I Asked 110 Startups About Digital Marketing in 2015 & 2017. Here’s What I Found.

Digital Marketing, Marketing, Startup Comments (1)

In 2015 I carried out a survey to help the Digital Marketing industry better understand the needs and priorities of startup businesses. I got feedback from 55 startup owners and published the results HERE. After 2 years passed, I thought it would be interesting to re-run the same survey in 2017 to another group of 55 startups and compare the results. This is what I found.

The survey ran from February 21st to March 31st 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 2017 survey:

Country of Origin (and number of respondents):

35 in the UK (35),  USA (4) , India (3), Australia (2), Austria (2), Slovenia (2), Singapore (2), France (1),  UAE (1), Bangladesh  (1), Ireland (1) and  Unknown (1)

Industry (and number of respondents):

Information Technology (11), Health Care (8), Telecommunications & Media (6), Retail, Hospitality & Food (6), Creative Sector (6), Finance & Legal Services (5), Business Services (4), Consumer Goods/Manufacturing (2), Fashion (2), Education & Not-for-Profit (1), Energy, Utilities, Oil & Gas (1), Food & Agriculture (1), Pharmaceuticals (1) and Transportation (1)

Role in the Business:
16 Owners, 11 Co-Founders, 11 Founders, 7 Directors,  7 Managers and 3 Others

Year Founded:

  • 4 started this year (2017),
  • 27 started between 2015 & 2016,
  • 14 started between 2010 & 2014,
  • 10 started in 2009 or earlier.


  • 60% sell to businesses
  • 11% sell to consumers
  • 38% sell to both


So to summarise my survey findings and thoughts:

  • Confidence in Paid Media delivering an ROI has increased 109% since 2015, whilst Owned Media increased 14% since 2015.
  • Earned Media on the other hand, saw a drop in confidence of 36% since 2015.
  • The number of startups seeking help with Digital Strategy & Planning increased 92% since 2015.
  • There has been a 49% increase in the number of startups considering or having digital marketing training.
  • There has been a 30% increase in the number of startups documenting a digital marketing strategy.
  • Startup owners said one of their main goals was driving brand awareness, however very few said they had Display Advertising as a priority.
  • The number of startups putting half or more of their marketing budget into digital has dropped 13% since 2015.
  • Startup’s use of an in-house marketer or marketing team has increased by 74% since 2015.
  • Startup’s use of free analytics tools to measure digital marketing increased 15% since 2015.
  • The importance of Content Marketing as a tactic for startups has decreased 14% since 2015.
  • Where as Social Media Marketing has seen an 18% increase in importance for startups since 2015.
  • 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?
  • With so just 13% of 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?
  • 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 2017 survey questions, key findings and graphed results and comparison to the 2015 survey findings.


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


  • 62% of startups do not have a documented digital strategy. Down from 71% in 2015.

Drag the slider to compare 2017 and 2015 results


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


  • 44% of startups assign more than 75% of their yearly marketing budget to Digital. Down from 58% in 2015.

Drag the slider to compare 2017 and 2015 results


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


  • 33% of startups handle their own marketing despite not having background experience. Down from 37% in 2015.
  • 11% of startups outsource their marketing to a consultant or agency. Up from 8% in 2015.

Drag the slider to compare 2017 and 2015 results


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


  • 71% of startups want customer acquisition from their digital marketing. Up from 63% in 2015.
  • 66% of startups want brand awareness from their digital marketing. Up from 59% in 2015.

Drag the slider to compare 2017 and 2015 results


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


  • 80% of startups use free analytical tools to track their digital marketing success. Up from 69% in 2015.

Drag the slider to compare 2017 and 2015 results


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


  • Content Marketing and Social Media Marketing were chosen by startups as the most important tactics for 2017.
  • Display advertising and Affiliates were voted the least important tactic for 2017.

Drag the slider to compare 2017 and 2015 results

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


  • 42% of startups believe Owned Media will deliver the best return in 2017.
  • Compared to 51% of startups believed Earned Media would deliver the best return in 2015.

Drag the slider to compare 2017 and 2015 results


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


  • Content Marketing and Digital Strategy / Planning were voted the two areas startups require most help with in 2017.
  • Compared to Content Marketing and Online PR, voted the two areas startups required most help with in 2015.

Drag the slider to compare 2017 and 2015 results


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


  • 47% of startups have never considered or had formal Digital Marketing training. Down from 65% in 2015.

Drag the slider to compare 2017 and 2015 results


Raw Data

The survey was hosted on Fluid Surveys free platform. You data boffins can have a go too! You can download the raw data here.

Prize Winners

As an incentive, I offered survey respondents the chance to win several prizes kindly donated to me by the following brands. Please find the winners below:

One lucky entrant will be given a 1 Year Subscription to FreeAgent accounting software worth up to £348. I have been using their software for over 4 years and it has been a life/time saver for a small business owner. Find out more about FreeAgent here: www.FreeAgent.com 

WINNER: Alec Dobble at FanFinders

The below five lucky entrants have won the chance to pick up to 5 exclusive discounts of their choice from Included.co. From printing,  to SaaS, to professional services… you choose and included.co saves you cash. They are the secret weapon used by almost 11,000 members of coworking spaces to save money.


  • Tom Coleman
  • William Sam-Moore
  • James McQuarrie
  • Liam Bateman
  • Jim Cunliffe

One lucky entrant has won a 3-month subscription to MyBusinessBookClub.com, the number one source for independent business book recommendations. They will be sent one business book per month (chosen by the editor), for three months,  with a total value of $90!

WINNER: Rebecca Gautrey

Special Thanks

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


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

» Digital Marketing, Marketing, Startup » I Asked 110 Startups About...
On April 3, 2017