Startup Marketing: You’re Doing it Wrong

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You don’t need to hire a “marketing guru” (in fact, you should probably avoid hiring people who refer to themselves that way) or amass a substantial marketing budget to get people to use your product–there are lots of free strategies out there. Still, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you’re doing it right–here are a few pitfalls to avoid:

Mistake 1:

CEO: I need 500 Twitter followers by the end of Q3. Procure these for me plzthxbye.

Marketer: Um, why 500? And how is having those followers going to help us get more users?

CEO: I just want more followers.

Marketer: /facepalm

Twitter followers don’t necessarily help your company just because they’re there. You could have 500 followers who are ALL spambots, and that would be worthless. On the other hand, you could have 250 followers who each engage heavily with your content, click on the links you post, and buy your products. Yes, there can be perceived brand value associated with a lot of followers, but spending a lot of resources to gain perceived brand value is a risky proposition early on.

Mistake 2:

CEO: Here is my entire bag of money. I’d like to spend it on Google AdWords so that we get tons of new customers/users.

Marketer: Hmm, have you thought about using that budget partially on Facebook ads, or retargeted display ads, or [insert some other kind of marketing here]?

CEO: Yes, once I tried Facebook advertising and it was crappy so let’s stick with AdWords.

Marketer: But…what kind of targeting did you…nevermind.

Ad targeting is an art and a science, and a lot of variables play into creating a successful campaign. The product, copy, images, landing pages, demographics you’re addressing, time of day/week/year, and other assorted elements depending on the platform can all have profound effects on the results you see. The devil’s in the data, and without doing some heavy lifting on the testing front, it can be tough to say whether or not a particular approach will work.

Mistake 3:

CEO: I bought this fantastic email list from QuestionableEmailLists, Inc. Now I’m ready to send them a holiday coupon for my ShinyWidgets(TM)!

Marketer: Do these people want to be receiving mail from us? Because first of all there are laws around this kind of thing, and second of all, you won’t see good results if this is an unsolicited/irrelevant mailing.

CEO: But QuestionableEmailLists, Inc. said these people are really into ShinyWidgets(TM).

Marketer: I just marked this conversation as spam.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and guess what: growing an email list without much effort should sound too good to be true. Even if the purchased subscriber base is targeted, this only increases the quality relative to a non-targeted purchased list. Don’t be fooled. Email service providers aren’t kidding when they say they’ll shut your account down at the first whiff of spam. They will. And you’ll be out the cost of the list as well as the amount you spent sending near-useless emails to them.

The Upshot:

These three mistakes are unified by a common principle: the thinking behind them is backwards. They focus on tactics, not desired results. You don’t go to the doctor and ask for a specific medicine (unless those “ask your doctor about…” commercials are really working on you)–you say what you want to fix, and the doctor decides the best way to go about fixing it. There may be multiple options, in which case you can discuss pros and cons to each, but it’s a conversation that starts with the problem you’re trying to solve and then moves into potential solutions.

So, how do you flip the process? The short answer is that it depends on a few factors, including what type of product you have and what kinds of consumers you are targeting.

Stay tuned for a startup marketing decision tree we’re cooking up. In the meantime, sign up for our newsletter (look to the top right of this page!).