What Start-Up Founders Need to Know About Digital Marketing Today

entrepreneur, start-up, man

Digital marketing has gone through some exciting changes in the past year – from the surge in ecommerce and digital marketing in 2020 to the seismic shifts in social media advertising caused by the iOS 14 update, just to name two.

If you’re getting ready to market your start-up in the next several months, there will be a lot to catch up on. At Hawke Media we’ve worked with thousands of start-ups in the past eight years, and I can honestly say there has never been a better time to get started.

So let’s take a quick look at what’s happening in digital marketing today and what we know will be happening next.

Preparing Your Start-Up Marketing Strategy

Companies with excess funds risk overspending on campaigns that don’t provide real, long-term value. They’ll run ads anywhere and everywhere in an attempt to dominate their market with a sudden brand presence, without too much regard for their target audience or key demographics. 

Most start-ups, however, don’t have this problem. Marketing budgets are usually tight. 

When every dollar counts, focus on messaging that will attract your target audience most effectively. This of course means understanding who your target audience is, where they live, where they gather online and what will motivate them to embrace your brand. 

Spread Your Budget Widely, But Stay Specific 

One thing we will be seeing more of in the foreseeable future is a mix of ads that are hyper-focused on key audience segments. We’re not at a point of delivering personalized ads to each individual, but within your audience there are likely key demographics who will respond better to some ads compared to others. Each audience segment can then be served messaging across multiple platforms in succession, through brand awareness, conversions and retargeting. 

There are two reasons for this. First, audiences are seldom on a single channel any more. They spread their attention through multiple social media channels and content platforms. So instead of being “always-on” on a signal channel, brands become omnipresent, following their audiences wherever they happen to be. 

The second reason is that we now have the tools to integrate advertising across multiple channels that will keep messaging coherent, without becoming redundant or boring. Someone who likes your content on Instagram can then be presented with a follow-up messaging and retarget marketing on YouTube, Google or Facebook. 

Traditional A/B Testing Is Going Out, AI Is Coming In

A/B testing is currently one of the most efficient ways to advertise online. It helps marketers optimize ads by testing two at the same time with a variation between them, like the image or headline. You keep the one that performs better, dump the other and then test another variation until you arrive at the best version of your ad.

While A/B testing isn’t very expensive, it is time-consuming, and when it comes to deciding on variations, it often relies on guesswork, or by mimicking what has worked for other brands in the past.

Martech AI: Early Results

Martech AI is already replacing A/B testing. It uses artificial intelligence to determine the optimal ad layout for your target audience automatically. What used to take months now takes minutes. Just run five or six ads, get a few hundred impressions and then hand that data over to the AI to find the best version. 

Since we started working with Junction AI at Hawke Media earlier this year, the results our clients have achieved have been nothing less than startling. Click-through rates (CTRs) increase up to 30%, and the number of impressions increases by as much as 300%.

Influencers Are Key to Start-Up Success

Influencers have been key to the success of many start-ups in the past two years. It’s a great way to instantly provide exposure for your brand, along with the ever-important third-party validation. Instead of just relying on ad copy, your brand is promoted to your audience by people they already know and trust.

The best influencers today, whether their followers are in the millions or just a thousand, are those who provide authentic content and have earned that trust with their followers. This means that your relationship with those influencers also has to be authentic, not just based on a paycheck.

A good influencer will want to offer their audience more than just a product endorsement. They want to pass along exclusive offers or key insights into your brand that aren’t available anywhere else. So the best time to start connecting with influencers is likely now, long before your launch date, when you’ve identified who your primary market is going to be. 

Authentic Interactions Are More Important Than Ever

One thing we have noticed at Hawke Media is that the most impactful influencers are those who take time to interact with their audiences on what feels like a personal level, either directly through their live content or just by replying to comments. We’ve seen this all across the board and this a lesson that crosses over well for brands that are focused on engaging their audiences — authentic interactions are often the fastest route to winning over an audience.

Live events, for example, are booming in popularity, provided they are provided on a platform that audiences can embrace. Gone are the old-fashioned webinars that force audiences into spectator-only mode. Today, people crave live events that they can interact with, discussion panels they can participate in. These events recreate the in-person experience without anyone having to leave the comfort of their home offices, building both loyalty and a sense of community.  

Where Digital Marketing Will Be Tomorrow

Last year, Hawke Media presented eCommerce Week LA, with over 45 panels and workshops, over 100 speakers and over 7,000 attendees. This year, with eCommerce Week LA 2021, we’re hosting another exciting week of events specifically designed for start-ups to discuss what’s happening in the industry and what we expect to happen in the next year. 

This is no ordinary live conference— you’ll be able to participate in this live event from anywhere in the world as we have conversations with venture capitalists, rock-star CEOs, mentors, best-selling authors, pro athletes and some of the top changemakers in their industries. I can’t think of a better way to sort out the facts from the speculation, or to get inspired and motivated for the year to come. 

Start-up founders and start-up teams are invited to join us online for free at eCommerce Week LA 2021. So register now to reserve your VIP seat at the most exciting e-commerce event of the year. 


Hawke Media: eCommerce Week 2021

Junction.ai: Advertisers

Hawke Media: Dump Your Agency

Shane Barker: 10 Best Digital Marketing Strategies for Startups

Wordstream: Digital Marketing Trends 2021

Forbes: Startup Marketing: Depth Vs Scope

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