Startups can’t survive without digital marketing in India. People sometimes can’t distinguish between a startup and a small business in India. So, in this article, we will talk a little bit about startups and then we will discuss about digital marketing for startups.

There are three stages every startup has to go through.

  • The first stage is about building a product which your customers love.
  • The second stage is about building a business model and simultaneously reaching out to investors for funding.
  • The third stage is about full-fledged scaling of business and building a brand.

Launching a product and scaling a business are two entirely different things. You cannot use the same digital marketing strategy in these stages. So, your digital marketing strategy must change at different stages.

Let’s look at the three stages of startups and their digital marketing strategies in detail.

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The Three Stages of a Startup

Stage 1: Building a product

Unlike big businesses, startups can’t spend years building a product and having a grand launching event like Steve Jobs did for Apple.

As a startup you have to do three things:

  1. Build a minimum viable product (MVP)
  2. Launch it as soon as you can to get feedback from customers
  3. Improve your product and repeat it until you have a final product ready.

This cycle is very important for your startup. During this process, your startup may go through a drastic change. The process of change is called morphing in Startups. Check out the examples below to learn more about morphing.

Stage 2: Building a scalable business model

After the intense process of morphing in the previous stage, you will have a product which your customers love. Now, you have to figure out who is your target audience (ideal customers) and where you can find them. This will help you in acquiring more customers and building a business model to achieve profitability in the future.

Stage 3: Scaling your business        

Successful execution of the above two stages will result in having a great product and considerable traction. You can now go for fundraising and look for potential investors. They will help you and guide you for the challenges ahead. But, most importantly, you will get money to grow your business.

Your aim at this stage is to scale your business to new heights. Contrary to the previous two stages, there are many options available to you. You can now focus on building a brand or enter new markets or expand nationally and internationally. This is how you build a successful startup.

Now that you know the three stages of a startup, the rest of this article will help you in creating a marketing strategy for every stage. [If you want to know more about building a startup, we recommend reading: Startup J curve by Howard Love]

Digital Marketing for Startups in Stage I

Your aim as an entrepreneur at this stage should be to test and learn about your product. This involves repeatedly launching different versions of your product. You will need marketing to accomplish this task.

Marketing will help you in getting your product into the hands of customers and also in getting feedback from them. Always remember, the aim of these activities is not to get profit from your customers but to get feedback to improve your product. 

You can use traditional marketing in this stage such as Door to door marketing or cold calling. However, traditional advertising, like newspaper ads or radio ads, will not be a viable option because they are too expensive.

Digital marketing also has a lot of channels to help businesses. Unfortunately, you can’t use most of them, because they are either too expensive or they are too time-consuming. Here, are our comments on some digital marketing tactics in India:

Digital marketing channels you CAN’T use in stage I and why?

(1) Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO can help you in getting organic traffic through Google search results free of cost for your chosen keywords. However, it is a long term digital marketing strategy and takes at least 6 months to execute. You can’t wait for 6 months just to launch a minimum viable product. So, SEO is not an option in this stage.

(2) Social Media Marketing (SMM)

Unlike Google ads, which target people based on keywords, social media ads target people based on interests. This makes social media marketing an ineffective channel, because this audience may be interested in your product, but may not have a buying intent. And you don’t have the resources to nurture the audience or wait till they are ready to buy.

So, the inability to reach the right people, at the right time makes social media marketing a bad option. Use it only if there is a demo version of your product which you can give for free.

Digital marketing channels you CAN use in Stage I and why?

(1) Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Search engine marketing involves using Google ads to get traffic on your website. It can let your customers use the product or book a demo on your website. After that, you can collect their feedback through a form or a follow-up email.

Search engine marketing can be expensive, but it can drive potential customers to your website faster compared to other marketing channels. Generally, SEM aims to achieve profitability, and that is what most search engine marketers will tell you, but you have to focus on your aim and use it for testing and learning purposes only. You can use it to achieve profitability in the later stage while scaling your startup.

(2) Email Marketing

Email marketing is known in the digital marketing world for creating a personalized experience for customers. However, for startups, it can be used for taking follow-ups and collecting feedback.

Your email list may include people you have attracted through Google ads. Email marketing is inexpensive, easy to set up and helps you communicate with your customers effectively.


Digital Marketing for Startups in Stage II

After the intense process of testing and learning, you will have a product which your customers love. This stage is all about acquiring customers and building a scalable business model to achieve profitability in the future.

In this stage, you can only use inexpensive digital marketing channels since you still don’t have funding. Here, are our comments on digital marketing channels in India:

Digital marketing channels you CAN’T use in stage II and why?

(1) Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

We have seen that search engine marketing is an effective tool for testing and learning purpose, but when it comes to profitability, it can become a money pit. You cannot use search engine marketing half-heartedly because it requires a big monthly budget. And, since you don’t have that, it cannot be used at this stage.

(2) Social Media Advertising

Social Media Advertising like Facebook ads and Instagram ads are cheaper compared to Google ads but it also requires a big budget to achieve profitability. Thus, it must be dropped as well.

Digital marketing channels you CAN use in stage IIand why?

(1) Search engine optimization (SEO)

Being a long term and cost-effective tactic, SEO is great for attracting your target audience. Now that you have a great product, you know what problem it solves for your customers. So, you can choose the keywords which people use while looking to solve their problems using Google. SEO will then help you rank high on Google for these keywords, thus giving you regular traffic free of cost.

(2) Content Marketing

Creating content regularly and using all the organic reach of social media channels can make wonders for your company. Your page followers will get attracted automatically through this tactic. Also, it’s free of cost. Thus, content marketing is a viable option at this stage.

Digital Marketing for Startups in Stage III

Successful execution of the above two stages will result in having a product and considerable traction. Now, your aim at this stage is to scale your business to new heights. Contrary to the previous two stages, there are many options available to you. You can now focus on building a brand. It will help you in entering new markets and expanding nationally and internationally.

At this stage, you can use all the digital marketing channels. But, you should choose only the one where you can find your target audience. Let’s see how different startups are using digital marketing tactics to attract their target audience.

(1) Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is a great tactic for startups which is solving a problem for people. Let’s look at how a startup, The Fresh Meat Market, uses SEO to attract its customers.

SEO Example: The Fresh Meat Market

Overview: The Fresh Meat Market is an online app (Web, iOS, Android) to order fresh meat products (fish, chicken, meat) and get it delivered to your doorsteps within 45-90 minutes. The service is currently available in six cities in India.

Founded In: 2018


Traffic source:

  • Direct: 43% ( Traffic from direct sources such as those who type the website URL in the address bar of the browser)
  • Search: 56% (Google organic search results traffic)
  • Paid search: 0% (Google ads traffic)
  • Referral: 0% (traffic from other websites)
  • Social: 0% (Social media traffic)

Explanation: You can see that most of their traffic is coming from search engine. Our data shows people search keywords like “chicken shop near me” 22,000 times every monthly (Source: This is the reason SEO has worked so well for them.

(2) Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

If you have a product which people frequently search on Google by typing a keyword like that of The Fresh Meat Market, then you can also use Search engine marketing to get to the top of search results on Google using Google ads without doing SEO. Google ads can be expensive, but you can optimize them to achieve profitability.

(3) Social Media Marketing (SMM)

Social media marketing can help almost all startups, but you need to be careful before choosing the right social media platforms. Let’s look at how some of the businesses are using social media marketing to scale their business.

  • Byjus, who promotes visual learning, gets most of its traffic from YouTube since Byjus attracts a visual audience which likes educational videos.
  • H&M, a popular fashion brand, gets most of its traffic from Facebook since shopping is an impulsive decision which makes Facebook the best place to showcase your products.
  • Kylie Cosmetics, a cosmetic stores founded by Kylie Jenner (the youngest billionaire in the world), gets most of its traffic from Instagram since she is a model and an Instagram celebrity which makes Instagram the best for her.
  • Infosys, a popular B2B company in India, gets most of its traffic from LinkedIn since their target audience is businesses and LinkedIn is a social networking site for businesses.

So, you need to choose a platform where you can attract your target audience.


There is a lot of difference between the digital marketing for startups and digital marketing for well-established businesses. We hope that you find these strategies on digital marketing for startups helpful.

If you want to learn about complete digital marketing strategy and tactics please read this article: Digtial Marketing in India: Strategy & tactics.

Also, if you would like to collaborate with us for anything at all, don’t hesitate to reach out.

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