Far too often than not, we see startups make mistakes that could be easily prevented. Our team held an informal poll and identified the most common (and easiest to avoid) mistakes that startups make, so you don’t have to make them.
Knowing Your Audience and Make a Product they Really Need
Your target audience is probably a lot narrower than you think it is. In fact, just under half of startups fail because there isn’t a sufficient market need for their product.
Be realistic when you start brainstorming who you think your target audience might be. Create a few detailed user profiles to represent your customers. Get together with your team and explore their demographics, interests, what keywords you might find them under.
Not everyone is going to be your target customer, and the sooner you recognize who your real targets are the more efficiently you will be able to approach your crowdfunding, website text, packaging, and branding. In short, don’t fall in love with your product, fall in love with your audience!
Knowing your target audience well will replace a lot of the stress that comes with startup marketing with more creativity and fun.
A great way to refine your target audience before you launch is to create a landing page with a clear Call to Action or CTA (think- email sign up) and run a preliminary campaign purchasing ads on social media. Popularized by Tim Ferris, this strategy is relatively cheap, lets you test who you think your target audience might be, and allows you to make small adjustments as you go.
One of the first things we ask new clients is “What is your product?” We can tell nearly instantly if a project is ready for launch based on the answers. Why answers, plural? Often we find that there’s a lack of agreement within a team on what a project is and whose needs it serves. The results are frankenprojects that incorporate everyone’s ideas without any curation or direction.
Products (and companies) need to solve real problems for real people.
What’s especially terrifying is that the initial meeting with the marketing agency is the first time that development teams realize their deep divisions. This can come after months or even years of cloistered development.
How can you ensure that everyone on your team understands and agrees with what your product is and does?
In our 3 Must Haves for Successful Startup Marketing post, we get into detail on how to create and promote cohesive messaging. It all comes from everyone on your team being able to answer the following questions:
1) What does your company or product do?
2) How does your company or product do it?
3) Why does your company or product do it?
Another important factor pointed out in the previous section is asking people – real people who are your target users – about their actual needs.
Timing is everything!
Don’t rush your product to market before it’s ready. It is vital to complete your A-B testing and incorporate the feedback. It’s even more vital to have a product! The Theranos debacle highlights the danger in this. Theranos famously came under public and legal fire after securing massive funding for a blood testing product that did not exist.
In the likely event that you are not attempting to fraudulently divest investors of hundreds of millions of dollars, the next example might be more relevant for you.
If you release an app and don’t have all the bugs and UI/UX worked out ahead of time it will be a lot more difficult to get people to re-download your app again after you fix it. Releasing an imperfect app will tank your product, it’s always smart to take a little extra time to get it just right for your customers.
This happened to one of our early clients. We helped them with a successful media launch that resulted in more than 30 articles in seven languages. It included publications like Mashable and Gizmodo. But there was a problem. Because their app still had major bugs it ended up with poor ratings. Remember that your launch is an opportunity to make 10,000 good first impressions or 10,000 bad first impressions.
Even if your app is perfectly ready for launch, you still need to be mindful of the timing! If you’re in Asia and launching a product for purchase online in the US, don’t launch your product between Christmas and New Years. If you are targeting China don’t launch your product just after Single’s Day, November 11th. This can also be filed under ‘knowing your audience’. We hope that at this point in our series, you can see how each element of marketing interlocks. Creating a plan and a strategy impacts each facet of your overall marketing campaign!
Be Wary of Quick Fixes!
Marketing your startup is very different from the corporate marketing that you might be used to. Instead of working with an established reputation, you are building one from scratch and that carries inherent risks. Most startup companies expect to become famous overnight. But in reality, it’s a marathon, not a foot race!
Be wary of growth hacking or other buzzwords. What worked for Airbnb in 2008 is not going to work for you in 2019. The term ‘growth hack’ was coined by Sean Ellis after he independently scaled DropBox, Eventbrite, LogMeln and Lookout by using unconventional tactics.
Growth hacking requires a super analytical mindset, and a personal obsession with seeing something succeed. But, that’s not really enough because there is a fatal flaw with the growth hacking approach, it does not actually make your product more compelling.
If your product or service does not work well, provide a function, tap into a desire – no amount of money or growth hacking will make people buy it!
Viral marketing falls under the same category. Going viral is a fluke, it’s not a strategy. Planning an exquisite strategy and executing it to perfection will only bring you virality if you are NIKE or happen to have a very famous celebrity friend willing to lend their support. Or, if you are just plain old lottery lucky!
Taken together, knowing your audience, cultivating cohesion within your team, getting the timing right, and avoiding a reliance on quick fixes all come down to having realistic expectations. With marketing you cannot expect anything to happen without putting in the work.
If you’re preparing for a big pitch and need some help with the script and presentation, get in touch with us at G3 Partners.