemma.

Your business is going to change the world. But the world doesn’t know about you. The world might not even understand the potential for your idea. In fact, it seems like the world is doing its best to put up a barrier of “noise” that makes it impossible for your start-up to announce its arrival effectively.

One-person marketing machines, or founders of tech start-ups wearing a marketing hat, can spend weeks of person-hours banging their heads against the wall of industry noise, preventing them from getting their awesome ideas out into the workplace, no matter the volume of their marketing efforts.

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A laundry list of problems awaits the founder who stretches themselves too thinly when it comes to marketing or their marketing strategy:

  • A tiny following on your social media accounts, with logos which look recognisably the same, but also obviously different from one channel to another, diluting your brand
  • Newsletters which look great in Chrome, but with broken formatting on old IE browsers, sent to questionable email lists
  • Websites which look perfect on your 60-inch desktop, but can’t display on tablets, and which speak solely to the company and features of your product/ service, rather than to your target audience

Spreading yourself too thinly as a business and a marketing head, unfortunately, results in unsightly public warts when it comes to marketing strategy.

While there may be potential prospects out there scouring the world for uncut gems, who might be willing to overlook a poorly constructed website with incoherent messaging, they are very few and far between.

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The reality is, making it to the mainstream will need you to present a more joined up vision to the world.

So how do you do great marketing whilst bootstrapping your start-up, whilst avoiding the public pitfalls?

Marketing for tech start-ups

Clear, concise and strategically minded marketing does not have to cost your business inordinate chunks of your hard-earned money, or early stage revenue. By focusing on the right elements of the marketing mix, up front, you can tell your story proudly to your prospect base.

Here you have three ways to invest wisely, reach professional-quality marketing, and begin to drive pipeline to offset your expense.

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#1- Prioritise your Go To Market strategy

Many founders of tech start-ups have done much of the required work to form an effective Go To Market (GTM) strategy, without joining the dots together to form a clear strategic marketing plan.

A proper GTM strategy will look across your total addressable market, identify a viable audience – both your ideal customers (or Ideal Client Profile) and individual buyer personas, and provide the map your business needs to reach them. Once the audience is tightly defined and documented, the real value is created, by mapping out your personas’ buying journeys, and using that to establish great messaging and a brand which is true to the vision of your business.

In addition, establishing both your value proposition – the true value you deliver to your clients, together with your position in the market, will ensure not only clarity of your offering, but enable you to distinguish your business from the competition.

>See also: The importance of target audience personas and how to develop them

#2 – Right blend for your strategic blueprint

With the fundamentals defined, and your vision documented for all stakeholders to see and execute together, now you must choose the right way to reach your market.

Since 2015, most B2B companies have used a blend of inbound marketing, content marketing and Account Based Marketing to drive revenue. More recently, Product Led Growth (PLG) has become an approach that is close to the hearts of many founders.

In order to choose the right approach and framework for your business, you will need to define your marketing objectives, and do so in terms of your priorities, and the timelines which you need to adhere to. Typical best practices such as SMART goals, KPIs or OKRs can be helpful in making informed decisions about where your next steps should lie and the channel approach to take.

Viewing those objectives through the lens of your budget, will enable your business to choose the right blended channel strategy.

>See also: 3 tech firms posting marketing jobs right now

#3 – Spend time on organic early in your marketing strategy

In the early days, as you build both a route out to your market, and a route in for the right people to discover you, it is critical to consider SEO.

Interrogating the internet for the results you need, through Google and other search engines, has become an accepted part of the purchase process for B2B, compounded by our use of this practice in our daily lives as consumers.

The average B2B buyer does more than 70 per cent of their research online, before ever wanting to engage with an organisation, and that figure is growing every year.

It is an inescapable fact that much of that research will happen through search engines, particularly in the early decision stages.

Once the buyer has completed their research, they will return again and again to the trusted sites which have helped them in those first few interactions and allow their decision to be shaped even further by them.

This is where it is critical that you find a way to showcase your business to prospects when they are starting their purchasing process.

Creating a website which represents your business professionally, but also works for SEO is critical. Take advantage in the early days of your start-up to learn a little bit about this practice and how to do the fundamentals well, up front. It will save you a lot of heartache and re-work in the longer term.

High quality content will do wonders for your organic reach. If you can describe your product or service in compelling terms and add value, your prospects will return. Keep the reader to the forefront when you write, and you will be off to a great start.

Ensure your site is properly configured in terms of analytics. Google Analytics will allow you to monitor the sources of traffic into your site, and how they change over time. Metrics like bounce rate and pages per session will give you an insight into the quality of your content marketing, in the eyes of Google and the other search engines.

SEO is the modern day heavy hitter when it comes to organic reach, but it is not alone in your organic marketing plan, and it can take time to see the results you deserve.

Your business should also make sure to take advantage of email marketing and social media marketing.

Your social media marketing strategy is one area where clear and coherent branding (including your messaging) is absolutely critical, to build credibility with your audience. It will serve very high when prospects search your brand name, and if someone is serious about doing business with you, they are highly likely to view your output on key social media platforms. Ensure that they are greeted with posts and bios that speak to the image you want to create for your company.

Email marketing can be a great way to boost your website traffic and deliver your message personally to your audience.

If your email marketing is going to rely on a newsletter, or events’ promotion, make that clear at the point you collect the prospect’s information. It may reduce sign ups slightly, but it will drastically increase the quality of engagement you receive and conversions.

Once you have begun to build your email database, ensure you are communicating with them regularly. This practice will make the list self-cleaning. However, be warned, don’t send communications just for the sake of it, spend time on each email to ensure it adds value to your subscribers.

And finally for emails, always triple check what you’re about to send out before hitting send. Nothing is a more public mistake from a marketing department, than an email recall, or apology.

#4 – Use paid search as a bridge

Search engine optimisation, social media posts, and email marketing strategy are all key elements of overall digital marketing strategy for tech start-ups, but nothing produces results as quickly as paid ads.

If you’re looking to generate leads as part of your tech start-up marketing strategy you will undoubtedly need to spend some money with Google Ads and/or social platforms.

Whilst you’re bootstrapping, it is critical to be cautious with your online ads. We recommend investing appropriately in one or two focused campaigns, rather than spreading your ad spend too thinly across four, five or six different audiences and ad sets. Start small and then build.

PPC could easily dominate this article, however we wanted to include a few ideas which could help you get off the mark in the early days.

Begin with keyword research to determine the right starting point for your PPC. Apply common sense to the terms, looking at which ones are likely to result in a lead, vs someone simply researching around your topic.

Ensure you have all the analytics tools you need properly configured. You will need to lean on metrics from these platforms to steer your start-up marketing strategy when it comes to paid media.

Define success up front. Know whether you’re shooting to generate leads or create brand awareness within a particular market. Tie KPIs to the objectives of your campaign and use the analytics tools to measure them.

Remember, you can use landing pages to drastically improve conversion rates but let your page settle for a period of time, and then make changes if you aren’t getting the conversions that you require. Constant changes never play well.

Once you’re set up, you’ll be well placed to begin to run your paid ads in a structured and responsible way.

#5 – Marketing success and happy sales teams

So there you have it, creating a clear GTM strategy, applying the correct marketing framework, and building organic and paid strategies into the core of your business, are four of the areas which have helped us to guide tech start-ups along their path to unicorn status.

Julia Payne is founder of Incisive Edge, a strategy-first B2B marketing agency specialising in customer acquisition and expert in start-ups and scale-ups

Further reading

Defining a PR strategy