Startup Marketing: Funnel Breakdown

Startup Marketing Funnel

Startup Marketing Channels

  • Search Engine Optimization — SEO or Organic Search are the FREE way your prospects find you on Google and other Search Engines
  • Search Engine Marketing — SEM or Paid Search is your effort using Google Key Word tool and ads. These ads are shown to people that have displayed “intent” based on the words they are typing into the search field
  • Display Advertising — Facebook ads are a great example of display advertising. These ads are presented to a group of people that fit specific demographic, which may include:
  • Age — if you’re doing consumer marketing and your target customer is a specific age range
  • Gender — is an easy check box if you have a hypothesis of your customer leaning to a specific gender
  • Title — on LinkedIn, you can target people based on their job title. This can be a great way to connect with “Marketing Manager” or “IT Director”
  • Group interest — some advertisers allow you to pick a special interest group, e.g. people who are interested in “sports cars”
  • Word of Mouth and Virality (K-Factor) are different mechanics — Word of mouth is the typical referral mechanic for Business to Business (B2B) products based on prospects or customers recommending your product to others. K-Factor is generally applied to the way of calculating viral customer growth — e.g. for every new customer you bring onto your site/product they generate referrals or create a network effect, think What’s App, where the product works better when you have a bigger network.
  • Public Relations — or PR is another channel, how do you get media for your idea?
  • Email marketing — most startups don’t have a list, that’s why you need to start building your list as you do Customer Development Interviews
  • Sales Calls — if you have a list source, e.g. an association list or any other target list of prospects, outbound sales calls is a possible channel
  • Cold email — I list this one with hesitancy. If you email a group of people who haven’t given you permission, it’s SPAM. If you decide to pursue this option, beware. Sending one-off emails or “Inmails” via LinkedIn to Prospects may be effective, but make sure you nail your value proposition first
  • Tradeshows — can be a very good source of leads if you’re able to get above the noise associated with a lot of tradeshow experiences
  • Finally, my favorite channel is Miracles! That means you have no plan for marketing — Get a plan, start today

It’s about the Leads+Revenue!

Marketing Qualified Leads — MQL

  • Email subscription — you can use a “mouse-out” to capture email address
  • White papers — offer someone more education if they provide their email in exchange for some level of value
  • Timing to purchase — if they are in or out of cycle to engage with your product. This may have more to do with seasonality vs budget. Keep in mind, no prospect is going to tell you, “Yes, I have unplanned budget dollars to give you, where have you been!”
  • If the timing is off, it’s better to put these prospects into a drip campaign. Don’t forward unqualified leads to sales. That creates a vanity metric that won’t result in revenue.
  • Demographic profile — this can range from simple information like age, geography or language to a very complex method of Lead Scoring services. Start simple.
  • Lead Attribution in the early days is likely differentiated landing pages. You’ll get more systematic as the business matures. You’ll need to track attribution to calculate your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

Sales Qualified Leads

  • Budget — does the prospect have the budget for your product? This is partially a pricing question as well. As I mentioned above, new prospects never have “approved budget,” and as a friend of mine who is a VP Marketing reminded me, I never confirm I have the budget.
  • Authority — does the person you are talking to have the actual authority to make the purchase decision? This can be budget authority and price point, but if it’s a technical solution that requires IT to buy into the offering, they may not have the authority to get all the way through implementation
  • Need — in your conversation with the prospect, have they confirmed that they have a need/problem your product solves?
  • Timing — your desire to implement your solution may be at odds with current projects and internal resources. For one company I’ve worked with, the sales cycle isn’t the long part, the legal approval process is what slows down the sale and implementation.


Time to Close

Startup Waterfall and Conversion Ratios

Monthly Tracking

Love Startup Math!




M&A Advisor for Founders, 5X Founder, Investor, Board Member. Former SVP Programs & Product, UPGlobal (Startup Weekend).

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Dave Parker

Dave Parker

M&A Advisor for Founders, 5X Founder, Investor, Board Member. Former SVP Programs & Product, UPGlobal (Startup Weekend).

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