Best marketing channels for early stage startups

Something to add to Go-to-Market slide in your Pitch Deck

About 80% of first time founders I meat within our educational platform Entrytoo struggle with this particular slide. Team slide, business model slide, even cash flow and financial forecast slide, — we can help with all this. But with marketing founders have to use their own imagination and expertise to explain what channels they’re going to utilise to get their product to the market and attract as much customers as they can. The most often question we get during our mentoring sessions: what marketing channels proved to be most lucrative for early stage startups? With big corporations it’s easy: you have huge budgets and networks to run. But with early stage startups when you have to operate on a very tight (not to say, zero) marketing budget, you’d definitely want to use something with the highest benefit-cost ratio. What exactly can it be?

Well, that’s what first time founders who’ve managed to move their startups to the next stage, say.

Organic search


It is worth noting, that LinkedIn is a totally free marketing channel for all the founders on the early stage. As well as Twitter. No one (I mean, actually, not a single person among those we talked to) has used Twitter and LinkedIn as payed channels. Opposed to Facebook, that is used by 40% of founders as a payed service (adds).

Direct contact with users


Email marketing and automation


Product Hunt

Virality formula

  1. To make your message viral, point out founders, you have to create really valuable offer for your users (think of Caya from Slidebean).
  2. Valuable offer (whatever it is) presumes no costs for users (that is, giving a discount doesn’t work, you have to offer something for free, if not the product itself than a free month or free access to some features).
  3. User’s path to get this offer must be as simple as could be (1–2 clicks, if possible). If you ask user to leave his mailing address, list all his pets and specify what pizza she usually offers, it doesn’t work.
  4. Value should be easily understood. If you offer free pair of shoes, — it’s a valuable offer. If you offer a coupon to get a free pair of shoes in new shoe shop that is planned to be oped in the next season — it’s a bad offer. Good offer is a free 1 month subscription. Bad offer — free mic that will be mailed to you if you sign up for yearly subscription, free flash drive if you sigh up for quarterly subscription and a hand sanitiser if you sign up for the next month.
  5. It is also crucial to arrange customer support with a team able to answer customers questions about the offer. 24/7 is a perfect arrangement, but if you cant do it simply go for “as fast as you can”. Some founders point out that using social networks messenger services (like Facebook messenger) comes in handy here, since they allow you to pre-program replies when a team member is not around. Alternatively, you can use your own chatbots but their value for money is definitely higher than the ones used by Facebook or Twitter (if you don’t develop chatbots yourself, obviously).

or not, founders should always be on standby when trying to make their message viral. Anyway, we leave in a physical world based on the laws of physics. And one of those laws is a law of energy conservation (total energy of an isolated system remains constant). Applied to business, it means if you can’t spend money on marketing you’ll have to spend something else. Most probably, your founder’s personal time. And sometimes, tons of it. Hopefully, it’ll pay out.

Founder and CEO @Alsmark Studio. Being a startup founder, love to help other founders on this exciting journey.

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