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09 January 2020

The Best Digital Marketing Strategies for Startups

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Each business startup at the beginning of its path should solve two problems: the first is to create a quality product, the second is to tell consumers about their product and sell it. Today we’ll talk about how unicorn companies solve the second problem in the era of the dominance of Internet communications, that is, about the best digital marketing strategies for promoting startups.

# 1. Steal traffic from competitors


The first example we will look at is Intercom. This startup has created a SaaS solution for communicating business with its customers using chats and chatbots. Thanks to a successful digital marketing strategy, Intercom managed to grow from 1 to 50 million profit per year in several years, surpassing New Relic, Shopify, HubSpot and Atlassian in terms of growth dynamics. And this was done not at the expense of a bloated budget, but at the expense of several successful decisions, the most interesting of which is the "theft" of traffic from competitors through alternative landing pages.
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That's what Intercom marketers did:

  1. Firstly, the startup team identified the main competitors and analyzed what queries they received from Google on their customers.

  2. Secondly, alternative landing pages were created that should convince users to use Intercom, and not another similar product, for example, chats and chat bots from their main competitor, Drift.

  3. Thirdly, Intercom ordered advertising on Google, focusing on those key queries where their competitors were the first in organic search results.


Thus, when a user entered into Google a key request that was supposed to lead him to a site, for example, of the company Drift, a paid advertisement promoting the Intercom solution or an article that compared Drift and Intercom solutions was compared over the natural delivery (of course, in such an article Intercom product looked more advantageous). Here is how it looked:


Intercom Paid Ad to “Steal” Traffic from Drift. Source of the image

As a result, a significant portion of the traffic that Drift used to receive was now delivered to Intercom. This worked because 90% of people don’t have a specific brand in mind when they use a search engine to make a purchase online, while 7.5% of Google users simply select the first page in the search bar, not wanting to waste time searching and comparing different offers.

This is a great example of a marketing strategy that helps convert foreign customers into their own. But remember, it is unlikely that the “theft” of traffic and customers will go unnoticed. So, after Drift noticed a “theft”, they used the same strategy to lure customers into Intercom, but on a large scale:


Alternative Drift page to “steal” customers from Intercom


Link in the Drift chat widget to an article on their blog with a case study on why 15 Five abandoned Intercom in favor of Drift. Source of the image


Another example of how Drift is trying to convince their solution to be used, rather than Intercom. Source of the image

In addition to Drift, Intercom similarly “steals” customers from its other competitors, for example, in Zendesk. Here's what the landing page designed specifically for this looks like:


Conclusion: study your direct competitors and come up with several ways to “steal” their traffic using paid ads and alternative landing pages. But remember, competitors can answer you the same.

# 2. Use Inbound Marketing



Flywheel Inbound Marketing Philosophy. Source of the image

A second example for learning the best digital marketing practices for startups is inbound marketing. It's about the strategy created by HubSpot, a developer of cloud solutions for marketing and sales automation. The essence of this strategy is to create reasons why your customers will come to you, and not just send messages and advertisements on the Internet.

In HubSpot, the inbound marketing strategy is divided into three stages:

  1. It involves the creation of several persons of buyers and content useful to the target audience. This can be the publication of articles on blogs, posts on social networks or videos on YouTube. The main thing is that this content brings real benefits to people (taught, helped to earn or save, solved a problem, etc.). Useful content should attract people to your platform and create a sense of trust in the brand, create a sense of its usefulness.

  2. It involves the use of such channels and communication tools that contribute to building long-term relationships. It can be incoming calls, correspondence in social networks or instant messengers, email distribution or chats on the site (with chat bots). At the same time, communication tools should be configured in such a way as to solve the problems of people, and not sell them product / content. That is, the pop-up message does not pop up immediately as soon as the user logs into the site, but after 20-30 seconds, and the text in it depends on where the user is in the site.

  3. It assumes that customers will receive brand support for a long time after they make a purchase. For example, you can help people with product customization using calls, chat bots, or “listening” to messages on social networks and reviewers, where people complain about your product or are interested in how to use it. The bottom line is to make each customer a promoter of your brand, who will promote it among his relatives, friends, colleagues, acquaintances and subscribers on social networks.


According to the HubSpot Inbound Marketing Status Report, brands that use it pay a lower price for leadership in their niche, shorten sales cycles and increase sales closing rates. Not surprisingly, the popularity of inbound marketing is constantly growing.


Trends in popularity of inbound marketing on Google Trends

Conclusion: create Customer Persons and understand what they can bring to your site, what benefits they can get from you and how to do it. Create such “benefits” and promote this moment, and not just a product or service.

# 3. Create a blog with useful content


According to SevenAtoms, companies that use blogs to attract customers receive 97% more leads (67% for B2B) than companies that do not. Research by the Search Engine Journal also indicates that blogging is one of the most effective ways to reach potential customers. In addition, blog sites have 430% more indexed pages.

Thus, if you need the best marketing strategy for a startup - start a blog and publish there that will be interesting and useful to your target audience. So did Intercom, HubSpot, LeadPages, Simply Business, Single Grain, Salesforce and many other leaders in their markets. They all publish posts that meet the following qualities:

  1. The content of the articles should correspond to the niche of the company and the expectations of users. For example, if you are engaged in web development, then your blog should have posts about web development and everything that is closely connected with it, and not texts about politics, ecology or cooking. It’s better not to publish humorous or entertaining articles on your blog, even if they are about your business or industry, since your site should be “expert” and not entertaining. Memes and jokes are best left for social networks.

  2. Honesty and accuracy. Usually, users look at 3-5 pages in a blog before making the final choice about working with a brand, and, as statistics show, the more truthful and accurate the article, the greater the likelihood of a positive decision. Markers of honesty: self-criticism, the presence of references to sources (data, studies, surveys, etc.), the substantiation of conclusions (this is so, because ...) and the mention of authorities.

  3. Videos and pictures. Visual information is much better perceived, so it is not surprising that articles with useful images and videos have a greater response from visitors (+ 94% of views). At the same time, most people are attracted to live photos and videos, while people usually ignore stock images (perhaps they are perceived as banners, and therefore fall under the effect of « banner blindness»).


Two other important things to keep in mind when creating a blog are: the presence and location of the call to action (buy, subscribe, point, go, etc.). As the experience of Intercom, HubSpot and other popular blogs shows, do not embed a call to action in every text. Calls are best used where appropriate in context. And at the same time they need to be inserted within the first quarter of the text, and not at the very beginning.

Important: even if your startup is still at the very beginning, create a blog and use it to create a platform for discussing both your product and everything related to it. Thus, at the time the project enters the market, you will already have a loyal community, the participants of which will be your promoters.

# 4. Invest in influence marketing



Example of promotion with the help of marketing

Another great marketing strategy for promoting startups is the recommendations of influential people. This is not so much about actors, musicians, scientists, politicians or other traditional celebrities, but about popular pages on social networks (people, organizations). Depending on the number of subscribers, such pages are usually divided into four groups:

  1. Mega-influential people are superstars with over 1 million followers. Usually these are international celebrities: Billie Eilish - 70 million, Beyonce - 190 million, Kim Kardashian - 200 million, Cristiano Ronaldo - 300 million. Or politicians - Trump has 68 million followers on Twitter. The price of one post is from 1 thousand to 1 million dollars.

  2. Macro-influential people - pages with 100,000 to 1 million followers. There are a lot of such people, and usually these are regional or niche celebrities (video game streamers, reviewers of something or local actors, artists and politicians). The price of posts - from 400 to 1000 dollars.

  3. Micro-influential people - those with 1,000 to 100,000 subscribers. Oddly enough, but it’s on these not very polar people that marketers are now betting, because the conversion in their posts is higher than that of world-famous celebrities: 6-10% versus 1.5%, respectively. Post price - from 100 to 400 dollars.

  4. Nano-influential people - pages with less than 1000 followers. Their influence on followers is even greater, since their followers are relatives, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. The price of posts is up to $ 100.


When using influence marketing, you need to create a special Customer Identity, where, in addition to the usual socio-demographic characteristics, pages that are popular in your target audience should also be indicated. With their help, it will be possible to understand which accounts to bet on and in which way: the communication channel (Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitch, etc.) and the type of content (text, photo, video, gifs, comics, podcast and so on).

Important: remember, opinion leaders often have subscribers on one platform and subscribers on another platform - these are the same people. In addition, there may be a fairly large number of bots (fake accounts). All this must be taken into account when choosing influence partners to promote your startup.

# 5. Educate your customers


The latest marketing strategy for promoting a startup involves the creation of training materials, the popularization of which will automatically promote your brand. This is a great approach that you can use even if you don’t have a finished product yet. Here are some examples:

  1. STR Software. The company for the development of ERP systems has created a BI Publisher University and a blog to educate everyone who wants to use ERP for their or someone else's business. Thanks to this and several other things, STR Software increased the conversion in forms by 10%, web traffic - + 57%, the number of long page views - + 67%.

  2. Simply Business. The largest insurance broker in the UK has relied on creating content useful for their customers — from the rules for maintaining a business blog to instructions on installing themes and plugins in WordPress. Which led to an increase in the ranking of their website for the main keywords and a significant increase in organic traffic.

  3. This platform for searching and hiring authors for a variety of tasks has also relied on educational content: blogs, podcasts, webinars, case studies and instructions. This increased the influx of new customers through blog forms by 46% and reduced the number of refusals on them to a minimum (three times less than that of competitors)).


In addition to these examples, Salesforce, SAP, SecureWorks, CB Insights, NextView Ventures, Velcro, and many other startups have also chosen a learning strategy. They all decided to create content that was useful to the target audience and won on it, as people fumbled on it and thereby popularized the source of the content. In addition, the level of trust in the "teacher" is always higher than the level of trust in the "seller", which is important for increasing the conversion and loyalty of people.

Important: teach people what you yourself can do, and not everything in a row. In doing so, rely on research, statistics and practice, rather than personal experience or generally accepted practices. And do not forget about the negative, even in relation to your actions and cases - people trust those who admit their mistakes, and not those who say they never make mistakes.
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