Why Do Startups Need Digital Marketing?

Startups entering into the lifestyle space need a great product/service backed by a strong brand and a powerful, purpose-driven message to attract initial investment. It could be an excellent idea that serves or disrupts a market or something unique that helps people achieve their goals faster, better, easier, and/or cheaper.

But just having a great idea isn't enough anymore...it's barely even a start really. The consumer marketplace is fiercely competitive, and we've all seen way too many startups fail because they couldn't achieve the momentum required to survive.

Digital marketing for startups helps you get your brand's product (or service) in front of potential customers towards building brand and solution awareness. It achieves this through various digital marketing strategies that grow your online presence and reputation. As your startup grows and scales through utilizing these methods and tactics (of which there are many), it can then become more attractive to potential investors.

In the last few decades, the way consumers interact and engage with businesses has changed dramatically. In the past, you could use traditional advertising to reach an audience through TV and print media; however, most of these marketing channels have been overtaken by digital channels (TikTok to YouTube, Twitter to Instagram, and so on).

Why? Because simply: Modern consumers, especially Millennials, consume media differently. Many of their interactions take place online through email, social platforms, and sites like YouTube and Reddit, made incredibly convenient by the mobile devices that are prevalent in their life and moment-to-moment interactions.

As a result, to get your product in front of this audience, you need to use a wide array of online marketing channels, like:

Can a Business Survive Without Advertising?

High angle shot of a group of businesspeople having a meeting in a modern office

Startup failure is quite common. In fact, some estimates put the number at around 90%. There are lots of reasons for a startup's demise, such as a lack of market need for the product or service, legal challenges, or being outworked and outgunned by competitors.

However, the most common reason that startups fail is running out of cash or failing to raise capital. Your business could have incredible, ground-breaking products or services, but if no one knows about them, you won't have an audience or customers. Without revenue, it isn't easy to convince investors that betting on your business is a wise strategy.

Some startups have had success with a product-led growth approach. In effect, this is a strategy that relies on the virality of a product to do the promotion. This approach works for a very narrow amount of businesses and heavily relies on somehow getting your audience to become advocates for your product. The typical startup will struggle to survive with a product-led growth approach.

In short, most businesses of any size simply can't survive and grow without digital marketing or advertising. Digital marketing for startups in particular is mission critical in the earliest stages following launch.

Table of Contents:

Benefits of Digital Marketing for Startups

Beautiful young woman using a smartphone with various icons of smart technology.

Do entrepreneurs need digital marketing? The answer is an overwhelming yes. Word of mouth is all well and good, but it's not a scalable strategy to ensure your ideal audience hears about your product.

So, let's take a look at how startups can benefit from digital marketing.

1. Brand Awareness and Online Presence

Brand awareness is crucial for any business. It's a way of reaching potential customers and telling them what you do and how you can help solve their pain points. To do this successfully, you need to start with brand development.

Brand development involves having a clear idea of who your brand is and what audience it will serve. This can be the difference between running a successful business and not for startup founders. The product or service you offer needs a customer base. But to engage a potential customer, you need to get your messaging right.

The tone of your marketing materials needs to speak to your ideal customer. It needs to demonstrate that your product or service will solve their existing problems. Additionally, to engage with Millennials, you'll need to show that your values align with their own.

Once you understand what message you need to broadcast, you can begin with brand awareness. Old school marketing methods like tradeshows, TV spots, and industry magazines can still work, but these days, digital is the best way to get your product in front of your target audience.

It's almost impossible to get anywhere with an online presence, be it a website or an account on a social platform. How customers consume information — and hear about businesses — has changed dramatically in recent years. To reach them, you need to occupy the same spaces they do.

2. Drive Traffic with SEO (Search Engines + Search Engine Optimization)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Concept On Computer Screen With Two Businesswomen In The Office

An online presence, like a website, is a crucial part of digital marketing. Search engine optimization and search engine marketing are two of the most valuable digital marketing skills because you can use them to drive visitors to your company site or landing pages.

SEO works by targeting the keywords or terms associated with your product in search engines (also known as "keyword research"). When prospective customers look for products or services they need on search engines such as Google or Bing, they will get pages of relevant search results.

Good SEO content, coupled again with numerous other digital marketing strategies and tactics working in concert together, will help you rank higher on the search engine organic results page (SERP). For startups, this can be a very cost-effective avenue to success, but it isn't easy, and it takes time when it comes to search engine optimization (this is the long-game that can get you ranked and listed in organic results) and search engine marketing (this is more a short-game, also known as pay-per-click as you can target those searching for what your startup has to offer right away).

Using this type of digital marketing is an efficient way to drive signups or generate leads, but should only be one piece of your digital marketing plan...not all of it. Unlike other marketing spending, a good piece of SEO content can continue to drive growth through organic traffic for years after the fact.

3. Audience Targeting

Traditional marketing isn't the most efficient way to reach your target audience. Often it targets an extensive range of people in the hope that some of your target customers would see the ad. However, modern audience targeting has become far more precise at making connections.

Take a social media platform like Facebook. Their business model is essentially to collect demographic information on their customers and use this to match their audience with advertisers. Paid advertisements like this are an excellent way to reach your target audience surgically.

Does your startup or small business serve a niche? Social media paid advertisement is a great way to reach these audiences through hashtags, groups, or forums.


Retargeting is a subset of audience targeting in your marketing strategy. A digital marketing platform allows you to collect limited amounts of data on audiences that browse your website or social media ads. This activity indicates that these prospective customers are interested in your product or service.

So, when they go to other websites or social media platforms, they will see email banner ads or native advertising for your company. This type of advertising can be a cost-effective way to increase sales or leads.

4. Lead Generation

A sales team is only as good as their leads. And if startups want to secure funding or VC money, the best way to make their case is through revenue growth. But how do you ensure that you have a consistent pipeline of leads?

Digital marketing can help by using content marketing on social media and other digital channels to reach potential customers. To ensure startup success, you need to collect the names and email addresses of people interested in your product and get them into your sales pipeline.

5. Email Marketing

Email marketing is still the most popular sales channel. It relies on having a good list of prospects, which you can get through social media engagement, content marketing, and so on.

Once you have a list of target customers, you can send them news, promotions, or other helpful content to build niche expertise and brand loyalty. Both big and small businesses have been using email marketing to generate sales and leads for a long time because it works.

6. Measure ROI on Marketing

One of the surest roads to startup business failure is spending money poorly. Marketing and advertising budgets can run very high, which is why you need to know a) what you're spending and b) how effective each marketing channel is.

It's hard to know the results of indirect marketing campaigns, like newspaper or tv ads. For starters, it won't always be clear which ads are generating interest. Furthermore, without good data, you won't know what type of ads are resonating with your prospective customers and which ads aren't having an impact.

Digital marketing allows you to measure and understand your return on investment (ROI). It allows businesses to measure everything about their campaigns, such as click-through rates (CTRs), time that users spend on your landing pages, and even the percentage of visitors who turned into leads or customers.

All this information is available through data analytics software, like Google Analytics or the analytics software of your chosen social media platform.

Additionally, digital marketing allows your startup to do A/B testing on ads, campaigns, landing pages, and so on, so you can whittle down your outreach to what gets results. Understanding what ads have an impact is the most cost-effective way to advertise.

7. Digital Marketing is the Most Cost-Effective Marketing Strategy

It's difficult for a startup business to compete with larger companies using more traditional marketing strategies. TV, radio spots and billboards aren't cheap, especially for early-stage startups who could easily eat up their runway trying to compete with big industry players.

Digital marketing levels the playing field. It allows startups to use various methods to demonstrate their product or service. For example, having a presence on a social media platform can be a great way to find your market.

8. Digital Marketing Crosses Geographical Boundaries

Traditional marketing methods like TV, radio, and print media are best at targeting local markets. However, many startups have products or services that are built for an international market, and play extremely well in an online marketing strategy using newer tactics like viral marketing, digital marketing campaigns (many channels can be used here for a "full funnel" approach).

Additionally, niche products or services can find a market through social media marketing or by using SEO to appear in search engines when people are trying to find solutions to their pain points.

9. Marketing Automation

Startups that use marketing automation can gain a competitive advantage because they efficiently and effectively engage customers and prospects (proceed with caution though when it comes to automation, as you don't want your brand to appear robotic and impersonal...customer experience is just as -- if not more -- important as automation efficiency).

There are several benefits of balanced marketing automation, such as more accurate reporting, lead generation and nurturing, personalization, and more increased conversion rates.

Additionally, it can cut down on staff overheads or free you up to do your core duties.

10. Reduce Churn with Customer Engagement

Customer acquisition costs are getting higher all the time. Once you've done the work to get customers, you need to do everything you can to keep them. Customer engagement is about communicating with your existing market at every stage of the buying process.

Establishing a strong relationship with your existing customers breeds brand loyalty, more sales, and in the best scenario, a group of advocates that will promote your startup.

How HypeLife Brands Can Help with Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Businessman holding tablet and showing a growing virtual hologram of statistics, graph and chart with arrow up on dark background. Stock market. Business growth, planing and strategy concept.

As outlined above, startups can employ several different digital marketing strategies to achieve growth. In fact, any viable business model needs a way to communicate its message and let potential customers know what they have to offer.

When startups or small businesses are starting out, money can be tight. There's a lot of uncertainty, legal fees, equipment costs, etc. With a limited budget, finding a way to grow your company to secure further rounds of funding creates something of a dilemma.

How much of your runway should you spend on a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO)? Well, let's take a look at the cost of a full-time CMO in big US markets, according to Glassdoor:

San Diego - $141K per year

Los Angeles - $157K per year

San Francisco - $221K per year

New York - $197K per year

Boston - $206K per year

Seattle - $190K per year

The biggest reason why a lot of startups failed is that they ran out of money. Remember, these numbers are just averages; going for the best CMO can cost significantly more. But if you don't spend, you can't grow your customer base. As we said, it's a difficult dilemma.

A great solution to this issue is to employ a marketing consultant for your business. These digital marketing experts don't work for you full time, so they'll cost a lot less than 200K per year.

However, the most cost-effective way to get the expertise you need is to hire a startup marketing agency and/or a fractional CMO. Instead of spending a huge chunk of your funding on another executive, you can get the same effect — and, in many cases, a more experienced and connected digital marketing professional.

HypeLife Brands go one further by giving you access to a fractional CMO in the form of our Founder & CEO Curt Cuscino, alongside our highly-specialized, senior team of digital marketing experts. This setup is about far more than just saving money; it's about working with a team that takes a 360-degree approach to branding, creative, digital/tech, marketing, and advertising all working in concert together.

How HypeLife's Services Can Help Startups

As mentioned earlier, there are many different ways that startups can do digital marketing, from building a war-chest of SEO-driven content through expertly-tuned keyword research, promotional videos, design, email marketing, advertising on social platforms, and more.

All of these digital marketing techniques are good individually. However, you need a more holistic strategy to achieve greatness by breaking into a competitive market.

HypeLife's 360 Degrees of the Brand and Marketing Universe

As a marketing agency in operation for over 20 years, HypeLife Brands has a finely-tuned process and brand development methodology that helps startups achieve growth which combines these four main pillars:

Brand Development

Brand development is essential for building a market-ready startup. Branding is about much more than your logo or website design. It's about how your customers feel about your product or service.

It's about positioning your offering as something valuable that makes your customer's life easier or better. It takes a lot of research to understand your ideal customer and what messaging will resonate with them.

There are a whole host of other factors to consider, too. Creative, tagline development, user experience design and more should all come together to give your business a look and feel that will inspire brand loyalty and build natural brand advocacy.


Coming up with a good marketing strategy is one thing, but executing it is another. HypeLife Brands can help you understand which channels work best for your business.

A well-defined marketing strategy can consist of content that is optimized for search engines, social media marketing, email marketing, PR, and even influencer marketing.

It's about choosing the best options for your industry or niche.


Once you have a good marketing strategy in place, advertising is the next step to amplify your message. There are several types of advertisement, both traditional and digital, that will put your product in front of prospective customers.

At HypeLife Brands, we understand that you need to develop a go-to-market strategy, powerful marketing messaging connected to your brand's WHY, and clearly defined reasons customers should choose your venture's offering to improve their lifestyle. Once these elements are in place, advertising can then -- and only then -- be very effective.

Which channels you choose are important too. For example, if you have a medical startup that monitors elderly health, TikTok advertising might not connect you to the right customers.

A well-tuned marketing and advertising strategy gets you in front of the unique buying tribes who need your product or service the most. Awareness of a better way is the first goal of any startup's advertising strategy. That could be demographics that use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc., or specific industry publications, or even OTT streaming services.

Remember that a poorly tuned advertising and marketing approach brings with it high customer acquisition costs (often unsustainable long-term), which can heavily impact the viability of your business in the eyes of potential investors. So, you need to pay attention to them and make sure your ROI on advertising is justified.

Startup Funding Preparation and Support

Whether you have an exit strategy or want to grow your business forever, you'll need funding to survive. Being able to convince investors that your company will generate profits is essential.

Here at HypeLife Brands, simply put, we work doggedly to grow your customer traction in an up-and-to-the-right trajectory, so you can present an excellent offering when it comes time to start moving through your funding rounds.

Our leadership, combined with our senior team's diverse expertise, helps us help you cover the "360 degrees of the brand and marketing universe" as broadly and deeply as needed to keep that trajectory moving in the right direction. Our commitment and passion for over 21 years has been building, launching, and growing new brands for the long haul, with the ultimate goal being to help startup founders be in the right position at the right time, ready to blow investors away with the possibilities.

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A fractional Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) is a marketing executive that's outsourced to another company to provide the expertise of a salaried executive without the need to invest and commit to a full-time, on-premise CMO.

When it comes to marketing and growing your startup or challenger brand, you don't just want your business to tread water and barely survive, right? You want customer traction growth, more household-name popularity, and more funding/investments as you progress.

"From lack of product-market fit to disharmony on the team, the reasons for startup failure are abundant.  After analyzing 101 startup failures, the number one reason cited for failure in a whopping 42% of cases was tackling problems that were interesting to solve rather than those that served a market need." - CB Insights Excerpt Source: cbinsights.com


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