Guide Brand Strategy New Business

Standing out while starting out: 5 marketing tactics to scale startups in 2023

By Anthony Stonehewer | Head of growth

Make Honey


The Drum Network article

This content is produced by The Drum Network, a paid-for membership club for CEOs and their agencies who want to share their expertise and grow their business.

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December 13, 2022 | 8 min read

While startups may be more vulnerable during the recession, Make Honey's Anthony Stonehewer advises on how they can grow with grace.

Inclining line graph

Even in trying times, consumers may be willing to pay more for brands that match their values / Isaac Smith via Unsplash

It’s a challenge for all brands to increase sales, create exposure, and build customer loyalty during periods of economic uncertainty; but especially for startups eager to scale.

Recent promotional shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday help significantly. But with countless companies heavily flagging the best deals, it can be difficult for startups to stand out. It's an even greater challenge in the current cost of living crisis.

A solid marketing and communications strategy ensures that promotional campaigns hit the mark, generate sales, and make a long-lasting impact. We'll look at five marketing strategies startups can adopt in 2023 to navigate promotional events during wavering economic and consumer climates. But first, let’s examine current buyer trends to get a lay of the land.

Current consumer trends

Due to the rising cost of living and imminent recession, consumers are more price-conscious than ever, thinking twice before buying a new gadget. Everyone is cutting back on essentials, which undeniably impacts purchasing decisions. As 'Money Saving Expert' Martin Lewis says, “if you don't need it, don't buy it”.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Yes, consumers are more cautious, but equally, they're more considerate before they make a decision. A cursory comparison of similar items is replaced by thorough online research to find the right product and price.

It is not only the economic climate that forces consumers to analyze their purchase decisions. Environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) is increasingly at a tipping point. Consumers, particularly millennials, ask themselves: are this brand’s values aligned with my own? How transparent is this product’s climate or social impact? Frustration due to lack of action at Cop27 and a concerted effort from government to shift the narrative of responsibility from government to business and consumers, is not to be underestimated at the checkout. So, how can startups steal an edge?

1. Don’t tighten the purse strings

One of the first acts a company makes in this climate is to reduce budgets. Often, marketing budget is first to go. But brands who consistently get their message out there usually bounce back stronger from economic uncertainty. So, chief financial officers: don’t stifle marketers’ creativity. Let them do what they do best.

Rather than focusing solely on discounted offers, create inventive ways to get consumers’ attention. It might just do the trick when they skim through various brands looking for a hook.

2. Stay true to your values

It's one thing to attempt to compete with established brands during seasonal, promotional campaigns. But with consumers increasingly investing in brands that match their values, reneging on what you stand for will put them off. They’ll know you're not playing the long game if you adopt a low-price approach.

With consumers more conscious and savvy, it would be admirable to stick to your guns and stay committed to your values and price point. Buyers notice. While major brands are in a position to do so, finding the balance between affordability and your brand values is the smart strategy.

3. Adopt a consistent promotional strategy

Aside from Black Friday and Cyber Monday, what about other events? Create a consistent template throughout the year. Regular sporting events are a great way to promote products. Six Nations and Wimbledon occur every year. What about Bank Holiday weekend promotions? A consistent, regular approach will get your brand in the public eye more often, and consumers are more likely to recall you when Black Friday and Cyber Monday roll around again.

4. Invest in social-first PR

Promotional strategy goes hand-in-hand with other digital strategies. Invest in evergreen content year-round, rather than the period immediately before a campaign. Regular SEO-friendly blogs that sit on your site will help search engine rankings, and reactive PR to world events (particularly on social) will boost your online presence.

Make sure your website is up-to-date, with a user-friendly design to build on trust and credibility. Building relations with media and influencers will also help get your products reviewed by the right people on the platforms where you want to be seen.

5. Go green

This year, several brands opted not to promote Black Friday, and instead joined the Green Friday Initiative. Teemill and Ikea campaigned for consumers to return old products to help reduce waste. This strategy can be applied at other promotional events, helping create a circular economy all year round to highlight your startup’s green credentials.

There are multiple strategies start-ups can implement to maximize promotional events. Whilst limiting investment in PR and marketing during economic uncertainty may be the knee-jerk response, this will have negative long-term effects down the line, and make it more difficult to bounce back.

Guide Brand Strategy New Business

Content by The Drum Network member:

Make Honey

Make Honey is an award-winning communications agency that creates impact for brands. Our clients cut through the media maelstrom and secure sales through PR, content and social-first storytelling.

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