I’ve worked with hundreds of startups over the years. Some struggled, some failed and some were wildly successful. The thing the companies that struggled and failed had in common was making serious mistakes in their marketing. The one thing the wildly successful firms had in common was avoiding the worst marketing mistakes and pitfalls.
Here is a list of the 9 biggest mistakes that startups make:
- Failing to Invest or Not Investing Enough – When you’re a startup cash is always an issue and keeping a tight lid on expenses can be a lifesaver when you’re just starting. But just like other areas of the business, you need to invest in marketing. Marketing, done properly, can have an outsized effect on the growth of the business.
- Failing to Focus on the Importance of Branding and Positioning – The beauty of marketing is there’s a lot of things you can do to promote and grow your company and many can be done without spending a fortune. But one of the areas you need to spend is in imagine and branding. Having a professional image, a clean logo and good branding standards can make you look bigger and badder than you really are. It’s almost like faking it ’til you make it.
- Leading with Tactics – When you’re starting out, the first thing you think you want to do is get customers and revenue in the door. You think about running individual tactics such as advertisements and social media marketing. But before you drive up a tab on executing tactics you need to make sure you’ve got a strategy and that strategy should be driven by a fully-orbed, well-thought-out and clearly articulated vision.
- Failing to Specialize – When I meet with new clients one of the first things I ask them is: What’s your target market and what does your “ideal client?” Successful companies can answer that in a heartbeat. Struggling companies say, “Well we’ve sold to a lot of clients in the XYZ industry and we have referenceable clients there. We also have clients in the ABC industry. But we wouldn’t turn away work from the ABC, LMNOPQ, DEF, RST industries either. You need to focus! What industry/industries do you offer the most value to? In which industries do you have a strategic advantage over other competitors?
- Failing to Say What You’re Not – This may surprise you, but in addition to saying who you are and what you do, it’s equally (or more) important to say who you are not and what you will not do! A company that tries to do everything for everyone when they’re first starting up will fail. Think about where the areas or industries where you don’t have as strong of a play or aren’t completive. You either need to adapt and get the skills that allow you to be successful or avoid that industry and move on.
- Failing to Prioritize – When you’re starting out, there are a million tasks that need to be done. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed with the sheer volume of things that need to get accomplished every day. Successful entrepreneurs know how to prioritize their time and strive to “be ruthless with time and gracious with people.” The reality is, in addition to investing money in your company’s marketing you have to invest your time as well.
- Failing to Delegate – When you’re starting out, everyone is busy and they have a lot to do, but you’ve got to learn to delegate. If you don’t have anyone staff with the appropriate skills to complete the tasks you want to delegate, you can use inexpensive services like Fiverr or Upwork to get tasks completed quickly without breaking the bank.
- Over-Investing in Agencies – Okay, you’re probably thinking, they just told me to spend and invest and now they’re telling me: “Don’t over-invest in agencies.” The reason I say this is because using a full-service marketing agency can be very expensive. While agencies have a broad set of skills that you can’t afford (in time or money) to learn, their pricing can force you to pay for things you don’t need or aren’t appropriate at your stage of development.
- Wanting to Automate Too Soon – Marketing automation can be incredibly powerful! You can use a marketing automation system to develop a “lead generation machine.” They can also be very expensive. The mistake that a lot of companies make is to invest in marketing automation too soon. Marketing automation works well once you’ve developed a strategy, built a website and built out a library of premium content offers. Having all of these things allow you to create workflows to trigger automated events to help nurture prospects. But investing and trying to implement a marketing automation platform system can be costly and frustrating because you’re “putting the cart before the horse.”
If you’re a startup, there are a lot challenges. There are a lot of demands on your time. By avoiding some of these common pitfalls you should be able to get more done in less time. If you’re a startup and need help, you may want to take us up on a free consultation.