Sometimes, what startups DON’T do for their marketing is as important as what they actually do. That’s one of the most common nuggets of wisdom I give out when discussing startup strategy and inbound marketing, though if you want to be zen about it, it’s probably a good philosophy for life too. It’s easy for startups to get enthusiastic about things and jump the gun a little. Part of this is probably due to a lack of time and resources, so decisions get made on the fly. The bigger part, though may simply be inexperience, and when combined with the can-do nature of startups, simple mistakes might create headaches further down the road.
Stop. Or at least slow down. Let’s think this through. Before you hit the pavement for startup marketing, here are five marketing landmines to avoid:
#1: Don’t think you’re “just a startup.”
Startups are awesome. I love working with them. They’re innovative, creative, and have the potential to change the world. (Well, a lot of them. There are those startups whose products don’t really help humanity.) The problem is when startups pigeonhole themselves into the stereotypes of startups, particularly in marketing. There are no rules for startup marketing, so don’t believe in any false limitations. If your product is good, champion your brand; that’s the best place to start.
#2: Don’t rely solely on traditional marketing.
Startups are often teams of coders who have plenty of technical expertise but limited marketing experience. Because of that, they may look to traditional paths for marketing (pay-per-click ads, broadcast ads). I’m a strong advocate of inbound marketing because it levels the playing field for startups: your most important currency is time, not money. More importantly, it works. Consider these stats (courtesy of Hubspot Jumpstart):
- 54% more leads are generated by inbound tactics than traditional paid marketing.
- 2X as many marketers say inbound delivers below average cost per lead than outbound methods.
- $20k is the average companies save per year by investing more in inbound marketing vs. outbound.
#3: Don’t reinvent the wheel
If you’ve got a team of talented coders, they may be interested in taking their skills into aspects of your marketing. For example, they may believe they can make a custom content management system rather than use an established one like WordPress or Joomla — especially if you’re using an inbound strategy, since content is a key part of that. Don’t let them do that. There’s a reason why off-the-shelf products are popular, and not everything has to be custom built, despite the willingness of your team. Tell them to save their time and brainpower for the task at hand — remember, if it ain’t broke…
#4: Don’t pin your marketing hopes on a CMO
Let me just say that I have nothing against CMOs — in fact, I talk with them quite a bit about inbound marketing. However, if a startup thinks hiring one CMO with a fancy resume will be the end-all solution to their marketing plan, they’re mistaken. Startup marketing is different because things move so quickly and resources are limited. Rather than pin your hopes on one person (who can still be brought in to provide guidance), get your whole team involved. They may not be able to pitch ads or write copy but they can chip in through many ways: social media, networking, demos, and more. The key to startup marketing is having a dedicated and passionate team championing your brand, not just a person with a fancy title.
#5: Don’t wait to get started
Your brand can be established long before your product launches, so use all the methods possible for getting your message out there. There are plenty of inbound marketing methods to do this as well simple grassroots engagement with your target audience: social media, open beta testing, demos, and more. As soon as you have a grasp of your brand’s messaging and value proposition, start spreading the word.
So what DO you do?
Those are the mis-steps you’ll want to avoid. But where do you go from there? The great thing about startup marketing is that, like startup culture, anything is possible.
Marc Apple is a Strategist at Forward Push and VP of Marketing Strategy for the San Francisco American Marketing Association.