Top 5 mistakes startups make when planning their marketing strategy

The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.

—Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

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When in a startup, there are several things on your plate while growing your company. You have a service/product to develop, a team to manage, and deals to seal. You may not even have the budget to hire a marketing manager, but know that marketing is important for your company’s overall growth. While you’re strategizing what you would hope is a highly effective marketing strategy, here are five foundational elements you should not ignore:

Diving in without sufficient research

Lack of in-depth research just might render all your marketing efforts futile. And when we say research we are including the following:

  • Buyer personas: They are abstract idea of who your potential consumers or decision makers will be. It should include the buyer’s behaviors, occupation, age, gender, interests, etc. You should create as many specific personas as your business needs in order to include all of your varied audience. For example, if you’ve built a photo-editing site, the features and marketing messages may resonate better with the GenX as compared to the older generation.
    What this means is that once you’ve better defined and understood your ideal customer, it is easier for you to market to and sell to them.
  • Competitors: Competitor research will provide you insights into the strengths and weaknesses of your current and potential competitors. Understanding the positioning of your competitors with respect to the overall market trends gives you a brief about how you can formulate your own business tactics.
  • Present market stance/environment: While conducting your market research, segregate your data into two fields: primary and secondary. Primary research is data that comes directly from the source(potential customers). Secondary research can include studies, statistics, reports, and other data from organizations.

Ignoring the sales hurdles

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Sales and marketing teams should both have a common understanding of the organization’s buyer personas as well as shared business goals. Not all engagement made by the sales team with a potential prospect delivers the best outcome– some people are not interested, some do not need the product/service at that particular time, and a few others may just never want to do business with you period. When creating a “marketing” strategy, do not overlook mapping of the sales process. This is where marketing and sales alignment can effectively help in reducing the time and effort it takes to close a sale.

By ensuring that your strategy involves your marketing team nurturing leads through the awareness and consideration stages of marketing, and then transferring the qualified leads to the sales team. This saves you time, energy, and resources as it expedites the process of lead conversion.

Leaving no room for changes in strategy

Facebook had started focussing on advertisement-based marketing in 2012. And while Facebook is still used to get updates on what’s happening around the world and consume content, communication has been slowly shifting to other platforms(example, Snapchat, Instagram, etc.). This is because of the flexibility of sharing things in a better way. Look at the stat below, which shows a decline in the Facebook engagement from the first quarter of 2015 to the first quarter of 2016.

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So, it’s safe to say that what worked yesterday may not work today. So, it is indispensable to be open to tweaking or revamping your strategies from time to time, to accommodate latest market environments.

Now this does not mean that you shouldn’t commit to the current strategy you choose. You can try A/B testing your strategy for a period of time (say, for three months) to see what works best for your company. Resort to various social media channel marketing to see which platform gives you better traction.

Ignoring analytics

Instead of looking at only the big picture of monthly leads/opportunities/traffic, drill down and measure your efforts regularly. Figure out which post got the most engagement, and which particular piece of content drove the most volume of traffic, etc. Even if your efforts do not pay off, evaluating the quality of traffic will help you modify your methods by knowing what does or does not work well for your company. Every business is different, and there is no universal list of metrics to be checked off. The good news is that it has become increasingly easy to find free tools(or almost free tools) that can help you track and measure your results.

The most important things to measure when tailoring your marketing strategy are:

  • Traffic: where is it coming from, what is the amount of traffic, which content/post has drawn the traffic
  • Leads: which campaign, source, program, or offers are driving in leads
  • Conversions: traffic → leads, leads → prospects, prospects → sales, and expense per customer acquisition
  • Competitors: how do your key rivals sum up in terms of reach, traffic, inbound links, rankings based on keywords, etc.

Google Analytics provides a wide range of detailed information which can help you track your progress in a very effective way. You can also check out HubSpot, which offers integrated analytics to examine your visitor’s behaviors, web video metrics, etc.

Relying entirely on outsourcing the company’s digital requirements

Outsourcing sales and marketing campaigns might work wonders for your company. But expecting a third party to handle everything and achieve first-rate results might typically end in disappointment.Even if you plan on outsourcing your marketing strategies, it is highly essential that you put in effort and educate your team about what digital marketing can do for your company’s overall growth.

Before launching any digital campaign, always ensure that you meet with the agency and understanding the ongoings to stay on the same page. Invest time in finding out which methodologies will be utilized and how will the success be measured. Continual communication is also crucial to guarantee an optimal campaign.

The advantage of any startup is making a product/service, culture, and business that is all your own. Don’t inhibit the growth of it by implementing a flawed marketing strategy. Creating a business plan is arduous, but the harder part is developing a coherent picture of marketing strategy that makes sense and is appealing to others along with providing a rational roadmap to the future.

Obtain as much as feedback as possible, to gain more perspectives about your business plans. If you’re still baffled about how your plan should/should not be like, find a professional you trust, to guide you through the entire process and fill in the knowledge gaps.

About the author:

Priya Karan is an Inbound Marketer at The Smarketers.
As an inbound marketer and a creative content writing enthusiast, she is passionate about all things marketing, and has a strong preference for the digital side of it.

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