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5 Marketing Mistakes Startups Make: And How to Avoid Them

Marketing is a key piece of any brand, business or product success, but building out a campaign that provides results can be a nightmare if you don’t have a sense of direction. Here are the top 5 mistakes startups make while putting together a marketing strategy, and how you can avoid them.

When I first started my journey into the world of marketing, I was naive to how instrumental it can be in creating a successful bottom line, or totally sinking a company. Since then, I’ve witnessed consumer behavior swayed by strategic planning and messaging. I’ve also seen small economies bounce back stronger from a recession by wisely investing in campaigns, while others cut their marketing budgets. As someone who has worked for both large corporations and small, grassroots businesses, I’ve seen marketing mistakes deliver a significant blow to those who are the most vulnerable, startups. Below I'll outline the top 5 that you can easily avoid in creating your strategy as a startup company, although these can apply to all businesses. 

Jumping in without a strategy

Sure, some things in life are best experienced by being spontaneous, but your marketing campaign isn’t one of them. It’s easy to spot a brand or product that went all in without any concrete goals or strategy, and my first question is always why? Without a plan, how do you measure your successes, outcomes or key performance indicators that can help you grow? More importantly, what’s the point of investing money in something you can’t measure? 

You wouldn’t buy a house without first doing research on the neighborhood, the condition of the home or doing a walk through, right? The same should be said for your marketing. Define your goals and set up an executable plan step by step that helps you work towards them. A focused strategy gives you more success in the long run and the foundation to launch bigger projects in the future. 

Not knowing your target audience

This should be a key part of the planning process, but one that is often overlooked. Who is your target audience? Not just who you want them to be, but who are they actually? If these two things are different - your perceived and actual target, how do you reconcile the two and which is more beneficial to your business?

Before launching any marketing strategy, it’s helpful to sit down and clearly define the user you are targeting. This means age, occupation, interests and motivations. With that in mind, your ad buys and touch points can be tailored to reach this target user directly. When you know where to reach your demographic, traffic and conversions typically increase which saves you money and time. 

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Failing to adapt 

In the fast pace of the current market, I can’t stress enough how important it is to be nimble and adaptable in your marketing strategy. The benefit of having almost instant measurables, especially accompanying digital campaigns means that you have the opportunity to quickly change what isn’t working and put more resources towards what is. 

Frequently, I notice businesses that become so fixated on one metric, one idea or one result that they fail to see where else they could grow significantly outside of that box. Those who succeed are the one’s who use the information they gather from their campaigns to learn and make adjustments. Be like them. 

Creating bottlenecks

The roadblock to being adaptable, is creating bottlenecks. Bottlenecks in your marketing execution can be incredibly impactful, and not in a positive way. These can be communication barriers through teams or departments, slow moving or backed up creative entities who manage your accounts, or a lack of realistic budgeting. Anything that might stop your campaign or strategy mid-execution is a red flag.

The best way to avoid bottlenecks is the plan accordingly. Whether that’s creating a more realistic timeline or allocating funds differently, addressing communication problems before the launch or having a sit down with your creative partner, make sure you’re tackling the problems beforehand. This way everyone is on the same page and the fire drills are minimized once you execute.

Discounting your web presence

This should go without saying, yet I still come across many reputable companies or startups that have cut corners on their web presence. Before you start making excuses, here is a startling fact: The average person now spends more time online than with TV and all other media (newspapers, magazines, etc.) combined(1). So your target is most likely online, and most likely researching you before they even make contact. First impressions, even in the digital space are key. 

If nothing else, an easy to navigate and well functioning web site is crucial for any business or brand. Social media and digital strategy are even better and if you are working to create meaningful content, you get a gold star. Investing in a web presence doesn’t have to mean spending half a million dollars, but strategically investing in the audience and targeting capabilities of many online platforms can put you ahead of the competition. 


The benefit of any startup is creating a product, business and culture that is all your own. Don’t stunt the growth of it by executing a flawed marketing strategy. Take a moment to overview the mistakes we’ve outlined (and of others you’ve noticed in your business journey), and learn from them.  Of course, if you’re so inclined we’re always one email or coffee away from helping you along the way. Navigating the marketing landscape for your startup can be tricky, but taking a planned and directed approach can help you find success. 

Have something to add or want more insight? Leave us a comment below or reach out directly. 

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