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The Big 7 Startup Marketing Mistakes

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How startups often screw up their marketing and growth efforts, along with tactical tips to improve and fix these oversights.

Published in: Marketing
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The Big 7 Startup Marketing Mistakes

  1. Why so many founders & early teams fail to profitably acquire customers at scale, plus tactical tips to help solve these dilemmas. 7Ways Startups Fail at Marketing Rand Fishkin | Founder & CEO
  2. Too Many Startups Die Because They Can’t Get Customers
  3. CB Insightscompiledan analysisfrom startup post- mortems. These 5 are mostly “couldn’t find enough customers” or “couldn’t affordably find customers”
  4. To stay focused on marketing, I’m going to assume your startup has* a: A) product people want & will pay for B) serviceable market C) team that can execute, learn, & improve *don’thavethese?Get‘emfirst,thencomebacktothemarketingprocess
  5. #1 A Terrible Business (or Product) Name
  6. Problems: No one could say our name until they heard it Ona .org, so folks assumed we were nonprofit Took ~$500K torebrand in 2013 (“Moz”)
  7. Problems: Lunar is already associated w/ dozens of other things (including other watches) Brand name directly conflicts w/ product’s UVP
  8. Problems: Hustle has negative connotations outside SV (hustlers, getting “hustled”, “Hustler Magazine,” etc) Name suggests product is something it’s not (a case)
  9. 7 Easy to spell, say, hear, and remember Has no existing associations that could confuse Either suggests what the company does (AirBnB, Lyft), or has no existing/problematic overlap (Google,Atlassian) The .com site and major social accounts are owned by you Has very few or no Google search results Avoids trademark infringement Biases to brandable > keyword rich/generic #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 Rules for a Marketing-Friendly Startup Name:
  10. Some Startups Who Nailed It:
  11. You Can Succeed, Even With a Criteria- Breaking Name…. It’s Just Harder.
  12. Pssttt…. So long as the name matches the criteria, you don’t personally have to like it 
  13. #2 Not Respecting the Long Journey from Potential Customer to Conversion
  14. Startup Marketing Mythology Step 1: Build a Great Product Step 2: Launch on PH/HN (or RunAds) Step 3: Customers! $$$! SeriesA!
  15. This is a long process, with many steps
  16. Yay! You made it to the top of PH & received 15,000 visits + 500 email signups But, only ~0.01% of people are looking for email verification APIs that day 
  17. Every day, a few dozen people search for this (and don’t find you)
  18. Loads of searches for your service, but none of these people can find you 
  19. They visit lists like this (but you’re not here)
  20. They ask friends + colleagues (who’ve never heard of you)
  21. They rely on existing providers
  22. They lean on social proof from their networks
  23. Via Wordstream New to a market? This happens. Known & loved? Welcome to Profitville.
  24. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, & display ads all work the same way Via Resolution Media
  25. How to Win at Digital Advertising Step 1: Earn brand exposure w/ your target audience Step 2: Get >1 organic visit (or social engagement) Step 3:Advertise to those who already know + like you
  26. If you only play here (first exposure) Or here (decision time) You’re gonna have a bad time 
  27. Startup Marketing Reality Step 1: Get known + trusted by your audience Step 2: Grow a presence across the channels they use to find solutions your product solves Step 3: Be visible throughout their discovery, consideration, and decision processes
  28. #3 Chasing Growth Hacks
  29. Hack-Chasing Usually Leads to Death Before Success Via ProStart Hack Hack Hack Hack Crap.
  30. You’re Fighting the “Law of Shitty Clickthrough Rates” Via Andrew Chen A lot of exploitable, short-term “growth hacks” start here And end here
  31. Great Marketers Focus on Flywheels (systems that scale w/ decreasing friction)
  32. Content Marketing Flywheel KW Research + Industry Intuition Publish Content Promote via Social Channels Push to email + RSS subscribers Earn Links + Amplification Grow social, email, RSS, & WoM channels Grow Domain Authority Earn Search & Referral Traffic Rank for More Competitive KWs
  33. PR+Ads Flywheel ID Sources of Customer Influence Craft Stories to Draw Coverage Earn Press Coverage Pitch Media Amplify + Promote Run Ads Targeting Cookied Visitors Expand Social Following Slowly Convert Fans + Followers Refine Ad+CRO Processes
  34. Events + Sponsorship Flywheel ID Events w/ Customer Targets Sponsor + Pitch to Present Capture Visitor Info Host Booths, Dinners, Parties Reach Out w/ Direct+Indirect Emails Cookie Site Visitors & Email Opens Run Hyper- Personalized Ads Improve CRO + Sales Process Uncover Customer Connections & Affinities
  35. Hard at first, but gets easier (& more profitable) with scale Find Find Create Create Amplify Amplify Convert Convert Learn & Apply
  36. Growth Hacks Can Accelerate a Flywheel
  37. Hacks aren’t necessarily evil, spammy, or without value. They can be useful when applied to a sound marketing strategy.
  38. Find a Balance Between Long-Term Investments & Short-Term Hacks High upfront costs Pay (in time/$$) as you go Long-Term Investments Slow to show ROI Earn customers while you sleep Low Risk (PR/legal/etc) Can Show Fast ROI Effort In = Links Out Often High Risk Short-Term Hacks
  39. The Formula for Marketing that Will Work for Years to Come: Strategic Roadmap Scalable Flywheel Long-Term Investments Hacks to Remove Friction + + +
  40. #4 Saving Marketing Until Your Product Launch
  41. Via ASmartBear
  42. The First Time Someone Hears About You… You want my credit card & email???
  43. Which One(s) Should You Do? Create a blog? Participate in forum discussions? Build a community on your own site? Become a guest contributor to other communities? Participate in events & conferences? Grow relationships/awareness via social media? Invest in video on aYouTube channel?
  44. Invest in 2-3 tactics long before you launch a product. So that when you do, there’s a pre- existing community that wants to support & amplify you.
  45. Via ProductHunt
  46. #5 Your CRO Process Misses the Big Picture
  47. Incremental testing of headlines, colors, layout, pricing, etc. Local Maxima Uncovering why most qualified customers who visit don’t buy & addressing their issues Global Maxima
  48. Early Stage: Build a community & recruit folks excited about your product.
  49. Later Stages: Once you have real people signing up for your product, you can learn more about them
  50. A few dozen emails & names give you a treasure trove of info about your customer targets Now we can find more people like this!
  51. Interview or survey this audience to ID their clones.
  52. Then we can identify traits that separate right prospects (who’ll use & love our product) from wrong (those who won’t).
  53. Ideally You Want to: A: Identify right customers B: Find what/who influences them C: Clone, expand, & repeat
  54. My Favorite Process: From Conversion Rate Experts’ case study Boom. And Shakalaka.
  55. Didn’t try the product Tried, but didn’t love it Tried & loved the product What do you think the product does? What made you try it? What made you try it? What would make you more likely to try it? What are your biggest objections to signup? What objections did you have and how did you overcome them? What caused you to stop using the product? What would have made you stay a customer? What objections did you have and how did you overcome them? What’s been most valuable to you? If you’ve loved it, can we share your story?
  56. #6 Not Prioritizing an Easy-to-Reach Audience
  57. easier toreach harder toreach Know you personally (& would happily meet for coffee) Know of you, like you, &follow your work closely Are already connected to you via email Already follow you on social media channels Have visited your website at least once Have heard of your company (and can recall it) Are in your target audience and reachable via FB/GG ads
  58. It’s Foolish to…
  59. easier toreach harder toreach Know you personally (& would happily meet for coffee) Know of you, like you, &follow your work closely Are already connected to you via email Already follow you on social media channels Have visited your website at least once Have heard of your company (and can recall it) Are in your target audience and reachable via FB/GG ads 1) Lack any strategy to increase the size of these groups
  60. easier toreach harder toreach Know you personally (& would happily meet for coffee) Know of you, like you, &follow your work closely Are already connected to you via email Already follow you on social media channels Have visited your website at least once Have heard of your company (and can recall it) Are in your target audience and reachable via FB/GG ads 2) Not target these people first
  61. easier toreach harder toreach Know you personally (& would happily meet for coffee) Know of you, like you, &follow your work closely Are already connected to you via email Already follow you on social media channels Have visited your website at least once Have heard of your company (and can recall it) Are in your target audience and reachable via FB/GGAds 3) Aim 100% of your tactics at only these groups
  62. But Rand…
  63. Mark didn’t start Facebook with… Oh dang… He totally did.
  64. Brian & Joe didn’t start AirBnB with… Oh dang… They totally did.
  65. Jeremy didn’t start Yelp with… Oh dang… He totally did.
  66. Dharmesh & Brian Didn’t Start Hubspot with… Oh dang… They totally did.
  67. easier toreach harder toreach Know you personally (& would happily meet for coffee) Know of you, like you, &follow your work closely Are already connected to you via email Already follow you on social media channels Have visited your website at least once Have heard of your company (and can recall it) Are in your target audience and reachable via FB/GG ads Pro Tip: Having a lot of target customers in your personal network makes EVERYTHING about starting up easier.
  68. #7 Ignoring Brand
  69. Brand is… Apromise. i.e. when you see “Brand X” it means “YAttributes” Amemory trigger. i.e. when you experience problem Z, you think of “Brand X” as the potential solution
  70. Brand Marketing is… Acoded message. Reminding you of the brand’s existence Reinforcing the brand’s colors, shapes, sounds, experiences, & feelings Nudging you to use the brand at the right time
  71. What do you think of when you see this brand?
  72. Brand marketing reinforces that:
  73. What do you think of when you see this brand?
  74. Brand marketing reinforces that:
  75. What do you think of when you see this brand?
  76. Brand marketing reinforces that:
  77. Before you can brand, you need a Brand Promise We provide… We evoke feelings… We remind you of… We share the values of… product/ service that solves a problem you have that make our customers most anxious about whether our solution is right for them Memories that our target demographics & psychographics will have ++ associations with People who are statistically most likely to be our best customers
  78. Everything Should (Subtly) Reinforce the Message SEO Snippets PPC Ads Big Content CommentsTweets Photos Landing Pages UI & UX Brand Name Facebook Posts Emails Product Names Videos Visual Branding Outreach Onboarding Press & PR The Brand Promise
  79. Brand Cost of paid acquisition drops as people prefer to click on your ads Retention, LTV, and marketing ROI all rise You earn more free coverage, amplifying your reach, your SEO rankings, and reinforcing your brand It feels difficult, even impossible to reverse engineer your success Switching costs feel higher (even if your competitors make it easy) People want to take your calls, open your emails, and respond to you with a “yes,” making all your bizdev activities easier #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 The Awesome Powers of
  80. Rand Fishkin | Founder & CEO Thank You! Come see what we’re building at SparkToro to Help

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