I Asked 55 Startups About Their Digital Marketing. Here’s What I Found.

Digital Marketing, Startup Comments (29)

*** UPDATE: My 2017 startup survey results are now live! Click Here to read them. ***

Over my last year as an independent digital consultant I have met a great deal of startup businesses keen to leverage the web for results. Digital Marketing can hold great potential for those wanting to increase exposure, sales or leads. But with so many different channels, platforms, techniques, media formats and service providers in the industry, it can be overwhelming.

I created the survey to help the Digital Marketing industry better understand the needs and priorities of startup businesses in 2015. Now the results are in, I have made some progress towards that goal. The survey ran from Jan 30th to Feb 18th and collected a total of 55 separate responses. Each respondent was asked 13 questions related to their business and it’s digital marketing activity.

Use the quick link menu below to navigate to the relevant section:


So, Who Took Part?

Below is a brief break down of the startups that took part in the survey:

Country of Origin:

40 in the UK (40),  USA (4) , Australia (2), Netherlands (2),  Czech Republic (1), New Zealand (1),  Croatia (1), Ireland (1), India (1) and Unknown (2).


IT (20), Business Services (13), Telecoms & Media (6), Health Care (3), Construction (2), Fashion (2), Retail, Hospitality & Food (2), Food & Agriculture (1), Transportation (1) and Automotive (1).

Role in the Business:
26 Owners, 13 Founders, 10 Co-Founders, 2 Directors, 2 Managers and 2 Others.

Year Founded:

  • 4 started this year (2015),
  • 40 started between 2010 & 2014,
  • 4 started between 2000 & 2010,
  • 4 started in 2000 or earlier.


  • 28 sell to businesses
  • 23 sell to both
  • 4 sell to consumers


So to summarise my survey findings and thoughts:

  • Startups are clearly keen to invest time and budget in digital marketing in order to deliver results.
  • There is a surprising lack of any documented strategy / planning.  Perhaps hubs and bodies (e.g. Manchester Digital or SpaceportX) should be offering more startup advice or opportunities for cooperative networking that helps them plan?
  • The very high use of analytics by startups shows there’s a real desire to measure and make their marketing work. With Earned media high on the agenda for half of all startups, how can tools measure it’s success?
  • The lack of investment in Paid media suggest startups don’t have the capital to do it properly or don’t think it will bring in a return. Perhaps advertisers need to alter their business model to deliver viable options for startups?
  • Social Media and Content Marketing were voted top tactics, despite most startups wanting new customer acquisitions over brand awareness.  Social Media in particular isn’t regarded as a great lead gen channel. Does this suggest startups are unfamiliar with the channel or choosing channels based on budget?
  • With so few (8%) startups investing in an agency or consultant, should these suppliers alter their cost models to cater for startups? Perhaps more startups should be able to pay via stock, skills, service or products?
  • Startups are doing a great deal of marketing elements themselves without any formal training. This represents a potential opportunity for agencies/consultants to help with Content Marketing and Online PR in particular.
  • An over arching question is how to make the above work commercially when startups are typically light on budget?


Questions, Results & Findings

Below I have briefly run through the main survey questions, key findings and graphed results.

Q1 – Do you have a documented Digital Strategy / Plan in place?

71% of startups do not have a documented digital strategy

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Q2 – What percentage of your overall marketing budget is assigned to Digital?

58% of startups assign more than 75% of their yearly marketing budget to Digital


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Q3 – Which statements best describe your current Digital Marketing efforts?

37% of startups handle their own marketing despite not having background experience

Only 8% of startups outsource their marketing to a consultant or agency


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Q4 – What does your company aim to achieve with Digital Marketing?

63% of startups want customer acquisition from their digital marketing

59% of startups want brand awareness from their digital marketing

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Q5 – How do you measure the success of your Digital Marketing efforts?

69% of startups use free analytical tools to track their digital marketing success


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Q6 – Which 2 of the following tactics are most important to your 2015 strategy?

Content Marketing and Social Media were chosen by startups as the most important tactics for 2015

Display advertising was voted the least important tactic for 2015

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Q7 – Which 1 of the following media do you believe will deliver you the best return in 2015?

51% of startups believe Earned Media will deliver the best return in 2015


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Q8 – Which of the following areas do you require the most help with?

Content Marketing and Online PR were voted the two areas startups require most help with


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Q9 – Have you ever considered or had formal Digital Marketing training?


65% of startups have never considered or had formal Digital Marketing training


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Raw Data

The survey was hosted on Fluid Surveys free platform. Sadly I didn’t realise that to export the data I would have to sign up for their $70 per month account, billed annually ($840 per year). That’s an extortionate amount of cash for a mere 55 sets of data. So I have been trying to persuade Fluid to let me have the data for free by giving them a link back to their site.

[UPDATE 1] Disappointingly, Fluid Surveys replied to my request with the following backwards and time consuming solution: “I took a look at your survey and it looks like you could easily reproduce that on SurveyMonkey’s Select monthly plan, which you can cancel as soon as you’re done. You can use their question types, manually add the responses, and then export your data to any of their formats.”

[UPDATE 2] You data boffins can have a go too! You can download the raw data here.

FreeAgent Winner

As an incentive I offered survey respondents the chance to win a 1 Year Subscription to FreeAgent’s accounting software. I have been using their software for the past two years and it has saved me a great deal of time whilst streamlining my financial process.


Anyway, without further a do I can announce the winner is John McGarvey, a freelance web copywriter and content strategist based in north London. Congratulations John. I hope you get as much out of the software as I have.

Special Thanks

I wanted to thank those folks who helped make this survey and post happen:


*** UPDATE: My 2017 startup survey results are now live! Click Here to read them. ***

If you have any comments on my survey /findings or have noticed something I’ve not, please comment below.

» Digital Marketing, Startup » I Asked 55 Startups About...
On February 28, 2015