Avoid These 17 Startup Marketing Mistakes

Marketing is the lifeblood of a startup, but there's not a well-delineated "how-to" path. In fact, if you're trying to get your startup off the ground, marketing may seem intimidating at best and impossible at worst. Marketing mistakes happen. There. We said it. They happen to everyone, and they are often unavoidable, especially in your startup's earliest stages. What can you do about it?


There is no guaranteed method to marketing success, but there are several mistakes you should be able to avoid. Doing so will greatly improve your chances of successfully building your startup's brand.

Here are common mistakes we see startups making. Steer clear of these mistakes to give your startup the best chance at marketing success:

Mistake #1 - Failing to have a master plan

Two things are required for great content marketing. First, you need an effective strategy. Second, you need great tactical execution of that strategy. Identify a goal and make sure it’s specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based (SMART).

Now reverse engineer that goal. Break it down into small, measurable, and manageable steps. Now, you have a goal and a plan in place to reach that goal. We've written an entire post about incorporating SMART goals into every facet of your business. Take a look if you need help getting you goal-setting juices flowing.

It can be tempting to skip this step. Don't do it. Going forward with marketing efforts without a clear goal and plan in place will lead to wasted resources and frustration down the road.

Mistake #2 - Failing to review the data and how it relates to your overall strategy

You need to be consistently reviewing your analytics, measuring sales volume, and evaluating your pay-per-click ads. Study your data, and you can find out what works and what does not work. Then, make changes accordingly. Marketing is not a static endeavor. It requires long-term care and attention to keep pace with the evolution of your business. Knowing the status and effectiveness of your marketing strategy is as important as the strategy itself.

And how do you know the status and effectiveness? You look to the concrete data. Things like page views, top viewed posts, click through rate, web traffic sources, social shares, and new followers, to name a few.

Mistake #3 - Failing to employ an SEO strategy

Having a well-done website is not enough. You have to have a viable SEO (search engine optimization) strategy so that search engines, notably Google, will rank your website higher on relevant queries. This means adding keywords to your content, titles, descriptions, and title tags, while also delivering well-written and useful content.

Mistake #4 - Creating uninspired content

You must have quality content to effectively compete. If you're in a content rut, analyze the competition and determine what their winning formula looks like (more on this below). You have to experiment and mercilessly scrutinize your work until you succeed in creating that inspired and inspiring content.

Think about telling a story with your content. People love a good story. If you engage them with your distinct voice and perspective, you'll draw them in and keep them coming back for more. Better yet, break your story down into bite-sized episodes. Then, you have a built in cliff-hanger every time you end a post, ensuring that readers will return to see what you have to say next.

Here's an entire post devoted to coming up with great content ideas for your company.

Mistake #5 - Creating content that isn't useful to your audience

The first aim of all your content is to add value to the viewer. You want to offer information they will find useful, answer a question they have, and offer your expertise in a way that helps them out. 

Mistake #6 - Teaching too little and selling too much

Content marketing's core philosophy is to give more than you take. Provide the potential customer as much value as you can, but don’t insist on anything in return. After you’ve provided value, you can ask for something, like signing up for emails.

The emphasis is on teaching and educating your audience about your product, service, company, and industry more than on selling. The opportunity to sell follows from the trust and reputation you build with that quality content.

Mistake #7 - Creating content that is trendy but not evergreen

What is evergreen content, you ask? We've written an entire post about it here. But the short version is it's the content that never goes out of style, remains relevant even as time passes, and works for you long after it was initially posted.

The current trend may seem sexy, but it's the evergreen content that provides greater long term value. Evergreen content is relevant regardless of the latest trends.

Make your content evergreen by remembering these qualities: be the definitive source; be as comprehensive as possible; write for beginners, since most users searching for content are beginners; and narrow your topic to avoid a disconnect with searchers looking for specific answers to a problem.

Mistake #8 - Having the wrong target audience

If you have a documented customer persona, you're not only helping your startup's marketing team but ensuring that every department is focused on the same audience. Not to mention you know precisely who to write your content for.

Mistake #9 - Ignoring competitors' strategies

Don't do this.

Study what's working for them, but don't copy them. Be more creative. Be more compelling. Be more useful to your audience. Obtain backlink information to see which of their content gets the most backlinks.

Mistake #10 - Focusing too much on competitors

Keeping track of the competition is essential, but too much focus on competitors can strangle your startup with distraction. Don't let wanting to know what the competition is doing sap too much time and energy from your team, or your customers. You'll be constantly trying to change things and won't even know if your marketing strategy is a success or not (Remember mistake #2? Look to your own data to see how your doing!).

Mistake #11 - Thinking about your features rather than customers' needs

For the most part people don't care about products or services, per se. They care about their problems, needs, emotions, ambitions, and goals. Talk to them at this level, and you can engage them long enough to show them how your business can help.

Once you've built a relationship, you become top of mind for those looking for your product or service. 

Mistake #12 - Having inadequate focus on the user experience

Startups can easily end up with poor user experience (UX) as a result of trying to keep costs down; money is always a problem when you're starting. Rather than investing everything in making your product as shiny and pretty as possible, make sure it functions. This may seem intuitive, but you'd be amazed how often this mistake is made. If the UX is not good, you're not going to make it anyway, so none of your marketing efforts will matter.

Mistake #13 - Neglecting clear calls-to-action when they're needed

You are seeking to get exposure for your startup and position yourself to be top of mind to the consumers in your niche. Be intentional as to what you want your viewer to get from your content and, in turn, do with it. Do you want them to share your content on social media, leave a comment, or both? Are you going to be asking for a bit of their information in exchange for deeper content like an e-book? Make sure your call to action lines up with the content you've created and by following through with it, your customers will get something that's worth their time.

Mistake #14 - Going in blind with your blog

You need a blog to get off the ground. But you need a solid plan to avoid wasting time and money (this goes back to Mistake #1). Generate an editorial calendar that details your content, making sure it includes delivery dates, target persona, and stage in the buyer’s journey.

Mistake #15 - Thinking only in terms of blog post content

Blogging takes less work and resources compared to creating visual content. But to succeed as a startup you need to take every advantage. Here are 15 types of content that aren't blog posts. You will avoid this marketing mistake if you use more of them:

  • whitepapers
  • how-to guides
  • checklists
  • short rants
  • webinars
  • short-form videos
  • long-form videos
  • memes
  • infographics
  • case studies
  • gifs
  • social media posts
  • podcasts
  • photographic images
  • animations

Mistake #16 - Attempting to appeal to everyone

If you don't target your marketing, you stretch your resources too thin. Doing so neutralizes your impact and can cause your startup to starve. Find your ideal customers and keep them satisfied (again, having a customer persona that you work from is a great place to start here!). Then, your business will grow at the right speed.

Mistake #17 - Failing to ask for feedback

One of the most efficient ways to grow your business is by paying attention to your customers. Add a feedback section or a questionnaire to your website. Respond to comments or complaints personally. Make sure that the ability to provide feedback is seamless and easy for customers. Make the effort to reach out to your customers. Be proactive in getting the information you need to identify where improvements are needed. Then make those improvements.


Wrapping it up

Marketing is a tricky, ever-evolving field, and finding the best way to position your startup for maximum marketing exposure and effect can seem impossible. By keeping these common startup marketing mistakes in mind as you launch your business, you'll avoid a lot of unnecessary angst and be well on your way to successfully building brand awareness and a loyal customer base.

Have a question about marketing your startup? Reach out to us. We're happy to help!

Startup marketing guide

Shelley's been in Seattle practically since the dawn of time. She enjoys having fun (seriously) with research and writing. In her off hours she reads and walks, although not at the same time -- because tripping over sidewalks is embarrassing.

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