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5 Marketing Challenges for Startups & How to Overcome Them

If you’re running a fresh-faced startup, the first 12 months are likely to be a scramble as you come up against a lot of different challenges. 

Unlike the big boys in the industry, you are operating on a shoestring budget. 

You don’t have a large team of experts working cooperatively and collaboratively on different tasks. 

You also need to put a marketing strategy in place that fits your limited budget and drives business growth. 

And when you and your team – especially if your team is just you – plan for every dollar and fiercely protect your cash flow, marketing can be a tough endeavour. 

What follows are some of the biggest marketing challenges your early-stage startup may face and how to overcome them. 

Table of contents: 

  1. Limited marketing budget
  2. Building brand awareness
  3. Executing digital marketing campaigns
  4. Measuring marketing effectiveness 
  5. Lack of time 

1. Limited Marketing Budget

Marketing a Startup On a Budget

Imagine how easy it would be to market your startup with an unlimited budget. 

It’s a nice dream, but unfortunately, it’s far from reality.

Most startups operate under tight budgets, which makes it almost impossible for them to invest large sums in advertising. 

So, if you must stretch your dollars as far as they can go, you need to be very careful and knowledgeable when creating your marketing budget.  

However, knowing how much your marketing costs should be isn’t the only challenge you need to face.

Once you’ve determined your budget, you need to decide the right investments to make. For example, should you focus more on bringing organic traffic or attracting customers from paid ads?

Or both?

How to overcome the challenge: While there’s no magic one-size-fits-all formula to determine your marketing budget, considering the following factors may help you throughout the process:

  • Growth goals – If your marketing strategy generates lots of leads, will you be able to fulfil that demand?
  • Cost per lead – How many people do you need to reach to convert them into customers?
  • Price of products – For example, if you’ve implemented a premium pricing strategy, you will be able to invest more in marketing as each sale could be worth thousands of dollars.
  • Annual revenue – To make your marketing budget a percentage of revenue, you need to know your estimated or gross annual revenue. 
  • Startup stage – Some suggest that fresh-faced startups should invest more in marketing to speed up growth (for example, WordStream suggests that new companies should allocate at least 12%-20% of their gross revenue to marketing). 

Once you have determined the marketing budget that works best for your business, it’s time to put a well-rounded marketing strategy in place.

Ideally, you should invest in the most powerful branches of digital marketing:

  • Social media – Including paid ads and organic content
  • Paid search advertising – Paying search engines for ad placement on SERPs
  • Content Marketing – Creating engaging content for every stage of the customer journey 
  • Email Marketing – To educate your audience on the value of your brand
  • Display advertising – Advertising your business through visuals such as images or videos

While marketing your business on a tight budget seems a tough endeavour, there are many ways to reach the right audience at the right moment without spending a lot of money. 

For instance, this is a great post where I share five powerful methods to market your startup without breaking the bank and hurting your cash flow.   

2. Building Brand Awareness

Building Brand Awareness With a Virtual Office

Another marketing challenge that your startup may face is the lack of visibility. 

However, getting customers to become aware of your brand is paramount to growing your business because it’s the first step in the marketing funnel. 

This means that the customer journey to conversion starts with the awareness stage. 

After all, if no one knows you exist, no one will come to you to make a purchase.

Despite that, when going through the teething phase, it’s easy for you and your team to get carried away and focus on more pressing tasks rather than working to get your brand in front of your target audience. 

Moreover, measuring brand awareness progress isn’t always easy. It’s difficult to pin down exactly what brand awareness is, and even more difficult to measure it.  

Typically, building brand awareness comes with three main challenges:

  • Reaching the target audience
  • Increasing the visibility of online content
  • Engaging the target audience using digital advertising 

How to overcome the challenge: Brand awareness plays such an important role for early-stage startups that I wrote an entire post about it.  

It’s easy to turn this problem around, though. 

Here is what you can do to start increasing your brand awareness right now: 

  • Put an SEO strategy in place to improve your site’s ranking and boost your online visibility.
  • Once you have defined your target audience, be sure to use targeted advertising and create relevant content to engage consumers. 
  • Take the time to segment your audience and personalise your marketing for specific groups. 
  • Give your business an instant reputation upgrade so that your brand can stick in the minds of consumers (if you’re running a home-based business, you can quickly enhance your reputation and build credibility with a professional virtual office).
  • Build a unique brand personality and use a distinctive, recognisable tone of voice. 
  • Create referral or affiliate programs to spread the word about your business. 

3. Executing Digital Marketing Campaigns

Man Working in a Virtual Office

Rolling out a digital marketing campaign is a complex undertaking, especially for startups that need time to understand all the working parts. 

So, even if the digital landscape offers plenty of opportunities to be seized, running a marketing campaign that resonates with your audience can seem like a daunting task. 

In fact, according to Startups Magazine, more than 41% of startups don’t have a clear digital marketing strategy in place.

However, digital marketing is important to connect your business with prospects and customers in a way that’s cost-effective and measurable. 

There are three main challenges that startups face when launching a digital marketing campaign:

  • Grabbing people’s attention – In an ad-heavy world where consumers are experiencing marketing oversaturation, getting your brand noticed isn’t always easy.  
  • Persuading without being pushy – While the ultimate goal of your marketing campaign is to persuade prospects to make a purchase, you need to find that sweet spot where you convince people to do business with you without being overly aggressive.  
  • Deliver gorgeous looking, error-free content – Mistakes such as typos can kill your marketing efforts. That’s why you need to invest time and proofread as many times as necessary to make sure your content is error-free. 

How to overcome the challenge

  • Be unique – Firstly, ask yourself, “Why will people choose my brand rather than others?” and “Am I applying different strategies than my competitors?”. If you know the answers, then you are a few steps ahead of your competitors. Your marketing campaign ideas have to be original so that you can differentiate yourself from your competition. 
  • Avoid being salesy – In order for your campaign to be successful, you need to keep your posts from screaming “buy! buy! buy!”. There are many strategies you can adopt to help customers choose your brand without being overtly salesy. E.g., providing product comparisons, inviting experts to respond to key customer questions, showing your products in use in real life, etc.
  • Develop valuable content that your audience wants to read – Do your research and strive to create the right content that will entice people to interact with your brand. Be sure to avoid content that plays around with your audience’s pain points rather than solving them. Be sure to also use the best proofreading tools (e.g., ProWritingAid, Hemingway App, etc.) to polish your content. Remember, grammatical and spelling errors can instantly make your marketing campaign fall flat.    

4. Measuring Marketing Effectiveness

Measuring Marketing Effectiveness in a Virtual Office

Measuring marketing effectiveness is important to ensure a high return on marketing investment (ROMI). 

However, measuring marketing effectiveness has never been easy – even when traditional marketing was relying on offline media channels, such as television ads, billboards, and radio. 

The issue has only gotten more challenging with the explosion of digital media channels vying for consumer attention. 

When trying to measure the impact of marketing, lots of startups find it difficult to decide on the data sources to include.

This is because, for every campaign, there are multiple data sources to consider when measuring the impact of your marketing. 

For example, each social media platform requires you to use a different formula to calculate the engagement rate

This means that you need to decide whether or not to include all social media platforms to calculate your engagement rate.

To add even more confusion, you need to decide whether you want to see the engagement rate for each platform or the total engagement rate for all platforms.  

Another challenge you may face when measuring the effectiveness of your campaign is the frequency of data. 

Some social media channels provide real-time data, while others only provide post-campaign data, and reports may only be delivered on a weekly or monthly basis.

How to overcome the challenge: It is impossible to measure the impact of marketing by just looking at your Return on Investment (ROI), the traffic driven to your website, or vanity metrics (e.g., social media followers, page views, subscribers. etc.) 

In order to accurately determine marketing effectiveness, you need to track lead sources and channels (meaning, where leads come from). 

There are many tools you can use to identify and track your leads, such as Ruler Analytics, Act-on, Lead Guerilla, Whoisvisiting, and much more.    

Tracking lead sources helps you determine how your customers initially heard about you and which marketing campaigns are most effective. 

This can also help you determine the value of each lead source and the lead response time. 

Knowing all of these metrics allows you to analyse your sales and further optimise your marketing efforts.  

5. Lack of Time 

Team Gathered in a Virtual Office Meeting Room

Are you working on your business or in your business?

The answer is probably both. 

For this reason, we can’t talk about marketing challenges for startups without mentioning the lack of time. 

If you’re operating on a tight budget, you’re likely to be responsible for executing business plans, but you might also be handling admin tasks, dealing with suppliers, and answering phone calls. 

But, while you’re pushing extra hard to do everything yourself, important tasks may fall through the cracks.  

And managing your online presence is one of them. 

How to overcome the challenge: Every challenge has a solution. 

There are many ways to free up your busy schedule and find more time to focus on what really matters – that is, your core business. Even when you can’t afford an in-house team of experts. 

Some solutions can include: 

  • Learn how to manage time more effectively and turn “busy” into “productive”
  • Hire freelancers or contractors for specific projects 
  • Get a professional, cost-effective virtual receptionist to manage business phone calls and handle basic virtual assistant tasks such as scheduling appointments or processing orders 
  • Outsourcing non-core activities, such as accounting, payroll, logistics, etc.  

Startup Overcoming Marketing Challenges

Conclusion: In the early stages of your business, marketing is challenging and requires extra effort in planning.

However, without marketing, your startup could have groundbreaking, premium products and services that fill a gap in the market, but never have the opportunity to reach the right audience at the right moment. 

While it may not always be easy to overcome these marketing challenges, the effort is more than worth it if you want your startup to get a leg up on the competition. 

Your business reputation and brand name are extremely valuable to your marketing efforts. Having a negative reputation could mean the difference between successful marketing and one that fails to bring the desired results. 

So, if you’re looking for ways to instantly boost your brand’s reputation and build a professional image without a hefty price tag, B2B HQ can help you do just that (and a lot more). Get your virtual office in Melbourne today and see for yourself how much it can help you boost your marketing efforts!  

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