14 Ways to Avoid Startup Marketing Mistakes
To help startups avoid common marketing mistakes, we asked fourteen industry leaders and founders to share their insights. From starting with an in-depth strategy to approaching marketing spending correctly, these experts provide invaluable advice on how to navigate the complex world of startup marketing.
- Start With an In-Depth Strategy
- Build Out Your Audience Targeting
- Establish a Solid Funnel First
- Leverage Your Google Business Profile
- Connect With Your Customers
- Incorporate SEO Early On
- Don’t Neglect Marketing
- Always Have and Maintain a Solid Plan
- Describe Product Benefits, Not Just Brand
- Focus On Key Marketing Initiatives
- Provide High-Resolution Founder Images
- Measure Campaign Success Correctly
- Choose Realistic SEO Targets
- Approach Marketing Spending Correctly
Start With an In-Depth Strategy
As a strategic marketing and small business coach, I’ve noticed a common startup marketing mistake. Many businesses fail to create a strategic marketing and development plan from the start.
This plan, which I help my clients develop, requires time and resources. Many owners rush into launches and, three years later, wonder why their business is still only part-time, not growing, or not making many sales.
It’s crucial for entrepreneurs to invest in a deep dive into strategy first, even before their business plan. This process helps to create a worthwhile business plan. The strategy plan identifies all target markets and how to approach them, resources, goals, marketing advantage, pricing, and beyond.
This plan guides their content marketing which drives their website, sales aids, social media, and sales pitch. Avoid rushing into your launch without a strategy plan.
Build Out Your Audience Targeting
One startup marketing mistake I often see that should be avoided at all costs is diving into producing content and campaigns without audience targeting buildout. I’ve had the opportunity to work with multiple marketing teams that just produced content because it was fun, “informative”, and seemed right.
Yes, this content and approach did result in sales and business growth, but it cost more money and time in the long run. As each company and/or product took off and demanded the marketing teams to scale, the lack of structure and detail wasn’t scalable.
This also resulted in a higher number of non-qualified leads and a higher cost-per-lead. I always recommend taking the time to research your audience, build out a strategy, and do A/B testing for all aspects of marketing when at a startup.
If you can hone in on your audience, what lands and what doesn’t, you can build highly focused strategies/campaigns that yield high results. It may take longer, but it will be worth it.
Establish a Solid Funnel First
One of the most common marketing mistakes is jumping the gun with promotions before establishing a solid funnel. Before investing thousands of dollars into traffic, it’s crucial to make sure that your website and content build authority and direct traffic toward the bottom of your funnel.
Far too many people blow thousands of dollars generating traffic into a sub-par website. This money is simply wasted, and this can be resolved by simply refining your web design and copywriting.
Leverage Your Google Business Profile
When relevant, startups often undervalue the importance of creating a Google Business Profile. The insights it provides are incredible. Aside from free advertising, it provides a wealth of data, including the keywords people use to find the business, tracks customer actions, and allows for competitor comparisons in the local area.
Connect With Your Customers
One common mistake I notice among startup marketers is a failure to truly connect with their customers. Too often, the focus remains on acquiring new customers while neglecting the vital role that marketing plays in customer retention and loyalty.
This mistake presents itself in two ways: a lack of direct customer interaction, such as interviews or face-to-face interactions at conferences, and a failure to implement essential product-marketing strategies, like regular product updates or customer-focused webinars.
Establishing ongoing touchpoints with your customers yields valuable insights into product usage but also keeps your brand top of mind. It allows you to stay attuned to the evolving needs of your target audience, which should be central to your marketing strategy.
Personally, I recommend integrating customer communications into your monthly goals. Begin with a modest target of, say, two customer interviews per month, and then expand based on the insights you gain.
Incorporate SEO Early On
In my experience, most startups ignore SEO at the early stage and start investing in paid advertising, offline events, and other areas. They decide to get on the SEO channel only when they have run out of money or are on the verge of exhausting whatever they have.
Instead, if they incorporate SEO into the marketing mix from the word go, it will allow them to build a strong base as the business grows, and they will not have to play catch-up with other competitors.
SEO takes time, and not starting early can be detrimental to a startup’s success, especially when others have had a head start.
Don’t Neglect Marketing
One common startup marketing mistake I often see is the Field of Dreams’ mindset that “If you build it, they will come.” Many startups invest heavily in product development but underestimate the importance of marketing to attract a customer base.
At JetLevel Aviation, we understood early on that even the best service needs visibility. Neglecting marketing can lead to low customer acquisition, poor brand recognition, and ultimately, wasted resources.
To avoid this pitfall, startups should allocate a reasonable budget and effort toward a well-thought-out marketing strategy from day one. It’s equally important to frequently review and adjust this strategy based on actual performance metrics and customer feedback.
By balancing the focus between product development and marketing, startups can improve their chances of gaining traction and achieving long-term success.
Always Have and Maintain a Solid Plan
The mistake I see most often, of which yours truly is also guilty, is neglecting to implement a business plan. It is one of the most important things that all startups, new entrepreneurs, and business owners need to do, but ignore either due to not knowing or thinking it is optional.
According to the SBA, businesses that have stayed afloat for ten years still have a failure rate of 65.7% by the 10th year.
“If you don’t plan, you are planning to fail.” Unfortunately, today, most people think that creating a website and a social media page will lead to success. Failing to plan leads to poor infrastructure and mismanagement of resources.
As a small business that has weathered the storm for the past 12 years, when other companies consult with me, I ask them about their business plan, long-term goals, and strategy. It is of high importance if I am to help them leverage the power of PR in their long-term growth and journey to becoming a viable business and key player in their industry.
Describe Product Benefits, Not Just Brand
A common mistake in startup marketing is focusing too much on the brand without describing how the product or service can help. This is like telling a story without getting to the point.
Consider a new soda ad. If the ad only shows off the cool logo but doesn’t tell you if it tastes good or quenches thirst, would you buy it? Probably not!
When a brand is new, people don’t know or care about it yet. It needs to grab their attention quickly. If they’re confused or bored, they’ll move on.
The solution? Be direct! Instead of talking about the brand, tell people how the product or service can make their lives better. “Our app helps you save money on groceries!” is much clearer than “We’re the future of shopping!”
The main goal of a startup is to validate its product or service to gain customers and grow faster.
Focus On Key Marketing Initiatives
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen with a startup is taking on too many marketing initiatives at a time. As a startup, focusing on the business initiatives that will drive the most value and get you the highest return on investment is critical.
When working with startups, we focus on a few key marketing initiatives first, such as weekly content development, a monthly lead-generation offer, and two or three marketing emails per month.
From there, we can see the types of content that resonate with their audience and then expand their marketing program to include paid advertising, guest content opportunities, podcasts, webinars, and more.
If we were to start with all those marketing initiatives at once, it would be difficult to see what has the most impact to ensure we’re only focusing on the right programs driving the most value. Remember, it’s not about the quantity of marketing but the quality of marketing.
Provide High-Resolution Founder Images
One startup mistake we see far too often in our PR work, and one that can be easily avoided, is not providing high-resolution images of the founders. Interview opportunities simply won’t happen if the founder doesn’t provide a professional portrait of themselves.
Entrepreneurs need to understand early on that this is often a make-or-break issue. Funnily enough, there are startup founders who overthink the whole thing and never get around to it.
Just find someone with a professional camera and have them take pictures of you both horizontally and vertically, and have them ready in your press kit. That’s all it takes to increase your chances of getting press coverage by a large percentage.
Measure Campaign Success Correctly
Many marketers fall into the trap of wrongfully measuring the success of campaigns. Our product offers a two-week free trial, and we know the conversion rate from users who activate the trial license to those who become paying customers, along with the average customer lifetime value (LTV). This helps us determine the cost-per-trial for new marketing campaigns. However, this approach may not be suitable for long-term marketing campaigns.
For longer campaigns, many tend to focus on Return on Investment (ROI) and aim to optimize this metric. However, this can sometimes lead to a common mistake. It’s important to understand that having an ROI of 10% with a net profit of $1,000,000 is more beneficial than having an ROI of 1000% with a net profit of just $100.
That’s why, in the case of long-running campaigns, we prioritize assessing the net profit generated by these campaigns rather than solely relying on ROI.
Choose Realistic SEO Targets
So often, I see startups choose SEO as their main marketing channel in the beginning. This is actually not a bad strategy; the problem is, they are totally unrealistic with the key phrases they target in the beginning.
The temptation is to go after the highest-traffic keywords because, if you can rank at the top of Google for those phrases, it will be a game-changer for your business. The reality is that a new startup doesn’t have the brand equity that you need to rank high on Google for competitive terms.
Approach Marketing Spending Correctly
A common mistake startups make is to either avoid or wrongly approach marketing spending. For example, most startups don’t spend much money on building a website or getting a paid media campaign up and running. It’s crucial to understand that in either case (SEO and Paid Media), the setup is half the battle.
SEO: Assume you pay peanuts or bootstrap your website but have a broken page in terms of SEO (slow load speeds, technical SEO errors, etc.). These issues will hold you back and are hard to fix.
Paid Media, such as Google Search Ads: The number one mistake is that startups test their limited budgets and run search ads on non-optimized landing pages. The conversion rates are low, and the campaign is doomed to be unsuccessful. If they created best-practice landing pages that are optimized for conversions, a marketing flywheel would start to spin.
To avoid these mistakes, always consider the best marketing setup to scale from there.