It’s a scary fact that more than 90% of startups fail according to Failory, whether it’s through lack of funding, a product that doesn’t meet expectations or simply because they don’t get the right message out to the right audience.
Proper marketing sits are the heart of these tasks, as it involves understanding your audience’s needs and expectations, communicating on their terms and fulfilling their requirements, whether they are customers or potential investors.
But it’s not all about Google ad words, Instagram feeds or hype, it’s about building a clear picture of how you want your product and company to be seen and interacted with and onto how you actually want to make money from the relationship.
Here are some of the major startup marketing mistakes and how to avoid them.
What am I trying to do?
There are a huge range of tools, techniques, channels and approaches that form part of the marketing toolkit and an equally large number of people that will tell you their approach is the right one.
Effective marketing starts with an understanding of what you are trying to achieve both at a strategic and tactical level. Building a consumer-facing brand requires a very different approach to selling a complex tool to Corporates and a very different expectation of success.
Equally, your objectives today will be very different from those 3 years from now, and there is no point in getting ahead of yourself.
Are you looking to build exposure for your brand or product? Are you ready to promote engagement and create demand for your concept or category? Is a strong lead flow your primary objective as you’re in a competitive space? Is your business transactional or relational?
Clearly identifying your business needs today will let you select the right tools and channels and build an efficient marketing plan.
Who's my audience
All marketing starts with the customer, and if you can’t clearly identify who they are and what they fundamentally need, then you are in trouble!
How do you know whether the product will have a need?
Where do they go for information and what language do they use to discuss their problems?
Who else do I need to influence and in what way?
Startup marketing has to be efficient and effective, as you don’t have the time or resources to waste, so you have to say the right things to the right people in the right place a the right time. And you can’t do that if you don’t understand your customer.
Chances are you know the answers already, that’s what drove you’re to set up in the first place, so just make sure you have that picture in your head at all times when planning your marketing content, tools and channels
Don't be a startup marketing magpie!
Startup marketing is an everchanging industry, and obviously one that’s very good at self-promotion! Every company out there wants to be the next Google or Facebook and will bombard you with reasons why their approach is the only approach that you need!
Investors can be as bad. Constantly being asked “why aren’t you on Google ads??”, ” What’s your plan for Instagram?”, “Why aren’t you on Youtube??” can be disheartening and make you question your strategy, but you have to avoid putting the cart before the horse.
Too many companies see using marketing channels as the objective, rather than recognising that they are a tool. They are not the reason you are in business, they are there to help you achieve your own goals.
Magpie managers are always chasing the shiny! They read an article and think “I must do that” instead of thinking about whether it will help you achieve your startup marketing objectives.
Start from the top down. I want to achieve Authority or Awareness, how can I do that? Will Youtube help me to become recognised as an expert or communicate a complex idea? Will Linkedin let me reach my target audience?
Choose the tools that help you achieve your strategy, not the other way round.
Where do I want to take them?
Understanding the customer journey is essential when planning your startup marketing tools and content. This is especially true with social media, which has the potential to create a niche audience for Instagram instead of your brand if not used correctly.
You want to guide your customers through a path that will ultimately lead to them being highly satisfied with your product and service, but they will start from different points on the spectrum.
Many businesses fall into the trap of thinking that they need to sell the features of their product without first selling the need for the product in the first place, which misses the opportunity.
The marketing funnel concept demonstrates that your audiences need to go through distinct steps from awareness to action and many won’t get all the way through.
Putting it simply, you’ll have a lot more people interested in understanding the problem you can solve, than in understanding why you’re is the best solution, giving you the opportunity to build a much bigger potential audience for the future.
The next phase is to understand how to transition people from one stage to the next, and that requires an integrated approach to your marketing and patience.
Building the right brand in the right place
Social media is brilliant for building and spreading influence, but it can be misplaced. Sharing and linking from a personal profile rather than a corporate profile can shift the emphasis from the corporate brand to the personal.
That’s not always a bad thing though, but it does mean you need to be very clear on what brands you want to build and what you want each of them to say.
In the B2B world, Linkedin is very good at building personal profiles, and you can use this to provide different voices to support your brand. What a Sales rep might say will be different from the interests of the Financial or technical teams, and most likely aimed at a different audience.
This lets you communicate different facets of your story and proposition to relevant audiences, building up a more complex and deeper picture.
However, all of this needs to be tied back to a central, corporate profile and preferably one that will let you develop a subscriber base that you control, rather than leaving all that rich data on Facebook’s site! Try to push people to landing pages on your site and offer subscription options to build your own subscriber lists.
Fish where the fish are
If you know who your customers are and what they need, this should be easy. But if not, you need to go back and do a bit of research.
Most sales cycles start with a problem followed by a search for a set of possible solutions, of which, presumably, your product is one. This search will take place in a particular place and using a particular language, which is relevant to the problem.
As an example, a call centre is unlikely to be looking for a new automated phone system which can route calls, as this is only one of a range of solutions, whereas the product is in fact, one of productivity and man-management.
“How can I increase call volumes?” “How can I route calls more efficiently” are more likely to form the search than ” Automated phone system” for example.
Similarly, people looking for professional and technical advice are as likely to search Reddit or Quora as they are to go to Google. Specific sector and competence related sites and groups are also a major source of information and can be a rich source of leads.
And don’t forget, Youtube is the 2nd largest search engine in the world!
You need to know where your customers go for advice and knowledge and make sure you are active in those locations. If you aren’t answering your customer’s questions, you can bet someone else is!
And, as Voice is expected to account for over 50% of all searches next year, the idiosyncrasies of the search language are only going to get more critical!