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The Dumbest Mistakes a Startup Can Make

December 3, 2012

Marketing a new business seems like a daunting task. But it can actually be quite fun. Having worked with the likes of successful startups Space Heroes Universe, Pozible and Open Shed, as well as keeping my finger on the Australian and overseas startup scenes, I’ve noticed a couple of really (and I mean face palm central here) mistakes startups can make.

Want to know what the dumbest mistakes startups can make so you can avoid them when marketing a new business? Keep reading!

marketing a new business

Not taking content marketing seriously

This is pretty much the crux of the matter right here. It’s hard to admit but…most Australian startups don’t take their content as seriously as their USA or UK counterparts.

And I can’t help wondering if this informs why it’s harder to get a decent swag funding wise, customer driven uptake and having question marks instead of light bulbs above people’s heads when they introduce themselves at networking events.

How can I be so bold? Because getting the content marketing right means you’re adept at telling the story that is essential to marketing a new business. Especially one that is a startup and therefore an essentially unknown quantity.

But even when the content marketing a new business has is there, quite a lot of the time, there’s another problem in that:

The SEO sucks

A startup begins with zero presence SEO wise. Nobody knows who they are. The problem is most startup people swallow the idea of being able to tell their own story but don’t understand SEO in relation to keywords, how it’s intertwined with social media or how the major search engines like Google and Bing respond to content.

Marketing a new business these days has to include a tight online presence. That includes using copy that isn’t cryptic double-speak and that has a healthy respect for SEO.

Let’s be frank- if internet bloodhounds like me can’t find a startup via search, potential customers have got less chance than a 3 legged gazelle at a cheetah’s Christmas party. Having a plan to not only have some SEO at the start but also to continue to increase it for the life of the startup is super important!

But beyond that…

Forgetting story matters, especially when marketing a new business concept! 

Welcome to the age where every second person has a blog, is cynical, immune to advertising and extremely time poor. It’s hard enough established businesses to make a convincing story work, let alone trying for those who haven’t done it before. Story isn’t easy to do and story is the only thing that will get attention. Yet marketing a new business relies on you getting the story right.

Here’s why:

  • Write like a sales person, people will be naturally suspicious and reject you.
  • Ramble on aimlessly, people will click away bored.
  • Try to be clever and you’ll alienated people.
  • Copying your competitors just gives the people who started the idea more coverage.
  • If you don’t care about what you put up there, customers won’t care about you.
  • If it’s all about you, there’s no room for your customers.
  • If you can’t scoop out your new startup concept in terms consumers (not peers) understand, you won’t make money from the actual product.

And that’s just for starters.

Most Australian startups struggle with distilling their story into an easily digestible written (and even spoken) form, let alone balancing SEO and story together.

And even if they do manage that balance, there are a lot of startups out there that simply aren’t being found due to…

Non-existent social media and blog presence

I’ll let you into a little secret here- early adopters judge startups (and most businesses or public figures really) on their social media presence. So do people in the marketing and social media industry. Not to mention journalists.

Unfortunately, this is a sector that has the biggest, fattest and loudest mouths ever. We’re a sarcastic bunch of jerks that will gleefully tear down an idea in witty one liners. We’ll cheerfully smirk at how “cutting edge” a startup is trying to be when they can’t even work out how to use the easiest forms of self promotion around, social media.

Marketing a new business in this day and age means spending time with social media and content marketing. Get used to it.

And if you think that’s only worth a shrug, here’s some more news that might get a little more interested.

a)      An estimated 75% of high performing SEO comes from social sharing, regular new content creation and audience response through comments, likes, pins

b)      One of the first places an investor will look ‘under the hood’ without a startup knowing is their blog and social media

c)       Mainstream news such as TV, radio and print (and the online version of print) are increasingly using social media as a base for stories and as a research tool which equals missed PR opportunities

Convinced? Great! But don’t make the next mistake…

Handing your startup content to a junior staffer or intern

I think it’s safe to say this is the number 1 dumb things that startups do is that when they set out with the intent of marketing a new business, they hand the reigns over to the least qualified person.

I know it’s a hard habit to break but let’s be blunt here:

How the @# %! is someone who hasn’t even learnt the difference between theory and practice yet going to conduct the most important conversation a startup has with their potential customers?!

I really wish startups would ask some tyre kicking questions of their interns before handing over the keys like:

  • What if someone newsjacks our latest press release?
  • What part of the buying cycle are you focussing on with this week’s tweets?
  • How are you tracking the ROI for our social media?
  • What’s been our most popular blog to date and why do you think that is?
  • What are the personas of the people we’re marketing a new business to?

A day spent doing a proper workshop and/or with a decent consultant ironing out the kinks and getting some education is much better than groping around in the dark like a clueless 14 year old at the movies who knows what they want (sort of) but isn’t quite sure how to get it (kind of).

Just because an intern grew up with the internet doesn’t mean they know what it takes to run a decent social media or blog campaign. I mean, we’ve all grown up with planes, but how many of us can fly them?!

 

The final piece of advice on marketing a new business idea

Get help if you are doing any or all of the above. Those 60 hours (and then some) a week you are working, the load of funding you are carrying, the dream you are pursuing could be easily supported and lifted by putting a bit of time and budget aside to get your content working properly.

Why chop your chances down by more than half when realistically, a couple of days (at most a week depending on the shape the startup is in) spent with a professional looking at your content could see you move from zero to hero?

Marketing a new business requires skill, time and the right tools. Want to kick off that adventure the right way? Check out my foundation marketing plan. 

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