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What most startups get wrong about digital marketing

Economic uncertainty combined with intense market competition makes this year a challenging time to scale a startup. Still, investors are looking to get in on the ground floor of the next unicorn—and the secret to proving a startup’s potential might be surprising.

In 2022—ever since the pandemic accelerated the shift to online—digital marketing is the key growth driver for the majority of startups, making it essential for them to master this art. Yet, when exploring how startups typically build a digital marketing strategy, there are a few common mistakes many startuppers make.

1. Investing in superficial vs. sustainable growth

Startups are under tremendous pressure to show rapid growth in order to attract investors and meet business goals. As a result, many turn to paid marketing to “fake” growth.

Synaptic, an alternative data platform that helps investors research their potential investments, revealed investors increasingly want to see stats on companies’ digital marketing efforts and assess their efficiency. In their experience, companies that show a more sustainable, balanced marketing growth pattern typically have an edge over ones that heavily invest in advertising alone.

To look attractive to investors, startups must invest in their long-term online visibility.

2. Getting lost in the informational noise

Every startup’s digital marketing strategy starts with research—and startuppers often research the wrong thing.

Yes, it’s important to focus on general trends and learn the ins and outs of digital marketing basics, such as email marketing, organic search, and social media. At the end of the day, however, market dynamics, competitive landscape, and audience insights should guide the overall strategy.

Instead of reading another “how to build a digital marketing strategy for your startup” post, startuppers should roll up their sleeves and get into full research mode to learn everything there is about their particular market.

3. Missing the key growth channels

A lot of startuppers rely on general marketing advice, and end up missing out on a lot of growth opportunities within their market niche. With the right marketing data and insights, they’d know what the main growth channels really are.

“When exploring how their niche should shape their digital marketing strategy, startups must evaluate their online presence across channels and choose the ones that work for them,” said Olga Andrienko, vice president of brand marketing at Semrush, a leading online visibility management SaaS platform. 

While the latest trends report may say that social media is dead and businesses should stop putting any effort into it, this might not be true for every niche. Therefore, it’s crucial to get access to industry-specific trends and patterns.

4. Lack of relevant market and competitive insights

The best thing startups can do is find the right market and competitive insights and create a digital marketing strategy that is tailored to fit their budget and effective at bringing sustainable growth.

To see how market and competitive insights can help shape a long-term marketing strategy, businesses can leverage tools like Semrush. Offering a comprehensive toolkit to manage online visibility, Semrush covers everything from SEO, PPC, market insights, and competitive analysis to content marketing, social media, and digital PR.

“We’ve recognized this issue long before it was voiced. While the web is full of general advice on how to build a strong digital marketing strategy for your business, it’s never really about your business,” said Andrienko. “Therefore, we’ve been perfecting our market and competitive intel tools so they can deliver both general (industry-specific) data and more granular insights on select competitors or anyone else. Startups must go local and global when developing a digital marketing strategy.” 

Looking ahead

While many of these lessons seem easier said than done, all the necessary data and insights are readily available. Startuppers just have to know where to look and how to identify insights most relevant to their business.

Most importantly, they should prioritize giving their online visibility the sustainable growth it deserves – it’s what investors want, what customers respond to, and what will help them gain an edge over the competition.

To help startups in their online visibility journey, Semrush has kindly offered a 30-day free trial of its platform.