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9 Marketing Challenges for the Startup

9 common marketing challenges that startups routinely face — and how to fix them.

Global Influencer

Global Influencer
Global Influencer

Source: Pixabay, StartupStockPhotos

I was having lunch with some friends the other day. One was talking about how his brother was having a heck of a time getting sales for his new company and couldn’t figure out why. I said I could help but needed to know his marketing budget. My friend told me he was pretty sure that his brother’s bootstrapped company had no marketing budget at all and that they were looking for advice, not an expensive marketing contractor like me – ha!

This anecdote leads me to nine marketing challenges for startup entrepreneurs:

  1. Lack of Everything Financial Related to Marketing – They don’t have money or resources allocated to a marketing campaign. A campaign? They don’t even have the basics covered. A website made for peanuts by a neighbor is not a marketing campaign. Many people can build a company with a small budget for marketing, but it’s not recommended. Sure, building a splashy website with big ads everywhere doesn’t guarantee success, but a calculated approach to spending on some basic marketing tools like SEO and Google ads are a great place to start. If you don’t have the budget, that means your content won’t be written by a professional and may not be the best material to push sales. Let’s not forget the time it takes to create content by yourself, which will take you away from more important duties like sales.
  2. Believing Marketing is Not Important – For heaven’s sake, set some money aside to do some marketing. Sure, if you listen to all the gurus, they want you to hire them so they can tell you how to do guerrilla marketing for free. For guerrilla campaigns to be successful, companies don’t need to spend large amounts. They need to have imagination, energy and time. Yes, guerrilla marketing can be a major portion of your overall marketing strategy, but it is not the only strategy you need. There is little success in the idea that “If you make it, they will come.” If nobody knows you, no one will come.
  3. A Team of One – So, you own an auto glass company, and you are good at fixing windshields – stick to it! If you can’t afford to hire a dedicated person to do your marketing, outsource it! Don’t be a lone wolf!
  4. Wrong Goals – That is assuming you have goals for your company. I’ve seen guys try to create brand awareness and did an OK job of it, but the sales guy wasn’t impressed. The owner was great at coming up with social media ideas to “get his name out there” but failed to provide any calls to action anywhere in his marketing. Salespeople need leads!
  5. Can’t Get Into Sales Mode – I had a client who spent months putting together surveys and marketing materials. He did so much networking that it would make your head spin. Sales? None, because he claimed he was trying to get “it” perfect before he went to sell the product. The truth was he was afraid of facing the public, afraid of making sales and found it easier to stick his head into research.
    If you can’t or don’t want to make sales, hire someone great at it. Can’t afford a salesperson? Make him a partner or give him a base salary and a large commission.
  6. Trying to Get the Big Market – You cannot sell your product to everyone. You may think it’s a good idea and want to, but it is not possible. It is better to create or find an existing niche that you can dominate or control. You need to create a community of customers who will act as your brand ambassadors. There’s a catamaran dealer, Kent Grimbeek, of Just Catamarans, in Florida who has an ‘aw shucks’ approach to sales. The staff is friendly, exceptionally transparent for boat brokers, and, while I am sure they spend money on advertising, they rely on word of mouth promotion from hundreds of satisfied and pampered clients.
  7. Your Messaging – No, this is not chatting to your buddy on Messenger. The core of your marketing strategy is a message that expresses the essence of why a customer buys your product. I’ve taught a course on Consumer Behavior, and I could write a book on it. Suffice to say, you need to talk about the reasons people should buy your product in terms they like and understand. Remember, you are trying to come across as informal, familiar, and friendly while explaining your product quickly and easily. If you can’t explain what you do in a 15-second elevator pitch, do it until you can. I recently sat with a potential client for 30 minutes before I finally asked him to do his elevator pitch on me from a customer point of view. Until he did that, I had no idea what he was selling.
  8. Not Seeing Your Real Competitors – When marketing your business, people tend to compare themselves to the competition, e.g., “We are faster” or “We have one hour delivery.” The comparison should be replaced with the product’s benefits to the end-user, not the features. Tell people how your features create certain benefits for its owner. If you imitate the activities of your competitors, you will also lose your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).
    Many companies fight for ‘market share’ without knowing how. You’ve got to be original, build your own category, perhaps, and find out what your competitors are not saying.
  9. Finding an Audience – I am amazed when I see this occurring in a business. The company builds a product then tries to find an audience. It sounds ridiculous, but true. You need to develop a persona of the perfect customer you want, the perfect audience, understand them and then modify or develop a product to fit them. Let’s say you are creating a new athletic shoe. You analyze who you would like to own and wear it, define their likes and dislikes (Psychometrics). Then define their age, social-economic profile (Demographics). Now with those numbers in mind, you can start building the perfect shoe to fit them. Once you’ve got the persona down pat, start engaging with people in that community to fine-tune your product, get their opinions and feedback so you can devote all your focus to them.

I keep wondering why business owners get it wrong so often. I forget that marketing strategy is actually rocket science and that campaigns can get a solidly predictable outcome with the proper execution. The book I have used in my classroom of MBA students is Consumer Behavior & Marketing Strategy by J. Paul Peter and Jerry C. Olson. If you want to rise above the rest, take the time to read and research how to take challenges and make them into opportunities.

Gary Bizzo is CEO of Syphon Nanotech Inc., Bizzo Management Group Inc., and Bizzo Integrated Marketing Corp. in Vancouver. London-based Richtopia placed Bizzo on the Top 100 Global Influencers in the World for 2018. He is an Adjunct Professor of Integrated Marketing & Communications as well as Consumer Behavior at the New York Institute of Technology, MBA School of Management (Vancouver Campus).

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Equities Contributor: Gary Bizzo

Source: Equities News