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6 Basic Marketing Mistakes New Startups Make (And How To Avoid Them)

7 min read

Starting a business comes with a unique mixture of fear, excitement, and stress. You can have a fantastic initial idea, plenty of research under your belt, and wholehearted approval from your focus groups. But even with all this, you never actually know if you’ll succeed until you launch.

Unfortunately, a lot of startups make the same kinds of marketing mistakes that manage to derail even the best of ideas. In this post, we’ll take a look at six of them and show you how to avoid them.

Let’s dive right in.

1. Not Describing Your Services Clearly Enough

As a founder, you will be so immersed in your idea and business plan that you may forget that others are not as familiar with it. Whether the kinds of services you offer have been around for decades or you’re starting something no one has seen before, you need to be very clear about your offer.

If your website visitors can’t tell exactly what they can expect after spending a couple of minutes on your homepage, chances are they will click off and leave, never to return again.

To clearly convey your message, use terms that are familiar to your target audience. If you are inventing something fresh, try to describe the service in familiar terms. Focus on the benefits rather than the process and features.

Do be careful, however, not to get lost in too many explanations and end up writing too much copy. Leads won’t want to spend ten minutes reading through your material. You need to hook them in with a clear value proposition and then give them the option of reading through the rest of your website to get more information.

You can use video to tell your startup’s story better, especially if you can film and edit it so that it also conveys some of your values. For example, look at how WhatsGood did a great job with their homepage video.

It’s less than three minutes long, and it complements the rest of the page with new information. Visitors already know what the brand is about, but watching the video helps them get a firmer grasp of the company’s ethos and mission, and it’s likely to sway them to do business with them.

2. Lacking Social Proof

Startups are often crippled by the fact that no one has heard about them. They most often also compete with larger brands for the same audience and thus need to do a great job of convincing them that they can be trusted.

Every new business lacks access to the kinds of case studies and high-profile clients that will sway a first-time visitor. Fortunately, they can reach for social proof to prove their worth.

Omitting to feature compelling reviews or client testimonials on your homepage can lose you the interest of your first visitors, and your brilliant idea may go unnoticed. And if you aren’t able to repeatedly convert clients, you will never rack up the kind of experience you can prove, making this problem quite the catch-22.

Start adding social proof to your website as soon as possible. Your first clients should be your first reviewers, so make it a top priority to collect a blurb from them.

Take a look at how Mrs. Property Solutions managed to reference their reviews throughout their homepage. They feature their reviews on various external review websites and also have a dedicated review page on their site.

They also have a couple of video testimonials from satisfied customers, which is a smart move. Video testimonials help new clients identify with the brand and get a feel for how it conducts business.

3. Not Adhering to Content Marketing Best Practices

Writing a blog post (or producing any piece of content, for that matter) without a plan in place is one of the worst decisions a startup can make. It most often turns out to be nothing more than a waste of time, effort, and resources.

In order to bring results, your content marketing efforts need to be backed by concrete data and extensive research. Writing a blog post no one will ever find is useless.

Before you produce a single piece of content, go through the following checklist:

  • Define your audience. Are you targeting top or bottom of the funnel readers?
  • Define your goal. Are you looking to expand your reach, convert readers, or establish yourself as a valuable source of information, for example?
  • Choose your topic. Do your research well (either via a tool or in a search engine), and find a topic that people actually want to read about.
  • Define your voice and point of view. Are you being formal or laid back? Are you adding to the conversation or recapping the data of others? Are you using jargon or not? – and so on.
  • Determine a marketing plan. Content that you aren’t able to promote is content you shouldn’t even produce. So before you start writing a post, always have a promotion plan in place. Will you boost it with paid ads, feature it in your newsletter, or use it as a link-building target?

For an example of a business that does content marketing well, check out Aura. They do great topic research and feature very niche content that will certainly interest their audience. They provide plenty of detail in their posts in a language tailored to each post’s target audience (beginner or expert).

And that’s not all. Aura has also managed to tick some other boxes: they publish frequently, which keeps them on Google’s radar, and they feature a lot of evergreen content that will likely keep them ranking for a long time to come.

4. Not Having a Clear Value Proposition

Your value proposition is one of the most important elements of your homepage. In a nutshell, it serves to describe your business and the benefits of working with you. It’s the essence of your brand – the one thing you want your visitors to know about you.

When it’s written poorly and not on-brand, a value proposition can do more harm than good. The last thing you want to do is confuse your visitors about either what it is you do or how they can benefit from the relationship.

A good value proposition should encapsulate both your values and your mission. It should be written in a voice that matches the voice of your brand in general. This might be a challenge, as a good value proposition should also be short and to the point. Do your best to use words that are descriptive of your beliefs and goals.

Furthermore, always focus on describing the benefits of your service, as opposed to its features. The leads who care about them will take the time to find out more. But most people will just want to know what you can do for them.

Check out NordVPN’s value proposition. Naturally, they’ve highlighted speed and security as the top benefits of using their service. On top of that, notice how they use a language that is easy to understand, ensuring that even those who know nothing about virtual private networks understand the logic behind choosing this service.

5. Missing out on Social Media Opportunities

Social media is certainly one of the best avenues a startup can use for promotion. Failing to make good use of it can quickly result in missed opportunities and a lack of overall engagement.

Another mistake startups can make, however, is believing that they need to be active on a multitude of social media platforms, which is certainly not true. All you really need is one. Just make sure you choose the platform that makes the most sense. This is the channel where most of your target audience spends most of their time.

But on top of that, you also have to take into account whether you can provide regular and interesting content on this channel. For instance, if you cannot supply images for Instagram, you shouldn’t even consider having an account there. Not being active on a platform is worse than not having an account in the first place.

When you do establish an account, make sure you also monitor your mentions and actively engage with your audience. Answer their questions even if they have not tagged your brand and you found their post through a hashtag. Share their posts, shout them out, and lend your startup that human touch that is so important for social media success.

Certainly not a startup, but a brand that does social media extremely well is Starbucks. Their social media presence is legendary for a reason. They take the time to engage with their followers in a meaningful way. They’re often able to make someone’s day simply by wishing them a happy birthday or good luck on their first day at a new job.

This is the kind of personality and connectedness you are looking for – on-brand, active, responsive, and genuine.

6. Failing to Optimize for Mobile

Finally, you also want to make sure that your website is fully optimized for mobile. As mobile search has overtaken desktops quite a while ago, it’s safe to assume that a lot of your traffic will come from a mobile device. If this experience is not stellar, you are not likely to recapture the same visitor’s attention again.

There are several components to a well-optimized mobile website:

  • Ensure the website loads as quickly as possible.
  • Minimize the amount of code you have on this version of the website. Only keep what you absolutely need.
  • Ensure the spacing on the page is mobile-friendly. Consider thumb placement when distributing your elements.
  • Get rid of all superfluous information, images, or other elements. The desktop and mobile versions don’t need to look identical, but they do need to obviously be the same website.

Take a look at how Robinson’s handled their mobile website. It still features all the same elements, and the layout is not all that different. But the element distribution is mobile-friendly, and the technical side was done exceedingly well, ensuring loading times are low and user experience is great.

Final Thoughts

Avoiding these marketing mistakes does not guarantee success, of course, or that you won’t be making other mistakes. However, if you do manage to get these specific ducks in order, you will have a much better chance of achieving your marketing goals and launching your startup with a bang.


Written by Nate Ginsburg.

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