Marketing Science for Startups

Use these 7 science-based tips to increase revenue, build MVPs & win more funding.

Happy Saturday to all 9,334 of you unicorns 🦄.

Imagine this:

You’ve been making marketing decisions off-the-cuff, only to discover that your intuition was wrong.

Many of us have been there.

As a startup you’ve got to move quickly.

You may not have taken the time to consider the libraries of marketing and behavioral psychology research that are available to you.

Fortunately, we can lean on tenacious researchers like Thomas McKinley to save us time and find the most valuable insights on our behalf.

Thomas runs a weekly newsletter Ariyh that distills the latest scientific research on marketing, sales and behavioral psychology.

He was kind enough to share 7 of his favorite tips for startups, which I’m reprinting here.

Before we begin, be sure to click on the button below to subscribe to his weekly science-backed marketing insights.

Today’s growth strategy is applying marketing science.

Growth stage: Any

Difficulty level: Medium

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Need to Know

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7 Marketing Science Tips for Startups

As promised, here are 7 science-backed insights that can be applied to your startup.

1) Differentiate your startup more

Highly differentiated startups raise 117% more early-stage funding and are more likely to succeed in the long-term, although they take more time to take off.

Startups and new companies can either try to be similar to existing competitors - to gain legitimacy - or try to be as different as possible - to face less competition.

When startups are very differentiated they take longer to be seen as credible by larger competitors that might acquire them. However, once they reach that point, it seems that they have better chances of success compared to those that are not very differentiated.

Read the full breakdown here.

2) Test multiple MVPs side-by-side

To find product-market fit using different minimal viable products (MVPs) as efficiently as possible (accurately, economically, and fast), you should:

Test two (or more) significantly different MVPs at the same time. Avoid common features. This maximizes learning (e.g. what people liked of each) and allows you to compare sales (otherwise, you’re making assumptions of what are ‘good’ vs ‘bad’ sales).

Use MVPs of sufficiently high quality. If quality is too low, nobody will buy it, this gives us little or - worse - wrong information. If quality is too high, you’ve invested too many resources.

Use higher quality MVPs for product versions you think are more likely to work, and lower quality versions for products you want to test but are less likely to succeed (failure to sell is just as informative as succeeding).

3) Show off that you’re a small company, (unless)

People judge products as higher quality, like them more, and are more likely to choose them when:

A product is low-tech (does not require heavy R&D technological investment) and the company is small.

A product is high-tech (requires heavy technological investment) and the company is big.

This works because people believe that employees at small companies are more motivated, but that larger companies have more financial resources to invest in research & development (R&D).

Get all the insights here.

4) Praise your competitors

People like a brand more and are more likely to buy from it when they observe it publicly praise a competitor.

The effect only works when people see the praise as costly or risky. That happens when it’s towards a competitor, not towards any organization.

We favor brands that give us feelings of warmth (i.e. sincerity, kindness).

But it’s not easy to convince us that a brand is warm. We are skeptical about empty promises. We want facts, not words.

When a brand praises a competitor, that feels like a painful, risky, action. So it breaks our barrier of skepticism.

Get Thomas’ insights here.

5) A/B test continuously

Startups that continuously experiment perform 30% to 100% better after one year.

A strategy and culture of continuous experimentation (i.e. consistently A/B testing new ideas) increases page visits of online startups by around 10% in the first few months.

This effect compounds over time. After one year, the improved performance adds up to between 30% and 100% higher total page visits.

To consistently A/B test, we are forced to change the strategy and routine of our business strategy.

We move away from a mentality of maintaining what we already do, to one where we continuously try new things.

In turn you'll:

  • Identify and scale more promising ideas

  • Fail faster when signals are negative

  • Introduce new products at a 9%–18% faster rate

Full details here.

6) Charge small amounts for promotions instead of free

Promotions that offer an extra upgrade (e.g. a bigger size, an additional product) sell more if people need to pay a small amount for the upgrade (e.g. 1¢), instead of getting it for free.

Some types of promotions give a product upgrade (e.g. in size, in features) or add an additional product (e.g. an accessory) to encourage sales.

Charging a small token price (e.g. $1 or $0.1) for the upgrade - instead of giving it for free - increases how much people like it and buy it.

The higher the token price (e.g. $2 instead of $1), the weaker the effect, although it must be more than 0 to exist (otherwise it would be free).

Get all the insights here.

7) Avoid emotional pitches

Use a focused, unstressed, and low emotion vocal tone to be more persuasive.

When you’re persuading someone use a tone of voice that sounds:

  • Focused (concentrated on what you’re saying; using a low-pitch voice helps)

  • Not stressed (confident of what you’re saying)

  • Emotionally stable (calm and relaxed)

We believe speakers that sound focused and not emotional or stressed are more competent.

If they sound more competent, we expect they’re more likely to deliver on their promise.

If we believe they’ll deliver, we’re more likely to be persuaded.

Read the full summary here.

7 Science-Backed Marketing Insights for Startups

  1. Differentiate your startup more

  2. Test multiple MVPs side-by-side

  3. Size matters - use it wisely

  4. Praise your competitors

  5. A/B test continuously

  6. Charge small amounts vs free

  7. Avoid emotional pitches

Be sure to check out Ariyh for more science-backed marketing insights each week for $0.


Welcome to some new members of the unicorn community!

Ted, VP & Head of Employee Benefit Brokerage at Players Health

Joshua, Helping B2B SaaS founders optimize their User Onboarding

✨ That’s it for today!

I hope this helps you in your growth journey.


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