1. Neglecting a marketing plan

A marketing plan can be defined as a strategic roadmap allowing a company to organise, execute and track a strategy over a specific period of time. That is a written statement explaining how a brand will achieve its goals, target its audience, and so on. The plan is not the same thing as strategy, since a strategy defines how a business will achieve a specific goal, while a plan can focus on multiple marketing strategies. There are several types of marketing plans, including content marketing plan, social media marketing plan, paid marketing plan, and so on.

However, if you do not create and follow a marketing plan, you will act blindly, which will lead your startup to failure. For instance, if you know nothing about your target audience or do not consider this information, your ads and content will not work, so it will be very hard or even impossible for you to attract potential customers. You will not know which direction to move in, and spend a lot of money on completing unnecessary tasks. Obviously, this will not bring your startup the desired results.

To prevent this and other situations from happening, you should create and follow a detailed marketing plan. This is the first thing you should do in terms of marketing, do not take any other steps without careful and preliminary planning. Here is an example of the marketing plan’s structure:

  • Part 1: mission

First of all, you should state your marketing mission and explain why your startup actually needs marketing. Keep the mission statement specific and remember that it should be relevant to the main mission of your business. For instance, the mission statement of Tripadvisor is “To help people around the world plan and have the perfect trip”. Considering this, their marketing mission could be something like “to attract the audience of travellers, educate them and convert them into the users of our platform”.

  • Part 2: KPIs

Then, when you are done with the mission statement, identify relevant key performance indicators. They will allow you to track the progress of the mission and understand if your marketing effort is effective.

  • Part 3: buyer personas

It is also crucial to understand whom your startup is targeting, so prepare buyer persona profiles. Such profiles include demographics, background, goals, challenges, hobbies, and other information. There are numerous templates available on the Internet, so feel free to use them. Do your best to provide as many details as possible. 

  • Part 4: content 

The next section of a marketing plan should focus on content initiatives. Specify the types of content that you will create (for instance, blog posts, infographics, and videos), the amount of content that you are going to produce, goals and KPIs for tracking every content type. Apart from this, list the channels that you will use for distributing your content and specify if you will be launching any paid advertising campaigns on the selected channels.

  • Part 5: omissions

Besides, if there are any omissions, your marketing plan should describe them as well. These are any aspects that you are not serving in this particular plan. For example, these could be negative buyer personas — people whom you do not want as your clients.

  • Part 6: budget

Carefully think about your marketing expenses and outline each of them in this section of your plan.

  • Part 7: competitors

Do research to find out who your competitors are and prepare a profile of each of them to understand their specific strengths and weaknesses.

  • Part 8: responsibilities

Finally, specify the responsibilities of every team member involved in this marketing plan. There is no need to go too deep into detail, but everything should still be clear. For instance, you can describe who will be in charge for every specific content type, who will be responsible for tracking KPIs, and so on.

2. Using the wrong channels

Nowadays, there are loads of marketing channels to choose from: websites, email marketing, social networks, third-party platforms, events, TV, radio, billboards, webinars, search engine advertising, search engine optimisation, and so on. However, if your startup chooses the wrong channels, the marketing effort will not be effective. You will keep spending money and time on channels that bring you no customers and followers, and this can also lead to failure. Therefore, you should choose channels wisely, and the following recommendations will help you:

  • Consider your audience

You should promote your products, services and brand in general where your audience is. Imagine the following situation: your startup focuses on the B2B market. If so, trying to attract customers via radio is not likely to be an effective tactic. However, if you attend relevant conferences, you will get an opportunity to meet your potential customers in person and introduce your brand to them. 

Your target audience is your main priority, and you should always keep this in mind — even their demographics matter. For instance, if you target people over 50 years old, choosing Instagram will not bring you the desired results. That is why you need to create buyer persona profiles. Do research and learn as much about your audience as possible, including the websites they visit and social media they use. When you are a startup, you are most likely to make assumptions — after you start attracting your first clients, make sure to review the profiles and update information with new data, if necessary.

  • Consider your competitors

It would also be useful to check what marketing channels your competitors use. There is no need to research every rival, pay attention to your direct and most successful competitors — they are the ones you will have to overcome. Find out what channels they leverage and analyse their effectiveness. For example, one of your competitors uses both Facebook and Instagram, and regularly posts fresh content on both platforms. However, followers on Instagram are much more active. Considering this, you may start marketing on Instagram without using other social networks.  

  • Consider your budget

Your budget is an important factor as well. Some marketing channels are free to use, while for others you will have to pay. For instance, creating a business page on Facebook and posting organic content will cost you nothing (you will only have to pay for paid ads, if necessary), while launching an advertising campaign on TV may significantly affect your budget. Therefore, you can shorten the list of potential channels by figuring out how much it will cost you to use them.

  • Choose measurable channels

Since your company is a startup making assumptions regarding the effectiveness of marketing channels, it is crucial for you to be able to analyse the performance of your strategy. This means that it would be wise to start with measurable channels. For instance, if you use social media and email marketing, it will be possible for you to monitor their efficiency and discover how many clients and website visitors every channel brings. But if you launch an ad on TV, you will only know how many times it was shown, not how many times it was watched. 

  • Keep in mind your message

The marketing channels that you choose must allow you to communicate your message effectively. If they are not able to do this, do not use them. For example, if your message heavily relies on visuals, launching an ad on radio will not be the best idea. 

3. Paying too much attention to a website

A lot of startups spend too much time and money trying to design a perfect website before they actually introduce their brands to potential customers. However, this is the wrong approach, and such investments may affect your budget significantly. Even the most stylish website is nothing without traffic, so instead of making assumptions regarding what design will be perfect for your target audience, you should create something simple and start promoting it. Driving traffic is your priority, and the design can be updated later, after you get a more stable position on the market. The following recommendations will help you:

  • Use a website builder

When your company is a startup no one is familiar with, there is no need to invest loads of money in creating a complex website. Instead of this, you can use a website builder — this will allow you to save time and money, as you will not have to hire a professional who will design a website for you. Besides, a lot of tools are free to use — for instance, Wix. It offers paid plans, but can still be used for free, so make a choice according to your requirements and budget. As for features, here are some of them:

  • More than 800 customisable website templates;
  • No coding skills are required (although, if necessary, you can still add some code for more advanced functionality);
  • Custom colour palettes;
  • An extensive selection of fonts;
  • A library of free visual content;
  • An opportunity to upload any file;
  • An opportunity to get a custom domain;
  • SSL certificate;
  • Social media logo files.

Please note that we added to the list both free and paid features. Apart from this, Wix allows email marketing, offers a built-in set of SEO and analytics tools, and so on. Feel free to conduct your own research to find a website builder that will meet all your needs. In any case, using such a platform will speed up the process of website creation and save your money — both these factors are crucial for startups.

  • Drive traffic

After your website is ready (remember, you do not have to make it perfect, do not get obsessed with this idea), you should start driving traffic there. Promote your website via the selected channels to reach your target audience. Remember to monitor the traffic to understand if your effort brings the desired results. After your startup enters the market, you should focus exactly on driving traffic and attracting customers, all the potential design updates can wait for a while.

  • Do A/B testing

After your website starts getting stable traffic and you manage to build a customer base, you may want to update the design of your website somehow. However, all the changes should be data-driven, avoid making assumptions — your visitors know what they like better than you. To learn more about their preferences, consider doing A/B testing. This is an experiment during which a part of your website visitors sees the version A of your page, while another part — the version B. Then, when you compare the results, you will find out which version performs better. In this way, you can test CTA buttons (their copy, shapes, colours, sizes, and fonts), visuals, headlines, form fields, placement of different elements, and so on. Remember to test only one element at a time. Otherwise, if you test, for instance, a CTA, a visual and a headline at once, it will be impossible for you to find out which change has affected the results.

4. Investing in marketing before you have product-market fit

Product-market fit can be defined as the degree to which a product satisfies the market demand. Having a product-market fit means that you have proven that customers of your target market are willing to use your product and pay for it. Some startups invest in marketing before they have product-market fit, and this is a mistake. Some of them may simply lose money and fail, as their products or services are not in demand. Therefore, first of all, you should make sure that your target audience really needs your product, and only then start allocating your budget to marketing and launching paid advertising campaigns.

However, this does not mean that you should not do marketing at all — you should only do it organically and for free. This will help you to prove that your product will bring value to potential clients, and you will not spend loads of money on marketing activities. To do this, consider the following recommendations:

  • Use social media

First of all, you can start building your online presence on the selected social networks. Again, do not launch paid advertising campaigns — create business profiles, add information about your brand and start posting content (remember, fresh posts should be published on a regular basis). Use relevant hashtags to build your audience and introduce your brand and product to them. By tracking their activity, you will be able to understand their needs and pain points. Apart from this, you can publish polls to ask them direct questions. If there are any relevant social media groups where you can meet your potential customers, you can publish posts or polls there as well — this will help to drive traffic to your page and get a better understanding of your audience. Consider sending direct messages too.

  • Send cold emails

When possible, you can also send emails to learn what your audience needs. You may attach a survey, but keep it short — only necessary questions should be included. Otherwise, if filling in a survey requires too much time, a lot of people will simply not do this.

  • Use your network

Another thing that you can do is to use your network to find out what people think about your product: your family and their friends and colleagues, your friends and their friends, and so on. Collect opinions from as many people as possible, but keep in mind that they should fit your target audience.

  • Attend conferences

Attending relevant conferences is a great way to get in touch with your target audience and talk to them in person. When trying to understand if your product will be in demand, there is no need to spend money on exhibiting your brand — you can be a regular attendee, just make sure to choose relevant conferences. Obviously, attending such events often requires certain investments, but you will spend nothing on marketing itself.

In general, when talking to your potential customers, you should discover what they want and need, how you can help to solve their problems, and how much they are willing to pay for this. Do not stop on several people — interact with as many potential clients of your target market as possible. This will allow you to make a data-driven decision regarding your product or service, and understand if it will be in demand. Then, after you make sure, you can start investing in marketing.

5. Investing everything in a single campaign

Even if you are completely sure that you chose the right channels for marketing, you still should not invest all your budget in a single campaign — this is a mistake. When you are a startup introducing your brand to the target audience, you do not know yet what types of ads will be most effective for your customers. If you bet everything on a specific advertising campaign, you may still win, but if not, you will lose all your marketing budget — for a startup, such a situation may lead to failure. Therefore, instead of making such a mistake, be careful about your campaign investments. The following recommendations will help you:

  • Calculate the budget properly

When allocating money to a marketing campaign, you should make calculations and define the amount you can spend on a specific ad. Imagine the worst possible scenario — the campaign fails and you lose money. Now, how much do you need to keep your business afloat? The main thing to remember is that you should not bet more than you can afford to lose. 

  • Try different options

You have selected the channels that are likely to be effective for targeting your audience. We suppose that there is at least one social network on the list. However, social media often offer different advertising options: with videos, images, and so on. Instead of sticking to a specific type, try different ads. Again, calculate the budget carefully and allocate a certain amount of money to every campaign. Do not invest more in a particular ad type — keep the amounts more or less equal. Then, after the campaigns are launched, you will be able to figure out which options are more effective for your audience. For example, your potential customers may interact more with video ads than with other formats. Therefore, in your next campaigns, you may want to focus exactly on videos since they are more effective (and reinvest more money into such campaigns).

The same recommendation applies to other campaigns that you may launch via email, on Google, and so on. Try different options to figure out which of them are the most efficient. Remember to calculate the budget carefully and do not invest all your money in a single campaign. This is the wrong approach not only for startups, but for most other businesses as well.

  • Track the performance

To understand the effectiveness of your effort and investment, make sure to track the performance continuously. Since your company is a startup, it would be wise to do this even every day, so that you and your team will always be aware of the situation. Focus on those metrics that are aligned with your goals — they are the most important. Other data can be helpful as well, but the metrics relevant to your goals should still be your main priority. Apart from this, pay attention to all the analytics sources: analytical features of social media, Google Analytics, and so on. In this way, you will be able to see the whole picture. Consider visualising the data with graphs and charts, when possible, so that it would be easier to track the progress.

Keep in mind that for marketing channels the recommendations are pretty much the same. Do not invest everything in a single channel until you figure out which of them are the most efficient. Try different options even in case you are completely sure that the chosen channel is worth all your budget. However, this still should be done carefully, as trying too many things at once is another mistake that we will cover in the next section of the article.

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