7 Unusual Digital Marketing Strategies For Startups

When it comes to digital marketing strategies for startups, you may have found ‘internet gurus’ talking about usual stuff like SEO, email marketing, social media marketing, PPC advertising etc.

I don’t have any major issue with the aforesaid ways. After all, they are proven & have been giving digital returns for years.

But, why only depend on these traditional ways to digitally market your business or startup. Why not differentiate yourself from your competitors?

In this post, I will be talking about 7 unusual yet effective digital marketing strategies for startups. These ways will help you to get more sales without much of time, effort & investment.

Startup marketing is not same as traditional marketing for established businesses because of:

  • Lesser funds
  • No luxury of time
  • Limited manpower
  • No customer base
  • Non-existant brand identity

When ‘internet gurus’ talks about traditional methods like email marketing, they fail to explain the exact process of building an email list. As a guy who has run several startups, this is what pisses me off.

Startups are different species so should be their digital marketing strategies.

Apart from the ways suggested here, you need to have a clear-cut digital marketing plan for your startup. Nothing is gonna work if you do not follow a plan or a schedule.

As per a research report by SmartInsights, 49% of organizations do not have a clearly defined digital marketing strategy.

But, why the fuss around digital marketing? What are its advantages over offline marketing? Digital marketing has the following advantages:

  • Unlimited reach
  • Quick & easy to implement
  • Lesser cost
  • Trackable
  • Direct ROI

Digital marketing is a powerful tool to take your startup or business on a growth trajectory. An Indian online ad platform (a startup) saw tremendous growth after strategically using internet advertising tools to its advantage.

So, let’s dive in.


1. What Is The Heck Topical SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Topical SEO is all about creating content (or blog posts) on trending & NEW topics, subjects or products.

Unlike traditional SEO, with topical SEO, you would be creating your content around keywords that are completely new, fresh & trending.

Traditional SEO looks at past data whereas topical SEO bases its assumption on future.

Take an example: If an e-commerce store (selling t-shirts) creates content around the keyword ‘printed t-shirts’, it would be called traditional SEO. Whereas, if it creates content around a keyword like ‘Adidas latest X120 red t-shirt”, it would be called topical SEO.

The biggest advantage of topical SEO is that there is literally ZERO competition there. You can easily rank for NEW & trending topics or subjects & garner plenty of traffic from Google. More traffic means more leads 🙂

Now, the issue is how do you find these topical SEO keywords related to your industry. It’s easy. Simply follow top social media accounts or websites related to your industry & look for topical SEO keywords. As soon as you find them, start writing a content around them & publish on your startup website.

Take an example: An e-commerce store selling t-shirts would like to carefully monitor Instagram accounts of biggies like Adidas, Reebok & others.

digital marketing strategies for startups

2. Feel The Power Of Reddit

Reddit, with close to 2 billion monthly visits is one of biggest digital forums on earth. Particularly popular in countries like US, UK, & Canada, it is a platform where members can follow topics, submit links & participate in discussions.

The sad part is that Reddit doesn’t get much of attention from digital marketing gurus. Why? Because most do not understand or underestimate its power.

Please note that Reddit community doesn’t like spamming & you can immediately get banned if you try to do so. Instead, be a good member by upvoting links, commenting on others’ links, submitting interesting stuff etc. Once, you start getting the much-needed Reddit trust (you can check your points) then you may try posting your own website links.

Reddit has got subreddits (like groups on facebook) for different topics. If you want to find a subreddit for a particular keyword then the URL would be https://www.reddit.com/r/[your-keyword]

Take an example: My target keyword is ‘Digital Marketing’ & would like to join a subreddit dedicated to the same then I would enter the following URL: https://www.reddit.com/r/digitalmarketing


Also, generally, ‘interesting’ threads or topics tend to perform the best on Reddit. So, make sure you post only those links that have the capability to become popular.

If done correctly, Reddit can drive an insane amount of traffic to your startup website & generate thousands of leads.

3. Avoid Direct Sales. Create A Sales Funnel Instead

Times have changed. People are far less receptive to direct sales pitches than they once used to be.

Instead, smart marketers, nowadays are using sales funnel to take their prospects & convert them into customers.


Take an example: A dentist offers free dental checkup to the general public. Once a prospect shows interest & undergoes the free dental checkup, he is taken further down the sales funnel with an offer of an affordable paid service. And, if the customer opts for the affordable paid service, he is further taken down the funnel with an ultimate offer of paid regular checkup (monthly subscription). This way the dental clinic converted a cold prospect into a final customer.

These type of funnels can work for your business as well. Try offering your website visitors a free resource (like an e-book or free report) in exchange for their email. Once you have their emails, try pitching them your affordable paid product or service. And, if the customer opts for the affordable paid product or service then take him or her further down the funnel with your higher priced product or service.

The reason why sales funnels work is because they instill confidence & trust in the minds of the prospects. Your free offering at the beginning of the funnel will help customers know you in a better way. The more they know about you or your business, the better chance of them converting into a paid customer.

Making a sales funnel can be tough. Therefore, I highly recommend using Clickfunnels to create your first sales funnel. They offer a variety of funnels to suit any kind of business or industry.


4. Distribute Your Business Identity To Social Directories

One of the issues faced by startups is that how do customers discover their product, service or offering. How do they reach to their target audiences?

This is where the social directories & bookmarking sites come into the picture.

Here is a link to the list of some high authority social bookmarking sites where you can submit your content or website link for good quality traffic.

Apart from traffic, these directories can give powerful SEO backlinks to your website. As you must know, more backlinks mean better search engine rankings.

If you into software or app market, then I would suggest submitting your website link to a powerful product search engine called ProductHunt.


Apart from ProductHunt, there are some other popular product submission sites like Beta Page, Angel List, Hacker News, Betabound, Killer Startups, Netted etc.

5. Help Target Audience On Forums or Blogs

There are a variety of Q&A forums or blogs where people seek answers to their problems. But, how can that help your startup in getting traffic or leads?

Simple. Reply to people seeking answers with your own valuable answer. Make sure that your answer links back to your website.

Commenting or answering other people’s question or thoughts can not only drive traffic but also hand you some real leads or clients.

In fact, Neil Patel, the famous digital marketer, was able to generate $25,000 with 249 comments on blogs & forums.

To make this strategy work, ensure that you provide tremendous value through your answers. Or else, your answer would be considered as spam & never get published.

Look at the below example from SmartBlogger:

blog commenting

In the aforesaid comment, Adrienne has beautifully crafted a response that not only provides great value but also catches eye-balls of visitors.

So, the formula is : Greetings > Compliment > Value > Promise > Website Link (if any)

Apart from blogs, there are some popular Q&A forums like Yahoo Answers, Google Forum, Quora where you can add your answers as well.

If you plan to use Quora then you may go through this ultimate Quora guide authored by me.

6. Pitch To Social Influencers

Would you buy something simply based on a brand’s advertisement?

Probably not.

What if the same is endorsed by a popular personality (also called influencer)?

Well, maybe.

Now, that’s the power of a social influencer. He or she can make or break your startup with his or her huge number of followers.

Take an example: You are a B2B software startup & your target audience is other budding startups. Guy Kawasaki is one of the top business influencers with a mammoth number of startups following his advice. Now, all that you need to do is contact him by email & pitch your software. If he finds your product to be interesting then he may link to your startup via his website, twitter profile or any other way. Imagine, what that can do to your startup’s fortunes?

But, a million dollar question is how do you find an influencer & more importantly how to pitch to them?

Not too hard. There is a tool named BuzzStream which you can use to find & shortlist influencer based on your industry or keyword.


Once you have a list of powerful influencers ready, time to pitch to them. But, how? Well, the same tool (BuzzStream) can help you to outreach to these influencers via their inbuilt email outreach system. They have another feature which enables you to automatically send these influencers follow-up emails (in case they don’t reply). Cool!

Please note that for influencer outreach campaign to work as desired, make sure that you craft your email tactfully. Here is a HubSpot link that can help. As per my experience, a reply rate of 5% to 10% is considered good.

7. Amplify Sales With Affiliate Marketing Networks

What if a huge network of bloggers or popular websites start to promote your products for a commission?

Of course, that would drive your sales to the roof. This is what affiliate marketing is all about.

An affiliate marketing network is a marketplace for advertisers (businesses or brands) & affiliates (blogger or websites). On such networks, advertisers list their products & affiliates pick the products to link or show it to their visitors. If a visitor (on affiliate’s website) buys the product, the affiliate would receive a commission. So, such networks are like a win-win proposition for both advertisers & affiliates.

affiliate network

Unlike PPC advertising, a cool thing about affiliate marketing is that you don’t need to pay anything upfront. You will only give a cut to the affiliate only & if a sale happens.

How to get started? Simple. There are some popular affiliate marketing networks where you can join as an advertiser or merchant:

  • Clickbank
  • Shareasale
  • Rakuten marketing
  • Commission Junction

After joining as a merchant or business, list your products with complete description. As & when affiliates browse the marketplace, they may find & start promoting your products.


So, my top 7 digital marketing strategies for startups list is completed. I started with topical SEO & then went through some other strategies like reddit, sales funnels, social directories, forum/blogs. At last, I covered two of my favorite tips i.e influencer marketing & affiliate marketing networks.

Entrepreneurs need to understand that digital marketing is not that hard as it seems. You do not need to hire an agency for this. With some proper planning & right tools, you can nail it by yourself.

I always say this: As far as sales are concerned, the sky is the only limit & digital marketing is the fastest way to reach that limit.

True that digital marketing is scalable, customizable & affordable. Indeed, a perfect tool for startups.

What are your digital marketing strategies for your startup? What do you think of the aforesaid tips?