8 Common Marketing Mistakes Every Startup Makes (And How You Can Avoid Them)

May 7, 2018

Startups – typically small, high growth businesses – are vital to the Canadian economy. According to the latest government statistics, 97.9 percent of businesses in the country are small businesses. Collectively, they employ over 8.2 million people, or about 70.5 percent of the entire workforce.

Everything about startups looks great, right?

Well, not quite!

Startups have a high failure rate. Only 5 in 10 make it to the 5 year mark, and the reasons range from failing to research the market to inadequate financing and poor marketing.

In this article, we are concerned about marketing. We’ll explore the most common marketing mistakes made by startups and tell you what you can do to avoid them.

Keep reading.

1. Failing To Map Out The Target Market

Think about this:

Let’s launch a startup and call it X. At X, we make intelligent robots, which we plan to sell to any robotics enthusiast.

Sure, the robotics industry is growing rapidly. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are today’s buzzwords. So, it’s inevitable that we will make good sales.

What’s wrong with that?

Clearly, our target market is not well defined. Our target customer is just about anybody who’s a robotics enthusiast, and we don’t even know how many of these enthusiasts have the income to splash on the high-end robots we will be making.

Thousands of startups make the same mistake startup X is making. With a broadly defined target customer, you’re committing one of the costliest marketing mistakes.

The solution to this is investing in market research so you can gain an in-depth understanding of your target customer. Find out how much your ideal customer earns. Where do they shop? Are they married? On which social platforms do they spend most of their time?

There are several metrics used to identify a buyer persona. Be sure to nail most – if not all – of them.

2. Hiring A Top Chief Marketing Officer Too Soon

Scotiabank, Cineplex Cinemas, Rona and other leading Canadian brands have one thing in common: their marketing departments are headed by experienced Chief Marketing Officers (CMO).

As a startup, the temptation to emulate the marketing blueprints – including hiring a CMO – of such brands can be irresistible, but careful not to make this marketing mistake.

Here’s why.

Startups are usually cash-strapped businesses operating on shoestring marketing budgets. Hiring a CMO means you will need to break the bank to afford the hefty salaries they require. If the company doesn’t scale quickly enough (and many startups don’t), keeping the CMO on your payroll becomes untenable. Ultimately, a lot of money will have gone to waste.

Startups should stick to affordable marketing solutions, like hiring a small, but reputable marketing agency. You can also work with a marketing freelancer with an impressive portfolio.

3. Not Hiring Any Marketing Expert At All

One of the most common mistakes startups make is failing to bring on board any marketing expert.

We’ve all heard stories of successful startup founders who began their businesses in a garage, did everything by themselves – including marketing -, and found incredible success.

Well, we’re not discrediting such stories, but if you investigate deeper, you’ll likely realize that those entrepreneurs started their companies a decade or so ago when competition was anything but stiff. On the contrary, today’s markets are extremely competitive, and that’s why marketing is fundamental to the success of any business. You must aim to stand out in a crowded market.

As a startup owner or founder, do you also believe in doing everything yourself?

We hope not, and the reason is simple. If you believe in that, you’ll be setting up yourself and your company for failure.

While you don’t have to go all out and hire a marketing executive, you should work with a marketing agency or any other low cost, but effective, solution.

4. Chasing That Elusive Viral Campaign

In the old days before Facebook, Twitter and the likes walked into our lives and began stealing our time, the word viral wasn’t welcome. Back then, viral meant a killer disease was on the loose.

Oh! How times change.

Today, viral is a good thing, especially for startups. Going viral, in 2018, doesn’t mean you start looking for an emergency vaccine. It means the phone lines are about to light up or the website traffic is going to skyrocket because of the vast amounts of people who will know about your company and instantly come shopping.

Yes, viral marketing does work. It has the potential to push your brand to greater heights and earn you lots of money in sales.

However, going viral is incredibly difficult. You will either need to blow up your marketing budget to run a cross-platform campaign or work overtime to create out-of-the-box content that will light up the internet.

Many startups pay too much attention to viral marketing, forgetting that the best marketing strategy is one that focuses on making customers happy and improving their satisfaction.

Focusing on going viral will not only waste your time and money, but also hurts your startup’s chances of being successful.

5. Focusing On Brand Perfection

We all have favourite brands. Brands that seem perfect.

It is, therefore, not surprising to learn that many startup owners want to create perfect brands for their companies.

For starters, there is really nothing like a perfect brand. Seriously, just do a simple online search for your favorite brand. Look up customer reviews.

Is it all glossy? Of course not. There are probably lots of negative comments, but that’s okay because you can’t impress everyone. Can you?

Therein lies one of the most common marketing mistakes made by startups. Fortunately, it’s quite easy to solve this mistake. Just change your mindset.

Let go of the idea that you can create a company that makes everyone smile. Not everybody will find your products or services impressive. Your job, though, is to make sure that your target market is impressed with what you do.

6. Keeping Both Eyes On Your Competitors

In business, competition is a double-edged sword.

Competitors can completely crash your startup, but they can also help you to build a stronger startup. If there’s something a competitor is doing right, there is no harm copying them – as long as you’re not breaking any laws.

However, some startups make the mistake of keeping both eyes on their competitors, and in the process, they take their foot off their own gas pedal.

Look at this way: Your in a rally competition, and you decide to keep both eyes on the cars racing by your sides. What will happen? You will crash. Or, if you’re lucky, you’ll finish the race, but in last.

Don’t pay too much attention on your competitors. It’s fine to evaluate their marketing strategies and learn from their marketing mistakes, but that’s just about it. The greater focus should be on your startup’s marketing strategy.

7. Giving Blogging A Blind Eye

Even with the well know benefits of blogging, it’s really surprising that there are businesses without active blogs.

Of course, many startups have a website and a blog. Unfortunately, they only use the blog to make an occasional announcement or product review.

If you are one of those startups, you’re not only making an unnecessary marketing mistake, but stifling your growth potential as well.

Content fuels the internet. It feeds users’ insatiable curiosity.

With an active blog, your startup will have the platform to inform, educate, entertain and even inspire your target audience. And if you know how to use call to actions, you can turn readers into loyal customers.

8. Not Asking For Feedback

To run a highly targeted marketing campaign, you need an intricate understanding of the target customer. To gain this understanding, you need lots of customer data.

How do you collect this data?

There are several effective ways to do this, including asking for feedback.

Yet, some startups rarely ask their customers to leave any feedback! This is another costly mistakes you can make.

Customer feedback is crucial for a number of reasons. It will enable you to measure customer satisfaction levels, for example. If many customers are leaving negative feedback, then you’ll know you need to change things quickly.

Feedback, depending on how you ask for it, can enable your startup to capture important customer data, like their email and date of birth. You can use these details to refine your target customer personas.

Encourage your shoppers to leave feedback, whether they are buying online or offline.

Avoid These Marketing Mistakes and Take Your Startup To The Next Level

Making mistakes is part of running a business. For startups, however, the dynamics are different. They don’t always have the luxury or the money to do marketing experiments and make mistakes.

Lucky for you, we’ve fleshed out the most common startup marketing mistakes, so you can steer clear and increase your startup’s chances of beating the odds.

Want to learn more about building your business? Explore our informative blog for articles on a variety of business topics.



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