The Marketing MVP: Minimum Viable Marketing Plan for Startup B2B Companies

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Having a stage-appropriate marketing function is a critical success factor for startup companies.

This article is born from our experience working with companies from pre-Seed to Series D. By sharing what we have learned through the years, we hope we can save both Founders and the solo marketers at startups and scale-ups from some of the pain, and in turn help to bring their innovations to market.

Pre-Series A, founder-led marketing and sales is not uncommon, a process which typically involves managing the occasional contractor or freelancer for specialty skills such as design and copywriting.

From Series A to B, or as you move from startup to scale-up, you will likely need some full-time help. That can come in the form of headcount, a consultant, or an agency with a fractional marketing lead.

In all of these cases, there are clear, foundational items that need to be in place to succeed as a brand. These are “table stakes” things that can go unnoticed if implemented properly. Implemented poorly or not at all, they will be very noticeable and can even negatively impact your growth.

This “Foundational Marketing” does not have to break the bank, but it does require some purposed action and rigorous thinking.

Table of Contents


Branding and brand visual identity are a fundamental part of company growth at all stages. A consistent brand look and feel engenders trust.

How do you go about it? You could spend six figures and a year of your time with a brand consultant to come up with a killer brand identity and a 40-page set of brand guidelines.


By the Seed stage you are likely to already have a logo, and if you hired someone to create that for you, you hopefully have a basic visual brand guide as well.

As a startup you need to be comfortable with “good enough”. And unless there is something seriously wrong with your brand visual identity, we normally suggest you stick with it until you reach your Series B round.

But that does not mean you don’t need a graphic designer to tweak it.

At a minimum, you will need both horizontal and vertical versions of your logo in colour and monochrome (positive and negative) rendered in the most widely used formats (PNG, JPEG, SVG). Every graphic designer out there will know what this is and be able to supply it to you. 

In addition, you will want to ensure you have the master Adobe Illustrator or EPS files for those logos.

Ideally, your logo designer should also have provided a primary and secondary colour palate, and font usage guidelines. If they haven’t, now is the time to get that together.

Pro Tip: If you are standardising your font usage for the first time, we suggest using free fonts such as Google fonts. There are some great paid fonts from the various font foundries out there, but startups shouldn’t be burdened with the operational overhead of using paid fonts.

Those elements are used to create a simple two- or three-page visual brand guide that should be adhered to for everything – from your website to name cards to PowerPoint decks.

Minimum Viable Visual Identity Checklist:

  • Logo. Vertical and horizontal, colour and monochrome, favicon. Make sure you have the original artwork available as Adobe Illustrator or EPS files.
  • Colour Palette. Primary and secondary colour palette with the colour hex codes at a minimum, hex, RGB, and CMYK codes are a bonus.
  • Typography. Primary and secondary fonts and usage notes for headers (H1-H4) and body.

As you iterate your visual brand guide will evolve to include iconography and photography guidelines, and include things related to your brand identity such as a more refined vision/mission statement and brand voice and tone guidelines.

Some like to include buyer personas and ICP definitions in their brand guide. At Salween Group we define ICPs as companies (firmographic data) and personas as people at those companies (demographic data, buying role).

Your brand guide needs to be shared so it can be followed by all. Create a read-only shared folder on your network drive called “Brand Assets” and keep those assets there. Share them internally and with vendors as required.

We’ve said it earlier, but we’ll say it again for the people at the back: a consistent brand look-and-feel engenders trust.

A consistent brand look-and-feel engenders trust. It is the most simple and cost-effective step you can take for your brand

We’ve been at trade shows where three people from the same company have different name card designs.

We’ve seen websites that incorporate more colours than a fruit salad and the font usage looks like a ransom letter from a bad ‘50s crime show.

And we’ve seen more cringe-worthy sales decks than a human should be forced to bear in a lifetime.

Don’t be that brand.


Your website is your most valuable salesperson. It works 24/7/365 and never complains about your bonus package.

Buyers will spend nearly 80% of their journey doing online and offline research before they reach out to you, so your website needs to be a discoverable repository of information that educates and informs.

The tech behind your website matters. For a pre-Series A, we suggest a simple, managed website builder like Squarespace. It is cheap, secure enough if you use 2FA, hosting is taken care of, and there are plenty of templates and integrations to keep you busy. What’s more, it is easy to grasp for beginners.

You will likely need a good copywriter to turn your vision into something understandable, but remember your website and your positioning will be an ongoing work in progress for a while. It doesn’t need to be perfect from the outset. The copy needs to be good and reflect who you are and what problem you solve today, but it will change as you get feedback from the market.

Positioning is a massive and important subject which we won’t get into here. The takeaway should be that you need to be in a position to iterate your website design and copy quickly as you hone your positioning based on market feedback.

Pro Tip: If you are a B2B tech company, you might be tempted to have your IT guys build a site in-house.


If they have the capacity, you have too many staff in IT, and when you ramp up your marketing and need to update your site regularly, they will not have the resources to support you at the speed you need to keep up with the market.

We’ve seen some very clever IT teams do very silly things on brand websites. This can easily cripple marketing’s ability to get what they need out of it.

We’ve seen some very clever IT teams do very silly things on brand websites. This can easily cripple marketing’s ability to get what they need out of it.

Don’t be that brand.

From Series A onwards, we suggest building your website on WordPress, the world’s most popular Content Management System (CMS). It integrates with everything, has a massive pool of users and developers to provide support, and allows you to break away from the “templated” look of Squarespace and stand out with proper design.

Pro Tip: You may have come across Drupal and Joomla. What about those? Just say no. They were the darlings of the previous generation of enterprise IT departments, but today, the lack of users and developers of those platforms will add unnecessary cost and complexity.

But what about the HubSpot CMS? Aren’t you guys a HubSpot Solutions Partner? We are indeed, but our primary mission is to help our clients go to market better, not sell software.

We do not recommend using the HubSpot CMS for your website due to its limited pool of developers and inherent vendor lock-in. 

We love, recommend and support the likes of HubSpot Sales Hub, Marketing Hub and Service Hub, but for your main brand website, use WordPress.

Moving on.    

As the world’s most popular CMS, WordPress is also popular with the hacking community. That has been the pushback from some IT departments, but like all online services those risks can be mitigated. To keep your site safe, we recommend:

  • Hosting with a reliable managed WordPress hosting service such as Pressidium or WP Engine.
  • Paying for monthly maintenance. For a few hundred dollars per month, you can subscribe to a WordPress maintenance service that will manage your plugin updates and generally look after your site. If we are not doing it for you, WPTangerine is good.
  • Monitor your uptime and get alerts with a free tool such as Better Stack.  

Shameless Plug: Our Managed Web Services offering does all that and more. That service offer was born out of the fires of experience and takes the hassle of website design, development, copywriting, hosting and ongoing management off your plate.

The key takeaway here is that your website should be a source of revenue, not a source of pain.

The key takeaway here is that your website should be a source of revenue, not a source of pain.

Sales Decks and Slide Templates

In early-stage companies, the initial deliverables of the marketing function will be heavy on sales enablement content and content required for your go to market strategy.

The most basic is a well-designed and well-written sales deck along with the the resulting “template” that can be personalised or repurposed as needed.

The visual brand guidelines you created earlier come into play here.

Case studies and use cases are also handy in the sales process and are great for both presentations and the website. Regular conversations need to happen between marketing and sales to ensure sales has the collaterals it needs. Similarly, regular conversations between marketing and the customer success team on the post-sale process can help identify any messaging shortcomings and provide additional content ideas.

Social Media

In B2B, LinkedIn dominates as the social media channel. Facebook still has a role, particularly in some developing countries, but we are fans of looking good on LinkedIn and repurposing that content for Facebook.

You do not have to be on every social channel, and the general rule of thumb is to only be on the one or two where your users or potential customers will likely be.

For social, two things are involved:

  • Look the part. Get a digital designer to design your Company page banner and follow these guidelines on Company page optimisation. The Founder and senior team should use that same banner and make it available to employees in case they want to use it.
  • Post! This is harder and takes time. There needs to be regular posts on your Company page, and the Founder and senior team should be posting regularly to demonstrate thought leadership. Good content will be found by prospects who search for you on LinkedIn. And trust us, they will.    

Managing the posting cadence (the rhythm of your content schedule) on LinkedIn, both for the Company page and the Founder’s profile page, is a common responsibility of the marketing function.

Revenue Operations and Analytics

For early-stage companies, capturing data on your customers and potential customers from Day 1 is essential and very easy to implement at little or no cost.

Things you need to set up include:

  • Google Tag Manager (GTM) on your website. It is a go-to, free tool for tracking user interactions and gathering data for analytics and marketing purposes. It will host all your tracking code and can be added without needing to make direct code changes.
  • Google Analytics (GA4). Install via GTM.

Install those as a minimum, as soon as possible with your website launch.

If you don’t have one already, start thinking about a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. Companies of all sizes can benefit from keeping customer contacts and revenue forecasts all in one place.

Pro Tip: The contact forms on your website, landing pages, and even webinar registrations should all connect to your CRM, not to just an email address. 

The CRM space is dominated by two players, Salesforce and HubSpot. There are others out there like Pipedrive, Monday, and Zoho CRM to name a few, but are yet to see a clear reason not to use one of the big two and benefit from the large installed base.

A large installed base means there will be good availability of mature third-party integrations, and people familiar with the tool be it contractors or sales staff.

Salween Group is a HubSpot Solutions Partner. We haven’t always been, and for years we actually helped quite a few HubSpot customers migrate off the platform to other tools.

But what we learned over time is that it wasn’t the tool that was the problem, it was poor onboarding and post-onboarding support that led to limited tool adoption and eventual user frustration.

Churn is real, and it is a time suck.

We’ve since seen the light and ensure any client with whom we have a marketing or revenue operations mandate is given the ongoing support they need to be successful.

It is incredibly important.

For the uninitiated, HubSpot’s USP is that it unites sales, marketing, and customer success in one platform. That means all customer data is in one place on a unified code base, making operations and reporting a breeze.

Salesforce, on the other hand, is only sales process-focused. If you need a Marketing Automation Platform (MAP), you would need to add their product, Pardot, or a third-party product like Marketo (enterprise) or ActiveCampaign (low- to mid-market)… or HubSpot!

Yes, HubSpot + Salesforce. It is becoming more common for sales orgs who insist on Salesforce to then use HubSpot as the MAP. There is very good integration between the two, and if your organisation follows the traditional marketing qualified lead (MQL) to sakes qualified lead (SQL) paradigm, that solution could work really well.

In short, Salesforce is an awesome tool, and we have some clients who use it with a MAP. But in general, we consider Salesforce to be an enterprise tool for large sales teams.

If you are looking for your first CRM, we’d suggest HubSpot’s Starter CRM Suite. At $360 a year for two users, it’s a steal.

As your grow your revenue and your team, you can add more starter seats or upgrade from the Starter Hubs to the Professional Hubs as required.

For example, upgrading from Marketing Hub Starter to Marketing Hub Pro gets you access to the social media tool, campaign-lever reporting, marketing automation, and other potentially useful features.

This means other third-party marketing tools would likely be unnecessary, and that Starter-to-Professional path through HubSpot is something we’ve seen often.

If you are pre-Series A, there is also the HubSpot for Startups programme. They offer 30%-90% off the subscription fees if you qualify, meaning you can get the Professional Hubs you need right out of the gate.

Shameless Plug: If you are thinking of getting HubSpot, let us help. Through the HubSpot Solutions Partner programme we might be able to save you some money, and us taking credit for the deal with HubSpot earns us the points we need to stay in the programme and enjoy access to partner training, beta releases, and other benefits.

We are not in the business of selling software, and are very transparent about that, but the HubSpot Solutions Partner programme has been very beneficial to our marketing operations professional development as individuals.   

End of shameless plug.

Content Operations

The steps we have looked at so far have been foundational. You have laid the stones on which your brand can be built.

The path from Series A to Series B is in many ways the path from startup to scale-up. Roughly 65% of Series A-funded startups get Series B funding, so the odds are in your favour but you need to do everything you can to tip the scale.

Our house view is that B2B marketing is content marketing.

Our house view is that B2B marketing is content marketing. The modern buyer journey is marked by multiple stakeholders doing online and offline research, and by the time they are ready to talk to a brand they already have preconceptions.

A major role of marketing is to plan, produce and distribute content that educates and informs the user on the state of the domain, why your brand uses the approach it does, and the features and benefits of your solutions. Marketing’s job is to make sure this content, and therefore your brand, is readily available and discoverable.

Ramping up your content generation is a precursor to using paid media such as ads and boosted social posts to drive traffic to your website. It is also a precursor to earned media such as PR or public speaking.

A well-thought-out content strategy should be crafted and executed right after the foundational work is done.

Analytics on how that content is being consumed and driving revenue should be looked at monthly, and these analyses should inform a quarterly marketing strategy review.

This is also the stage where one can be tempted by the genie of generative AI to rattle out average content at scale.

That is as much a mistake today and it was three years ago when offshore “content farms” where churning out so-called SEO friendly blog articles for very low rates.

It added to the sea of noise that is the internet, and made many brands look mediocre and unoriginal.

The brands that succeeded with content then followed the same path as those that will succeed now:

  • Have a point of view.
  • Shared lived experiences.

That applies to your social media presence as well.   

Your First Marketing Hire

Your first marketing hire should be a “generalist” growth marketer. Someone who can get down in the weeds and do things themselves.

A mistake we often see with startup hiring for marketing and sales roles is hiring from the enterprise space. The logic being since the startup is selling to the enterprise space, it needs a team from the enterprise space.

That thinking has been the primary source of pain for many companies we have worked with.

Why? The enterprise marketer has a support system in the form of a full marketing team, established product-market fit and brand positioning. They are also backed up by an operations team to make sense of all the marketing data and analytics.

At a pre-Series B startup, product-market fit is a work in progress, and your positioning and messaging is dynamic. The startup marketer needs to respond to changes in positioning, and if he or she is not copywriting that themselves, they need to recognise good copywriting from bad copywriting when they farm it out.

The startup marketer also needs to know good from bad design, and best practices for everything from pay per click campaign management to email list hygiene.

The enterprise marketer (or enterprise salesperson) likely had a very specific, siloed role and human capital and technical support to aid them in that role.

One of the first things they may try to do is build a team of marketing staff to support them. That should be a red flag unless your revenue supports it.

Where to Get Help

If you are looking for ideas or insights on how marketing should play a role in your startup, start by talking to your investors. They have a vested interest in seeing you succeed. As an agency, much of our work has come from VC firms in our portfolio asking us to help companies in their portfolio.

We’ve been brought in to assist with everything from a quick brand and revenue operations audit to providing a fractional CMO and marketing team.

Your investors probably have a similar relationship with an agency or two, and in some cases, VC firms have in-house marketers to work with their portfolio companies.

For online learning, we are fanboys (and fangirls) of Emily Kramer and her team over at MKT1. Her expertise is marketing for early-stage startups. Follow her on LinkedIn, sign up for their newsletter, and bask in the warmth of the knowledge they share.

There are a few other marketers who freely share their knowledge on LinkedIn, and we update a curated list weekly in our B2B Content Marketing Swap File.   

Lastly, if you are going down the DIY route or have a single generalist marketer on your team, always be on the lookout for good contractors or freelancers in the following disciplines:

Graphic Designer. More “print” than digital, this person would create your logo, brand guidelines, brand collaterals such as business cards, letterheads, and things such as the pop-up banners you see at tradeshow booths.

Digital Designer. More “digital” than print. This person does designs for screens, be it social media designs for posts or personal and company pages, slide decks, infographics, etc.

Web Designer. Some digital designers do this, too. Websites, landing pages, and EDM template design that typically require design and HTML/CSS coding skills.

Copywriter. Good marketing copywriters are hard to find. These creatives can have a long conversation with a founder (and ideally some loyal customers) and distil that into a positioning statement and website copy.

Content Marketer. The person responsible for ensuring you have content (articles, white papers, case studies, social posts) that inform and educate your buyers and keep your brand top-of-mind in their journey.

Marketing Operations or Revenue Operations professional. As your sales and marketing teams grow, you need a dedicated operations person onboard to orchestrate the increasingly complex web of CRM and analytics tools.

Having on-demand access to those disciplines, be it in-house, through a trusted pool of freelancers and contractors, or via a boutique agency such as ours, gives you the support you need at the speed of the market.

If you are a Series A or later-stage B2B company and need some advice and how to orchestrate marketing, sales, and operations to grow your business, we’d be happy to chat.

I also welcome feedback from other marketers, Founders, or VC LPs who have something to share on startup marketing.

Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn or through the Contact Us page.

About the author

Picture of David McKaige

David McKaige

David was an award-winning news and current affairs cameraman and producer before venturing into the technical operations world. With a career progression from broadcast operations to financial and capital markets operations, he brings his depth of specialised experience to lead Salween Group's marketing operations team and manages the MarTech stack.

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