What Every Successful Start-Up Knows About Marketing

Most start-ups don’t fail at building a product; they fail at acquiring customers.
— Gabriel Weinberg, CEO & Founder, DuckDuckGo

Launching a start-up isn’t easy. The life of a founder often includes scrambling to appease investors, refine products, and hire the right talent. Oftentimes, that means marketing is a distant priority.

Yet, marketing is an essential building block of a successful business. You can build an innovative, life-changing offering, but it doesn’t matter if no one knows about it. If you build it – they won’t just come.

Marketing’s mission is to communicate your offering to the world. It defines the strategy for spreading your story and aims to inform, educate, entice, and persuade. Every successful start-up, from Nasty Gal to Stripe, has leveraged strategic marketing to achieve significant growth.

Here are four things every start-up should know about marketing:

Marketing is more than just tactics. It’s a comprehensive strategy.

Marketing is more than just clever copywriting and email marketing campaigns. It’s a discipline that should be baked into a start-up’s business strategy from Day One. Marketing represents the voice of the customer and defines the who, what, where, when and how of communicating your product and benefits to the market. In a holistic sense, marketing covers everything from positioning, target audience definition and branding to channel distribution, acquisition and retention. Done correctly, it should be tightly aligned and integrated with product, sales, and services.

Marketing is vital to standing out from the competition.

One of the biggest challenges start-ups face is competition. Marketing determines the best way to position and differentiate your company in a crowded market. As a new company, no one knows you yet. So, it’s important to clearly communicate your offering and benefits to the right audience. A compelling brand identity can also make or break a start-up. You only get one change to make an impression, and marketing helps make sure it’s the right one.

Marketing is the key to acquiring customers – fast.

Without marketing, start-ups can’t acquire and retain customers at the rate they need to succeed. Marketing drives customer acquisition by creating excitement for your product in a market eager for its benefits. Once prospects convert, marketing keeps them happy through retention marketing tactics such as email marketing, events, and referral programs.

It offers a high return on investment.

Start-ups tight on cash often view marketing as a burden on their budgets. However, marketing is one of the highest performing tools in a start-up’s toolbox. Marketing is the key to capturing customers. It’s responsible for creating customer traction in the market place, which leads investors to invest and revenues to grow. It’s such an essential part of a start-up’s process, that you can’t afford not to invest in it.


As a founder, you’re a man or woman of many hats. Yet, marketing is a discipline that you can’t afford to ignore if you want to evolve into a successful company. If you don’t have the budget for marketing, seek out mentors who can help advise on efforts. Otherwise, spend your time building a killer product, and leave your marketing efforts to the experts.