How to get started with digital marketing

Open laptop with pink screen

Digital marketing is all about understanding your market so you can send the right promotional messaging to the right people. If you’re just starting out, you probably have a limited budget – so here’s how to work smart and put your pennies where they’ll count.

You’re all set to tell the world about your new business. But there are so many avenues… social media platforms, influencer marketing, SEO, paid ads, email marketing, PPC, Facebook ads, experiential marketing… the list goes on. Where do you begin? The answer is simple:

Start from where you are

Rather than be intimidated by the big uncharted ‘out there’, begin with what you already know and have (which may be more than you realise)…

1. Optimise the land you own – your website, your blog, your email marketing. These channels are all your property, so you can do whatever you want with them. Social media can be powerful, but you’re just ‘renting’ it (e.g. if you put all your time and effort into Instagram and it went down, you’d be up social media creek without a hashtag).

2. Spend time on your website – this is where you live, and potentially anyone in the world can drop in for a visit – so make sure it’s a killer website with a great user experience. Once you’ve done this, use your online activity to drive traffic to your website (e.g. with links and a strong CTA in your messaging).

3. Choose the right social media platform – focus on just one or two platforms. Do some research and pick the platforms where your main audiences like to hang out (even if they’re not your personal favourites).

4. Email marketing – this is free, easy and hot right now. If your social media is working well, it will funnel your audience to sign up to your newsletter, which is where your email marketing kicks in. Email is a direct marketing channel with the potential to be incredibly personal – it’s the best way to nurture and convert your audiences.

5. User-generated content – word of mouth is the most effective marketing tool. Having your own customers as your brand ambassadors is the ‘holy grail’, so be sure to exploit the power of user-generated content by sharing the stories and comments your customers post about you. This needn’t just be on social media – you can include your customers’ testimonials (with their permission) in your emails and on your website.

6. Use your data to understand what’s working – check your website and social media analytics each month to gauge which are your most popular pages. What link is most frequently clicked? Which blog post has the most interaction? Use the information you gather to develop your ‘customer personas’. What are your customers interested in? What motivates them? What are their pain points? All these insights will help you evolve your marketing strategy.

7. Be flexible – change your marketing activity if something isn’t working. As a startup, you can be agile (unlike big, unwieldy companies that can’t respond quickly to change). This gives you an important advantage over any giant competitors you may have.

Avoid these rookie errors

There are two common (but fatal) mistakes early-stage companies tend to make. So the following advice could potentially make the difference between ‘sink or swim’ for your business…

Mistake number 1: failing to create a strategy

The better you understand your brand (e.g. what you’re selling, how you differentiate yourself from your competitors, who your customers are, etc.), the better you’ll know how to market your business and what messages will resonate with audiences. So don’t skip that vital step of creating a business strategy.

Mistake number 2: being overthrown by overwhelm

There are so many platforms and strategies to work with, not knowing where to start means some people never do. Other people respond to this overwhelm by trying to be everywhere (and rapidly get nowhere).

Put your feet firmly on the middle ground and start experimenting with one or two free marketing channels. Find out what works for you – and enjoy trying things and learning.

Put these widgets in your toolkit

Nothing says ‘we care’ like being there 24/7 for your customers. And with a little help from a robot or two, this is virtually possible:

Social media – automation

You can make life easier by automatically scheduling your posts across all your chosen social channels, so they go out on certain dates. This way, you can keep your social media presence active, even when you’re not. There are lots of scheduling platforms to choose from on the market.

Email campaigns – automation

You can automate your emails to be sent out at a pre-chosen time or in response to a trigger (e.g. a new subscriber gets a welcome email, a birthday girl gets an anniversary email or a customer who abandoned their cart gets a ‘hey you forgot something’ email). You may want to segment your audience so different groups get specifically-targeted content.

CRM tools

Scheduling platforms and Customer Relationship Management tools (CRM) are in abundance – so pick a platform that appeals to you and start with a free trial before you fully commit.

Get people engaging

It takes time to build trust on a social media platform. To encourage engagement, don’t be afraid to ‘test and try’ – there’s no magic formula – you need to find out what’s working best. That said, here are a couple of tips:

  • Use eye-catching visuals that provoke a feeling in people, along with attention-grabbing headlines that arouse interest and make the audience want to read on.
  • Get to the point quickly in your messaging, emphasising the benefits, making it all about your customers (not all about you). For example, instead of “We’re really proud of our designer jewellery,” say, “Turn heads with our designer jewellery.”


This how-to guide was inspired by one of our Zoom Dives – with marketing and events expert, Kim Darragon, founder of Kim Does Marketing.

Zoom Dives are deep-delving discussions between our founder, Carolyn Dailey, and hand-picked business experts from the creative world. You can listen to Carolyn and Kim’s full discussion here.

Fancy catching our next Zoom Dive, live? See our Events calendar and sign up for free. 

Meanwhile, feel free to plunder our Knowledge bank for more advice on marketing and promoting your business.