Did you know 90% of startups are likely to fail? And for so many of them, a lack of solid marketing strategy, direction, and understanding is a leading reason. In fact – of the startups that fail – approximately 22% of those are due to marketing problems.

Marketing is crucial for startups. It creates brand awareness, attracts customers, and drives business growth. It enables startups to communicate their unique value proposition, differentiate themselves from competitors, and build lasting customer relationships. Effective marketing strategies are vital for establishing a strong presence in the market and achieving long-term success — but getting to that point can be a tough journey for some.

Check out five of the most common marketing mistakes startups make — along with actionable advice for how to side-step these pitfalls and ensure your startup doesn’t end up part of this statistic.

Not Knowing Your Customer

When a startup doesn’t have a clearly defined audience, they end up trying to market to everyone… and therefore end up marketing to no one. Clear messaging that’s tailored to a specific audience helps establish a connection and effectively communicate the startup’s value proposition to the people who will actually benefit from it.

Let’s talk about Tushy: The irreverent bidet attachment startup has crushed its marketing efforts by knowing exactly who they were trying to market to — everyday people who are likely first-time bidet users. To do this, Tushy used bold messaging, educational content, and a strong social media presence to destigmitize bidets, while addressing misconceptions and promoting the benefits of their products. Collaborations with influencers, a focus on sustainability, and an eye-catching website have further enhanced their brand’s appeal, resonating with eco-conscious consumers seeking a more hygienic and environmentally friendly bathroom experience. (And it’s clearly working out for them — who knew one day we’re be writing about a bidet company on this blog? 😂)

Hiring A Junior Marketer For Big-Picture Strategy

No shade toward early-career strategists — everyone’s has to start somewhere. With fresh ideas and modern POVs, marketers who are newer to the game bring a lot of value to the table… under the right guidance. Only an experienced marketer has the strategic insight and decision-making prowess to helm ambitious growth marketing efforts. They’re the ones who have already worked on various campaigns, dealt with challenges, and learned valuable lessons along the way. This expertise allows them to navigate the complexities of the startup landscape more quickly, efficiently, and masterfully.

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Copying Your Competitors

Scoping out the competition is a key fundamental of good business — you have to know what’s out there in order to do better. But by simply copy-pasting a competitor’s marketing strategy for your own isn’t adding any value to the world, meaning it gives your audience zero reason to connect with — or even care about — your brand.

Instead, take what you learn from your competitors and make it your own — to tell your brand’s story, convey your unique selling point, and celebrate the people who make it all happen.

Creative director and marketing thought leader Dave Trott put it best when he said, “Creativity may well be the last legal unfair competitive advantage we can take to run over the competition.”

Failing To Measure Results

We know — this is the not-so-sexy side of marketing. But it’s also how you can tell what’s working… and what’s not. Without tracking and analyzing data, it’s pretty much impossible to accurately assess the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, make informed decisions, and optimize strategies.

Startups should set up analytics tools to regularly review and analyze data (see here for some of the most popular ones) to gain insights into the KPIs that matter most to them, which could include, among many others:

  • Lead Conversion Rates
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
  • Website Traffic & Sources
  • Social Media Engagement
  • Email Click-Through Rates
  • Customer Retention Rate

By leveraging data-driven insights, startups can refine their strategies, improve ROI, and achieve better results overall.

Giving Everyone On The Team A Say In Marketing Decisions

Look, everyone’s going to have an opinion on everything, from the color of your logo to whether you should begin your email greetings with “Hi” or “Hello.” But the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen spoil the broth” is a timeless proverb for a reason: Giving everyone a say isn’t going to help your marketing efforts — in fact, it’s likely to hinder it.

When you leave your marketing decisions to an expert (working in partnership with key stakeholders from your organization, of course), you not only streamline your process and save valuable time, but you also know the recommendations and execution come from a place of experience and expertise.

The Bottom Line

Avoiding these common marketing pitfalls is crucial for startups to establish a strong presence, attract customers, and achieve sustainable growth. Learning from these mistakes and continually adapting and improving marketing strategies will pave the way for long-term growth and profitability in the competitive startup landscape.

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About the Author: Jenny Farias

Meet Jenny — the founder and brand-alchemist-at-large here at BxH. She's an award-winning marketer and speaker dedicated to helping founders turn their unicorn dreams into reality. When she's not crushing it at work, you can find her jet-setting across the globe, supporting fellow female founders (hello, gWen!), or hitting up Charlotte's vibrant entrepreneurial scene with her boyfriend, Ben (#BenTheGem). Wherever she goes, Jenny brings her infectious energy and can-do attitude to the table — preferably alongside a spicy margarita.

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