Most startups are created based on some industry or market expertise held by the founders. The idea for the startup grew out of the founding teams experience and knowledge that identified a need, hole or opportunity that was not being addressed. The challenge many startups face is that their industry expertise is not in digital marketing, but within a specific niche that may not have included deep marketing components. This is especially true for internet, technology and software startups.

Many B2C web-based startup brands find themselves facing the infamous chicken and egg challenge that has existed since the beginning of internet business. You either need a massive amount of consumers to attract paying business users, or you need a tremendous amount of business users in order to attract consumers to your product. Many B2C internet startups fail to understand this common quandary, and don’t plan marketing strategies that work.

On the B2B front, the challenges are no less daunting for the internet SaaS, technology or software startup. Getting recognition, building momentum and getting your message across to your target audience rapidly, while executing real revenue and user growth is often obstacles that lead to a startup’s demise. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The Top Startup Marketing Challenges

The challenges facing tech, SaaS and other startups online are growing. In fact, the number of challenges facing startups outside of marketing are also seeing expansion. Being successful with a startup in today’s highly digital world requires that numerous moving parts all come into alignment. That means that not only does the new product or service have to address the market need well, but the strategies and execution around the business model, pricing AND marketing have to work together to see effective results.

On that note, here are the top marketing challenges facing startups in today’s digital world.

Messaging – Ask yourself if your startup’s website message clearly states the message your audience needs. Does the message your startup is putting out on your site frame a clear solution to your target customers problem?

I have found that many startup founders understand their specific niche and area of expertise extremely well, however they often have a difficult time putting it into stories and messages that their audience understands. I have also found (and experienced myself) that the closer you are to your product, the more difficult it can be to identify the clear messaging that you need. This can thwart all other marketing components because if your messaging is off, your content and other elements of your marketing strategy will be off also.

Most startups need to spend the time and resources at this phase to ensure that their message is dead on before focusing on other crucial startup marketing components. Skip this step at your own demise.

Content – An area that many startups struggle with is content marketing. Not just in creating content like blog posts, graphics, testimonials, videos and infographics, but also in their overall content marketing strategy and funnel. In other words, you need content, the right content and all of it attached to a strategic funnel that drives users, leads, revenue and real results.

Content marketing for startups is crucial to build brand awareness. Being effective with content marketing has to make an impact on KPI’s (key performance indicators), otherwise you are simply burning valuable resources of time and money.

Startups need to take the time to understand the kind of content their audience is interested in and develop content that addresses that interest. They also need to ensure that the content they are creating builds demand for their solution and tells stories that include data proving their points. The content being created and the funnel attached to the content must drive two or more of these 4 things:

  1. Awareness
  2. Demand for the solution/product
  3. Leads – inbound inquiries about the product/service
  4. Revenue derived from new users, sales or subscriptions

Distribution – You can create as much content you want, but if you can’t get it viewed, it won’t likely help your marketing efforts. I wrote recently that Content Marketing Can’t Be Effective Without Distribution, where I mention that “With 88% of B2B marketers and brands using content marketing, establishing large, targeted and organic distribution channels are requirements for making content marketing most effective.”

Building multiple content distribution channels at the same time you are creating content is imperative. Easy? Definitely not, but with the proper strategy, tools and planning, it is key to your digital marketing success. Failing to get distribution of your content will be one challenge you will likely not overcome.

Traffic – Traffic for any business is paramount. For the startup it is everything. If you can’t get people to your site, they won’t get your message or do business with you. Traffic for startups is closely tied to the previously mentioned distribution. They go hand in hand.

Traffic comes from a well thought out digital marketing strategy that incorporates all facets of on and offline components. Depending on the industry, product and niche,a startup might incorporate traditional offline marketing elements and trade shows along with strategic digital marketing components together. All of which must work in conjunction to achieve web traffic that exposes your brand to your target audience. Search, content, social media and other traditional and digital methods should have the same goals, messaging as well as unify your strategy in order to be effective.

Conversion – One of the most important challenges facing the average startup today is conversion. Even if you have effectively handled all of the other obstacles we have covered thus far, but have not developed inbound tactics that convert visitors, it’s game over. Landing pages, lead gen forms and sales funnels are a must in today’s marketing environment if you are going to get traction.

Customers want solutions to their biggest problems. They want innovative solutions that save them time, money and/or improve their results. Startup marketing is about building connections, providing value and clearly communicating the value that your product has in overcoming your customer’s problem. If you have built the most innovative product the world has ever seen, but can’t resolve the startup marketing challenges outlined in this post, at the very least your road to success will be difficult and more lengthy. At worst, your startup will fail with or without capital.