Prioritizing the Right Marketing Channels for Your Startup

Founder of Orchid Agency
Mariya Finkelshteyn I
July 6, 2021

We know that a marketing strategy becomes a lot more effective when it is aligned to the sales motion and company objectives – but did you know that selecting the right marketing channels is a crucial part in the overall process? 

But how do you know which marketing channels to invest in especially as an early stage start up? First let's identify which sales motion is the best for your product and service and then let's dive deeper into the ideal marketing channels for each.

B2B marketing services for startups, startup marketing

There are three main ways a company can go to market and its sales motions:

  • Self Serve - direct to consumer (D2C) motion in which the company relies most on marketing and product-led growth, with traditionally no sales touch and no sales force. 
  • Sales Assisted - business-to-business (B2B) motion in which the company  sells into small and medium businesses (SMBs) or mid market accounts and relies on both marketing and sales to drive growth and revenue. 
  • Sales Led - business-to-business (B2B) motion in which the company  sells into enterprise accounts in which majority of the motion is led by sales, and supported by marketing to drive growth and revenue.

Let’s dive deeper into each of the three motions as well as the best marketing channels for each sales strategy. 

1. Self-Serve (D2C or vSB)

Self-service sales motion relies mainly on marketing and product-led growth. The goal of self serve motion is to activate, engage and retain subscribers. The performance typically measures number of app downloads (if applicable), sign/ups, free trials, paid subscribers and retention.  As a result the best marketing channels to prioritize for this motion include: 

  • In-product marketing: such as in-app campaigns, in-product offers, referral programs, etc
  • Paid media: display ads, search ads, search engine optimization (SEO) 
  • Influencer and/or  affiliate marketing: top brands and/or influencers promoting your products for you.
  • Email marketing:  email marketing to engage, activate and retain subscribers.

For example, an in-product offer could be a referral program to incentivize customers to drive net new users at a lower customer acquisition cost(CAC)  and build confidence in your brand. Your customers would serve as your advocates; hence, a positive customer experience is key in encouraging brand loyalty. For example, you may offer a membership upgrade or product discounts as a reward for each referral they would be able to make, then increase those discounts with each step the new customer takes upon onboarding. 

2. Sales-Assisted

We recommend breaking out sales-assisted into two motions: 1) SMB and 2) Mid-market. This matters because growth looks very different for each of these motions. Mid market motions requires more outbound sales reps versus SMB focuses more on inbound marketing and inbound sales reps. Let's dive deeper into each.

B2B marketing services for startups, startup marketing

Small/Medium-Sized Businesses (SMB)

If you are targeting SMBs, then you have to recognize that on average, 75% of your pipeline and revenue will come from inbound marketing and 25% will come from sales follow-up and light outbound calling activities. Why does this matter? Because as an early stage startup, you have to make tradeoffs when hiring and building out your team and when prioritizing investments in marketing. If you are targeting SMBs then you need to find the right resources to drive growth. What are those skill sets? You need 2-3 inbound sales reps and a lot of investment in:

  • Website - typically the #1 driving channel for leads for this motion
  • Email marketing - follow up on the leads, nurture programs, and drip campaigns
  • Inbound sales reps - to call, qualify and convert the leads. 
  • Paid media - SEO  and some paid ads to your target audience to generate new leads, and drive awareness.

Inbound marketing is critical in driving visitors to your website – you have to be able to create tailor-made content across different platforms to allow for more engagement with your target audience. With this in mind, your official website and email drips must already have predetermined content for when prospects decide to make a purchase so they would have an idea how and when to begin the onboarding process.

Mid Market

As we move more upmarket, the contribution mix between marketing and sales shifts in which sales start to transition from supporting to sales-led motions. As a result you have to find the right mix of outbound sales reps and/or account executives and support them with appropriate marketing activities. Thus if you are targeting mid-market companies, then you have to recognize that 50% of your pipeline and revenue will come from marketing and 50% will come from outbound sales. Why does this matter? Because as an early stage startup, you have to make tradeoffs when hiring and building out your team and when prioritizing investments in marketing. If you are targeting mid-market accounts then you need to find the right resources to drive growth. What are those skill sets? You need outbound reps, account executives and prioritize investments in these marketing channels to drive leads, pipeline and growth: 

  • Website - strong  channel to drive leads
  • Email marketing - follow up on the leads, nurture programs, and drip campaigns
  • Outbound sales reps - to prospect, add leads, call/nurture, qualify and convert.
  • Events (virtual and in person) - webinars, conferences, etc 
  • Partner marketing - develop co-marketing and/or co-sales partnerships with distinct though non-competitive businesses that are targeting similar audiences. Then create co-marketing campaigns to drive engaged leads for your sales team.
  • Paid media - SEO  and some paid ads to your target audience to generate new leads, and drive awareness.
B2B marketing services for startups, startup marketing

Enterprise (relationship-based selling & marketing)

Targeting enterprise requires a  75% sales-led and 25% marketing assisted go-to-market mix.  It is the targeted account-level and contact-level strategies that will get you in the door. Remember when targeting enterprise you are selling multi-million dollar offerings. As a result it's a top-down, relationship-based selling that will win the deal. How do you do that? Hire a Chief Revenue Officer or Head of Sales from this exact industry that has relationships with the right buyers in your Fortune 1,000 target account lists. What’s next? Enable the sales team with appropriate content and campaigns. Folks that are buying +1M products won't buy off a paid ad, search ad, website or an email campaign. They are buying trust, reliability, expertise, and honestly their own internal promotion (if it goes right).  Thus these key decisions are cultivated over an average 12-18 months to build trust, reliability, tech compatibility to ensure that they are making the right decision. 

So what's the best way for marketing to support this sales-led motion?

Account-based Marketing or ABM  focuses on creating a unique buying journey with an extremely personalized and tailored message, value, offers, etc. Instead of driving leads to the top of the funnel, ABM turns everything upside down. The approach concentrates sales and marketing efforts on a clearly defined set of high-value + high-potential target accounts, with a personalized campaign strategy for each account.   

Having a solid ABM strategy is critical for marketers to compete in today’s economy. In order for companies to be successful they must  make a cultural shift to deepen alignment between sales + marketing and  leverage business strategy to guide ABM strategy + platform. If executed correctly, ABM will achieve 3x better analytics, efficient spending, cross functional collaboration as well as accelerate customer acquisition + drive customer growth, retention and lifetime value.

Want to learn more on ABM? Listen here:

Apart from ABM, investing in thought leadership content, strategic partnerships will also drive the appropriate engagement for your sales team. Thought leadership includes innovative content that looks at best practices, evolving and emerging technologies in the market, looks ahead into the future and paints a story on how businesses should think about evolving in order to stay ahead. The best way to drive this is to form relationships with key media outlets. Some of these could be Forbes while others could be more industry-specific like Gartner, Forrester, ABI Research for tech, SHRM for HR, etc.

Partnerships - co-selling or sell-through (distributors) motions would accelerate the growth of your business in the market. Partnering with key players or distributors that have access to white-space accounts for you and are willing to sell your products for a percentage of a fee, is one of the more popular and proven ways to grow when selling into enterprise accounts. We often advise founders to not forget about marketing partnerships. If you are establishing  a sell-through motion then part of it should include co-marketing to drive more awareness and demand for your offerings. 

B2B marketing services for startups, startup marketing


Prioritizing Marketing Channels Goes a Long Way

The right marketing channels for your startup are those that are aligned to your sales and go-to-market motion. When deciding which channels to use for your business, prioritize the ones that would make the most positive impact not only on your marketing model, but on customer experience as well. Still not sure where to start? Talk to us today!

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