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Where to start? A guide to startup marketing and PR

Today’s startup CEOs are known for their grandeur, idealistic one-liners, and their ability to burn through billions of dollars in cash to create the next “unicorn.” But over the past few months, investors have grown wary of their promises and their companies’ unsubstantiated valuations, reports The New York Times. The last year alone has seen venture capital deals fall from $32bn in the second quarter to $23bn in the third.  

As investors’ purse strings tighten, startups are left wondering how much they should really be spending on marketing or PR.

As venture capital starts to ebb, startup founders are trying to make their dollar stretch farther. While marketing and PR budgets are a tempting target, it pays to take a step back and ensure that doing so won’t impact a startup’s viability.

For founders without a formal background in marketing, it can be challenging to prioritize between working with the media, social media platforms, paid social media posts, blogs, micro blogs, advertorials, advertising, influencer promotion, among other marketing tactics.

Here’s how the experts approach marketing and PR: 

1. Messaging & Content: Focus on creating clear messaging and content for your target audience. Before you launch, it’s best to prepare a pipeline of targeted, evergreen content spanning 2 to 3 months into the future. This could include articles, graphics, photos and videos.

Most startups have two main audiences: their clients or customers and their investors.

“Focus on creating clear messaging and content for your target audience.”

  • Clients/Customers: the most important message for your client or customer is a clear explanation of how they benefit from your solutions or services. This group will require most of your creative marketing efforts, which may span across email campaigns, company blogs or other media.
  • Current or Prospective Investors: investors want to know how your business can monetize the solutions or services quickly or can rapidly scale to gain a significant market share. Materials for investors should be fairly short and contain pertinent business and market metrics.
  • Others: As the business grows, you’ll have to think about adapting your content for business partners, employees, and the news media, among other audiences. Keep in mind that each audience will require a different approach to messaging, as their individual needs and interests are likely different.

A lot of founders get lost in telling the story behind their brand, founder backgrounds or how the business was built. Although some investors want to get a sense of the entrepreneur(s) they’re funding, that information is largely unnecessary and should be kept brief. Of course, be ready to provide your background and founding story if asked.

2. Strategy for Digital Platforms: From your own website to email and Twitter, WeChat and Telegram, there are millions of channels you can use for marketing and communications. Not all are created equally and not all are worth your time.

“…there are millions of channels you can use for marketing and communications. Not all are created equally and not all are worth your time.”

Start by figuring out how your target audience consumes information. Then, set realistic objectives for what you expect from using that channel. For example, you’ll want to be on LinkedIn if you’re looking to recruit new talent or approach business users. Likewise, go for Instagram if you’re looking to sell to millennials. We recommend focusing your efforts on just one or two channels to maximize your impact until you’re ready to expand to other relevant channels.

We also recommend starting a blog section on your company’s website, where you can publish owned content periodically. To drive inbound leads, create an email distribution system and focus your messaging on one to two social media channels to link back to your website.

3. Measurement: The only way to know for sure whether your marketing is effective is by tracking your efforts. This is easier said than done. However, keeping careful metrics will ensure that you can systematically refine your strategy. To start, open up a spreadsheet and track the following at the very minimum:

  • Content/Posts
  • Views
  • Engagement (likes, shares and click-throughs)
  • Actions (sales leads and conversions)
  • Tone (negative, positive, and neutral comments and responses)

Clear messaging and good content, a strategy and a way of measuring success are the three basic things you need before you start your marketing. Of course, you should expect to revise or add to your approach as your firm grows.

Still having trouble figuring out what you need? Give us a shout at and we’ll be more than happy to help.

Have comments or questions? Reach out to me at

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