What Your Startup Needs Before Investing in Digital Marketing

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Laura Cain
October 1, 2015

If you’re part of a startup, I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times – you should be investing in digital marketing. The startup environment is permeated by the feeling that you always need to be doing everything. Fire on all cylinders! You should definitely devote a large budget to advertising on Google AdWords, Bing, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Reddit! You can do it all!

However, this is rarely—if ever—the best route to go down. While it’s true that your startup probably should be investing in digital marketing, there are a lot of things to have in place before doing so. 


1.  Make sure you have a clear brand. 

Just having a good idea for your startup doesn’t constitute a successful business. It’s imperative that you also have a clear vision for your brand. This is more than just knowing your target customer or being cool and edgy. There are a couple aspects of your brand that you should hammer out before investing in digital marketing: 

  • Your Product – Stay focused. It’s common for startups to get carried away with their brilliant idea and lose sight of their core product. Don’t just assume what you’re selling fills a niche in the market – ask people if they can see a need for your product in their everyday lives. 
  • Your Voice – You need to create a voice for your company and stay consistent across all platforms. Your website, social media accounts, blog, email marketing, and interactions with customers should all reflect that voice. Don’t be afraid to be unique and take risks! Grubhub is a great example of a company that has created a unique voice and sticks with it from start to finish. (Have you seen their text message alerts? They get me every time.) 
  • Your Website User Experience – Do more than just create a functional website that drives traffic. If people are visiting your site but not buying your product, you may have a UX issue. Perhaps consider consulting friends, neighbors, grandparents, or focus groups to see if there is a clear navigation path on your website. Nothing is worse than losing out on tons of potential business because people don’t know where to click! 


2. Clearly define your business plan and goals. 

I know – this sounds totally obvious. But you might be surprised to hear that we have plenty of companies come to us with no clear goal in mind other than to make money. While we really appreciate that you truly believe in your product and its success, chances are you’re going to have to do some hard work to get there – and often that means giving digital marketing time to show results. 

So what kind of goals should you create before plunging into the world of digital marketing? It can be almost anything as long as it is clearly defined, has specific numbers associated with it, and you understand how digital marketing will play into reaching that goal.   

Examples of great goals might be: 

  • “We generated $750,000 in revenue in 2015. In 2016, we would like to generate 1 million in revenue, $500,000 of which will come from e-commerce sales.”
  • “Over the past year, we’ve had an average of 100 new leads come from our site a month. In 2016, we would like to increase that number to 150.”
  • “Our current cost per conversion is $200. We would like to decrease our cost per conversion to $175.” 

You can see in these examples that each goal is rooted in existing data. This is important when creating attainable digital marketing goals. 

Here’s the caveat – since you’re a startup, you might not have enough data or sales to make specific goals around profit or new business. That’s okay! You can still create specific goals around driving traffic to your site.

Goals like the number of new visitors to your site per month or the number of email newsletter signups are a great place to start, as they help build your brand and get your name out there.  


3. Understand what digital marketing can realistically do for your company. 

While your digital marketing team will certainly help you manage expectations, it’s important to understand what is realistic for your startup before beginning your digital marketing journey. This goes hand-in-hand with creating your business goals. While you may not know exactly what’s possible at this time for your startup, make sure you stay grounded in reality. 

Anthony Lower, our Senior Manager of Search & Social Advertising, sums it up best: 

“If you sell a product that only retails for $20 and the keywords are $5 CPC’s, it’s going to be tough to make money, and you probably won’t launch an account and instantly hit your goals. You have to view digital marketing as a long-term solution and understand it probably won’t be a quick fix. Additionally, the insights you can gain from digital marketing can be just as important as the bottom-line revenue.” 

These insights can be priceless for startups. Without investing in digital marketing, the insights may be something that would otherwise take years to gain. 

In other words, it’s important to remember that there could be a huge opportunity cost in not investing in digital marketing. But again – you must manage expectations on what may be possible for your startup to attain through digital marketing. Oftentimes learning what isn’t working for your business is just as valuable as selling your product. 

Once you have all of these aspects figured out, you’re in a great position to begin digital marketing. And remember –a clear brand, business goals, and realistic expectations isn’t enough. Digital marketing is a crucial piece of the puzzle and you shouldn’t wait too long to invest. So get started! Check out our digital marketing services here. 


Are you interested in learning more about what digital marketing strategies can be employed for your startup? Do you love GrubHub texts as much as I do? Tweet us @Perfect_Search or shoot us an email at info@perfectsearchmedia.com – we’d love to hear from you! 

Laura Cain
Senior Director, Business Operations

Laura Cain is a University of Chicago alum who hails from Mandeville, Louisiana. If she could have her own store, she would sell sandwiches on really fancy bread, and the one thing she can’t live without is ice cream (seriously).

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