As a startup founder, you have to wear many different hats within your organisation. Most times the teams are still very small so everyone needs to wear different hats in to get the company of the ground.
Startups face a number of unique challenges when it comes to marketing. With restricted budgets, limited resources, and a desperate need to get their name visible to the public, it puts entrepreneurs in a tight spot. Nine times out of ten, marketing is not even the founder’s speciality! And that’s why we tend to see the majority of startups making the same avoidable mistakes.
After working with startup founding teams for the last couple of years, we found the evidence is clear: You can have the best product or service in the world but if you don’t have a solid go-to-market plan, your business will fail. (assuming, of course, your startup is fixing a real problem).
In addition to laying out the vision, establishing a growth strategy, and building and supporting their team – in most cases they’re also doing (or managing) all of the marketing efforts. Nine times out of ten, marketing is not the founder’s specialty. As the founder of your company, knowing when and how to invest in marketing your business may just be the key ingredient to success.
Today we will dive into what the most common marketing mistakes are that startup teams make and how you can avoid them:
#1 No marketing
Because budgets are often tight in startups, marketing is sometimes seen as something extra and it is the first thing to stop paying for when money gets even tighter. However, as long as your Return On Investment (ROI) of your marketing efforts are positive, any money invested in marketing will come back to you with interest.
#2 Not having a marketing strategy
If you want your startup to be successful, you need to have a pro-active strategy. The old thinking of “we will build it and they will come”, simply doesn’t cut it. So start thinking about a good strategy. For startups especially, your focus should be on user acquisition, engagement, and driving sales. If you flip the above saying a little bit and turn it into “we will teach and they will come”. As Gary Vaynerchuk calls it “Give, Give, Give, Ask” (“Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook”). Starting a good inbound marketing strategy, is one of the most effective marketing strategies at your disposal.
It’s important to realise though you need more than a list of places to share your content; you want to create content good enough that other people want to share it for you.
#3 Choosing the wrong channels
There are so many different channels out there. If you only use one, or two, or even worse the ones which your customers are not using, you could sabotage your entire effort. Startups have a much higher rate of success when they focus their messaging on a specific target market. If you build a detailed Buyer Persona of your ideal customers, you know where they hang out, what their interests are. By using these Buyer Personas, you can then figure out which channels to use to target those ideal customers. Choose the right channels for your them and build meaningful content to attract and engage these users.
#4 Focusing on brand perfection instead of brand iteration.
You probably have heard of the lean startup methods. The Minimal Viable Product (MVP) and other approaches aren’t just for product development and releases. Many startups will change their name in the first year or two and most of the times they even completely throw away their original branding and website. Investing too early in perfecting brand-related assets can be a waste of time and money. You might feel tempted to delay the launch of your product or website until you get the copy just right. Don’t wait! Apply the MVP principles! It is better to release and learn along the way to what your users respond to and what they don’t respond to. Getting that information as quickly as possible is priceless to help you perfect your Value Proposition while in the meantime your establishing your company’s brand. Jeremiah Gardner wrote an excellent book around the subject of creating “Minimal Viable Brands”, be sure to check it out!
#5 Expecting overnight results.
Most marketing budgets, especially ones that involve building an online presence, require weeks to months of effort before you start seeing results. Don’t give up too soon. Creating content is only half the battle, the rest is gaining notice. In our recent article “Content Promotion Strategies: 33 Ways to Get Traffic”, we will give you a helpful rundown on what to do after you wrote your content.
#6 Failing to measure results
Having an amazing looking website is important, yes, but it also needs to be effective. You have to track everything you do, including how much time you spent and how much traction you received. Otherwise, you’ll never know your ROI, and you’ll never get the information you need to make improvements over time. Use analytics on your website to identify and fix what’s not working, so you can attract and retain more visitors. Consider Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools or systems like our Inbound Rocket plugin to understand what is working and what is not.
#7 Not constantly improving
If you measure the traffic and conversions on your website, you will know where the improvements can be made. Marketing isn’t something you do once and then you’re done. The marketing world is constantly changing and evolving over time. By measuring everything you do, you will acquire constantly new information about your target audience. Use this information to constantly keep adapting and improving.
#8 Not asking for feedback
Feedback is invaluable to any startup. Try to find different strategies to get conversations with your (potential) users. Depending on the stage of your startup, ask them how you’re doing. What things do they appreciate? What are the things they could do without? What are the things they would like to see more of? Use this information to improve both your marketing strategy and your product roadmap!
#9 Turning you company blog in a glorified list of company news
In many cases after some time the (startup) blog then turns into a glorified list of company news or ego enriching opinion pieces, ranging from “Welcome Person X to the Team” to product updates to attempts at being brilliant or clever rather than helpful.
The goal of content marketing is just to solve the same problems that your product solves through media you create and promote. Plain and simple.
And that is where it goes wrong and from that moment on the company blog is not helping the goals of the company and might in the end turn out to be pretty terrible at driving and growing your audience and your customers online. You turn from being the expert on whatever it is your company tries to solve into yet another company doing the same as everyone else.
Raise your awareness to prevent these mistakes, but if you do make (any of these) mistakes in your initial marketing campaigns, don’t sweat it. Mistakes are a natural part of the life cycle of any business. Learn what you can from the experience and move on to better strategies. Any mistakes we missed? Leave them in the comments below!