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Mistakes are inevitable when building a startup. That’s fine, as long as you learn from them and come back better. But if you make the following startup marketing mistakes, you won’t stand a chance:
1. Spending Money on Marketing Before Product-Market Fit
“Product-market fit” essentially means that you have proven that buyers in your target market are willing to pay for and use your product.
You should thoroughly market your company from the time of launch, or earlier if you can manage it, but you may not yet be a product-to-market fit. market systematically. Do it for free. Talk to as many potential customers as possible in your target market. What do they want and need? How can you help? What are they willing to pay? Crowdsource those answers, and invest in research and development to create offers that you know people are willing to buy.
Use your network to start those conversations, ask for referrals, and/or send cold emails. Start building your audience on social media platforms and get 1:1 with more and more potential buyers. Spend a little on attending a conference or two where you can talk to the billboards of your ideal customers.
What you shouldn’t, and the mistake many startups make, is spending money on paid ads, events, launch parties, branding, and more. These are important, but not before you have a product or service that people want to buy.
RELATED: 5 Effective Low-Budget Marketing Strategies for Startups
2. Trying Too Many Things at Once
There are a lot of challenges you face when marketing a startup, but your biggest enemy is distraction. There are so many exciting opportunities, and you are in dire need of revenue. Why not follow all possible paths to get to it? Because you can’t do everything right. Trying to do it all means you’ll only do half of it, and that’s a sure step toward failure. Instead, focus on one thing that will make you progress every day. It could be getting feedback from customers in the initial days or creating content for different purposes. Later, it may be distribution, partnership formation or recruitment.
Once you find a product-market fit, success usually comes from effectively moving your product or service to market through one channel, gaining traction, and then moving on to another. Progress comes from stacking up one thing at a time, not trying to boil the ocean.
For example, you can gain traction through email. You create a playbook for this, so you can consistently run effective email campaigns, and then add, let’s say, organic social media (posting and commenting). Then, you layer the partnership on top of that.
3. Cutting off a Marketing Campaign Before It’s Time to Work
Every marketing campaign is a bet that you hope will pay off. Where most startups shoot themselves in the foot, however, are stalling a marketing initiative before it even has a chance.
Marketing takes time. It takes time for people to see a message, for that message to resonate, and for people to feel a desire or need for what you have to offer. You have to beat that drum hard and often before people can hear and get it. Even paid ads aren’t a lever you can suddenly start bringing in new business.
If you’re going to commit to a marketing campaign, devote 100% of the time and resources to doing it well and at least three months before deciding whether or not it’s working. Some may show promise early. Some may take a year. Feather text requestIt was eight months before we could tell if our SEO and blogging work was paying. A year later, it was the largest piece of our pipeline.
RELATED: The 7 Biggest Marketing Mistakes Every Startup Makes
4. “Scaling” Without Scalable Unit Economics
Bootstrapped businesses need to make money on every dollar spent. VC-backed businesses need to make enough money on every dollar spent, so that you can have enough revenue to keep the ship afloat when VC dollars run out.
Once you find a product-market fit, you’ll need to spend money on distribution. But see if you can get customers through a marketing channel for free or with minimal cost first. When you find traction with a free channel, it’s easy to pour revenue into it as fuel. You don’t want to invest tons of resources in an unproven channel, only to find that your acquisition cost is unsustainable.
If a channel is operating with a small investment, put more fuel in it. And if it works, keep going until it taps off. Even the best marketing channels have their limits. Your job is to figure out where that ceiling is – but do it in stages.
Too many startups see initial traction through a channel, believe there are unlimited opportunities, and start funneling time and money into it. They increase staff and also add more channels. But it’s too early. As expenses increase, they realize a change in the cost of acquisition and payment term, and are not able to recover. You don’t want to experience it.
RELATED: 5 Common Marketing Mistakes You Should Be Watching For
5. Risking It All at One Stake (Marketing Campaign)
There is no guarantee that any marketing move will pay off. You take your experience, skills, and resources, put them to the best possible use, and hope for the best. If you are doing well, you can reinvest the profits.
A surprisingly common mistake is that you are betting more than you can afford to lose. Sure the worst case scenario for any marketing bet is that you lose money, but everyone keeps their jobs, the business survives, and your reputation remains mostly intact. Do this, and even your biggest mistakes won’t be so bad.
It’s okay to make mistakes, but most are avoidable, and you may still have upside opportunities. Go slow at first, so you can go faster later. Do the small things really well in the beginning, and as you gain traction, you’ll be able to do the big things faster with less risk and more profits.