Marketing for start-ups: A beginner’s guide

Searching for marketing help as a start-up business can leave your head spinning – with every blogger and their dog listing endless digital marketing “must-haves” that seem to cost a fortune (in time and money)! It’s like they always say: don’t run before you walk. So, here’s a quick and easy guide to getting started with marketing as a start-up.

Make a plan

As with other areas of your business, the best place to start with your marketing strategy is to make a plan. This is where you’ll figure out what needs to be included in your marketing and where the gaps in your knowledge are. You’ll probably be starting your business with a very small team, and you might have some basic marketing know-how among you, but it’s a good idea to look for marketing plan help when you need it. There are great free resources out there, including events, articles, and webinars to help plug the gaps in your marketing knowledge.

Within the plan it’s a great idea to do a SWOT analysis to figure out your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to help bring some focus to your strategy. Once you’ve made your plan, you will have a better idea of your priorities need to be, what your goals are, and what you need to know in order to achieve them.

A strong plan means that you have a good foundation for your marketing strategy; missing out important things at this stage can have a negative effect further down the line, so it’s worth taking the time to plan ahead.

Social Media

For start-ups, a strong social media presence can really help kick things off! Social media is free and, when used well, it could be your most cost-effective tool for marketing. You’ll be able to increase your brand awareness and build a following and a network of people interested in your business. From Instagram and Facebook to TikTok and LinkedIn, you need to figure out what platforms are best to show off your business and where you think you’ll find the biggest audience for your products or services.

Social media is also a great way to get to know what your competitors are up to, have a look at what they’re doing well and what you think you could be doing better. While there are a lot of intricacies to social media marketing if you want to shoot for the stars, the basics are fairly straightforward. It’s possible to see your following grow if you use the right hashtags to get you seen, seek out potential customers or clients to follow, and interact with your audience regularly.

Email Marketing

Contrary to how a lot of people feel about marketing emails, they’re without a doubt the most effective way to directly reach your audience. Your marketing appears right in their inbox with a notification – the best place for them to really engage with what you’ve got to offer them. This is what makes email marketing the best for converting people to customers and building an email database of potential customers to market to is really important.

There are a ton of really good email marketing platforms out there to choose from. Some will give you detailed templates which can be really handy if you’re not design savvy. Some will give you a lot more flexibility. It’s worth shopping around to find something that gives you what you need. There’s typically a range of price options to choose from depending on the size of your audience.

There are a few different ways to build up your newsletter list – the simplest way is to just ask people! You can also offer discounts, or give away a tool or download of some useful info that your company specialises in. You need to check that the way that you store and manage data is compliant with the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) and that you are asking permission for it to be used for marketing purposes.

You can also buy email lists – but we recommend caution in this area. As well as annoying people, these can violate the rules around GDPR, which would also open you up to financial penalties.

Paid Ads

From Google Ads to Facebook Ads, paid advertising is a huge part of digital marketing. You pay to make your ads appear in search engines, on YouTube clips, and on social media pages where an algorithm works out who is most likely to engage with your content. These can be slightly more advanced than other areas of marketing but have a huge potential for results.

Paid ads are the perfect way to find an audience that’s ready to engage with your products and, done right, it is a very easy way to convert people to customers. If you’re going to invest in paid ads, it’s important to know you’re targeting the right people, your audience isn’t too large nor too specific, and you have a plan in place to monitor your results.

You can pay for ads in a range of different ways, with the most common being paying each time someone clicks on it – so just diving in and having a go can lead to you wasting money if you are not sure of what you are doing!

If you’re not familiar with how paid advertising works, make sure you do your research. Many platforms provide documentation and training materials that you can look through or you can seek out support from a specialist marketing agency if your budget allows for this.


Your website is your most vital marketing tool. It’s where all your other marketing routes will funnel to get people to make a purchase or book a service with you, so it’s super important to make a good first impression. If you have Google analytics set up, then you may be able to tell how well it is performing by looking at your bounce rates, number of pages visited and how long people are spending on your site.

Whether your website is built from scratch or on a content management system (CMS) that uses templates, another really important thing to keep on top of is how well your website is optimised for search engines (known as Search Engine Optimisation, or SEO). You want your website to be one of the first things that appears when people look for your products or services on search engines, SEO is a continual process of keeping your website up to date, accessible, and clear.

The fundamentals of SEO are quite simple:

  • Make sure that the keywords you want to be found for are represented in the names of pages, and are used in a relevant way throughout the specific areas of the site (don’t just stuff them in as Google will penalise your site for this!).
  • Make sure you link pages on your site together to help search engines (and people!) connect pages and understand your website structure.
  • Make sure you write meta titles and descriptions for your pages to make them more appealing in search results.
  • Make sure your site loads nice and fast, both on desktop and on mobile, by avoiding massive image and video files being hosted on your site. Keep things small!

But these things will only take you so far. You can learn more about SEO with our free webinar!

This seems like a lot of work – can I get any marketing help for start-ups?

Some areas of marketing can be a bit tricky to get your head around to begin with and, as with most things, becoming an expert in something takes time and practice. You don’t need to worry about getting everything right straightaway and a lot of things are trial and error, especially if you’re figuring out how your niche fits into the wider market. But… there is FREE help out there!

At York & North Yorkshire Growth Hub we want to help your start-up get off to a great start – pun intended – and help you with your marketing strategy… without charging you a penny. Marketing is such a fundamental part of growing your business and we have Sales & Marketing support resources that will help explain things in more detail so you can pick up the skills for success as you embark upon your new business venture.

We’re here if you need help with online marketing in the York and North Yorkshire region, don’t hesitate to contact us for more free support and advice – that’s what we’re here for.

Marketing for start-ups: A beginner’s guide

Searching for marketing help as a start-up business can leave your head spinning – with every blogger and their dog listing endless digital marketing “must-haves” that seem to cost a fortune (in time and money)! It’s like they always say: don’t run before you walk. So, here’s a quick and easy guide to getting started