Most early-stage startups employ one marketing person. This person is responsible for online advertising, content management, social media, and more. Even worse, this person is expected to be an expert in his or her field, overseeing each and every aspect of marketing with precision and expertise.
"Marketing a startup is a whole different animal than marketing a traditional business or corporation," says Blair Nicole, contributor at Social Media Today. "For starters, you don't have any brand recognition to get you in the door, your budget is usually limited, and a lot of times (but not always) you're dealing with your potential customers in a completely digital atmosphere."
The first step to creating high-impact and successful marketing is to build a marketing plan. With the right marketing strategy in place and a keen eye for the following common marketing mistakes, startups can achieve massive growth and scale at a higher velocity.
Avoid These 4 Startup Marketing Mistakes
It's tempting to invest in a new website or advertising after receiving a new funding round. Unfortunately, operating on assumption is a quick way to burn through marketing budgets. Instead, startup founders must properly vet each marketing channel before executing. "You don't know what platforms work because you haven't had the opportunity to test them," says Jayson Demers, CEO at AudienceBloom. "You're essentially gambling on what you think might work in your favor."
The world's savviest tech startup founders take the time to test assumptions by spending small amounts on hyper-targeted marketing. Once they narrow in on the best marketing channels, founders will dedicate a fixed budget and commit to consistent execution.
"Usually, we know how much we're going to spend, but it's often difficult to decide which expenditures to include," says Jill Avery, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School. "In principle, managers should try to estimate the full cost of the marketing activity, including creative development, media spend, and customer-facing staff time."
Need some extra help with your marketing? Take advantage of Silicon Valley's targeted networking events and workshops. Learn more in the Silicon Valley Startup Guide.
According to Shanelle Mullin, director of marketing at Onboardly, "Many startups set lofty, unattainable goals, and end up discouraged, which can be detrimental in the early days. On the other hand, some startups set easy, insignificant goals and end up missing out on growth potential."
The key to setting achievable goals is to evaluate where your startup is right now. How many people engage with your startup online? What do they appreciate about your marketing messaging? Use these insights to create realistic and concrete benchmarks. For instance, what can your startup do to increase conversions by 50 percent in the next quarter?
Mullin recommends that early-stage startups focus on "engagement goals." As such, look for ways to increase brand awareness and recognition through targeted marketing. Once you've achieved late-stage growth, Mullins suggests focusing on "growth metrics" and marketing's impact on business goals.
Industry-leading startup founders utilize competitor analysis to benchmark their success. However, copying competitors outright is never the right solution. Instead, marketing should be unique, fresh, and new. The best startups have mastered brand voice and communicate to consumers with authenticity.
"If you just copy your competition, you'll, at best, only do as well as them. You'll miss out on chances to do something new and/or better and get ahead of the competition," says Kelly Bolton, founder of Aggressive Growth Marketing. "Perhaps they're doing something their customers don't really like, or their website has features users don't like, like a mandatory form to fill out to get information. If you copy that, you will miss out on a chance to change those things and make them better so that their customers/users will like you better."
Form marketing messages around comprehensive buyer personas, unique value propositions, and the startup's identity. With some experimentation, founders can unlock the originality needed to entice and engage consumers.
Not Measuring Results
Finally, startups should measure marketing results constantly. Without a keen eye on analytics and performance, startups have a difficult time narrowing in on the most effective marketing channels, making simple tweaks to marketing messages, launching new campaigns, and more. The best startup founders commit to routine marketing analysis and use these insights to inform their marketing approach.
The most common key performance indicators that startups track include:
- Unique Visitors: How many visitors engage with your website?
- Page Views: What pages are visitors clicking on?
- Search Engine Traffic: How many visitors are utilizing Google, Yahoo, or Bing to land on your site?
- Bounce Rate: How many visitors come to your site and immediately leave?
- Conversion Rate: What percentage of visitors are taking action on your site?
Keep in mind, these metrics should be used as a baseline. KPIs can vary from one startup to the next based on marketing strategies and business goals. However, as a rule of thumb, KPIs should always be linked to business objectives including annual growth rate, revenues, and more.
Scale Your Startup at RocketSpace
Avoid these common marketing mistakes — overspending, poor goals, copying competitors, not measuring results — and position your startup for longterm marketing success. With few exceptions, marketing is a game that requires consistency and time. For instance, building organic search traffic around keywords can take nearly a year. Startups should avoid stay laser-focused on key marketing investments and objectives.
Are you curious about how some of the world's top tech startups utilize marketing budgets? RocketSpace provides Seed to Series C funded tech startups with flexible coworking space, warm introductions to top VCs, and ongoing educational support through uniquely curated networking events, workshops, panel discussions, and more. From the latest marketing channels to proven tactics, RocketSpace members have all the insider intel needed to become marketing champions!