Top 15 Marketing Campaigns for Startups (Part 1)

We start our blog series about the best marketing campaigns for Startups and Early Stage Companies. Today we share why leveraging the time, energy, talent, and relationships of third parties is an effective method for startups to generate business.


Bill Arnold

12/24/20236 min read

Startup marketing Campaigns
Startup marketing Campaigns

Most startups have a few common characteristics: A highly passionate founder who is trying to grow their business with little or no resources. They don’t have enough money to go head-to-head with the established players in the industry, and they don’t have enough human resources to do all the marketing and sales that they know they should be doing.

Startups need to do more with less, and we have put together a series of marketing campaigns that we have used to help those founders who want to scale their company quickly. We are going to share those that can be the most impactful with the fewest resources. As we lay out this action plan, we need to remind the founder that NONE of these campaigns should be tried until they have completed two foundational requirements.

First, they need to understand their industry and competition better than anyone else. A discussion of the importance of this strategic industry and competitive study can be found in our last blog, entitled “Startups – Common Mistakes Founders Make.” Details on what this entails may be found at “Prevail Marketing – Our Approach.”

The second foundational requirement that MUST be done, before they start trying to attract and convert leads, is to completely understand their ideal targeted customer. They need to understand their pain points and concerns. They must figure out what messaging they need to see at each stage of the buyers’ journey to take the next step. They must figure out where they are for information, education, and entertainment. Finally, they need to understand who their influencers are. They need to develop the buyer personas for each decision-maker and internal influencer of each industry they plan on targeting. To learn how to build a buyer persona that will deliver meaningful results, here are two resources:

We want our blogs to provide real substance and actionable marketing campaigns. In order to do this, we will be sharing the top 15 marketing programs over the next three blog submissions. While these campaign ideas are not unique to startups and early-stage companies, they are ideally suited for organizations that have limited resources.

For our first entry, we will share the many ways that a startup can leverage its success

Leveraging Your Success

Because most startups do not have the time or money, they need to leverage other people and organizations to jumpstart their business. We utilize three techniques that leverage the time, energy, talent, and relationships of third parties.

Value-Added Resellers - A value-added reseller (VAR) is a company that resells software, hardware, and other products and services that provide value, beyond the original order fulfillment. When entering a new market, look for those companies that have a complimentary service where your product or service can provide them an additional revenue stream for their customers.

Often, there will be associations of resellers that serve particular industries. One such example is AIMSVAR, which are value-added resellers who provide software solutions to the healthcare industry.

Striking a relationship with a VAR means you now have access to all of their current customers and contacts. You can leverage the relationships that they have already acquired. This streamlines and shortens the sales process as they do not need to find a prospect and build trust, they simply are sharing a new product or service with their existing customers. You, then, are leveraging the trust and relationship they already have acquired.

How effective are reseller programs? Well, many companies find that upwards of 65% of their revenues come from their reseller programs. However, these programs only work if it is attractive enough for the reseller to change their business model to actively solicit your business. You only pay a reseller when they actually have facilitated a sale, and even then, only after you have been paid.

PRO TIP - If you create a reseller program, make sure it is compelling. The ones that I have created, that have worked extremely wel,l have the following characteristics:

  • A significant commission structure based on volume sold and serviced. Typically, it has tiers that provide ten, fifteen, and twenty percent (10%, 15%, 20%) commission on all sales.

  • Have the revenue share run for as long as that company remains a client. A VAR will not only sell but be the first line of support for the client they bring on. You want to make sure that they always value that client in the manner you would.

  • Provide “marketing in a box” programs, where each month, you provide a marketing program where the reseller can simply co-brand it and roll it out. It has to be feet-on-the-desk marketing, meaning that they simply have to click a few keys to execute. If it requires real effort, they will not do it.

Referral Programs - A referral program is a marketing strategy that encourages existing customers to advocate and refer a business opportunity to your company. They are motivated to make the referral in exchange for a financial reward. Many programs have a bifurcated reward structure paying a small amount if the referred prospect takes a meeting and a larger amount if they become a customer. “Refer a Friend” programs can generate a bump in your quarterly sales if you truly make it worthwhile for them to make the connection. I have seen companies try and “reward” a highly paid professional fifty dollars ($50) for any referrals. Any individual who is already well-paid is not going to put their reputation on the line for such a meager amount. If you expect a referral program to work, make sure that the people you ask will find the reward enticing.

PRO TIP If you create a referral program, make sure you provide your referral network with a program that provides:

  • Real rewards for their efforts

  • Transparency in the outcome and payments

  • A one-pager they can share with their network

  • The referrer to have actually communicated the value proposition and not just submitted a name.

Affiliate Programs- A referral program is a marketing strategy where an influencer is compensated to promote your product or service to their sphere of influence generating traffic or leads to a landing page or website. The influencers are purely motivated to monetize their audience in exchange for revenue share. To track the origination of the lead, the affiliate is given a unique affiliate link to share with their audience. In the United States, affiliate marketing spending is twelve billion dollars ($12 billion) with upwards of eighty percent (80%) of advertisers utilizing it (Influencer Marketing Hub).

We have found the best affiliate marketers are those with a larger social reach who have an authentic connection to the product or service. While there are many ways to compensate affiliate marketers (e.g., Pay Per Click, Pay Per Lead, or Pay Per Sale), we recommend the pay-per-sale model, because you only pay when you receive results, and it assures that the influencer is utilizing their best efforts to deliver results.

PRO TIP - If you create an affiliate program, support your affiliates by providing marketing collateral that they can co-brand and share. Provide a transparent platform for them to track their performance and how those customers originated.

Content Sharing Programs – Spend time speaking to influencers who created their sphere of influence through the creation of unique and compelling content, and they all have the same problem.

How do you continue to generate ideas that will resonate with your audience, much less create that high-caliber content? Most influencers are individual entrepreneurs or work in small teams. They do not have the bandwidth or capacity to produce the type of content that will propel mass adoption and increase their brand.

We have had great success partnering with influencers by creating content that is unique and specific to them. It usually has more in-depth information or has a higher production value than it can produce on its own. They can slice this content for distribution over all social platforms for an extended period. The content is ALWAYS educational, informational, or has a high entertainment value that addresses the interest and concerns of a highly targeted persona. The company will then amplify the influencer's original posts by sharing them across their social platforms.

The content will refer to the sponsoring company or have components showcasing how their product or service helps or works in conjunction with the underlying theme.

The value the influencer obtains from the ability to share high-value content with their existing audience increases their loyalty and attracting new followers. The company can have its value proposition introduced to a new audience that can use its products or services.


Leveraging the time, energy, talent, and relationships of third parties is an effective method for startups to generate business. By partnering with value-added resellers, startups can reach a wider audience and benefit from the resellers' expertise in marketing and distribution. Affiliate programs offer a mutually beneficial arrangement where affiliates promote the startup's products or services in exchange for a commission, increasing brand visibility and driving sales. Referral programs encourage existing customers or partners to refer the startup to their network, tapping into their relationships and trust to generate new leads. Lastly, content-sharing programs enable startups to collaborate with influencers or industry experts who can share their content, expanding their reach and credibility. These strategies not only help startups save time and resources but also capitalize on the existing networks and expertise of third parties, ultimately driving business growth.