By Sujan PatelNo matter what kind of business you start, some marketing mistakes are inevitable. But startups in particular must navigate a unique set of marketing challenges: restricted budgets, limited resources, and the pressing need to build brand visibility.
1. Spending Money on 'Big Marketing' Too QuicklyYou may want to take the industry by storm, with a powerful ad or a killer booth at the next trade show, but, whoa! You should really rein it in and start slow. You don't want to blow your budget this early in the game.
If you do make the mistake of spending too much too soon, the worst thing that could happen is ... nothing. The next worst thing that could happen is that your marketing turns out to be a huge success—but you're incapable of meeting the resulting new demand.
2. Speaking Through the Wrong ChannelsThere are countless marketing channels you can use to engage customers, but which ones are right or wrong ultimately depends on who your audience is and where you can grab their attention. Don't rush ahead without understanding your audience.
You're likely to have more than one target audience for your product, and each audience may have its own channel. You need to figure out which channels will give you the best return and which should be avoided.
3. Staffing Up Your Marketing Effort Too QuicklyIt's tempting to want to bring in the best of the best to build your brand by making an investment in high-caliber marketing staff, but don't do it. The only time you should invest in expanding your marketing team is when you've exhausted all of your efforts and low-cost options, or you have no choice because time commitments require you to focus on other things.
4. Spending Too Much Time on Brand PerfectionToo many startups want to change their name early on and completely rebrand, or revise their website design over and over. Investing in perfection too early in terms of your brand assets will yield few results other than a waste of funds.
5. Giving Everyone a Voice in Marketing DecisionsWhen it comes to marketing, everyone seems to have an opinion, but the more people you invite to have a say in the marketing, the longer it will take to finalize anything. Recognize that you can never please everyone.
You don't need to pass marketing ideas around to every employee, family member, and friend. In the end, trust the people you pay to create your marketing assets.
6. Chasing CompetitorsPart of building a business entails recognizing what your competitors are doing. Take cues from it, learn from it, and find ways to do it better than they do it. Don't get caught in the trap of replicating their efforts in hopes of getting more attention.
Not only will you create more noise that customers will grow tired of, but you'll have no idea how effective that marketing strategy has been in the first place. Can you really trust that your competitor is doing everything right all the time?
7. Failing to Measure ResultsWhen you do spend money on marketing, you need to track everything you do. If you don't know what kind of traction you got from a specific campaign, you'll have no idea if you made a return on your investment.
Every campaign you launch online should use tracking codes/pixels or unified threat management (UTM) codes. Print ads should use unique phone numbers, special discount codes and custom URLs. Never be afraid to ask customers how they heard about you, and always have a way to link every customer back to a campaign.
Recognize that the mistakes described above are completely preventable, but even if you do make them, they won't necessarily end your business. Just make sure you retool, rethink and relaunch your marketing strategy as you move forward. As long as you prepare accordingly and learn from your mistakes, you can move on to better strategies and drive your business to success.