The Startup
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The Startup

The StartUp Marketing Roadmap (with built-in GPS): How to Budget and Strategize From the Ground Up

If you’re involved in a startup, the founder of your own business or a solo-prenuer, you’ll understand how wide the choice of startup marketing strategies are…

…and to make things more confusing, most of these tools, channels, and tactics label themselves as ‘MARKETING MUST-HAVES’. Throw this disorientating number of options in with a small startup marketing budget (that every business must scale when they’re starting out), and it’s likely that most of you are in a tough spot.

That’s why I’ve created this roadmap (with build in GPS). These directions will work as a framework for any small business, no matter their niche or industry.

But before we get into the nuts and bolts of digital marketing, and how to grow your audience and customers, I’d like to make something completely clear:

Successful marketing requires time or money, preferably both.

Some of you might have small budgets, that’s fine, within this guide you’ll learn where you can make savings and I’ll point you to other articles (that’ll help you save those all-important pennies). Just remember, wherever you cut back on marketing spend, you’ll need to invest more time.

In other words, the smaller your budget, the harder you’ll have to work (but that’s the fun part!).

When you’ve tested these fundamental startup marketing strategies, you can optimise your marketing budget by spending on the strategies that are successful, and cutting back on those that fail, because…

the more money you put into a marketing machine that works, the more you get out!

StartUp Marketing Roadmap Step 1: Market Research

Before you do absolutely anything, you must understand your target market and audience. This means research!

Many of you will think that your market research phase was finished with product development, but it’s crucial you understand your audience’s preferences in order to properly market your business.

At this stage in our startup marketing roadmap, you’re doing nothing more than discovering the correct information to input into the GPS. If you don’t know your destination, via, route preferences (fastest, shortest, most fuel economic) or the potential traffic in your way, you’re going to get somewhere but it’s almost definitely going to be the wrong place and the wrong journey.

Start by creating a Customer Avatar, and work this out into a more detailed tactical analysis that can be used to build a strategy.

In other words, think about your perfect target customer and create an avatar from this, research this avatar until you have a crystal clear understanding of their most-used mediums, their trust-points, their decision-making influences, the time of day they’re free, their biggest pains, their goals…everything…

…and it’s critical that you do this. The better you understand your target market, the more cost-effective your marketing strategy will be.

For instance, it’s great to know that your target audience uses LinkedIn, but it’s even better to know that they use LinkedIn most often on Wednesday’s between 7.30am-10am. That kind of detailed knowledge is the perfect way to optimise your marketing budget (in both time and money).

Performing market research can be expensive, especially if you outsource the responsibility to a specialist company, but if you’re on a tight budget and want to save as much as possible, I’ve got a few suggestions:

Customer Avatar

Trust me, you’ll be shocked at what tactics you can pick up from a detailed description of your target customer.

Get yourself one of our customer avatar worksheets. Spend at least an hour filling it out. Go super-granular and describe everything about your target market in as much depth as possible!

Consumer Barometer (with Google)

This tool is FREE, available to everyone and has loads of incredibly useful information, especially for businesses in the research phase of their marketing campaigns.

The Consumer Barometer is something that I would urge all of you to check to gain a better understanding of your customer’s views towards digital and their buying processes.

Use the FILTER option to target information about your customer avatar. Run through all of the options in the Consumer Barometer, and don’t ignore anything! If you think something is unimportant, it could cost you a lot of time and money later on. When it comes to internet usage and user behaviour, you should trust Google. They know a thing or two about it.

Just to make sure you use this amazing tool correctly, I’m going to run through an example.

So, let’s pretend my target market is based in the UK, aged between 25–34, predominantly male, earn a medium income, own 3 Devices (mobile, computer, and tablet), they aren’t parents, their most recent online purchase was Books/DVD’s and their favourite category of business is Travel…

…I’d target all of this using the FILTER menu.

Now that I’ve narrowed the information down to my target customer, I’m going to learn as much as I can about them. So, I’d go to the QUESTIONS tab and pick a question, in this case, ‘What online activities do people do on their smartphones at least weekly?’

I can then use this data to create a much more cost-effective and targeted marketing strategy further down the line. For instance, looking at the results (above) my target audience perform searches and watch videos as their top smartphone activities. If I wanted to market to them via this device (which my other research tells me is growing in popularity for this market sector) I’d have to incorporate Search and Video into my strategy.

Whilst the Customer Barometer isn’t as strong as performing market research on your target customer (which usually takes a lot of money, time or both), it is a great place to start for start-ups on small budgets.

Google Trends

A simple yet immensely valuable tool built by Google. Just like the Consumer Barometer, Trends is FREE, but instead of providing information about your target market’s behaviour, it shows trends in search volume for certain keywords.

This means, you can find out if people are searching for keywords that match with your business idea, and you can view ‘related searches’.

Using this research you can better understand WHY people are searching in your niche and even better, what they’re looking for (this will usually lead you to a problem that your target audience are trying to fix).

And keep an eye out for upward trends! If you spot a curve before it grows, it could propel your start-up to the next level.


The oldest, most traditional and probably the best form of market research is the trusty survey.

There’s no better way to get specific answers to specific questions.

These can be costly (in time and money) and also, it can be very difficult to get people to participate (people don’t like doing something for nothing), so either you have to get smart or spend money.

If you really can’t afford to pay for this type of old-school research, why not create a discount that leads, prospects or existing customers receive when they complete your survey.

Try a service like SurveyMonkey, they run a free program for basic accounts (that’s probably you!).

StartUp Marketing Roadmap Step 2: The Website

One thing that you ABSOLUTELY CANNOT COMPROMISE ON, is your website. You must own and control your own site if you want to get anywhere in digital marketing.

You may have heard that you can make your business work online using just social media profiles, or that publishing content on a site like Medium is enough…

…it’s not.

When you rely on a network or any other form of external content hosting site, you are putting your faith in somebody else’s hands. That’s not good. You want to be in control. If they make an update, or change their terms of service, or do just about anything that affects you negatively, you have nobody to blame but yourself.

And, not just that, you don’t actually own and control the most important asset on that site, the traffic.

These are the visitors who come to view your start-up’s digital profile, and they’re 100,000x more valuable when you own your own website! (I’ll explain why a little later on!)

So, whatever you do, make sure you buy and control your website! This will cost money, but it’s inescapable. If having your own website takes a big chunk of your budget and costs you time elsewhere, so be it. It’s worth it.

When it comes to website hosts and builders, I’d suggest going with WordPress, or if you’re opening an online store, Shopify.

Both Shopify and WordPress have different monthly payment packages, I would advise against going for the cheapest option on either. You’ll regret it when you want to scale. Take your time and study the features of each package, find the most appropriate for your start-up and the functions that best suit your target market.

If you suck at setting up your website, go on and hire a cheap freelancer to get the job done for you!

StartUp Marketing Roadmap Step 3: Social Media

I know that nearly everyone will be encouraging you to focus on one social media channel (or all of them), but I want you to ignore that.

When you’re starting out, begin your business’s social media journey on TWO networks. No more, no less. Two is the perfect number.

At this point you might be expecting me to reel off the exact networks you MUST USE, and then explain why you have to use them, but I can’t…

…because the answer will be different for each and every one of you, apart from one common denominator…

The Must-Have Network

Whatever your industry, product, brand, offering, personal preference, you absolutely must have a Facebook page for your business (especially in startup marketing).

Facebook is by far the world’s biggest social network, and with over 2.23 Billion monthly active users, I’m certain that however small your niche, your audience is on there!

BTW: There is no easier way to create content than to repurpose what you already have for social media.

What’s more, Facebook is almost seen as a social proof resource for people investigating new people and businesses. If you want to research a person or company, one of the first things you’ll do is search Facebook for them. Make sure that people find you when they’re searching for you. You can’t market something that isn’t visible.

Facebook is also either the 1stor 2nd(depending who you ask) most effective advertising platform in the world. And you’re going to want to take advantage of that at some point in your marketing journey. So, the sooner you’ve got a profile, the better.

When you’ve got a business page set-up, share the page and try to gain as many likes as possible, use our guide, How to Get Facebook Business Page Likes Without Spending a Penny, to maximise your efforts.

Your Second Network

You must give your social media profiles the best possible chance of success, and for you to do that, you should only focus on ONE other platform (after Facebook).

I cannot tell you exactly what network that should be, it depends on your business and more importantly, your target audience. Just make sure you target a large network that acts as a congregation spot for your market.

Use your research to decide which network is most effective. This is a crucial decision and not something you should take a random guess at.

I’d suggest picking one of the following three as your secondary network for startup marketing:




That’s All for Part 1…

I didn’t begin writing this post thinking it would become a multi-part series, but that’s what I’m going to have to make it.

Don’t worry, I’ll update this very page with the rest of this article when I’ve completed the next section, so favourite or bookmark it, or Follow Us for an update on the rest of this article…

…or just keep checking back, it won’t take long, I promise!

So far we’ve been through the basic set-up of your digital marketing efforts, from Step 4 onwards we’re going to dig into strategy and I’ve got loads more invaluable resources that you can’t afford to miss (plus all the stuff that most start-ups waste their budget on!)

While you’re waiting for the second installment of our StartUp Marketing Roadmap, check out How to Get Facebook Page Likes Without Spending a Penny, or learn more about how to get the most from Instagram Hashtags.

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Josh Barney

Josh Barney

Founder of We Imagine Media, creator and marketer. 😎