It’s important for the new modern marketing manager to understand that a startup marketing plan may be outside their experience.

The startup marketing plan is much different than one that would be created in a larger enterprise. However, fundamentals are the same.

Your marketing strategy for a startup is much different than an established firm. Your startup marketing strategy may include many marketing tactics that an enterprise may use but at a different scale.

It’s much different because of the new product or service may be completely new to the prospective buyers. Although marketing strategy testing should be done in companies of all sizes, it is even more critical for startups.

After you and your team have thoughtfully considered, research, and answer the questions posed by the general assessment checklist in the previous post, it’s now time to gather specific information related to your role as a marketing leader.

The Ultimate Startup Marketing Plan for the New Modern Marketing Leaders. Click To Tweet

Who established the shape of your marketing plan and determined the specific marketing deliverables you will need to execute your plan.

There are five steps of questions that help you focus on the information and action items required to develop your startup marketing plan for your startup or new product launch.

Here are these 5 areas:

  • General Issues
  • Background Research and Action Items
  • Marketing Deliverables
  • Market Testing
  • Targets of Opportunity

General Issues about Your Startup Marketing Plan


These first questions are marketing-related brainstorming questions designed to simulate you’re thinking and to provoke responses from the other members of your startup’s management team.

They will help you get your current marketing ideas on paper, where you can act on the best of these ideas and include them in your startup marketing plan. You can put other good ideas on the back burner for further consideration.

  • What are your initial ideas for the best marketing and sales methods required to reach these new markets?
  • Are there products similar to yours that are currently being sold in this market?
  • If so, should your company duplicate the marketing methods currently being used to sell these products, or would it be more advantageous for you to use new marketing methods and different sales channels?
  • Can your company afford to make a radical departure from the current ways products like yours are marketed and sold in this market? What an initial failure hinders you from re-entering these markets with other marketing or distribution methods that might be successful?

Background Research and Action Items

startup marketing research

Once you’ve answered the general marketing issues as best you can, the next set of questions is a list of hard action items to help you match opportunities available in your market with concrete marketing projects and deliverables.

  • What is your ideal customer profile?
  • What are the top two trade publications your prospective buyers read most often?
  • What is the top two trade shows your prospective buyers at the end of each year?
  • Is our email list available for the publications read by these prospects?
    Can we locate these prospective buyers on other, high-quality, email us?
  • What is the level of internet usage of these prospective buyers?
  • What are the top two social media channels do these prospective buyers belong to? And are they active on them?
  • Are these prospective buyers active on LinkedIn?

Usually, a few hours worth of Google searches or other search engines can help you uncover the top trade associations, competitive research, and newsletters in this market.

Get to know the people in your new market. As you begin to immerse yourself in the market for your startup or new product launch, make a habit of introducing yourself to keep contacts who could be prospective customers of your new company’s product or service.

Your goal here is to develop personal relationships with individuals who are representative of typical customers and prospects in your company’s market.

You’ll be contacting these individuals from time to time during the next, critical phase in the development of your marketing plan. The market testing phase.

A whopping 42 percent of post-mortem letters admitted that a lack of market need in some way contributed to those businesses' demise. Click To Tweet

These contacts will be an important part of your marketing brain trust, maybe and will provide invaluable advice on your marketing copy ideas, drafts of marketing deliverables, and other important parts of your marketing program during the early life of your startup or product launch.

Marketing Deliverables for Your Startup Marketing Plan

startup marketing plan

Once you’re well on your way with your background research and have completed the information-gathering activities in the previous step, you are now ready to devote some thought to the marketing methods, tools, and deliverables you need to develop for use in your startup marketing plan.

  • Based on what you know about this market so far, what is your products major sales copy benefit?
  • What are the other major sales benefits that you can use in your company’s advertising and marketing promotion?
  • Should you run digital advertising and or print advertising? If so, what size and frequencies should you run?
  • What hard copy marketing deliverables, such as high-quality brochures, sales flyers, catalog sheets, sales funnels, direct mail packages, and standard sales presentations will be required?
  • What other materials will you need to educate your customers, and can these materials be offered as sales premiums and your company’s advertising? Things like special reports and booklets, instructional videos, software programs, and industry reports?
  • What type of website should your company have, and how should it promote and sell your company’s products?
  • Among the two major trade publications read by your target audience, which writers our editors cover, or seem most knowledgeable about, the applications, technologies, or product area is most closely linked to your company’s product or service?
  • Can your product story be told effectively in a multimedia format?

As you acquire more knowledge on your market, and how existing companies, including your competitors, sell their products in this market, a rough outline of your startups marketing program should now be coming into focus.

23 percent of startups that referenced team issues as an ingredient in their failure. Click To Tweet

Why you are not ready to commit your company to either a digital ad campaign or direct email program, you can sketch out the major sales copy points of your startup’s product or service, based on your best impression so far of how you sell your company’s product in this market.

You should know enough about your product’s major sales benefits to writing its laundry list, park bench story, an elevator pitch.

Selecting a digital marketing agency is an important aspect of a startup. Now it is also the time to begin the process of selecting a digital marketing agency to assist you and the development and execution of your company’s marketing programs.

The Draft Sales Brochure

strategy for startups

You should focus on the types of marketing deliverables you will need for your marketing program, and other form and content.

Create a semi-finish rough draft brochure, that sells your product’s main selling points and tells it sales story, based on the best copy information you have so far.

You will circulate this rough draft brochure during the informal market testing process.  It’s your startup’s very first piece of sales collateral, and a very important one because it makes your startup look real and gives your market test respondents in initial sales prospects a fair idea of what your product or service is all about.

Turn an Idea into a Steady Revenue Stream

Marketing For Startups: The Ultimate Guide to Inbound Philosophy, Methodology, and Toolkit.

By putting your product sales benefits and features down on paper, this rough brochure is also an ideal platform for eliciting constructive comments, criticism, and suggestions for improvements to your sales message from knowledgeable insiders in your market.

Since a brochure is often the very first project a digital marketing agency is asked to produce for a new client, the draft brochure is a good way to start off a new working relationship with a newly retained digital marketing agency.

A surprising 17 percent of startups admitted not having a business model to drive their efforts.  Click To Tweet

However, if you haven’t yet found a digital marketing agency, don’t let that interfere with the creation of this very important marketing piece.

If necessary, work something up on your own, and find a local desktop designer in your area to work it into the final form. All you need at this point is a presentable brochure that can be used for the next, informal testing step.

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Your Startup’s Website

Think about your startup’s website. As you spend time on the internet researching your startups market, it’s competition, and the online news and research available in the industry and market served by your startup, bookmark the interesting and relevant websites you find.

Some more compelling content, layouts, and features you see on these websites can give you inspiration for your own startup’s website.

Reading and bookmarking interesting websites in your new market is also a good way to learn the jargon of your industry and, more important, how other companies talk to their audience.

Customer Education for Startups


The additional marketing deliverables required to educate prospects about your startup’s product or service can wait until you gain more practical knowledge from the market testing activities to come.

But it’s never too early to start thinking about any additional, specialized marketing deliverables you believe might be instrumental in helping you sell your startup’s product or service.

These include digital ebooks printed booklets, reports or white papers, an instructional video, and other material that can also serve as promotional sales premiums in your company’s advertising and direct email programs.

The startup marketing plan is much different than one that would be created in a larger enterprise. However, fundamentals are the same. Click To Tweet

Trade Publication Contact and Media Potential

Why your startup is still operating under the radar out of the public view, it is not too soon to anticipate, and prepare for, the introduction of your company and its new product or service to your industry and financial markets.

This is called public and analyst relations and is part of your public media marketing. Media and analyst relationships are done through trade publications, general business publications, and other media outlets.

Depending on your budget, the launch event that formally announced as your startup’s product or service to the media may be as simple as a small press kit mailing to some key trade media contacts, where is elaborate as a big-budget New York City press conference.

Whatever form your company’s official launch announcement takes, you should begin by planning by taking notice of writers, editors, and correspondents at the business, trade, and industry publication serving your market.

Read the articles in these publications covering the topics close to the applications and problems solved by your company’s products and take note of the writers of these articles. Follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter.

These knowledgeable media contacts will become your company’s most interested and receptive audience for news for your startup’s launch of its new product.

“Bad marketing” here refers to one of a few different possible causes, including too much money spent on marketing, ineffective marketing or a single bad campaign that trashed the startup's reputation.  Click To Tweet

Just prior to your launch, you can move your story to the best one or two of these contacts at these top publications, on an exclusive basis, to increase your chances of receiving media coverage during your product launch.

The writers and editors you select will appreciate getting the exclusive coverage of your company and its products, and will be receptive to ongoing news announcements from your company after your launch.

Video Distribution


You should also explore your company’s potential for utilizing television cable, broadcast, business, and financial news channels for distributor your video news release (VNR)  do the news outlets like MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, and Fox Business News. But don’t forget about the local broadcast news outlets as well.

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Market Testing: Development of Marketing Deliverables for Market Testing

During the new venture planning stage, you will also need to consider how, and how much, to test your startup’s marketing program. Testing can be a very informal, inexpensive process, or it can be elaborate, expensive, and time-consuming. Never good for a startup.

Here the testing questions you need to ask:

  • Is there enough time to run a market test, or should we roll out with our market introduction and change course as necessary? (If yes):
  • How can we test our marketing methods in sales copy ideas in these new markets?
  • How long will it take for us to run this test, and how much will it cost?

As a member of the new venture start-up management team, you will be expected to drink the Kool-Aid. That is, to buy into the founder’s vision of the company, its product, and the world-changing growth potential of its business.

However, as a marketing manager, you cannot afford to luxuriate too long in this vision, since you will be held accountable for the company sales performance, and for the execution of the marketing programs that helped to create those sales.

There always needs to be someone in the startup to ask the question. Do we have a market? And since you will be most accountable that someone may as well be you.

When you lose your focus halfway through a development cycle, your team can crumble; 13 percent of companies cited a lack of focus. Click To Tweet

Market Reality Check

Although testing is covered in far greater detail and some of my other posts, during the background research and market planning stages you must decide if your startup can devote the extra time and expense necessary to conduct a more formal market test.

Or if it is less expensive, informal testing methods can provide you with the answers you need to these very important marketing questions.

  • Do you have a market? For example, is a market big enough to sustain your company’s financial objectives, and can you afford to reach it?
  • Are the sales copy approaches you are using in your market test collateral materials the right sales copy benefits and are they effective enough to turn prospects into customers?
  • Well, the marketing channels you’re considering, such as digital advertising or email marketing, produce your desired sales results?

Don’t Just Test—Test Moving Forward

Entrepreneur Marketing Toolkit
Source: Pixabay

All startups, or anyone involved in a new product or market launch in an established company, must have what management guru Tom Peters calls “a bias for action.”

More than any other business discipline, market research, and testing causes those involved in the process to think too much. If you’re not careful, analysis of test results can often lead to over-analysis and over-intellectualizing of your company’s startup marketing plan by your startup team.

This “paralysis by analysis” not only takes the edge off your startup’s marketing program, but they can also establish a pattern of undue hesitation and doubt and each and every marketing move made by your company.

Bear this in mind as you consider the ways you test your startup’s marketing program, and as you review your testing options available to you. By all means, test, but don’t let your testing get in the way of your marketing programs forward motion.

Turn an Idea into a Steady Revenue Stream

Marketing For Startups: The Ultimate Guide to Inbound Philosophy, Methodology, and Toolkit.

Targets of Opportunity for Your Startup Marketing Plan

Another critical area to address in your startups marketing strategies will be the process of uncovering, addressing, and developing the major targets of opportunity available in your new venture:

  • Are there major, non competing companies already serving this target market who could be a potential joint venture or distribution partners for your company?
  • If so, in what ways could these potential relationships be structured?
  • What is the best way for you to approach these companies?
  • Who should be contacted at these companies, and how?

Targets of opportunity our marketing and new business development activities that are separate and apart from the day-to-day marketing activities you’re executing and your startup marketing plan.

These are the major marketing and sales opportunities for your startup that involve high-level relationships with larger, well-established companies in the markets your company is entering.

Examples of targets of opportunity available to many startups include:

Co-marketing Deals

Your new venture can get a major early boost in its first months if you can persuade a much larger company to promote your startup’s product along with one or more of its own products.

If your startup’s product or service has unique and proprietary features, and its utility would add value to another major companies product, then your product could be offered “in-the-box” with a larger company’s product.

It could be sold, either directly by the larger company, or by some other field sales or direct response method that leads potential buyers back to your company.

Options available here range from the larger company simply including a brochure or coupon for your startup’s product and its own product packaging. Or two special promotions where the larger company offers a scaled-down version of your company’s product as a value-added premium to complement its products.

These “in-the-box” deals can produce a substantial number of high-quality sales leads in your startup’s early months. These deals can also be inexpensive for your company if they are self-liquidating.

For example, if you can convince the larger company to cover your company’s out-of-pocket printing, marketing, and product development expenses.

82 percent of smartphone shoppers conduct ‘near me’ searches. Click To Tweet

Co-marketing link-ups with a major corporation can offer other interesting opportunities. For example, as part of your deal, you could ask to retain the rights to the mailing list and sales lead generated by the joint marketing effort for use in your company’s subsequent direct email marketing campaigns.

You could also negotiate a promotion for your company’s new product along with the major corporation’s ongoing advertising programs.

There are many other potential opportunities available to you here, that, those seen through the eyes of your larger corporate partner as minor gimmes, can give your startups marketing plan and programs a tremendous promotional boost and its early days.

Joint Venture and Distribution Deals

entrepreneur marketing plan

Major targets of opportunity include private label deals, where your startup’s product can be sold by a larger company under its own name, or licensing arrangements, or a major partner licenses your products proprietary application, patents, or technology, also known as licensing of the reference of your product technology.

A major corporate partner can also act as a distributor for your new venture’s product, either in certain markets or in certain product lines.

Strategic Deals and Your Startup Marketing Plan

Strategic deals are an essential part of a startup marketing plan. Any of these marketing relationships could eventually lead to an exit strategy for you and the other members of the founder’s team if the major corporate partner expresses an interest in buying your company.

However, in these situations, you must be careful not to disclose any proprietary information during your negotiations for marketing relationships.

Given half a chance, many major corporations would rather steal your startup’s ideas, patents, and other proprietary intellectual property then pay a nickel of their own money to license your patents or acquire your company. So be careful how much you, and the other team members, disclose during these initial business discussions.

55% of marketers say blog content creation is their top inbound marketing priority. Click To Tweet

Before you initiate any business discussions with larger companies who may be potential strategic Partners, make sure you have the representative signed your company’s non-disclosure agreement (NDA).  

Other prior written agreements may also need to be reached prior to strategic discussions with another company. Consult with your company’s legal counsel before engaging in any discussions that could disclose your company’s patents, trade secrets or other proprietary intellectual property.

Finding Contacts for Potential Targets of Opportunity

As a modern marketing manager, you play a central role in identifying your new venture targets of opportunity. By brainstorming ideas for potential deals, then tapping other members of your startup team, your company’s investors, board members, and venture capital firms.

You want to be able to contact people who they know at larger companies to set up an initial meeting to discuss these new marketing and distribution deals.

This will also help with your word of mouth and referral marketing efforts. Here, a friend of a friend’s business networking can be very useful for helping you connect with influential people at larger companies who can help your star.

Early success can lead to more success since the major co-marketing or distribution deal done in the first few months of your company’s launch can establish your company’s reputation and credibility and its industry, making it easier to close a similar deal with other companies in your startups market.

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Wrap-Up on Startup Marketing Plan

Your startup marketing plan needs to be different from larger companies. It is different because of the new product or service may be completely new to prospective buyers. They have never seen it.

Marketing program testing should be done in companies of all sizes. However, it is even more essential for startups. They don’t have the resources.

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General FAQ’s

Why do I need a startup marketing plan?

The startup marketing plan is much different than one that would be created in a larger enterprise. However, fundamentals are the same.
It’s much different because of the new product or service may be completely new to the prospective buyers. Although marketing strategy testing should be done in companies of all sizes, it is even more critical for startups.

What are some of the issues for a startup marketing plan?

These first questions are marketing-related brainstorming questions designed to simulate you’re thinking and to provoke responses from the other members of your startup’s management team. 

They will help you get your current marketing ideas on paper, where you can act on the best of these ideas and include them in your startup marketing plan. You can put other good ideas on the back burner for further consideration.

What are the deliverables for a startup marketing plan?

Your background research and information-gathering activities should get you ready for the next step. You are now ready to devote some thought to the marketing methods, tools, and deliverables you need to develop for use in your startup marketing plan. These are the strategies and tactics.

What is a good marketing plan for a small business in general?

Create a Google My Business and Bing My Business directory listing. Create a website showing your products and services. Use social media to share your website content. Initially, perform some paid marketing to raise awareness. List your website in your industry directories. Later organic search results will drive prospect traffic to your website for free. Use email to improve lifetime value from your customers.

SaaS Marketing Case Study

TrackVia also saw the potential inbound marketing offered to attract visitors, convert leads, and close more deals.

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