20 Uncommon Marketing Strategies That’ll Kickstart Your Startup
Building a new startup is simultaneously exciting and terrifying.
If you’ve come here, you’re likely scrambling for marketing ideas. A startup demands rock-solid business promotion ideas that will net clicks, signups, and, ultimately, sales.
You don’t have the revenue to compete with the top dogs in SEO and PPC either. Thankfully, you won’t need it (for now).
You need to focus on building a brand personality worth acknowledging. With a bit of innovation and creative thinking, you can get users talking about your product or service.
Here are 20 marketing ideas for small businesses that are sure to kickstart your startup.
1. Brand Yourself in a Unique Way
Some might argue that companies live or die based on their branding.
You and your team may have created the most convenient, innovative product on the market. However, if you’re unable to penetrate that market and make audiences recognize your name, no one will ever find out.
For almost any product or service you can think of, there’s usually a go-to brand that comes to mind.
For computers, it’s Windows.
For cellular phones, it’s Apple.
For workplace communications, it’s Slack.
The point here illustrates the power of branding. Of course, the brand is ultimately propped up by the power of the product or service. But, would the iPhone be such a household name without Steve Jobs’ standout presentation?
Powerful branding starts with a few key areas:
- Brand logo
- Brand slogan/tagline
- Brand voice
- Brand values
- The face of your brand
A great place to start is scoping out the competition. Analyze each competitor and see how they brand themselves in these key areas. Think about what makes their branding weak and what your team can do better.
In a world full of countless landscaping companies, don’t be another cookie-cutter “Bob’s Landscaping.” Be bold and be different to stand out from the start.
2. Grant Exclusive Early Access
If there’s anything that grants as much attention as “free,” it’s “exclusive.”
Countless companies have successfully gathered attention quickly and efficiently by offering exclusive access. This works for your startup as a whole or for introducing new products or services into the marketplace.
Earlier this year, DevriX wrote about how some startups used this very same strategy to gain attention.
The strategy has also been used by juggernaut companies like PayPal, Slack, and Google to incredible effect.
The psychology at work here is that people always seem to want what others can’t have. A more recent example of this is when Activision Blizzard, Inc. shared exclusive beta access to their upcoming title Overwatch 2 with carefully selected Twitch influencers.
There was an added caveat in this campaign as regular viewers could gain exclusive access by watching streamed content for two hours.
The result? Activision Blizzard shattered viewership records with over 1.5 million concurrent viewers. For a relatively small investment, they instantly generated mass interest in their upcoming launch.
The amount of activity and number of beta signups does not necessarily mean your startup will be a success, but it succeeds in grabbing much-needed attention. Whether or not your brand will take off depends on the quality of your offerings.
Finally, exclusive betas offer your team the added benefit of collecting valuable marketing and quality control data. You can use your average beta experience and feedback to further improve your startup before the official launch.
3. Get Involved in Public Forums
A great rule to follow in digital marketing? Get involved with your audience.
This remains a great practice from startup to becoming an established, household name.
The primary reason for this is that it establishes authenticity with the average consumer. For startup owners, it also allows you to bring attention to your brand in a very natural, appealing manner.
This doesn’t mean that you should create a Reddit account and start spamming various boards with promotions. Doing so will, at best, alienate everyday Redditors, and, at worse, get you banned immediately.
Instead, you need to use these public forums like an actual user.
Start by browsing the threads that relate to what your brand has to offer. With some careful research, you’re likely to stumble upon conversations between everyday consumers that talk about:
- The problems they are facing in areas relevant to your offerings
- The problems they have with a competitor’s product/service
- The features they want from a new company
Should your brand happen to appeal to that need, let those people know that your brand offers what they need. Don’t be “salesy” or pushy, simply give them the information they need to help themselves.
Also, like beta testing, conversing with your target audience online can help you better understand their everyday problems and needs. This sets your startup for better positioning when it comes to achieving better marketing results.
4. Seek Out Users That Are Unsatisfied with Competitor Platforms
This business marketing strategy relates directly to the previous tip.
However, instead of sticking strictly to forums, you can seek out target audiences on other platforms to evangelize your brand.
You can seek out these users on any platform that features content based on your industry or one of your competitors. This might include sites like YouTube, Google Reviews, Yelp, Quora, and others.
Your startup is specifically looking for users that are expressing dissatisfaction with the quality of a product or experience with a service. Take the time to understand their concerns and position yourself to explain why your new startup offers a better long-term solution.
5. Host Giveaways with Industry-Relevant Products
While one of our previous tips talked about the power of exclusivity, this tip focuses on the power of free goods.
You can quickly drive signups and referrals simply by hosting a giveaway for a desirable product or service.
While some brands have found success giving away things like iPods or computers, we find it best to focus on something central to your offerings.
While giving away a brand-new laptop to the audience will drive form submissions, there’s a great chance that many of those will not be qualified prospects. In other words, just about anyone is willing to give up their email address to save a few hundred dollars. They don’t need to have any interest in your startup.
For example, a new coffee brand startup might give away an expensive, high-end coffee maker. Meanwhile, a computer company might give away a free upgrade to Windows Professional Edition.
There are other ways to get creative with your giveaways such as giving away subscriptions to your very own startup. Not only do users get something free, but you ensure that they continue engaging with your brand for continued conversions.
6. Give Away Credit to Help Users Get Started
This option can be more costly and risky compared to other alternatives.
However, this tactic has proven effective for many companies, particularly in finance. Virtually every credit card provider offers intro cash offers, like Wells Fargo’s Active Cash which grants $200 when you spend $1,000 over three months.
PayPal also offered $10 when users receive their first QR code and another $10 reward after completing five payments.
These types of offers can help users side with your startup when comparing their options. When many brands position themselves with the same offerings and price points, bonus incentives like this can make the decision much easier.
While it may be more costly upfront to use this tactic, it can pay off dividends when all of those potential prospects sign up with your platform over the competitor.
Furthermore, using a credit reward system incentivizes those users to continue using your brand after they create their new account.
7. Form Partnerships with Established Brands
Trying to get your unknown property in the limelight is tough when you’re on your own.
But, what if a brand that audiences already know shared some of the spotlight?
Brand partnerships happen for a specific purpose – to introduce new audiences to each brand. However, your startup’s offerings will need to be relevant to the partner brand’s audience for this to be worthwhile.
A great example of such a partnership is Apple’s collaboration with American Express, MasterCard, and Visa. This was to promote the new Apple Pay functionality, which would allow users to easily apply their credit with their phone.
Likewise, these credit card companies would highlight the Apple Pay integration when applying for and using your issued card. This introduced both parties to new services that are immediately relevant to one another.
While your startup doesn’t have the star power of these companies, the marketing principles still apply.
Carefully consider which brands could both help and benefit from a partnership with you. Work on your pitch to those companies and make the effort to reach out.
8. Create Content That Breaks the Mold
Few things help startups catch fire like a viral marketing campaign. There are countless examples to show for it.
If you’re a man that spent time online in the 2010s, you’ve likely seen Dollar Shave Club’s “Our Blades Are F***ing Great” viral video. What was a small startup exploded overnight and now sees its products sold online and in general stores like Target and Wal-Mart.
While IHOP is a much more established brand, many likely remember its fake name change from a few years ago. What initially caused laughter and disbelief online led to a surge in sales across all locations.
While achieving virality is often a crapshoot, there are key characteristics that this type of content has in common.
The primary characteristic is that it is wildly different than content seen by similar brands. Many companies tend to portray a more reserved, professional tone. The intention is to show a level of seriousness and authenticity in the way they prepare their product or service.
However, campaigns like the Dollar Shave Club show there is great power in defying those expectations. Instead, we have a short, sweet ad that uses brash language and speaks directly to the “everyday man.”
The upset in expectations also leads to another strong factor – humor. Users are way more likely to identify with and remember something that made them feel a positive way.
With your new startup, audiences do not expect anything from your brand. They do, however, have preconceived notions about competitors. Use your introduction to the scene to take advantage of this and force users to pay attention.
Don’t be afraid to take chances. Be bold, test the results, and keep trying new things.
9. Attend Events Regularly
Though much of our marketing now takes place online, trade shows and events are still relevant.
Even if these types of gatherings do not connect you to the end-user, they can still prove effective in promoting your startup.
Chances are that representatives from other established companies will be present at key events. They also present guests with the opportunity to network and learn about new brands, products, and services that are coming up in the industry.
You’ll want someone with an outgoing, charismatic personality to represent your startup in these situations. This person might end up becoming the permanent face of your brand as other industry leaders will remember personal connections with that person in the early days of your company.
Even if you don’t knock it out of the park with these meetings, you take the first steps in speaking your brand’s name in a public setting.
The next time you have the opportunity to pitch your startup to someone of note, there’s a good chance you’ll be a known quantity instead of a nobody.
10. Give Away Branded Merchandise
Another way to promote brand recognition at those events is to give away physical goods with your name on them.
Examples can include t-shirts, stickers, cards, tote bags, pens, or anything else that might be of everyday use.
Even if the recipient ends up not using your merch, you’ll achieve success by reminding them of your brand once more when they revisit your gift.
Likewise, something like a pen can slowly fix your startup’s name in someone’s mind as they continue to use it for everyday activities.
Branded merchandise can act serve as anything from a conversation starter to turning others into walking billboards for your startup. Most merch can prove relatively inexpensive to manufacture, especially when made in bulk.
11. Use STP Marketing
STP marketing stands for the following:
Segmenting your audience in digital marketing is a practice you will use now until you stop working in business and marketing.
Audience segmentation allows you to differentiate your whole audience into several distinct groups. This then allows you to better target and position yourself to market to those groups’ particular needs.
According to a Statista study, 93% of U.S. internet users claimed to receive marketing content that is irrelevant to their needs. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 93% of B2B marketers attributed revenue growth to the creation of customer-personalized content.
Not only does STP marketing better aid you in creating this personalized content, but it also helps startups use limited marketing funds more efficiently.
You will obtain more high-quality leads from your spending and ultimately end up with a superior ROI.
12. Offer Social Proof by Using Your Own Product or Service
Businesses exist to make a profit.
While all customers are aware of this, we still tend to gravitate toward brands that we believe to be authentic or concerned about our interests.
The more trustworthy a brand appears, the more likely we are to believe its product or service is of superior quality.
You can speak to the outstanding quality of your startup’s offerings by becoming your own number one fan and user.
In other words, don’t just tell audiences about how great your offerings are. Demonstrate examples of your team using them regularly along with the positive results. If it’s working for you and making your startup more well known, then the benefits can no longer be denied.
Social proof is paramount when selling anything online. Nearly 90% of buyers will research a product and review it before making a decision.
While customer reviews are more trustworthy, you can slice away doubt by demonstrating that you also benefit from what you wish to sell to others.
13. Ask the Audience How You Can Improve
Garnering feedback from your audience and customers is essential for business success. After all, the saying is “the customer is always right.”
While that may not always be entirely accurate, learning about your customer’s experiences is important. As the people who use your product or service regularly, they’ll be the best suited to speak to the shortcomings you can improve upon.
There are numerous ways to ask for feedback. Some brands will automatically provide users with an option to rate and review after making a purchase.
For service-oriented platforms, you can set up automated notifications to trigger after the user spends X amount of time making use of the service.
Finally, you can send out personalized emails asking for such feedback. Be sure to thank the customers that convert early for your startup, and ask them how you can improve the service to help even more customers.
14. Converse with Your Audience on Social
This tip takes communicating with your audience to the next level.
Social media is an active, everchanging area with nearly 4 billion users worldwide across all platforms.
The sheer volume of activity that happens daily has changed a variety of industries. These platforms are no longer just for sharing funny videos with friends, but now serve a variety of purposes.
Platforms like Facebook or Twitter can act as news timelines, provide groups for like-minded individuals, and allows brands like yours to promote new services.
When you bring your startup on social media, you allow yourself to connect with both existing customers and prospects. You can also network with others in your industry so that both parties can mutually benefit from the shared exposure.
Not only is social media an excellent way to boost brand awareness, but it also allows you to share your content in a way that promotes a feeling of authenticity.
Rather than promoting ads from the outside, creating a personal voice that actively participates allows users to recognize the people behind your startup as opposed to being another faceless, for-profit brand.
15. Implement a Referral Program
Studies suggest that someone who is referred to your brand by a friend is 30% more likely to convert. Those same customers are 4x as likely to pay the referral forward than someone that discovered your brand on their own.
Social proof and word-of-mouth recommendations are paramount for driving conversions. It’s the reason why we research, look for reviews, and ask family members for recommendations.
If someone we know and trust had a great experience, then we easily believe we will also have a similar one.
For this reason, your startup’s early adopters may be your best tool for bringing in new customers.
You can incentivize your existing customers to do this by introducing a referral program. A great example of this is MeUndie’s referral reward program, which works like this:
- An existing customer invites friends with their unique referral link
- The new prospect opens the link and purchases at least $12
- The initial referring customer gets a $20 credit added to their account
The customer can continue referring new customers to get a maximum of 25, $20 credits. They essentially pay their loyal customers for actively marketing their brand to new people.
Referral programs generally have great success rates. Those that are happy with your startup’s offerings are generally willing to share their positive experience with others. When you throw in an added reward for their efforts, it makes referring your brand a no-brainer.
16. Send Personal Follow Ups and Reminders
With how competitive digital marketing is, capturing a prospect’s attention is difficult. However, evidence suggests that keeping their attention is even harder.
Think of each new lead as being on a temperature scale. When a lead is hot and fresh, they’re far more likely to engage. Data purports that you may be 100x more likely to connect with a hot lead than a cold one.
How long can you consider a lead to be hot? Some of the top marketers suggest that you have just five minutes before conversion rates begin to nosedive.
That’s why it’s important for all businesses, especially new startups, to proactively send personalized emails and texts to follow up with leads.
Earlier in this article, we talked about the power of personalized messaging with STP marketing. The same rules apply when it comes to converse with the individual customer.
When a new lead comes through a campaign, they get added to your sales pipeline. However, many brands make the mistake of sending out one generalized email to all of these recipients. Chances are, the user sees this vague email in their inbox and ignores it, deletes it, or relegates it to spam.
Instead of sending users an email that looks like this:
“Thanks for your interest in BUSINESS NAME.”
What if you sent one that looked like this:
“Hey Thomas, thanks for checking out our new service. We appreciate your support and would like to chat with you soon.”
First off, you immediately grab their attention simply by recognizing their name. You then follow up by reminding them of where the message is coming from and what exactly it relates to. The prospect immediately has context and feels appreciated as an individual.
Your sales reps can achieve this by taking the time to write out messages manually. However, DashClicks offers sophisticated solutions for this problem within our platform.
Our Deals app allows you to create and schedule an entire sales pipeline. This will track leads as they first enter your system until the final sale.
The impressive part here is that when a lead enters a deal stage, you can design unique automation to trigger. You could send out this type of welcome email instantly without any additional input.
Furthermore, our messaging allows you to instantly personalize pre-written texts and emails with user information. The software automatically pulls details like names, numbers, business associations, and much more.
17. Tell Customer Stories
Much like with referrals, nothing sells a brand quite like relatable success stories.
When you reach out to your startup’s early adopters, don’t just look exclusively for information that benefits you. Take the time to interview your customers and chart their journey from the beginning to settling on your brand.
Then, ask clients if they’re comfortable with you sharing their stories online. Let them know that their experiences can help illustrate the effectiveness of your product or service to others in similar situations.
While it’s your team that chooses how to present the story, new prospects will simply see a solid sales pitch from someone unassociated with the company. This makes them far more likely to trust the advocation, and, in turn, more likely to convert.
18. Send Invites to Industry Influencers
Influencer marketing is on the rise.
You can’t click on a YouTube video or live stream without seeing the content creator pausing to promote a product or service. Here’s how it works.
The company with the product or service reaches out to an influencer that shares a common audience with them. They then offer the influencer an agreed-upon payment to promote their offerings to their audience for a defined period. The influencer will also get free access to the product or service to use it firsthand before agreeing to any advertisements.
For the influencer, the payout is generally worthwhile. For the sponsoring company, the cost is insignificant when compared to the amount of potential new leads you can acquire.
The influencer marketing industry is expected to reach about $16.4 billion in spending in 2022.
The psychology behind the power of influencer marketing is simple. Many of our tips above speak to the power of social proof. When we trust someone’s opinion, we’re more likely to purchase what they suggest.
Influencers have that same power. Though we don’t know these people personally, we associate positive traits with them because we enjoy their content. Therefore, if they were to recommend a product they claim to personally use, we’re more likely to remember that brand when we’re in the market for that item.
Your startup can harness the power of influencer marketing in the same way. If your offering is a service, it costs nothing to send out free invites to key industry players. Simply ask them to write about or record a video that honestly describes their experience with your brand.
That content then goes out to an entirely new audience of people that already trust the person advocating for you.
19. Grant Loyalty Rewards or Gifts with Purchase
You can drive repeat purchases from existing customers, or potentially acquire new ones with this strategy.
When customers are in the market for something, they’re typically researching and weighing several different brand options. To remain competitive, these companies likely have similar offerings starting at near-identical price points.
Offering those customers a little extra incentive can sometimes be enough to sway their purchasing decisions.
Some brands like beauty company Ulta regularly provide customers with free items after reaching certain price thresholds in their cart. The company carefully decides on these limits to ensure they are always making a profit even when giving away quality goods.
If your startup cannot afford to give away free products or lies more in the service industry, a loyalty program can be a great alternative.
Loyalty rewards incentivize customers to continue pursuing business with you. The more money they spend with your brand, the more rewards they get in return. This usually comes in the form of credits that can be used for future discounts.
If a loyalty program is sweet enough, it can also convince discerning prospects to side with your startup over competitor alternatives. After all, why not get rewarded if you’re going to spend money on a service regardless?
20. Reach Out to the Media
Finally, you can try to give your startup a boost by reaching out to media outlets.
This can work for traditional media like magazines or local papers as well as new media online.
Depending on the size of the publication, reporters and journalists are always looking for stories to fill content quotas. A local paper might be interested in giving your startup space to inform the community of your new offerings.
What will likely work even better is to reach out to media outlets that specialize in creating content about your industry. For example, if you’re a startup tech company, you could inform sites like Wired or TechCrunch of what’s to come.
It costs nothing to pitch your startup as a story and can only result in free exposure. Like influencer marketing, getting your startup featured in front of a new audience can be a great way to secure much-needed adopters for your startup.
Use These Marketing Ideas for Additional Startup Exposure
Launching a startup is difficult, and gaining the exposure you need will require creative thinking and a lot of effort.
Instead of simply throwing money you don’t have at the issue, you need to carefully consider the resources the internet offers in 2022.
Because of the lack of resources, you’ll face early on, it will be all hands on deck to connect leads, influencers, and existing customers online and in person.
Furthermore, don’t give up on leads that turn you away. Respect their decision, remain personable and make the effort to check in on their status at a later date. The more authentic are in regard to their needs, the more likely they are to remember you when the right time comes.