Here’s How to Spend Your Startup Marketing Budget in 2023
How can you leverage that startup marketing budget to get the most bang for your buck? We get this question a LOT here at LoudBird Marketing, so we wanted to share our top tips for startup business owners that want to boost their biz with smart marketing promotion.
What Is a Good Startup Marketing Budget?
We suggest saving up a bare minimum of $5,000 before approaching a marketing agency to help you with your startup marketing. The average startup spends anywhere from 10% to 50% of their budget on marketing, depending on whether they’re VC-backed or a bootstrap startup.
That means that if you have $100,000 to launch and grow your business in its first year, you should spend anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 on marketing. You can learn more about the nitty-gritty of planning your small business marketing budget in this article!
What If I Have A Small Startup Marketing Budget?
Want to make the most of your startup marketing budget? We HIGHLY suggest working with a boutique marketing agency like LoudBird Marketing that can stretch your funds a little farther and teach you about your marketing along the way! We work with many woman-owned startups who’ve grown their biz through low-interest loans and grants for fempreneurs! As well as traditional startups working with VC funds.
If your budget is really slim (or nonexistent 🤣), you should invest in marketing consulting and marketing mentoring. This is a great way to get advice on DIY marketing until your budget grows and you can hand off some tasks to a marketing agency.
Why You NEED a Startup Marketing Budget
Do you think it really sucks that you have to shell out your startup’s hard-earned VC cash for professional marketing services?
Then you need a perspective shift! Instead of thinking of your marketing as an overwhelming financial drain, you need to view it as your ticket to a profitable startup.
Startups are expected to make a BANG out of the gate and gain major visibility FAST. Especially if you’re using VC investors! The money you’re spending is going to pay you back tenfold if you choose the right marketing agency.
Marketing is a specialized craft like any other. Would you try to install your own new roof? Ok, if you’re like us you probably would…
But we all know how DIY projects can go! Most entrepreneurs can’t master marketing. Or get too busy and neglect it!
When you opt for DIY marketing, it’s usually ineffective and a waste of your time and budget. Your business growth will be slower and harder. You’ll be frustrated and overwhelmed. And your profits might suffer until you invest in a marketing professional to help you.
We had to say it! But enough of that doom and gloom! Let’s get to the startup marketing budget tips!
How to Prioritize Your Startup Marketing Budget
When a growing startup approaches us, these 👇 marketing services are what we suggest to get the most bang for your buck!
You may already be doing some of these things yourself, but you aren’t getting the best results. OR you simply don’t have the skills or time to accomplish great marketing. Either way, when a business is struggling to grow we almost always find that they’re not accomplishing one of these small marketing budget “marketing musts”.
1 👉 Startups NEED a Professional Website with SEO
Get your house in order! Before you explore any external marketing tactics, your website, the “home base” of your business, needs to be FREAKING AMAZING. Even if your business is in-person or brick-and-mortar, your customers and clients are using the internet to find you. That’s why search engine optimization and conversion-focused website design and copywriting are SO important!
We suggest WordPress websites for service providers, e-commerce retailers with limited inventory, and brick-and-mortar-only businesses. Shopify is our recommendation for e-commerce businesses that need more dynamic product and payment options.
How To Improve Your Startup Website
👌 Professional Design and User Experience
If your website design is amateur, customers aren’t going to trust your business. It doesn’t matter how amazing your product or service is. You’ll need to either have a background in website design or pay someone who has the skills to make your website beautiful. This is MANDATORY, and should be the sole focus of your startup marketing budget if you haven’t yet nailed it.
A professional WordPress or Shopify website can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $20,000, but it’s the smartest investment you can make as a small business owner. We always suggest starting out simple and building on pages and website features as you can afford it.
👌 SEO and Competitive Research
Is your website navigation easy to use? Are you using the right keywords to bring in organic website traffic from search engines? Is your site mobile-friendly and accessible on all devices? Is your website fast or do certain pages take forever to load? What have your competitors done on their site to win customers? What can you do better on your website to win business?
After your website LOOKS great, you should next focus on ways that you can bring organic (FREE!) traffic to your site.
Search engine optimization is the wisest focus for small businesses with a startup marketing budget because an SEO Audit with Competitive Research Package is a one-time, affordable cost that will bring in sales and leads for YEARS!
👌 Conversion-focused Copywriting
The copywriting on your website speaks volumes about your brand! The writing on your website needs to contain relevant SEO keywords, but it also needs to convey your unique brand voice.
Why do customers want to buy from YOU instead of the competition? What values and mission does your business support? What’s the backstory of your founders? What value do you offer your customers and which of their problems can you solve?
Your website copywriting needs to be a VIBE. Otherwise, you’re just screaming into the over-saturated internet void.
2 👉 Startups GOTTA HAVE Brand Strategy and Positioning
The secret behind those magnetic startups that launch and immediately grow? Effective branding! Branding is possibly the most important investment you’ll ever make in your startup…so you better get it RIGHT.
Great website with SEO, but still not seeing traffic and sales? Ads getting clicks but no completed sales or promising leads? Or maybe your launch was powerful but you’ve hit a major growth plateau. The reason is likely brand strategy—or lack thereof!
Branding Strategy Encompasses:
- Your brand’s position in the current market
- Startup naming—it’s gotta be memorable and meaningful!
- Impressions your logo makes on consumers
- Emotions roused by your color palette
- The “vibes” of your brand photography
- Editorial—your way of speaking to customers and clients
Branding is the soul of your business! And it’s a b!tch (and expensive) to change further down the line. If you sense a disconnect in your branding—if you doubt your business name, logo concept, web design, or the messaging of your startup website copy… it may be time to make a serious investment in a professional brand identity kit that proudly represents your biz and its mission.
How to Improve Your Small Business Branding
👌 Name Your Business for SEO and Online Visibility
While many conceptual business names like Apple have proven successful, we aren’t all the next Steve Jobs. We advise naming your business in a way that gives you a marketing advantage! And securing a website URL that will help you pop up in Google searches without lifting a finger.
This doesn’t mean your business name can’t be weird and whacky! We’re ALL FOR creative biz names! But sometimes if it’s too “out there”, it can hold you back. You’ll have to work harder to gain trust and exposure.
👌 Branding Isn’t All About Visual Design!
Branding isn’t all conceptual and creative—it can also be very technical and strategic!
- Does your business name and logo automatically help you seem authoritative?
- Is your branding attracting profitable customers and clients or a non-ideal audience?
- Is your logo too similar to your competitors or too unrelated to what you do?
- Is your business name super easy to pronounce and spell?
- Is your logo blah? Or downright amateur?
Many small businesses come up with their own business name simply because “they like it”. They whip up their logo and branding in Canva when they first start and find themselves embarrassed by it a few years down the line. And we get it! We all have to start somewhere! But you need a solid brand strategy to grow and scale.
👌 Create a Memorable, Clear Logo and Brand
What is the personality of your brand? Is it welcoming and inclusive? Trustworthy and respectful? Fun and wild? What do you stand for and who is your ideal customer? Does this come across unmistakably in your branding and packaging design? What about the images on your website?
If not, you may alienate potential customers OR attract the wrong customers.
We see this commonly with startups that have not done the appropriate market research to find their customer base and niche within their industry. Their customer IS NOT represented in their marketing.
- They use (obviously stock) images of people with one skin tone, the wrong age, or exclusive clothing.
- They use language that is inaccessible or unclear. OR simply generic and boring.
- They are speaking to EVERYONE instead of their ideal customer or client.
- They are using too many colors, fonts, and image types and their marketing is chaotic and confusing.
Does this sound a little too familiar?🤣
👌 Re-imagine Your Brand Color Palette
How much thought did you put into your brand’s color palette? Is it strategically planned to bring in customers and sales or is it just a group of colors you personally are drawn to?
We all want to love our brand colors, but sometimes when you are too “inside” your business, it’s hard to see that your brand colors aren’t helping you make sales. There is psychology and strategy involved in choosing a color palette. Let a professional brand strategist help you!
👌 Speak with a Distinct Brand Voice
We see a LOT of bland, generic website copy, social media posts, and blog articles. Your brand voice is how you talk to your customers—the special and unique way you build your online community. It needs to fit your industry and speak directly to your ideal customer.
If your brand voice is generic, you’ll struggle to make sales because you aren’t differentiating yourself from every other Tom, Dick, and Harry out there. A brand strategy agency can help you nail your voice, tone, and brand identity!
3 👉 Startups MUST Build Email Marketing Campaigns
Email marketing is a great way to nurture current customers AND woo future customers. Plus, you’ll always own your email list! It’s basically a free way to distribute targeted, personalized advertising and product education to your audience.
Email marketing has a super solid ROI for small businesses, and if you’re sending professionally-designed email templates with stellar sales copy, an email content strategy can seriously help you convert and encourage loyal, repeat purchases. For minimal cost to you! That’s what we like to call a startup marketing budget WIN!
How to Improve Your Startup Email Marketing
👌 Grow Your Email List
Add an email list opt-in CTA box to your website, place a link in the footer, or grab their attention with an email subscription pop-up! Promote your email list on social media profiles! Create a freebie you can promote through ads to boost email sign-ups!
There are tons of ways to grow your email list, and they are all worthwhile. Because once you have a quality list, you can start selling with email marketing!
Pro Tip: spamming your email list with never-ending sales promotions is a surefire way to lose their loyalty and attention. Make sure your email campaigns are educational, entertaining, and valuable. Limit sales blasts to once per week OR LESS!
And keep in mind that your email list is an asset you need to maintain! Clean it every year so you aren’t sending to bot email addresses and unengaged subscribers who may distort your campaign analytics by never opening an email.
👌 Optimize Your “Welcome Series”
The first 3-5 emails you send to your audience are called your “welcome series”. They’re arguably the most important because this series establishes your value and “hooks” subscribers so they’ll want to keep reading your emails.
Many small businesses with startup marketing budgets neglect email marketing altogether! But if we can suggest one mandatory email marketing element, we encourage you to craft a thoughtful, engaging, and well-designed welcome series so your email list can grow and remain a key source of quality leads. And sure-thing sales!
👌 Invest In Re-usable, Versatile Email Marketing Templates
To streamline and brand your email marketing, you need to work with an email designer to get a few slick-looking templates designed for your startup. If you send amateur-hour email campaigns to your list, you’re going to lose their attention quickly and be swimming in unsubscribes. Trust us, we see it all too often.
We usually set up our startup clients with 5 or 6 re-usable email marketing templates that they can easily edit internally for endless email opportunities. You can use template email designs to inform your customers and clients about a product launch, share “insider” sales, send a monthly newsletter, or offer education and inspiration. And every email sent will be consistently branded and optimized for conversion!
4 👉 Startups CANNOT Skip Social Media Strategy
SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS ARE NOW POWERFUL SEARCH ENGINES AND SELLING GOLDMINES!
Social requires a significant investment of time and budget to get right, but it’s essential for any startup or small business.
How to Improve Your Startup’s Social Media Strategy
👌 Ummm…HAVE a Strategy!
We meet with many startups that publish social media content with NO PURPOSE OR STRATEGY! Their feeds are usually packed with:
☝️TOO MUCH promotional content and product photos
☝️NOT ENOUGH educational, brand-building content.
As a startup, you’re still building your brand’s authority. You need to spread the story behind your brand and explain exactly what it is you do—because it’s not a given that people will totally understand! And starting new social media accounts is a RARE OPPORTUNITY FOR GROWTH—you won’t have this advantage in the algorithm later!
For a stellar startup social media strategy, you can’t just wing it. You need an experienced social media strategist to help you develop a game plan—sales and brand-building campaigns, strategic content pillars, post structure for each channel, and hashtag and keyword research.
👌 Create As Much Video Content As Possible
Video content is your startup’s ticket to social media growth and brand exposure! Consumers prefer video, so social media video platforms like Instagram Reels, TikTok, Youtube, and Pinterest are often the best places to meet (and convert) your target audience.
No, you do NOT have to dance like Beyonce or jump on each and every viral trend to grow on social media! But you DO have to show up consistently with video content—it brings the most new consumers to your social media profiles and website.
Need help getting started with video content for your startup? LoudBird can help!
👌 Don’t Try To Do ALL THE THINGS
Many startups and small businesses try to do WAY too much with social media. And their teams end up getting overwhelmed and doing nothing at all!
We advise our clients to explore ONLY 3 or 4 targeted social media platforms in their first year of business. DO NOT spread yourself thin trying to tackle every social media platform!
Instead, consider where your audience demographic most likely wants to interact with your brand. Be there. Nurture those communities. THEN build on more social media channels as your business (and budget!) grows.
5 👉 Startups HAVE TO Explore Paid Ads—THE RIGHT WAY!
We can’t stress this enough: Don’t even THINK about social media ads and Google PPC ads until you’ve put in the work to build your organic community! And don’t bother to “boost” social media posts. It’s a complete waste of your valuable startup marketing budget.
To get the full benefit from startup advertising and make the most of your ads budget, you need to first lay the groundwork.
How to Improve Your Startup’s Paid Advertising Strategy
So how do you turn that small business startup marketing budget into product launch gold?
Through careful planning, picture-perfect targeting, and kickass creative assets—like professional product photography, captivating video ads, and short-but-sweet advertising copywriting.
👌 Test Ad Concepts Organically (AKA for FREE)
One of the easiest ways to find out if your ad campaign is going to resonate with your audience FOR FREE? Test it through organic social media, your website, and your email marketing list! You can ACTUALLY ASK your audience if they love and how it makes them feel it with a social media poll, website popup questionnaire, or email survey. So why on earth wouldn’t you?!
It always surprises our agency that many startups skip this crucial advertising discovery step. Build your organic social media and website presence and then tap into that resource to craft customer-focused, client-targeted ads! It’s just smart!
👌 Remember That Awesome Ads Require TIME
Advertising is not the immediate gratification startup growth tactic that many advertising agencies would have you believe! Can advertising earn you tons of brand visibility, email list sign-ups, product sales, and targeted leads? HELL YEAH!
But nailing your startup advertising campaigns requires some finesse—and some TIME. Advertising campaigns will take anywhere from 3-6 months to become a goldmine, in our experience!
Any reputable advertising agency will want to run A/B tests with a smaller budget to test the waters unless they have a backlog of social media ads you’ve run to draw knowledge from. Most startups don’t have that, unfortunately.
👌 Know That Ads Failures Are A GOOD Thing
You (usually) won’t find your golden ticket ad campaign (with high conversion and low cost) immediately. You have to gather plenty of information and tweak your ads many times before they will perform in a profitable, exciting way!
So try not to get too disappointed when a campaign flops. This is a good thing! It tells your advertising team what IS NOT effective, whether that’s imagery, copy tone and word choices, or your offer itself and who you are targeting. Today’s flop paves the way for tomorrow’s winning ad.
👌 Use Ads To Build Your Email List FIRST
Consumers don’t trust ads. Trust must be built, and most people are hardened against advertising because they are bombarded with it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Someone is ALWAYS trying to sell SOMETHING.
This is why we often suggest that our clients run “softer” ads first to build a quality email marketing list and improve brand visibility.
We build email lists for our startup clients by creating ads that offer high-value, free resources like downloadable e-books and printables, mini educational video courses, essentials of XYZ checklists, and free educational webinars. Once you have their email, you can nurture your audience and build that trust you so desperately need. ONLY THEN CAN YOU SELL!
Plus, an email marketing list is a marketing asset you OWN. Social media platforms and Google can’t take it away from you or make you pay for it again…it’s free ads! Take advantage of this loophole!
How To Choose The Right Startup Marketing Agency
How you choose your marketing agency MATTERS. Your startup marketing budget is likely tight and you need to make the most of your available funds. Here are a few things to consider…
🤔 Large or Small Marketing Agency?
Smaller, boutique agencies like LoudBird are usually more affordable and offer a closer dynamic alongside your internal team. Boutique agencies are more agile, with prompt communication and tighter project turnaround. If you favor casual and friendly collaboration that results in effective marketing campaigns, a boutique agency might be right for you!
Boutique agencies also often have shorter contracts and a clear focus or specialty. More on that below.
Larger marketing agencies tend to be more expensive and have longer, more strict contracts. Large agencies will be more focused on providing a “slick”, full-service marketing experience. Meetings will likely be more formal and communications less personal. But this isn’t always a bad thing! It simply comes down to preference. Some startups will gladly pay the “glitter tax”, as we jokingly call it, to get that true Don Draper experience.
🤔 Marketing Agency Specialty or Focus
Many agencies are “full service” and offer every form of marketing you could ever want. While this sounds amazing, many of these agencies are generalists that aren’t amazing at any one type of marketing. The product can be “blah”. We find this to be especially true with branding, copywriting, and content marketing.
There are also specialized agencies that provide only one or two services—like branding agencies, SEO agencies, or copywriting agencies. They tend to be amazing at what they do! But most startups need more than one or two services.
Rarely, an agency is BOTH. LoudBird Marketing is full-service AND specializes in strategic branding, SEO, and kickass content marketing copywriting. We love all those organic tactics and clients often come to us for our creativity. But we also provide advertising and the other marketing services you’ll need to grow and scale your startup!
Not to toot our own horn (ok, we totally mean to) but we are the PERFECT marketing agency for SEO-driven, content-focused startups!
🤔 Don’t You DARE Forget About Personality Fit
Marketing is all about forming a long-lasting, trusting business relationship. So you have to choose an agency that shares your brand’s ethics and appreciates your personality and communication style! Otherwise, marketing can quickly become boring and tedious.
Is your agency point of contact someone you enjoy working with? Do you feel “heard” throughout your communications and do you feel like your startup gets the focused attention it deserves? Do you feel like your perspective on the world and your sales philosophy are reflected in your marketing agency? These are just a few questions that can reveal if an agency is a good personality fit!
🤔 Who Will You Actually Work With?
Who will you communicate with when you have a problem or question?
Often your first marketing consultation will take place with a sales representative, and you’ll then be passed off to an account manager. So you want to know who will actually be handling your marketing!
At LoudBird, our Foundress, Clair, is always your main point of contact. Many startup entrepreneurs value this, as it drastically cuts down on back-and-forth emails and meetings. And results in more focused, strategic marketing campaigns. Nothing gets lost in translation!
Ready To Get Started, Like, Yesterday?
We hope this little guide has been helpful for you and your startup! Knowing how and where to spend your startup marketing budget isn’t easy, but with a little research and a healthy dose of professional guidance, you’ll be scaling in no time!
If you need some help, give us a shout through our contact form or email our HBIC, Clair, and set up your free startup marketing consultation! Clair will take the time to learn about your unique biz and offer some custom recommendations based on your goals. Feel free to learn more about Clair before scheduling your consultation—she’s a peach!