5 Avoidable Marketing Mistakes That Can Kill Your Startup

marketing mistakes

Let me ask you a question. If you had a machine where you could put money into the machine, and for every dollar you put in you got three dollars back, wouldn’t you be stuffing money into that machine as fast as you could?

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If you do marketing right, it is a cash machine for you. So what should your marketing spend be if it is a positive return?

You should spend as much as humanly possible. You can’t spend enough money on marketing if the return is positive.


Unfortunately many aspiring CEOs don’t understand the power of marketing.


Years ago I had the following conversation with a new General Manager. He eventually became CEO of the company we were working at:

“I don’t understand why we need to spend money on marketing our products, “ the General Manager said to me. “We have all these sales people. Don’t they know everything that’s going on?”

I was stunned by his answer, but I wasn’t surprised. The General Manager was new to the job.

The General Manager was previously an engineering manager with no previous customer experience. He just assumed that sales people know everything going on at any given customer.

My conversation with the General Manager happened close to twenty years ago. Things have only gotten more difficult for sales people in the years since.

You have to build a relationship with your customers. And that’s where the successful use of marketing comes in.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen a ton of marketing mistakes startup CEOs have made during the last few years. The good news is these mistakes are easy to identify and fix, so let me get going.


Marketing Mistake Number One: Not having a plan.


Not having a plan, if you can believe it, happens more often then not. So how do you win if you don’t have a plan?

It’s the old “Build it and they will come model.” Somehow customers are just going to find you.

I was just talking to a CEO a couple of months ago. The CEO was wondering why his business wasn’t growing.

“How do customers find you?” I asked.

“Through our website,” he said.

“And what are you doing to drive traffic to your website?”

There was a long pause. It was clear he didn’t have a plan.

So what did he need to do? Have a plan!

You can’t just expect customers to find your website. Those days are long gone.

You have to figure out how your customers are going to find you. And you’re going to have to figure out how you’re going to nurture these opportunities into leads for your business.

Marketing Mistake Number Two: Jumping from plan to plan.


Jumping from plan to plan is almost as bad as not having a plan. In fact, maybe it’s worse because you’re likely spending (wasting) money.

You see CEOs jump from plan to plan if they have never done marketing before. For example, I was advising a CEO on his marketing strategy.

"Doug" had developed a plan to run ads on Facebook. The ads ran for a couple of days and then the ads stopped running.

I asked Doug  what happened to the ads? He said, “The ads aren’t converting, so I decided to run ads on Google.”

You have to give your advertising plans a long time before they will pay off. And two days is just not enough time. You’re just getting started.

You have plan on a lot longer time if you expect your marketing plans to pay off. When you jump from plan to plan, that is a recipe for disaster.

You should test your marketing first, and then build out your strategy based on your testing. The testing is likely to take at least one month if not longer depending upon the marketing you’re doing.

The thing about marketing is marketing has an iterative effect. You need to be consistent with your marketing. I saw this iterative effect with my last company.

We were consistent with our marketing. Each marketing campaign built on the success of the previous campaign.

The results were okay to begin with. And the results kept improving with time.

And that’s what you need to do. You need to market week after week and month after month. Marketing builds on itself. The more you market, the better the results you are going to get.

Moving from plan to plan will make you look schizophrenic and that will not work. Your marketing plan is like a good wine. It needs time to breathe.


Marketing Mistake Number Three: Having too many marketing channels at once.


So, instead of just focusing on Facebook, you’ve decided to focus on Google. “Oh yeah, let’s go add in some print advertising. We’ve got a lot of money to spend, so let’s go spend money on radio and TV advertising too.” You get the idea.

It is a huge mistake when you are starting your business to focus on multiple channels at once. Start with one channel and get it to work.

When you master that one channel, then you move onto a second channel. When you master the second channel, and you think, “maybe I can increase the audience by including a third channel?” Then you can move onto a third channel.

But do your marketing in this stair-step approach of one channel at a time. You’re going to find that mastering that one channel is going to be difficult enough.


Marketing Mistake Number Four: Not measuring your results.


It is criminal in today’s world, with all the digital tools we have available, not to measure your marketing results. You should be measuring everything you can think of.

  • Whether it’s return on investment which you should always be measuring, or…
  • Whether it’s cost per click, or…
  • Cost per action, or…
  • Cost per lead.

You can measure all of it. And the beautiful thing about measuring your results is you have benchmarks.

Now you know whether you are improving or declining. You can see whether you are improving.

There is no more guesswork like there was for me back in the day.


Marketing Mistake Number Five: You’re not spending enough money on marketing.


Let me ask you another question. You’re getting a return of $3 for every $1 you are investing in your marketing program, but you’re limiting your marketing budget.

You’re measuring your results, so you know exactly what your return on investment is. You have a plan. You’re using the stair-step strategy, so you’re not jumping from strategy to strategy.

The question is why aren’t you spending more money? Seriously, what’s stopping you?


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