Merritt Group Blog

4 Mistakes Startups Can't Afford to Make

Marketing is complicated. As a startup you know it’s important to communicate with your audience and to nurture relationships along the way. But when your team is lean and mean and focused on making sales to grow the business, it can seem like a distraction to shift attention to a proactive marketing campaign.

Does this sound familiar? “Joe handles our sales, demand gen, operations, hiring, oh, and marketing.” It’s not uncommon to play multiple roles in a growing company, which means you may not have someone on staff who is solely dedicated to the marketing function. When you’re wearing what seems like a million different hats, it’s easy to wind up making mistakes. Truth be told, even the biggest corporations make marketing mistakes as they test what’s working and what isn’t.

As a startup, you’ll be testing messaging, trying new ideas and learning as you go, but here are four marketing mistakes you can’t afford to make in the early days.

Not Setting Goals

One of the biggest mistakes companies make in marketing is feeling the pressure to get started without taking the time to reflect on the goals of a marketing program. While there is certainly a trial period to explore which approach your audience responds to, choosing these tactics with a goal in mind means you’ll make more strategic investments. Do you want to increase sales conversion rates? Increase visits to the website? Subscribers to your newsletter?

Whatever the goal, state it upfront. Aim for specific, measureable goals that are both impactful and attainable. Track your progress against these goals to evaluate the success of your campaign or specific tactic. This way you’ll have a better idea of what works or doesn’t and how to spend your marketing dollars in the future.

Paying for Marketing Lists

The rule of thumb here is that any lists up for sale probably aren’t worth purchasing. It’s tempting to pay a small fee to get your hands on a list of thousands of names and contact information, but chances are these same contacts have been sold to a slew of other companies as well. As they get inundated with marketing materials, the odds that yours will be read are slim. It requires more time and effort, but in the long run creating your own list will be well worth it and pay off in the form of real leads for your business.

Taking a One-Size Fits All Approach

One of the most common challenges that startups face is gaining a full understanding of their buyer needs. It’s not surprising, because painting an accurate picture of a buyer’s need is a lengthy process and, again, it’s hard to find the time. But setting out to execute on a marketing plan before understanding the buyer will result in a classic case of “haste makes waste.”

Take advantage of the data you have on hand to answer questions like: Who is your customer? What are their needs? Where do they look for information? Why should they hire you for the job? What jobs do they need completed anyway? Once you know the answers to these questions, you can start to see a clear picture of the decision-makers you want to reach. Use those personas to guide the development of strategies, use of channels, and language that resonates with their unique situations. Then, create niche messages that speak to those specifics rather than taking a blanketed mass marketing approach.

Setting It and Forgetting It

Marketing isn’t a one-time thing. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re finished after the “send” button is clicked. Gaining quality leads is a long-term affair, so factor in how you plan to nurture the relationships you build through your campaign as part of your strategy. Follow up with relevant and targeted content that helps buyers identify areas of needs and solutions to address them. This step requires strategy and discipline to follow through. Marketing automation tools can help make this task more manageable, or you may want to consider putting together a marketing committee to ensure the nurturing step doesn’t fall off any one person’s list of to-do’s.

No matter the size or age of your company, successful marketing isn’t easy. But by avoiding these four common marketing pitfalls and taking a genuine interest in helping customers success, you’ll be well on your way to making meaningful business impact.

Need to learn more? A good next step is taking our self-evaluation quiz, which will take you a minute and will give you even more detailed, personalized recommendations for marketing your business and product,

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