The 4 Mistakes Startups Make That Guarantee Failure
Updated: Jun 10, 2020
Although every business thinks it is unique, and its challenges are unique, we see the same marketing-related mistakes being made over and over by startups who are struggling or have gone out of business.
Expecting a free lunch
Many business plans, especially those written on the back of a serviette, allocate all the startup costs to buying stock, building a website, maybe a deposit on shop rental, business cards, or staff salaries, but leave nothing, or very little for marketing costs. This is often down to the assumptions that people will become aware of the business through a few organic (free) methods:
a) Word of mouth. When did you last recommend a new business to a friend of yours? Maybe you have, but the chances of that friend acting on that recommendation are slim. Long story short, it's a very slow burn approach.
b) Social Media. Love this one. Before around 2012 not that many brands were using social media, so branded posts reached 16-20% of the brand's followers. People were also more engaged on social media back then, so if you were able to build a big following you could just about build a brand that way, for free. As the number of brands using social has increased, and Facebook has started to push them towards paid options, the average brand post reaches just...0.5% of your followers! That free lunch in no longer.
c) Hype. Unless you are launching the new iPhone or Kanye sneakers, people aren't going to be as excited about your product or business as you are I'm afraid.
2. DIY Marketing
The sport lovers among you will know the feeling of shouting at the TV telling the soccer or rugby coach what he should be doing, and which players they should be picking - we're all an expert because we watch a lot of sport, right? But if we were thrust into that position and had to try and train the finer details of set piece tactics, nutrition, sports psychology etc, we would be found wanting.
The same problem exists in marketing. Because everyone is surrounded by marketing messages and brands (around 1000 a day) a lot of non-marketers think they can do it. All I'll say is that 20 years experience can't be learned merely from observation. Saying a lot in only a few words is an art. Using design and colour to portray something is art. Understanding the messaging of competitors and coming up with something better, smarter and more unique is a science. Don't embarrass yourself, hire an expert, it will save you a lot face and money in the long run.
3. Making ads instead of content
Create content, that captures the imagination, gets shared, gets remembered, and ultimately make sales, not ads. Unless you are showcasing something truly exceptional, sticking a picture of it & it's price AND all the boring details about it into one ad will not work. Rather focus (by that I mean let your agency focus) on creating entertaining pieces of communication that get across to the viewer the benefit that your product or service provides. It's hard, but in a world drowning in noise, it's the only thing that works.
4. Misunderstanding the relationship between content & broadcasting
Let's say you rent that huge billboard you see on your way to work everyday. If you think just 'it' will do the job of convincing the 10,000 people who see it every day to buy your product or service, irrespective of what content you put on it, you are sadly mistaken.
Equally, if you invest in a truly breathtaking photoshoot or piece of film to promote your brand, and think it will 'go viral' you are also sadly mistaken.
When planning your campaign, you must consider both aspects, and apportion your budget accordingly. Typically 25% on the production, and 75% on the media spend to broadcast it. The content will only work if enough people see it, and the people will only react to it if the content is awesome. Don't neglect one for the other.
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