3 Tips Startups Should Apply to Their Marketing Plan

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As a new company, it’s easy to get so caught up in the latest branding tips and techniques that you can’t see the forest for the trees.  In fact, plenty of startups miss the entire point of marketing altogether.  Successful promotion isn’t just about “building brand awareness” – it’s to actually increase sales!

The following are a few of the key marketing concepts that all startups need to be aware of:

1 – Know the Lifetime Value of Your Customers

Too many startups fail to understand the importance of customer lifetime value, which is a real shame, as knowing and implementing this concept into your business frees you from having to focus solely on minimizing customer acquisition costs and allows you to instead target the customers that will have the biggest impact on your company’s bottom line.

Suppose you determine that you won’t spend more than $50 to acquire a single customer.  While this may make sense for your balance sheet in the short term, what if this limit means you’ll only attract customers with a lifetime value of $100?  And what if spending $100 to acquire a customer made it possible to attract buyers who will spend an average of $5,000 with your company over their lifetimes?  You bet you’d change your maximum customer acquisition cost in a heartbeat!

Of course, this is an overly simplified example, but it should highlight how leaving behind a cost-based approach allows you to think about marketing in terms of how much more your best customers are worth compared to the customers you’re currently attracting.

This is especially powerful because, now, you can pay amounts your competitors might find unattainable while still staying profitable.  Because your competitors don’t know the economics behind how much money your best customers spend with you over their lifetime, you can spend what appears to be too much – leaving your competitors behind, minds boggled.

2 – Adjust Your Marketing Activities to Avoid Low-Value Customers

Once you start to think about your customers in terms of lifetime value, two things become clear:

  • Conversions aren’t the only metrics that matter to your success, and
  • You can use your analytics data to determine how to filter out low value customers and the traffic sources that generate them.

Simply knowing that you’re getting lots of conversions isn’t enough, as there’s no guarantee that these conversions are coming from your highest value customers.  You also need to consider whether the customers generating these conversions are the type that will buy multiple products and stick around for a few years, or if you’re simply filling your database with low value customers that lack the brand affinity needed to cross-buy.

To separate your high value customers from your low value customers, you’ll need to do a little digging to determine how overall customer value varies depending on each of your referral traffic sources.  You can use Google Analytics to accomplish this by setting up Advanced Segments that separate traffic by source and then applying these filters to the Conversion Goals you set up to track sales within the service.

Say that the results of your analysis turn up the following sample data, highlighting the difference between a set of customers acquired through targeted PPC advertising and another group of price-sensitive consumers attracted through another channel:

In this case, every search marketing customer that our hypothetical company wound up attracting resulted in nearly three times as much profit as each cost-conscious consumer acquired through other means.  Even if this company paid $10 per customer to attract a search marketing customer and nothing to bring on a price-sensitive consumer, the company still winds up ahead.

So what does this all mean?  Basically, you need to get obsessed with lifetime customer value.  For an interesting a case study on how lifetime value is used by big companies, check out this quick and informative blog post that studies how Netflix uses Customer lifetime value in their marketing strategy.

3 – Use Popular Marketing Techniques to Attract High-Value Customers

All of the following techniques should play a role in your company’s overall marketing strategy, but you also need to be conscious of how you’re using them in order to be sure they’re bringing in the highest value customers.  Here’s what you need to know:


Essentially, SEO comes down to two things: 1) producing “good content” (aka – content that people will read, and share with their friends) and 2) building links, where you create backlinks to your site using relevant anchor text from authoritative sites so that your site earns more traffic from the search engines.

Ultimately, SEO is part of the front end of your customer acquisition funnel.  When visitors enter their queries into the search engines, they should find your website and eventually decide to purchase your products.  They may also subscribe your blog or newsletter, download your app or follow you on social networks – all of which present you with additional options to market your products to these customers.

Since SEO is a part of the top of your sales funnel, you’ll want to focus on building content that’s “evergreen,” meaning that it’s not tied to current events or fading trends, and will always be interesting to the people within your industry.


Successful PPC advertising is all about understanding what will pique your prospective high value customers’ curiosity and speak directly to their core motivations, inspiring them to take an action (in this case, clicking on your ad).   In many cases, the things that motivate high value customers will be substantially different than low value customers, meaning that it’s possible to structure your ads in a way that attracts the former group at the expense of the latter.

As an example, be careful about using the word “FREE” in your PPC advertisements, as this can be a great way to attract “tire kickers” to your site who won’t generate a high value for your company.

Instead, it’s your website’s job to remain congruent with the high value messaging you’ve used and the expectations you’ve created in your prospects’ minds throughout the advertising process – from the initial landing pages you use, all the way up to the “thank you” message on your checkout page.  Promoting a consistent, high end experience will help to attract the types of customers who are likely to pay off big for your company.

Social Media

Social media is all about building a relationship with your customer base and reinforcing your positioning in their minds, so that whenever they think of the problem you solve, your brand is the first thing that comes to mind.  It’s also about spreading the word, which is why some marketing circles are now talking about “word of click” marketing replacing “word of mouth” marketing online.

Basically, nowadays, word of mouth is spread by the way your site visitors click around online.  Think about how typical visitors interact with your site…  They click the “tweet” button on your blog, the “Like” button on your fan page and the “Share” button on your blog posts and then decide to say something either positive or negative about your brand that everyone else in that space can access.

Your job is to make spreading the word as easy as possible.  In order to attract high value customers and keep them engaged with your brand, these customers should be able to tweet, share, stumble, dig, like, pin or do SOMETHING with your blog posts, website content and all other kinds of pages with a single click. All of your messaging in these channels should be pre-written so that your visitors don’t have to think about what to write.  Instead, they can simply move on and take the action you want them to take – spreading the word about your startup.

If you do this correctly, your social media efforts can also help power your SEO, as Google is now paying attention to how many 1+’s, likes, and retweets are associated with your specific URLs and website as a whole.  The resulting high SERP rankings are especially critical for startups, as these social media activities can lead to both social traffic and high value visitors streaming in from the search engines.

Image: Simone Lovati

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