This article originally ran on PR Daily in June of 2017.
When you’re running a startup, you have difficult choices to make about marketing.
On one hand, marketing is the lifeblood of an organization. Good marketing attracts customers and investors alike.
On the other hand, you can’t spend too much time, effort and resources on marketing. It can distract from other major concerns such as product development, sales and support.
Avoid these pitfalls in your quest for effective marketing:
Overspending on marketing is a classic mistake. Online marketing lets you see results coming in immediately, and you might be tempted to respond by increasing your budget for AdWords, banner ads and whatever other campaigns you run.
This is dangerous for a few reasons.
First, you are putting too many eggs in one basket. By pouring more money into marketing, you leave less for your actual product and everything that surrounds it. All the marketing in the world can’t make up for a bad product or missing features. You want it all to succeed and grow. That means you have to be smart about determining when your rate of return is leveling off and realize it’s time to concentrate on other things.
Second, although you can fuel some short-term growth with a marketing binge, this growth isn’t sustainable because it won’t generate high-quality leads. You may get a few quarters or even a few years of growth, but it will eventually collapse because customers have no true commitment to your brand.
2. Ignoring conversions
In the world of online marketing, one can easily get fixated on site visits, bounce rates, click-thrus and other stats. Many startup marketers treat all of these things with equal regard. However, only one is a meaningful measure of success: conversion to sales.
All the visitors, ad-driven interaction and social media engagement mean nothing if they don’t generate revenue in some way.
This is similar to the mistake above: By spending a ton of money on ads, you can boost your visits, but without efficient targeting and well-crafted design, you won’t succeed in converting those visits to sales. Furthermore, a bad product will undermine the numbers because people won’t come back for repeat business.
Don’t lose track of the fact that your bottom line matters. Try looking up some of the biggest and most headline-grabbing startups and see how many of them are deeply unprofitable.
3. Not using automation
Automated tools represent the potential for significant savings of time and attention in marketing. They enable you to carry out critical marketing tasks with minimal investment of oversight and resources.
For example, look into automated email services. They can manage personalized template messages you can send to different subscribers based on demographics, specific actions that the subscribers take, and almost anything else you want. Create a message to remind people about items left in their cart or offer a free eBook they can download. Once they buy a product, follow up with later emails offering discounts on related items or refills.
Send extra offers to those who haven’t engaged in a while. The possibilities are endless, and they’re effortless to execute. PR pros for start ups must spend their time on other important tasks, so using automation can add up to a big advantage.
4. Forgetting mobile users
This is a key issue, especially if your website is your most important point of sale. Never forget that the majority of all internet traffic is now coming from mobile devices, and the share is growing.
Mobile use is everywhere. It’s the home of the impulse buy and social media integration. If your site isn’t fast, light and easy to navigate on modern smartphones and mobile browsers, you risk alienating a huge potential audience. You simply cannot afford to have your site design fall behind in functionality on mobile.
Text must be clear and easy to read. Images should resize themselves appropriately. Links should be easy to tap with a finger. Everything has to fit on a small screen. There are a hundred little details that make a mobile site work well. Make sure you don’t have any holes, or visitors will look elsewhere. Find a web design agency to help convert your site if you don’t have the experience on hand.
5. Not building relationships
The early days of a startup can be a frenetic time. However, building strong relationships with customers has to be a top priority for your business. What this looks like depends on your organization and industry. In some cases you might only have a few customers and you will be able to cultivate personal relationships with each one individually. If you have a lot of customers, you’ll have to rely on email and social media.
Whatever the case, you have to build those relationships so your customers come back to buy from you again and act as your brand ambassadors through word of mouth. It’s a key investment in your own future. With a core of loyal customers, you get a dependable revenue base, sources of referrals and a better reputation.
Moving to the digital era has not obviated the need to build trust and warm feelings with customers. Set up a strong business phone service with VOIP to connect directly with customers, and be sure you have business internet to support your growth over time.
6. Lack of data integration
Information is becoming more widely available, and countless accessible suites of software can help you search it for it. Combine marketing campaign analytics with sales data, and add in records and outcomes from customer support calls. Use social media feedback if you can. These should all inform each other.
Sales data should show what people want in terms of features so developers can implement changes and improvements. Strategy has to be comprehensive, which means drawing on all data sources to build a big-picture approach.
What mistakes would you add to the list?
Eileen O’Shanassy is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Flagstaff, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter: @eileenoshanassy.