Startup Marketing Checklist - Simple Tasks to Get More Customers

One of the common mistakes a startup can make is not having a clear plan for success when it comes to selling and marketing a product. The second mistake is when they do have a plan, they don’t take action. They might think that the product will sell itself or fear rejection and failure of that plan.

17 min
June 20, 2019
Jacob Miller
Marketing & Brand Manager

One of the common mistakes a startup can make is not having a clear plan for success when it comes to selling and marketing a product. The second mistake is when they do have a plan, they don’t take action. They might think that the product will sell itself or fear rejection and failure of that plan.

Today I am going to walk you through the most important things you need to plan and execute on so you can start marketing your product in the best way possible. I even made you a document with the entire marketing plan to help you keep track of everything you learn and need to do.

Use this template to document your plan

Here’s the plan

  1. Define your customer and market
  2. Develop a clear message
  3. Create free valuable resources to gather leads
  4. Set up automated emails
  5. Build a landing page
  6. Use chatbots to improve your efforts
  7. Launch social accounts
  8. Create a promotion plan
  9. Set up tracking and analytics
  10. Make it happen, learn, adapt, repeat

How and when this plan can be executed

Whether you are still in the idea phase or getting ready to launch your product this plan can be used to jumpstart your marketing efforts or review your marketing efforts if you are ready to launch. If you are ready to launch, one simple thing you can do is review your message.

Do you clearly share the value?

Test your website with potential customers and ask if they understand what you offer and if they would consider making a purchase or download without even experiencing the product. Making improvements to your message through your website copy can go a long way.

Define your customer and market

There is no such thing as a product for everyone. Well… maybe water. Even food is not created for everyone. It might surprise you that not everyone likes guacamole. What!? People with dietary needs purchase different foods and the same is true when it comes to selling digital products like apps or B2B software.

There are many factors that can help you define who you should sell to. To get started, research where your best opportunities are and your marketing efforts can be more successful. When your audience is more specific, your messaging creates context and stronger connections.

Using a customer persona tool, you can define who your customer is. I recommend using Make My Persona by Hubspot.

Creating your Startup Personas

Develop a clear message

A clear message prevents confusion and creates interest. Explaining what your product can do for someone in one or two sentences is key to making that happen. You don’t need to answer all of the questions you think people might have. Those questions can get answered in the sales process or through customer support.

Websites are like elevators

“Users often leave Web pages in 10–20 seconds, but pages with a clear value proposition can hold people’s attention for much longer. To gain several minutes of user attention, you must clearly communicate your value proposition within 10 seconds.” - Nielsen Norman Group

People don’t spend a lot of time on websites and the same is true for elevators. You hop in, maybe have a conversation or awkwardly leave. With that in mind, you need to develop an elevator pitch for your product that anyone can understand and remember. If you had 15 seconds to talk to a potential customer, what would you tell them that would leave them interested and excited to learn more about your product.

Whether you are sharing information on your website or talking in person, your elevator pitch will help you connect with people that actually want to buy your product.

Questions to create your elevator pitch

These questions below will help you define the pieces you need to craft your product’s elevator pitch. Do your answers leave them with a clear understanding of what you offer?

Who is it for?

If you defined your customer, this part of the pitch should be easy to create.

What is the problem they face?

This is the problem that your product solves. Quickly share that common problem your customer has. Don’t get too deep. Keep it simple.

What do you offer?

What is the actual service or solution you are providing with your product? You should able to say this clearly in one sentence.

How does it make their life better?

What does your product empower your customer to do? Does it reduce costs? Improve relationships? Increase sales leads? Help their business grow? What is the positive result that people can find through your product?


Let’s say you have a product for veterinary clinics that helps them manage appointments more effectively through automation and secure data management. Let’s call this application “VetCo.”

What VetCo’s elevator pitch could be:

Veterinary clinics struggle with managing appointments, communicating with pet owners, and keeping their data safe. Vetco allows them to securely automate those important tasks so they can spend more time improving the health of the animals they care for.”

Within two sentences, I am able to answer all of those questions and communicate the value. Take some time to ask yourself these questions and build your elevator pitch. Start sharing it with others and see how they react.

Talk to your customers often to improve your messaging

Taking the time to talk to your customers is so important to get continuous feedback. Every time you talk to a new customer or reconnect with one from the past, you will uncover new insights on how to talk about your product and what people actually value. The more you can use their language, the stronger the connections you will make with your messaging to inspire customers to buy.

Create and share value to gather leads

You need to give people a reason to share their email with you. This could be early access to your product, a reduced life-time rate for being one of the first customers, or access to other valuable resources. It is a good idea to ask customers about things they would find helpful before spending time creating a resource they don’t actually value.

Examples of value you can share in exchange for emails

  • Downloadable resources like pdf’s, templates, ebooks.
  • Join a private Facebook group to help them grow
  • A private educational video or a free lesson
  • Sign up for a webinar that shares unique value or insight

Set up automated email campaigns

Most email marketing services allow you to automate a sequence of responses when people sign up for a list or request to download something. This can help you save a lot of time and increase your chances of customers reaching out to you to purchase your product or schedule a meeting with you.

Email automation flow example

1. Welcome & Download - Immediately

This is a basic thank you and welcome to your mailing list. You will also give the person access to a file you are sharing. Or maybe it will give them more info about a webinar. It all depends on what you are sharing. Also, let them know what to expect from you and this mailing list in the future.

2. Follow Up - One day after signup

This is where you can follow up with some questions and have a call to action. Ask them if they enjoyed the free resource or had questions about the webinar. A call to action could be to download your product, now that they know more about it and how it can help them, or to schedule a call with you or someone on your sales team.

3. Share More Value - One week after signup

If they haven’t shown interest yet, keep sharing value with them. They might not be ready to purchase, but they signed up for some reason. Building a relationship with them is key. They might even recommend you to others before they even purchase. Not every sale happens over night. After this third automated email, be sure to continue to share value with them on a monthly or weekly basis after this as being a part of your newsletter.

Get started with MailChimp

There are lots of email marketing options out there, but MailChimp will help you get started with email automations for free. Eventually you will have to start paying as your mailing list grows or if you want to access more features within MailChimp. If you’re looking to get the most out of MailChimp, I highly recommend checking out Chimp Essentials.

Create a landing page

If you follow each section in order, you will build momentum in the message you are sending to your customer as they scroll down your website. Imagine taking them through a story and making sure they clearly understand who your product is for, what the problem is that you solve, how you solve it, and why they should believe in you.

Don’t have a website yet?

Here are some recommended services to help you get moving. You don’t need to be a designer or a developer to set up a simple landing page. At some point you should get a proper website built and managed though.

MailChimp Landing Page Builder - Single page builder within MailChimp

Squarespace - Begin building your entire website

Example of how your landing page could flow

Web designers call this a wireframe, a minimal map of content for a web page. Adjustments can be made for your product, but this is a great place to start. This gives you a brief look at how your content could be laid out based on the sections I share with you.

product landing page layout graphic

Header is the value proposition

Use a condensed version of your elevator pitch. What is something short and sweet that you can share that clearly states what you offer and the value it brings? Try to use imagery that is contextual to what you offer. Trust and positivity go a long way. Don’t just add mountains because it looks pretty and is metaphoric.

Have a clear call to action - CTA. Your CTA should be straight to the point. Get them to sign up, start a free trial, or be added to the waitlist if your product is not available yet.

Example of a landing page header from Turo

header image from turo website

What are the benefits?

A feature is not a benefit. A feature is a tool that a customer can use to gain benefits. Share the problems that your product can fix and the customer will better understand why they need your product. Try to share at least three benefits.

Example from Intercom

call to action example using benefits

Establish trust

What results can you share from current customers?

How much money have they saved or how much have their sales increased from using your product? Testimonials are a great way to create external recognition. Are people talking about you on social? Embed tweets or facebook comments and reviews with customers speaking on behalf of your product.

Who are your clients?

If you don’t have any yet, that’s ok. If you have some, be sure to get their permission and place their logos here as well.

Are you certified or compliant?

Certain industries need specific certifications or compliance to be able to legally serve customers. Compliances usually apply to keep information secure within healthcare or financial industries. Let customers know you’ve got their back and you are a safe product to use.

Example from 1Password

product testimonial section example

Give your customer a plan

What are the 3-4 steps a customer can take to find success with your product? Communicate how simple it is to sign up and start making things happen. Think of it like a small storyboard and your customer is a character in a movie about purchasing and using your product. If you have 3 scenes to share, what would you tell someone?

Example from Trade Coffee

coffee subscription plan example

Define the cost of not using your product

What is the risk a customer has if they don’t use your product? What are they missing out on? This is where you can talk about wasting money on other products or processes that aren’t helping them currently. Remember that cost isn’t just about money. Time, security, protected data, and relationships are valuable to people too.

Example from Turo

For this example, the cost of not using Turo means you won’t have extra cash to pay off your car sooner. Turo can help you afford to have a nicer car.

landing page cost of not buying example

Define what success looks like and offer a clear CTA

After you state the risk of waiting or not using your product, share a statement that tells them what their future will be like once they buy your product. You can also offer a promise or guarantee to help the customer feel safer about making the purchase.

Example from Churnbuster’s Website

example of a clear call to action for landing page

Gather leads

Depending on how you sell your product, create a section where you can get people to download, purchase, schedule a call, or offer to share the free resources you have created in exchange for emails or contact information.

Example from Hubspot

example of lead generation on landing page

Use chatbots to improve your efforts

Chatbots may sound super intimidating to set up or understand sometimes. Is it a person? Do they even work? They totally work and there are great resources available to get you started in no time.

What is a chatbot?

A chatbot is either powered by pre-programmed responses or artificial intelligence to answer a user’s questions without the need of a human operator.

What can chatbots do for you?

  • Gather new leads 24hrs per day
  • Handle larger volumes of traffic and filter qualified leads
  • Saves you time by qualifying leads
  • Schedule calls with qualified leads
  • Improve retention through improved customer support
  • Gather customer feedback in real time
  • Reduce your customer acquisition cost
  • And more

Recommended chatbot services


Intercom offers an affordable package for early-stage startups that can grow with your needs over time. You can try it free for 14 days and cancel any time.


Drift offers a free account for one individual with limited features to get started. They also offer an incredibly discounted rate for early-stage startups as well so you can access premium features without hurting your budget.

Chatbot resources

Create your social accounts

Have you created social accounts or pages for your product yet? It’s a good idea to get the accounts created and set up with your branding, some imagery, and enough to let people know about your product. This can improve the way customers perceive your brand.

You don’t need to be active on every platform, but it’s best practice to at least own a page or profile on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn to increase your discoverability. You should know where your target market is active once you define your persona.

Adding your product to Product Hunt is a good idea too!

The deeper benefits of having social accounts

It’s common to have a social account and talk about your product or company, but you can get so much more out of platforms than awareness.

Customer Service

On platforms like Twitter, customers may reach out to you with questions or complaints. This is a great opportunity to jump in, be helpful, and keep customers happy.

Ad Targeting

You can advertise directly to your target customers with the data that social platforms have. You can even use tools like AdEspresso to test multiple campaigns at once. If you’re having trouble getting traffic or awareness, create targeted ad campaigns to get your landing page in front of customers. Start with a small budget to see what works and then invest in ideas that get the best results.

Facebook Messenger

Facebook pages actually have chat tools that you can automate with Messenger platform. So when people land your your FB page you can start a conversation, gather leads, and more.

Product Feedback

If you’re looking to get feedback from customers and have a following, you can simply ask them questions on social. You can also see if customers are publicly praising your product and celebrate along with them. It’s a great way to gather testimonials.

Controlling the Narrative

If you consistently share your beliefs and culture, people will know you for that. It’s important to have consistency in what you share and showcase your brand’s voice. Let your customers know your mission and why you do what you do.

man talking in meeting at coffee shop

Create a promotion plan

Once you have all of this in place you need to get your landing page and content in front of your potential customers. Before you start spending money on ads or just “wing it” on social, consider creating a plan on what, when, and where you promote certain types of content. That way you can track what works and apply your learnings and make improvements.

The next thing you should consider is what are your business goals? What type of content will help you reach them?

Your promotion plan should be tied to your business goals

Here are some examples:

  • Increase revenue to X
  • Increase number of users to X
  • Get 100 signups before launch
  • Convert free users to premium users
  • Improve customer retention

Social ads

Variables for testing ads

  • Headlines
  • Photos vs Graphics
  • Images vs Video
  • Captions
  • CTAs

Facebook Ad Guide

Instagram Ad Guide

Twitter Ad Guide

LinkedIn Ad Guide

Newsletter Ads

If you know about websites with newsletters that your target market loves, some of them allow you to place ads or get mentioned. This allows you to reach a larger volume of potential customers via email. You could even try offering a limited time discount code for people within that newsletter to help create urgency. You can track results from this effort through your analytics tools.

Social content campaigns

Having a presence on social channels shows customers that you are active and making progress. Stagnant accounts can be a big turnoff. You can use scheduling tools to automate your social posts. Rather than taking time out of every single day to create content, spend one or two full days creating content and then schedule it out.

Check out this guide to get started with creating a campaign.

Platform Specific Social Scheduling Tools

Later - Visually Plan & Schedule Instagram Posts

  • Allows you to preview your instagram profile feed before it publishes
  • Powerful hashtag tools
  • Awesome guides on their blog
  • Desktop and mobile tools
  • Facebook and Pinterest scheduling too

Facebook - Internal Publishing Tool for Business Pages

  • This allows you to tag other pages, locations, and boost your posts as you schedule them

Schedule, Monitor, and Manage Most Social Networks

All of these platforms below have many capabilities and features. Be sure to look into them and see which would be the best fit for your needs.

Sprout Social



Working with Influencers

This has been a hot topic for the past year or so, but something that has kind of always existed. Anyone that has attention and respect of a specific audience is an influencer. Whether it’s an athlete, musician, or a well known blogger, if your product can help their audience, you should consider partnering with them to gain some traction.

Don’t just consider Instagram. YouTube is also a great place to create partnerships and the have a longer promotional life span. It can take a little bit of research to find the right fit for your audience. If you’re considering working with someone, you’ll want to consider having a contract in place to negotiate rules and requirements for when they work with you and talk about your product.

Check out this guide to get you up to speed and if you want to dig deeper.


Reddit isn’t a normal social platform and you need to be more hands on with it. There is a lot of opportunity to find new customers through reddit though. Before you start posting links on Reddit, hit that link below to learn about the best approach to take.

Learn about best practices for Reddit

Personal outreach

Sometimes you just need to start telling friends, family, and your network about your product. It can be as simple as emailing people you think might be interested in using your product, asking if they know who else might be interested, or sharing what you’re working on in your personal circles. Don’t be too “salesy” with your network though. Make every message personal. People can get easily annoyed by templated messages.

man working on designs on mackbook pro

Set up tracking and analytics

It can take a little bit of work to get analytics up and running depending on the tool you are using. You can set up things like goal tracking, facebook pixels, and all that jazz. But for now keep it simple to track where your traffic is coming from and how they experience your content. Here are all of the tools I recommend to give you some feedback on your pages.

Get started

Google Analytics - Free to use, fairly easy to set up, and integrates with just about everything

User experience

Hotjar - The fast & visual way to understand your users

FullStory - Captures all your customer experience data in one powerful, easy-to-use platform

If you’re using Squarespace or Mailchimp landing pages, they will provide basic analytics for you as well.

Take action, learn from failures, and make improvements

The only way to learn if a plan will work is when you execute it. When you notice parts of the plan not working, you pivot and try something else. If you find something that works really well, don’t be afraid to double down on it to keep momentum going. Take the time to understand your analytics and user feedback. They will guide you to make better decisions in your marketing and in your product.

Actionable UX audit kit

  • Guide with Checklist
  • UX Audit Template for Figma
  • UX Audit Report Template for Figma
  • Walkthrough Video
By filling out this form you agree to receive our super helpful design newsletter and announcements from the Headway design crew.

Create better products in just 10 minutes per week

Learn how to launch and grow products with less chaos.

See what our crew shares inside our private slack channels to stay on top of industry trends.

By filling out this form you agree to receive a super helpful weekly newsletter and announcements from the Headway crew.