digital marketing

5 Digital Marketing Strategies Startups Can Use to Thrive in a Competitive Market

As the global economy continues to experience rising costs and reduced spending, businesses have begun fighting for survival.

There are roughly 30.2 million businesses in the U.S., as of 2018. The cost of doing business has increased considerably, and coupled with the presence of expensive highly skilled labor, startups face unequal odds of growing in such a competitive market.

Unable to target expensive conventional channels, digital media provides a ray of hope when it comes to marketing, branding and eventually, growth. However, soaring competition and smaller budgets force startups to look for unique and unsaturated marketing strategies that drive organic growth.

So, how does a promising startup survive the competition without exceeding its budget?

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Here are five affordable digital marketing strategies that any startup can use to ensure survival.

Get on the video bandwagon

As the content of the future, startups should leverage video to their advantage.

While they might lack the resources and budget that more established businesses have, entrepreneurs can still capitalize on creative new video marketing trends that don’t cause a dent in their pocket.

Successful video marketing doesn’t always require elaborate video production, and the rise of short-lived video content, particularly with social media tools such as Instagram stories and Facebook Live, proves this.

Audiences are willing to spend eight times more time viewing live video, compared to on-demand videos.

As startups compete for not just search engine rankings (but eyes on the newsfeed, as well), going live could very well prove to be the key differentiator.

There’s more to video marketing than just appealing to clients; it’s about gaining visibility that attracts clients in the first place.

The increasing importance of video marketing is also acknowledged by Google when ranking websites.

In fact, a website that includes video is 53 times more likely to make it to the first page of Google search results.

Still unconvinced about video marketing? Think again.

Related: 10 Best Free Digital Marketing Tools for Entrepreneurs

Target the “micro-moments”

Ninety percent of consumers do not have a specific brand in mind when setting out to make a purchase. Now that’s pretty powerful!

Google defines micro-moments as the “moments when we turn to a device (often a smartphone) to take action on whatever we need or want right now.”

Simply put, these are the moments your customer is expecting a quick and relevant answer to their problem. Unsurprisingly, creating micro-moments is not only easy on a bootstrapped entrepreneur’s pocket, but also highly successful.

There are three cost-effective ways to be there when your target demographic needs you:


The great thing about having a website that ranks well in search is that not only does it rank for your target keywords, but it also ranks for keyword variations and permutations of your target keywords.

These are the exact keywords that your target demographic will use when they find themselves in a micro-moment. Be sure your website is fully up to speed with the latest on-page SEO best practices.

Not only will you find this to be a cost-effective win, but it will also increase your website’s conversion rate (since a lot of these SEO best practices are aimed at improving the user experience).


The second half of the SEO equation is content creation. Writing your own content costs nothing but blood, sweat and tears (the best kind of currency).

It gets you ranking for those target keywords, drives referral traffic to your website and builds credibility and authority as a trustworthy thought leader.

Write compelling content on topics that resonate with your target demographic, that addresses their pain points, helps guide them through the buying cycle, and of course, addresses potential micro-moments.

Publish this content to your blog, pitch it to third party blogs and publications, and share it on social media.

Local business listings

With a 900 percent increase in “near me” searches from 2015 to 2017, it can be safely deduced that modern customers experience a need for urgency.

Knowing that, it’s important to be where the action is!

Consumers use directories and local listings for all kinds of reasons. When submitting your website to these listings, be sure to pick the top five or 10 most well-known directories in your region, filling out as much information about your business as possible and remaining consistent across all listings.

Each directory listing submitted is one more chance at landing a hungry customer. Don’t forget to incentivize reviews from your existing customers, too. 

Establish authority on Quora

With 300 million unique visitors each month, Quora is the go-to platform for people looking to educate themselves on commonplace questions.

Thanks to the over 400,000 topics covering everything from videogames to B2B and B2C sales advice, no questions are left unanswered on Quora.

As a startup with a tight budget, you can utilize your niche knowledge to provide valuable answers to your target audience, building trust and authority in the process.

By demonstrating how a product or service solves their problem, businesses can actually drive qualified leads to their website without spending a dime.

With the addition of Quora ‘Spaces,’ businesses can curate entire group-like spaces based on their niche. By inviting thought leaders to contribute, you not only gain prominence but also redirect their multi-million following to your Space – and eventually your website.

Personalize your email marketing

While emails are one of the most standard online marketing tools, today’s techniques revolve around personalization. Not only is personalization effective, it’s affordable for startups. Personalized email messages lead to more people clicking through to your website, and they also have a profound impact on conversion rates.

Research says that 48 percent of consumers spend more money when marketing efforts are customized to their pain points.

Email automation tools have further streamlined the entire email outreach process. They provide affordable, yet effective solutions that lead to a customer acquisition ROI 40 times more than that of social media channels.

With tools allowing extensive prospect research and email list building, personalized emails provide startups the opportunity to significantly boost ROI.

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Optimize for voice search

With the widespread adoption of Google Home, Amazon Alexa and a host of other smartphone and smart-speaker based personal assistants, we are now living in a voice-activated world.

Surprisingly, this development has already had a profound impact on small, localized businesses. For example, in 2017 to 2018, around 58 percent of consumers used voice search to find local business information.

Many of these voice search users complete a local search every day. With inexpensive, simple tweaks, businesses can optimize their content to show up on voice search results.

Local citations play an important role when it comes to appearing in the “featured snippet” of Google search (the bit that is actually spoken by a personal assistant).

Voice assistants use local citations from a trusted source when searching for key phrases such as: “the best burger joint in San Diego,” or “cafes near me.”

Most famous citations are picked from Yelp, Bing or Google My Business, depending on the voice assistant. When deciding on citations, the type of format used isn’t as important as being consistent.

When search engines find multiple pages mentioning the same business with the exact same citation, they deem it to be more authoritative and trustworthy. Alongside long-tail keywords, citations are an important part of optimizing for a voice-led future.


Startups are faced with a saturated market that is symbolized by limited share and reduced marketing budgets. Hence, they are left to find inexpensive, yet effective ways to market their product.

By using these latest digital marketing trends, startups can leverage enhanced exposure to drive much-needed conversions that help them move forward in a competitive landscape.

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