The single biggest PR/marketing mistake made by startups

At 451 we regularly work with startups and so I’ve witnessed many of the most common startup mistakes first hand (we are often brought in to help with the clean up). Recently we met with a select number of finalists in the MassChallenge and I’m reminded how relevant these issues remain. I posted the question “What is the single biggest PR/marketing mistake startup companies most often make?” to the PR and start-up categories in LinkedIn, to get additional buy-in from peers, and the consensus on the #1 offense is…..

1. The ostrich effect – Most startups are so focused on developing their products/services that they ignore marketing completely. Here’s the problem: you’ve spent so much time with your head in the sand building out your offering that when you finally pop up for air and are ready to start marketing efforts you quickly find out your target demo isn’t as excited as you are. In fact, many times they ignore you completely. I’m not advocating spending a significant chunk of your seed money on marketing early on- that would be a mistake too. But like all things in life, balance and preparation are key. You can have the most brilliant, valuable product in the world, but if you don’t have a solid go-to-market strategy and messaging in place, no one will ever buy it because they either won’t care or won’t know about it. This leads nicely into the second biggest startup mistake…

2. Drunk on Kool-aid – We get it; you drink the company Kool-aid. And you should, nothing’s more attractive than a passionate CEO. However, the rest of the world didn’t spend the last three years in your mother’s basement or in the MIT labs growing to love your offering. The most successful startups have a multi-faceted, segmented, messaging strategy in place. Have you developed profiles for each of your customer types? You should. You need to identify the pain points for each unique buyer and customize your benefit message to address each individually. By doing this work early on, you’ll be set to easily craft a targeted media campaign down the road, when you are ready for PR.

The first two mistakes identified here are the most common, egregious, startup offenses. Following up these are: failing to find and exploit your niche, not maintaining brand consistency across media channels, targeting too many markets (hint: pick a vertical, demonstrate success and show it’s repeatable- investors will love you), over-promising to potential customers or press (product timing, availability, etc.), thinking you don’t need media training, and missing the opportunity to position yourself as an expert in a specific area of your business.

Are you a startup that’s made one of these mistakes? How did you recover? If you are attending WebInno27 in Cambridge, MA on Sept. 13th and would like to discuss this topic in person or have other PR questions, please reach out to me so we can met up there! @karynmartin You can read all of the LinkedIn contributor responses here http://linkd.in/b2KQkZ.

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