The startup world is cutthroat. Any previously-successful strategy, plan, or method that can provide even a small edge in this highly competitive arena is worth a look. For that reason, relying on previously successful methods, especially when constructing something as important as a marketing plan, is not only wise, it can keep your business afloat. What’s important is to focus on what works, bringing in leads and developing positive brand image, without relying on gimmicks with no staying power. In this post, we’re outlining ten marketing strategies for proven startup success.


1. Content Marketing

Kicking off (and potentially topping) the list is the new marketing darling. As customers overwhelmed by media eschew mass consumption for important and value driven posts, photos, and videos, businesses are forced to adapt to the changing climate. By delivering valuable, intelligent information to customers with a clear goal to enrich the lives of viewers, companies will see increased returns from this strategy in the coming year.

And its track record is solid. A study by Kapost and Eloqua found that the cost-per-lead for paid search was $111.11, while the cost-per-lead for content marketing was less than one-third that amount, at $32.25. Furthermore, a Hubspot study found that 82% of marketers who had daily blog posts reported a positive ROI for their efforts. The writing is on the wall: content marketing is growing, and for sound fiscal and practical reasons.


2. Take Advantage of Social Media

Leveraging social media is nothing new, but it remains a sound, cheap tool for startup companies. By producing quality content on some of the mostly highly frequented traffic channels on the Internet, social media not only offers the opportunity for exposure, but “virality”.

“Going viral” has worked in the past, even if doing so is not an exact science. The Dollar Shave Club’s introductory video made them an overnight success due to its humor and high level of sharing. What creates virality is simple, if inexact: create content and marketing materials that possess characteristics people would want to be associated with. Doing so can result in “views + 1”; sharing that spreads the word in a way that money can’t buy.


3. Don’t be Afraid of SEO

SEO or Search Engine Optimization has seen diminished returns in recent years, however the practice of optimizing metadata and searchability is not without its logic. Google remains the most heavily trafficked search engine on the web, and the index queried by Google searches depends upon strong keywords, accurate site titles, and a circus of other considerations that “optimize” your site’s profile. Focus on your product and company as a whole and consider what keywords may lead an individual to find you.


4. Utilize Pay-Per-Click Advertising

At present, the jury is out on the effectiveness of pay-per-click advertising. On the one hand, the method has little in the way of longevity by its own merits. Paid users will need some quick convincing to stick around and even more convincing to become repeat visitors. On the other hand, PPC gives your website the chance to reach curious eyes regardless of your page rank. Considering the challenge of establishing a sufficiently robust link base and traffic rank to appear near the top of search engine results, PPC is, realistically, a good option for startups looking to make a quick impact.


5. Lean on Reputation Marketing

In stark contrast to the quick injection of viewers, reputation marketing depends on slowly and methodically building a body of customer reviews and comments that speak highly of your services or products. The challenge here is the lack of control, but the payout is immense. This is due to the fact that a vast majority of online users trust users they do not even know, and that same percentage consult customer reviews before making a purchase. Building a reputation through consistent quality and customer service may take time, but once your reputation is in the zeitgeist, get ready to enjoy the ride.


6. Consider Native Advertising

A lesser-known but no less intuitive form of marketing involves placing advertisements in familiar contexts. For example, BuzzFeed, the popular GIF sharing site, hosts advertisements that appear to be site articles. The articles differ in appearance to avoid unwanted confusion, but the context and similarity associate your brand with an activity or site that people voluntarily visit and enjoy. And the proof is in the pudding: According to Vitamin Talent, consumers looked at native ads 52% more frequently than banner ads.


7. Get Creative

“Business as usual” has become a dirty word to consumers. With generalized disdain toward “impersonal” big businesses, startups have a unique opportunity to capitalize on the creative energy that fueled their founding. The aforementioned Dollar Shave Club video comes immediately to mind. Utilize humor, and the element of surprise. Aspire to be unconventional and unpredictable. Reach out and touch customers in a new and interesting way and even the most under-the-radar entrepreneur can benefit.


8. Embrace Delight

Brand perception is about far more than just quality and on-time delivery. For companies to have a real impact in the life of their customers, they must aspire to transcend the rigid, analytical roles of a traditional firm. Be delightful. Bring a feeling of interest, curiosity, and discovery to your customers in any way that you can. Studies show that positive emotions, especially those associated with discovery, have a powerful impact on forming a positive impression in consumer minds. Hold live events, create eCard templates, and tap into seasonal cheer in order to bring whimsy into the “boring” business world.


9. Diversify

Any one of the aforementioned channels can provide nascent businesses with valuable views. But the key, in a world dominated by multi-channel viewing and diverse media consumption, is to establish your presence across all avenues. By doing so, you establish a brand identity that is as ubiquitous as it is well-defined, never leaving the mind of plugged in viewers. And customers respond to this approach. According to Mashable, 72% of customers prefer an integrated marketing approach. If that doesn’t tell you something, nothing will.


10. Be Yourself

Okay, so it isn’t exactly rocket science, but there’s something profoundly inspiring about the startup company. Entrepreneurs inspire us to chase down our own dreams. Silicon Valley has produced countless startups with unique character, practices, and workspaces, many of which have gone viral due to their status as symbols of freedom and innovation. As a startup company, you have a unique identity as a high-powered mover and shaker, making the world a better place. Be yourself and show yourself through your voice and your story. Incorporate these things into your marketing materials and create a human connection with your customers that will last well beyond your startup years.


Navigating the waters of the startup sea can be tricky for even the hardiest sailors. But time-tested strategies for marketing and advertising should give you a compass when the waters get choppy. Dive into the new digital age of content and friendly advertising and embrace your unique identity and its positive associations. Inspiration is a powerful motivator these days, so inspire yourself to step outside your comfort zone and make a difference for you and your exciting new company.