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Why Do Startups Fail? Avoid These 6 Business-Killing Marketing Mistakes  

By Deborah Kurfiss, Umbrella Communications & Content Director on Jan 12, 2024

As a marketing agency owner, no doubt some of your clients are hopeful startups. But the harsh reality is that about 10% of startups fail in the first year, and 70% fail in the second through the fifth year.  Professor Leonard Lodish, a marketing professor at Wharton and author of Entrepreneurial Marketing and Marketing That Works, says so many businesses fail because of their marketing mistakes.

What goes wrong and how can your marketing agency help your clients to succeed through marketing? Let’s take a look at common marketing mistakes.

1. Not Understanding the Critical Value of Marketing at All Stages

Many startups get off on the wrong foot by undervaluing the importance of marketing. Some small business owners think they can do their own marketing without the years of study and experience of expert professional marketers.

Another common mistake is not bringing in professional marketers until a product or business is ready to launch, rather than seeing marketing help to shape the company’s offerings. When this happens, the business may not be able to find an audience who will buy their products and services.

It’s not only small businesses who do this. Companies that are heavily engineering-focused often think if they “build it they will come.” These companies do not properly analyze their audience’s needs and desires — or even who the audience is. They just go ahead and build the product or develop the service without regard to audience needs and brand image.

Before doing anything else, a company needs to do its market research. They need to identify their target audience, and the challenges and motivations of that audience. The company needs to understand their competition and develop how to set themselves apart. Only then should they begin to develop their offerings.

Long story short, startups need to consider marketing at the very beginning, rather than waiting until they are ready to launch.

2. Inadequate Marketing Plan and Action Plans

A surprising percentage of businesses open without any real marketing plan. This is a recipe for failure. When running a business, if you just wing it when it comes to marketing, you are going to meet with failure. You need to set up a marketing plan for your client with an overview of their goals, strategies and market position. Then you need to set up specific action plans with even more specific steps and budgets.

If you are not setting up a marketing plan and action plans, you have no way to measure success or failure. You have no way to know what to tweak to improve or how to allocate your client’s marketing budget moving forward.

Without a solid marketing plan, there is also a tendency to try to meet everyone’s needs rather than the needs of a defined target market. You can’t be everything to everybody. The more generic your client makes their product, the less useful it will be. This is one of the major marketing mistakes.

3. Failure to Treat First Customers Like VIPs

Once you turn leads into your client’s first customers, you need to treat those customers like gold. There is never going to be a time when customer reviews and word of mouth is going to be more important.

Develop referral programs that reward your client’s customers and other programs that encourage customer-generated social media content. Develop loyalty programs. Help turn your client’s customers into evangelists.

4. Failure to Integrate Marketing Channels

There is some controversy about how many commercial messages are exposed to each day. The upper limit claimed is 10,000. It may not be that high, but there isn’t any doubt that we are all exposed to thousands of commercial messages per day. With all that coming at us, you need a structured way to break through the clutter.

Marketing channels must be chosen that are best to reach a specific target market. It’s also important to choose multiple marketing channels in order to amplify your message. Your audience will only notice your message after they have heard it or seen it several times, and each time must be consistent. If you are relaying fragmented or contradictory messages across various marketing channels, you are simply working against yourself.

5. Not Effectively Tracking Results and Changing Direction

To be effective, you need to track all your actions and campaigns. It is impossible to avoid multiple marketing mistakes if you do not track and test your marketing. You need to set up key performance indicators (KPIs). Then you need to track these and analyze results on a continuing basis. Try different options in order to reach maximum effectiveness.  If you don’t, you are just guessing about how to market your client’s products and services.

6. Inadequate Budget

Many business owners who don’t understand the importance of marketing do not allot enough marketing budget. If your client doesn’t budget enough, they are not going to adequately reach their target audience, and the business will likely fail. You need to convince your client that to succeed, they need to allocate a substantial amount for marketing. Of course, you don’t want to throw money away, which is why extensive research, good planning and continuous tracking and testing are so critical.

You’re Not on Your Own in Avoiding Startup- Killing Marketing Mistakes

You aren’t on your own in planning marketing strategy for your startup and established clients. To discuss how Umbrella can help you avoid marketing mistakes and implement effective, revenue-generating marketing programs for your clients, schedule a free consultation on our website or call (866) 760-2638.

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