The 5 Marketing Deathtraps that Might Just Kill your Startup

#1 = ‘I’ll do it all it myself’

We’ve got to be confident as entrepreneurs, but this can often tip into becoming a ‘know-it-all’. The most dangerous trap for any founder is thinking they have all the answers and dictates the marketing team. Don’t get me wrong, it is important to understand marketing channels and overarching strategies, just don’t get hung up on the implementation. I consider myself a generalist and know a fair amount about startup marketing, but I am constantly learning and listening to our specialists.

This wasn’t always the case, when I launched Ordoo I spent years writing blog posts, learning about SEO, controlling the email outreach, running events, tinkering with Google Ads and generally #hustlemarketing. It turns out, I wasn’t that good at any of it. I’ve learnt the hard way that a founder is better placed focusing on culture, strategy, financing and partnerships.

Leave the marketing to the experts. If you’re still doing all your marketing campaigns alone you will, at best, spend years learning how not to do it, or at worst run out of leads and go out of business.

#2 = ‘False negatives’

Founders can be a bit like magpies – jumping from shiny idea to shiny idea. This often translates to marketing and the go to market strategy. Whilst I agree with many facets of the ‘fail fast’ mentality, I think many founders and marketers are taking this too literally. Too many good initiatives and channels are discarded without a thorough test and poor execution. It normally stems from a lack of data in the decision making process.

‘Let’s try Google Ads’ > ‘Good idea’ > Spend £1000 > ‘CPA is too high’ > ‘Ah Well, how about Facebook?’. We dig into a loads of startup ad accounts and you’d be surprised at the sporadic spikes in traffic over the years from ineffective ‘tests’. Stop ruling out ideas, experiments or channels erroneously. False negatives will sink a startup.

Some ways you can avoid false negatives:

  1. Use experts to execute the experiments
  2. Use a proper growth experiment framework
  3. Run the experiments for long enough
  4. Make sure you have a reliable, single source of truth attribution model

#3 Letting results dictate budget

How much should you spend on marketing? A question plaguing founders who are struggling to see results.

Unfortunately, we see a number of startups getting caught in this catch 22. They don’t invest enough in marketing, therefore they miss lead targets and get poor growth results. This in turn leads to less investment and dwindling cash. Guess which budget gets cut first? Marketing. The cycle continues until you run out of money.

It takes courage for a startup founder to set a marketing budget before a market has been proven for a product. Significant amounts of money can be spent for many months and years before the hockey-stick growth appears (if it ever does). One thing we can guarantee is if investment into marketing isn’t made in the first place, the exponential growth will never materialise. Be brave and commit to your marketing budget, even in the face of unanticipated results.

Not sure where to start in setting a budget? Our handy marketing budget calculator is the tool for you!

#4 Not testing enough channels to market

Marketing ideas and initiatives will fail. Startup marketing is an inherently uncertain domain. The product, customers and market are often untested and many variables are at play. Failure across the board is inevitable.

However, too many founders expect everything in the startup will succeed. This becomes a problem when there aren’t enough channels to market being tested. At Growth Division, we use the Bullseye Framework to whittle down the 20 potential traction channels to between 3 and 6 for a 6 month period, depending on growth targets and budget. 3 channels should be the minimum, as the chances are a couple will fail and need to be stopped.

If you’re only testing 1 or 2 channels then you are likely to fail. Sadly, this is the case with many startups who rely too heavily on this approach. It will take at least 6 months to prove or disprove a channel being successful, by which time it may be too late to test another one.

#5 Relying on a generalist marketer

The seemingly obvious next step for a founder who needs to grow is to hire a marketer. This process can be very reactionary and highly variable. Do you hire someone from a corporate? An up-and-coming graduate? A seasoned startup marketer? The choice is a tricky one.

The truth is, this is the wrong choice to be making. No single person can solve all your marketing problems for you. I’ve seen people heading up marketing in a startup who are building the strategy, writing the copy, managing the ads, running the project management and collecting the data for reporting. And then, they’re asked by the founder to get to the top of Google.

There are some miracle people out there, but they’re often not available with startup budgets. You might be lucky and hire a ‘T-shaped’ marketer, who specialises at one channel and knows a lot about a little. Yet, you shouldn’t make them responsible for executing the long-tail of channels and activities that are possible. This will result in burn-out, poor results and false negatives as you don’t fully test anything effectively.

Marketing requires a team of specialists. You need to hire for expertise in each and every channel you operate. If you’re in a position to hire a team, then fantastic. Often founders don’t have the budget for this, in which case you need to build a team of part-time freelancers and experts until you reach the next phase of growth. Consider a fractional CMO to replace the role of a generalist marketer if you feel you need this level of strategic oversight. Please don’t hire one person and expect marketing to be sorted

And there you have it! The 5 most common marketing deathtraps we’ve seen many a startup fall victim to over the years. They’re easy to avoid, once you know what to look for.

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