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How Startups Should Spend their Marketing Budget

marketing budget

Since business school, you haven’t been able to shake one statistic from your mind: the infamous claim that 90% of startups fail.

But here you are, getting into the startup game anyway. This means that you’re already fearless, and willing to do whatever it takes to get your startup into that 10%.

We know you have it in you. But, since the odds are so stacked against you, you can’t afford to make one wrong move – especially this early in the game.

You also can’t afford to misspend a single dollar. In fact, you need to find the best and fastest ways to turn that dollar into much more.

That’s where we come in.

We’ve created this no-BS, rapid-fire guide on how to get the most out of your marketing budget.

We’re telling you how to spend it, and why you should heavily invest in your marketing budget, in this epic post. We’ll also tell you where you can find the best marketing services.

1. You Gotta Get A (Media) Gimmick

When you’re a startup, anything you can do (within reason) to get attention is a good thing.

However, since you’re operating in the insanely fast-paced world of startups, if you just imitate ideas that other companies have already put out, you’re already behind the times.

You need to prove right from the get-go that you’re an innovator. If you can’t, why would anyone want to give you capital?

Use some of your marketing budget to invest in some truly out-of-the-box ideas. For example, hold a pie-eating contest on March 14th. Have an open bar and invite the press and top bloggers and influencers in your industry. Why not host a beach weekend and fly out potential investors?

No matter your budget, remember that the amount you spend matters much less than the overall impact you make. This is a chance to show the top names in your field that your brand is a force to be reckoned with, and that you’re working with the most creative people out there.

Don’t think of these gimmicks as a way to earn money, but rather as a way to get attention. If VCs know who you are, and recognize your brand for the epic event you hosted, they’ll be much more likely to donate.

2. Heavily Invest In Your Social Media Platforms

If you’re a startup, you need to create a buzz even before your company officially opens for business. How can you get people to go from not even knowing your name to feeling insanely hyped about your startup?

Allocating a pretty hefty portion of your marketing budget to building your social media strategy is a great way to start.

This can mean a lot of different things. It can mean mining content marketing companies for the best people to write quips for Twitter. It can mean paying to boost a post on Facebook. It can even mean hiring a top local photographer to take gorgeous, edgy photos for your website and blog.

Since over 53% of people recommend products, services, and companies on Twitter, make sure that your account is regularly interacting with both followers and accounts you haven’t clicked with yet.

Don’t underestimate the importance of video content, either. Especially for startups, using part of your marketing budget to hire local videographers and editors to shoot a seriously awesome video promoting and building excitement around your brand is key.

Also tap into Facebook Live, so that you can establish yourself early on as a company that’s all about radical transparency. Plus, when people feel like they “know” the men and women involved, they’ll be much more likely to contribute to campaigns, follow you, and share your content on their own pages.

3. Get Booths and Conferences and Expos

You might think these are old-fashioned, but you never know who is going to walk into a national conference. It could be your biggest investor or the guy you’ve been dreaming of hiring for months.

This is a great use of your marketing budget because it proves to people that your company still values face-to-face interaction. It also shows that you’re willing to get out there and do the heavy lifting when it comes to getting capital and spreading the word about your startup.

Finally, if you’ve been working on a prototype for a product, what better way to show it off? Too often these days, startups rely on the web alone, and their products rarely see the light of day before an official launch.

Being able to hold a product in their hands may just be the thing that convinces a VC to work with you, instead of funding your competitors.

4. Advertise on Google, And Get Serious About SEO

When you have questions about a product or company, what’s the first thing you do? You Google it, right?

Well, that’s exactly what everyone else is doing.

Now is the time to start paying for serious ad space on Google. This is the phone book and directory of the future. Even better? It directly connects you with people that are already interested in what you’re offering. You’re much more likely to get hits to your site this way.

You’ll also need to allocate a good amount of your marketing budget to developing an early SEO strategy. (It’s OK if it’s a bit more flexible than others because you’re still in the early stages.)

What’s important is that having these strategies in place help keep you accountable when it comes to setting and keeping goals related to content creation.

It also means that when people click or land on your website, they’re going to get the information they need right away.

2017 SEO is centered around the rise of so-called “dense content.” This doesn’t just ensure that people will stay on your website longer, boosting you in the rankings.

It also means that they’ll believe you’re an authority in your industry and in the start-up world because you’re providing them with information that’s actually useful, not fluff.

5. Get Professional Help

No, we don’t mean therapy (although after a month in the Valley, you may feel like you need it.)

Instead, sit down with your team and get real with each other: how much time do you really have, between meeting with potential investors, putting together killer pitch packages, and promoting the heck out of your brand, to dedicate to your marketing strategy?

Just as important, do you have the skill set required to get your marketing strategy to where it needs to be?

There’s nothing wrong with admitting that marketing isn’t your strongest suit. In fact, being honest with yourself about your skills is the kind of thing that lands you in that coveted 10%.

If you’re already working 15-hour days, you may need to allocate a part of your marketing budget to outsourcing your digital advertising and hype-building.

Size (Doesn’t Always) Matter

If your budget isn’t as big as you like, try focusing on just one area of your marketing. Buy a few blog posts or social media blasts, then spend your time interacting with those you connect with online.

Also, find ways to get innovative.

If you can’t afford to attend a conference, can you still send out some promotional materials that people can grab? Is there a way to skype in?

To finish up, check out our rapid-fire marketing budget allocation ideas for any amount:

  • $1k/month and under: Focus on getting customers. At this stage, about 1/4 of all your work time should be dedicated to marketing anyway, so you may have lowered outsource costs. Start trying out different methods and ideas, and see what works.
  • $1500-$5/month: It’s time to create a logo and other brand-building images and phrases. Then, focus on seriously beefing up your web presence. Get an expert to help design an awesome website, and make sure it’s user-friendly (even for mobile users!) Then, move onto social media and blogging. Use programs like HootSuite to streamline all your accounts.
  • Over $5k/month: Get an in-house marketing expert or content developer/writer. They should be on the ground, every day, just like you. You may also want to hire a marketing agency, to help to customize your strategy to fit with both your long and short-term goals. Make sure these goals are specific, and in line with your current phase of business.

As you can see here, how much money you have to put towards your marketing budget doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you choose to spend it. Smart investments that are diverse will help to lay the groundwork for future success.

Your Marketing Budget Will Be As Awesome As Your Startup

Thanks to this guide, you’ve now got all the information you need to elevate your strategies to the next level – and to blow your competition out of the water.

To make it to the 10%, you’re going to need drive, determination, and top people working for and with you.

To learn more about the services we offer to help get you to where you belong, spend some time on our blog and website. Feel free to get in touch with us, and ask about our Free SEO audit.

We’re always offering the freshest industry tips.


With over two decades of experience in marketing, spanning back to 1997, he has dedicated nearly 20 years to assisting businesses in optimizing their marketing investments for optimal returns. Presently, he holds the position of owner at California SEO Professionals, a digital marketing firm specializing in result-oriented strategies tailored to fuel business expansion. Additionally, boasting a 5th-degree black belt in Goju Ryu Karate, acquired through nearly 30 years of disciplined training, his commitment to excellence is evident in every aspect of his endeavors. 🥋

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