It is not uncommon to see founders ponder on digital marketing. While growth strategies help your product get traction, there are many variables that can make the process confusing. Not only do you need a low-time preference and a broad skill set, but also the willingness to constantly test your assumptions and analyze results.
For many startups, digital marketing only becomes important at a later point in time, when funding and manpower allow for it. In most cases, product development and investors’ satisfaction take the front seat, while everything else is pushed to the side until further notice.
So how do successful founders and small teams handle marketing? The answer obviously depends on the needs of the company. For some, a CMO can handle the first steps in the space. For others, a digital marketing agency for startups (or more than one in the case) is needed.
I hear you - digital marketing agencies aren’t trustworthy. Most are incompetent and the majority simply don’t care. If that’s your experience you’re certainly not the only one; marketing is quite tricky and, in most cases, startup founders don’t even understand what exactly they are looking for.
This article will help you understand what you should be looking for when working with external marketing partners. We will walk you through each and every marketing segment that your startup may need at some point in time, and help you understand how to find reliable agencies that can support your goals.
The importance of a digital marketing strategy for startups
A marketing strategy is essential from the moment your MVP is developed. It helps companies build systems that transform visitors into customers. This is very important for two reasons:
- It leads to an improved product - Customers can test the company’s product (or service) and give feedback.
- It helps companies make money - Customers pay to use the product (or service), which leads to more sales and revenue.
These simple but often overlooked facts are the reason why creating a digital marketing plan for startup companies is essential. And while for most founders this makes sense there is still not enough expertise or time available to get things done.
This is where a digital marketing agency for startups comes in.
What does a digital marketing agency for startups do?
Digital marketing agencies provide an array of different services. Some are more focused on one specific area of growth, while others create packages that offer complete marketing solutions (multiple focus areas).
Obviously, a lot of factors come into play here, but generally speaking, these are the components that digital marketing agencies can help you with:
SEO services for startups
An SEO agency for startups (or inbound marketing agency) focuses on:
- Optimizing the existing structure of the website.
- Building backlinks to increase your website’s Domain Authority (DA).
- Coming up with a new content strategy and optimizing existing content
- Help your website rank in Google and other search engines organically.
Search Engine Optimization should be started as soon as possible and should belong in every digital marketing strategy.
When it comes to more competitive industries or niches, SEO can become quite complex. As such, it becomes harder to find an agency that can provide quality results.
For example, if you need to find professionals that focus on digital marketing for fintech companies, you will need to make sure that they have in-depth knowledge of your industry and are thus able to create a targetted SEO strategy.
Content creation for startups
Both SEO and inbound marketing agencies usually have connections to writers and content managers. These are the people that will execute an SEO strategy that requires written content (blog posts and articles).
If your agency doesn’t have those available, you will need to find and work with content creation firms to get most of your content. This is especially important in the early stages of your product development since the content will need to “marinade” in the search engines for quite a while before it starts to rank organically.
If you need to find a separate content creation agency, it is important to have your SEO partners create outlines of the content’s structure. This way, the freelancers can write in a way that maximizes the eventual traffic growth.
Note that written content is not the only form of content. Social media content can also play an important role here. While, for most startups, social media is mostly used for content distribution and marketing (described in the next chapter), some companies will need dedicated content if their audience is using specific platforms.
For example, if your audience is mostly found on Instagram, you may need to find agencies that can create (and manage) photos, videos, and stories.
Content marketing for startups
Content marketing can be defined in two different ways, depending on how you look at it. We’re simply gonna state both definitions to clarify what we’re referring to.
- Content marketing is the process of creating content and using that as a way to market your services or products. This definition is somewhat incomplete as it does not explain whether you should let the content “run on its own” or use other techniques to boost its appearance across different channels. This brings me to the second definition.
- Content marketing is the process of “pushing” newly created content on several platforms to create additional streams of referral traffic, aside from organic clicks. This includes social media strategies, promotion of content through newsletters, creating press releases, and much more.
We tend to agree more with the second definition as it is better formulated, and clearly differentiates the concept of content development and content marketing. While the former is somewhat straightforward, the latter is probably the most creative and time-consuming process. Due to that many agencies tend to automate it, without putting any real effort into it.
If time allows, consider promoting your content in-house when starting out. You (and your team) have in-depth knowledge of the audience you are trying to attract, which makes the connection between brand and customer easier and more authentic.
When you want to take things to the next level (or simply don’t have time for it) it is best to consider a social media marketing agency that has experience in your industry. While hard to find, they are worth the extra mile. We will discuss the methods you can use to find trustworthy partners in the following chapters.
Email marketing for startups
Email marketing falls among the many different services that marketing agencies provide. However, it is not for everyone, and it can get quite costly if you are tight on cash. This process involves the collection of email addresses to form your own “list”, which you can engage with on a regular basis, using email newsletters and different types of campaigns.
Marketing agencies will usually set up an automated flow of emails, starting from capture forms on your website (using Optin Monster or BuzzSumo), all the way to email drip campaigns and complex landing pages.
Note that, for this option, you can start by using free options of relevant tools that you can later upgrade when the limits are reached to save on the costs. We have outlined some of them here. You should only start working with external partners once your website has a steady flow of highly-relevant organic traffic (at least 2000 visits per month). Anything earlier than that will usually lead to sub-par results that do not reflect the price you pay for the service.
Paid digital marketing for startups
In most cases, inbound marketing agencies (which execute all tasks shown above) will not offer advertisement services. Exploring paid ads from an early-stage is only relevant for companies that have a clear idea of their CLV and are able to translate it into a specific amount of money. This includes all forms of paid promotion, so not just Google Ads.
More specifically, once your startup starts getting some initial traction (early in its growth stage or after an investment round), you could explore paid ads as an additional growth option for your company. This includes:
- Google Ads for startups
- Facebook ads for startups
- Instagram ad agency
- Youtube promotion companies
- LinkedIn advertising examples (and promotional strategies)
Most agencies that undertake such responsibilities are only focused on one or two platforms and develop their expertise in them continuously. Therefore, it might be best to first test organic marketing efforts, discover which channels your audience uses most, and only then decide what type of paid promotion you’d like to explore.
Education regarding growth hacks for startups
When it comes to marketing, the landscape is constantly changing, and it is important to remain up to date with practices and techniques that help you reach your goals.
This is an important point you need to keep in mind. You will expose yourself to new ideas and concepts that help your business grow:
- Founders will understand the importance of each digital marketing segment, learn how to create a digital marketing strategy for startups, and understand how to measure success.
- In turn, this new knowledge equips you with a better understanding of the requirements set when hiring in-house talent.
- Since marketing agencies work with multiple clients simultaneously, you will also learn how to minimize the time spent on each task, and how to focus on the things that matter most. This includes systems, setups, and tasks that help you achieve maximum growth with the least amount of effort.
How can I find a digital marketing agency for startups?
This is the tricky part. Finding a reliable agency is not as simple as Googling what you think your company needs. To this day, the best way to find a reliable marketing agency is through:
- Word of mouth advertisement - Reach out to your network and ask about their experiences with marketing agencies. By this, we don’t only mean founders. You can also reach out to professionals holding executive positions in companies that are related to your needs. This includes marketing managers, CMOs, SEO managers, content managers, and more. In most cases, they will have enough experience to guide you in the right direction.
- Successful case studies - This is somewhat risky for founders without marketing experience. Most agencies that have case studies will only show the glorious highlights that make them stand out. The best thing you can do here is set up an introduction meeting with agencies that have great case studies, kindly ask for the details of the companies they worked with, and reach out to them directly. If they are not willing to share the details of the companies they worked with, make sure to understand the reasons behind this.
Let us guide you
Over the years, our experience as serial founders has helped us create growth strategies for many startup companies.
At Coara, we believe that gaining traction for your idea is equally important to the product you create. This is why we focus on building bridges between innovative products and customers who benefit from them.
If you wish to have a call with us to learn more about what we can do for your company, or simply pick our brain, feel free to schedule a call here.
To sum up, a digital marketing agency for startups can mostly help you in the following areas:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Content creation
- Content marketing
- Email marketing
- Paid ads
- Improving your systems and knowledge of digital marketing
Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to make use of all the above segments. Each startup requires a customized solution depending on their needs. Therefore, make sure you ask for more information on the strategy development process, and make sure there is a logic behind it.
If you wish to learn more about digital marketing and get inspired by the best, make sure you check out some of the best startup marketing campaigns as well.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
If you want to know more about digital marketing agencies for startups and how they could help your business, then make sure you check out the Q&A section below. We regularly update this section to add the most relevant questions and answers, making sure you stay on top of the most essential information.
Digital marketing for startups - Smart thinking or wasteful expense?
Digital marketing is not only startup friendly, it is essential in all businesses nowadays. With the recent developments globally due to the COVID-19 pandemic, digital-first culture has become essential, therefore any and all strategies have to be based on digital tools. Hence - digital marketing for startups is essential when building out online marketing strategies, but also to base targeted decisions on the current digital environment.
What marketing firms for startups are there?
Online marketing for startups needs to be tailored to the specific industry and goals, which is why the best is hiring an agency depending on the goal - an agency which specifies in a certain area rather than covering a wide spectrum of services. There's generally 7 types of marketing agencies:
- Full-Service Digital Marketing/Inbound Marketing Agency
- Digital Marketing Firm
- The SEO Company
- Digital Ad (PPC) Agency
- Social Media Agency
- Website Agency or Website Design Agency
- Digital Marketing Consultant
Are there many digital marketing services for startups?
There's plenty of digital marketing agencies for startups - the demand for digital marketing has grown exponentially over the past 5 years and is planned to keep growing as we move into the digital-first age - it's expected to double in numbers within the next 5 to 6 years. The competition within digital marketing services is also steep, because of the different areas it can cover - content marketing agency, inbound marketing agency, SEO marketing agency, social media agency for startups etc.
Are marketing agencies for startups different from in-house teams?
Experience shows that a big percent of digital marketing agencies aren't competent enough to execute marketing plans efficiently enough to receive excellent and fast results. This can be attributed to the growing workload marketing agencies experience and the fast paced environment, which is hard to keep up with. That being said, digital agency for startups is not a bad idea, so long as there is an in-house marketing manager, who's responsible for all outsourced resources. Agencies need to be monitored and kept in a short communication loop to make sure targets and deadlines are met. An in-house team is certainly more efficient, as all resources are directed towards the company goals, however can be more costly or lack in expertise and network.
What kind of marketing agency startups should approve?
Startups should only approve marketing agencies, which provide exactly the solutions determined to reach the goals - therefore determining the type of marketing agency is crucial. Startup marketing agencies can be great at setting targets, however execution solely depends on how closely the startup will follow progress and KPI's. Doing a background check before hiring an agency is a must - look into reviews, case studies and feedback to understand if the agency fits your expectations.
Are marketing startups a good idea?
For a startup digital marketing agency is not a bad idea, however as mentioned the competition is growing due to the growing demand. Due to the fact that many digital marketing agencies fail to deliver because of the workload, it opens space for other experts within the area as well.
What's the best digital marketing agency for startups?
To choose the best digital marketing agency startup should do the following:
- Set targets you wish to achieve with marketing
- Set KPIs which will measure those targets
- Ask for suggestions within your network of marketing agencies
- Complete a background check of the agency to understand their quality and values
The best digital marketing agency for your startup, will be the one which will check out all of the above considerations.