The Start-up's Guide to Marketing in a Saturated Market

Eleanor Hecks
Editor-in-Chief | Designerly
1st April 2021

Any start-up has to quickly find its audience and convince potential customers that it’s worth checking out. Often, the new company will be doing this while competing with well-established businesses that are after that same audience.

A crowded market can make all these challenges much harder to deal with. More competition means you’ll need marketing that is clever and highly effective to stand out.

With these strategies, you can ensure your start-up thrives even if you’re doing business in a saturated market.

1. Research Is Essential

Market research is essential to effective marketing, and this is especially true for start-ups. Knowing your audience will help you build more effective advertising campaigns and marketing materials. It will also help you identify a unique selling proposition (USP) that will really draw your target audience’s attention.

Before you start planning your next campaign or building out major aspects of your brand identity, you need to know some basic info about your target audience.

Using a combination of digital research techniques — or by simply buying market research if funds are available — will give you the best possible understanding of your target audience. This information will typically cover who they are, what they want, which of their needs aren’t being met and what kind of messaging they respond best to.

This market research will help you tailor your ad strategy and marketing voice to grab the attention of the people you want to reach. It will also help you understand what they need as consumers — and how other businesses in your niche may be failing them.

2. Know Your USP

To market effectively, you also need to know your competition — and, more importantly, what sets your business apart.

Your USP is something no other brand is doing. It also has a specific impact on the experience a customer will have with your company. 

Identifying what your business does differently and advertising that USP lets customers know why your company is different — why it exists and what kind of unique benefits it may provide.

3. Market to Underserved Niches

Even in a saturated market, many consumers can get left behind. These people may have needs that other businesses consider too expensive to cater to — or maybe they’re simply harder to spot with conventional market research methods.

In any case, identifying an underserved niche can be a significant advantage for a startup in a crowded market. 

Because they’re left out of most marketing discussions, these customers likely aren’t being considered by most businesses. Working to understand and meet these customers’ needs may help you identify a way into the market when most already have a preferred brand.

4. Get Creative with Your Choice of Channels

Start-ups often rely on the same few marketing channels to get their products or services noticed. Social media marketing, PPC ads and email blasts all have their place and can be effective tools in your arsenal, but they aren’t that unique. 

Underutilized channels — like virtual events — provide a range of benefits that you can’t get with other marketing methods.

For example, the most popular type of online event is small gatherings, followed by roundtables and group discussions. They’re a great way to connect with your audience, provide value to potential customers and spread the word about your brand, all at the same time.

Other popular event types, like webinars, may be a better fit for your business. However, they all can offer significant benefits and a unique experience for potential customers

5. Don’t Lose Sight of the Long Term

When struggling to get your foot in the door, it may be tempting to put off long-term marketing efforts — like building up your brand or focusing on cultivating a consistent look and voice for your company.

This may help you in the short term, but it will come at a cost. A strong brand requires consistent work to build, and some marketing methods only pay off over the course of months. Skipping out on branding efforts or not balancing the short- and long-term goals in your marketing strategy can limit what’s possible in the future. 

6. Make It Personal

Personalization can be a great way to get through to customers who are already seeing ads from others in your overcrowded niche. Where possible, collecting data on people’s habits and preferences can help you more effectively target ads and business communications. 

For example, if you offer a range of products, personalization can help you serve ads that are tailored to customers’ personal interests and needs. This practice can go a long way in making emails and similar marketing materials more effective and valuable.

Marketing to Thrive in a Saturated Market

The challenges that start-ups face can be even more daunting when trying to do business in a saturated market. Increased competition can make it harder to get your voice heard and stand out from companies that are already competing for your audience’s attention.

Good marketing practices and the use of unique marketing strategies can help. Conducting research, identifying your USP and selecting an unusual channel to use for advertising can help you build a strong brand in a crowded market.

Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philadelphia with her husband and pup, Bear.


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