In the time of Microsoft and Google, being a startup or a new business is hard. It seems, that whatever you are doing has already been done by somebody else. Whatever you are thinking is innovative and unique may already be working for others. Luckily, this has a positive side. Whatever challenges you are facing, whatever mistakes are dragging you down, they have already been defined and resolved by others.
When it comes to marketing, each company has been at the point, when they needed to develop a strategy, which will make them superstars on the market. Maybe, for them, it was 5, 10, 20 years ago. For Lemon.io, this time has started in 2015, when they’ve appeared on the market as a new freelance platform for developers.
They have tried to apply dozens of marketing strategies, we have read hundreds of books, we have spent thousands of dollars on ads in vain. All these were giving no significant growth in sales. Who knows, maybe, if we’d have more money, eventually, it would work. However, what we know for sure is that self-analyzing and self-reflecting have helped us much more.
Most probably, you are going through the same stage and you are doing the same mistakes as we did. To prevent this, we would like to share our experience with you and to name five ineffective marketing strategies, which are common for startups and are hard to define.
1. Outsourcing with a small budget
Small-budget marketing projects cannot give big results. Whatever you are outsourcing (SEO, Facebook ads, PR), it requires investments. A successful digital agency will not even be interested in a small-budget project as they know - it never leads to significant results.
By cutting the expenses for outsourcing, the agency will be forced to cut the resources spent on deep research of your business and your target audience. They will do only what can be done on the surface to put your business on board, but do not expect big changes.
Also, be ready that this process will not be done fast. A high-quality outsource requires not only money but also time and patience.
Hire a niche agency
Instead of paying a fortune to a big digital company, find an agency that has experience of working with businesses like yours. Usually, they do not need time and money to make the background research before applying any new strategies. They know well how your business features, they are familiar with your target audience, they understand what will work for you. So, by outsourcing, less risks are involved.
Again, do not expect any extraordinary approach to your company. Most probably, these kinds of agencies will simply do what has already worked for others. But at least you can be sure, that there will be positive results.
Hire a consultant
Search for an independent marketing consultant who can teach you how to do everything on your own. This person will guide through the most complicated tasks, will share with the expert knowledge, and will tell you what’s the best for your startup. Basically, you will hire a ‘tutor’, who will help you with your ‘homework’ to achieve an A+ score in business.
In our case, we’ve asked for help from the best expert we knew in PPC and Facebook ads. At first, he was giving us general guidance and tips on how to develop our marketing strategy. Each week, we had a meeting where we were presenting our results. He was pointing out our mistakes and suggesting how we can improve it.
Sure, during the first month we’ve spent a lot of money on consultations with him. But, we prefer to look at this from another perspective: we gained precious knowledge and skills, which will not dissolve with time. We have a clear understanding of which way to move now, we know our audience and we feel confident in what we are doing. No agency would ever give you this filling.
Hire a new person
Open a new position and find a person, who will be responsible for generating new leads. With time, this person will know the specificity of your business model and your target audience much better than any digital agency.
The only complication you may face here is actually to find this rising star of marketing. You have to be very selective and to hire someone who truly wants to contribute to your business. Maybe, you should search among people, who have decided to get back into the game after a break or someone who is switching from freelance to in-house employment.
2. Asking for a friend’s help without paying
Unless it is a work, which can be done within an hour, don’t ask your friend to do your job. It can end up poorly. Either it will be done not the way you expected, or you can get into a serious argument with your friend.
Just think about it: would you ever work for free? Unless this is not about your personal interests or beliefs, probably, you’d prefer to postpone your volunteer work in favor of a paid one. This is nothing to be ashamed of. Money is a serious motivator when it comes to working. Just before asking your friend about another business help, put yourself in his or her shoes and think about what you would do in such a situation.
Say “No, thank you”
If your friend was the one who proposed the help, better decline it. You will not spend a fortune if you pay independent experts to finish small tasks for you. Otherwise, you are risking not to get the job done at all.
Pay the real price
If you are sure that your friend is the best expert you could ever find, then you can definitely hire him or her. However, respect other people’s jobs and do not ask for any big discounts or late checks. Pay your friend in accordance with the prices on the market.
3. Spending too much time preparing your marketing strategies
Many beginners are wasting too much time on exploring the theoretical basics rather than practicing. Instead of trying to create a theoretically perfect concept, implement your ideas as soon as possible to see what works for your startup. As a beginner in the business, you cannot afford yourself to spend too much time on things that can be done fast.
For instance, when we were launching our product on ProductHunt we’ve spent less than a week on it. Of course, we could prepare for this for the whole month! But would it increase efficiency? Hm, probably not. The only thing we would increase is the cost of the project.
4. Overthinking the marketing strategies
Again, one of the biggest problems of newcomers is that, whatever they do, they are trying way too hard. However, the practice shows that you cannot create a perfect lead-generation scheme, or a sales template, or a text, which will convince all your potential clients to buy your product, from the first try. The fear to make a mistake makes you overthink every strategy you want to try. Consequently, it just kills whatever idea you had before the start because, in your head, it didn’t sound perfect.
Don’t be afraid to experiment
If you don’t know where to start, just start with anything you’ve heard or something you’ve read before. Just start with something. You already know enough. Don’t be afraid of trying something you are not sure about. Experiment with different strategies to see what fits your business. But don’t be too harsh on yourself. Set realistic goals and give yourself breaks, if necessary. Otherwise, all you’ll get is weeks of wasted time and major burnouts.
The thing which helps me a lot, while working on something is telling my ideas to someone. Even if this person does not know anything about marketing strategies, try to explain your ideas anyway. In this situation, you are rather having a discussion with yourself, during which you can see clearly if your idea is worth trying or not. Or search for inspiration with these growth hacking examples or somewhere else.
5. Not paying enough attention to marketing strategies
Another common mistake is usually applied to “I-Know-Everything” person. Usually, these are people with either too much theoretical knowledge but no practice at all, or vice versa – years of practice and zero theoretical background. Even if you are Ivy League alumni, or have worked in the Big Four for 10 years, never disregard any marketing strategies that can possibly scale your business. Surely, what is good for Google, may not work for your startup at all. However, it doesn’t mean they are completely wrong. Adapt different strategies and make them work for you.
Analyze what works for you
After completing all the experiments with applying different marketing strategies, think of what has given you at least some results. There is a big chance that you’ll not get any significant changes from the first try. Bit, if there are some good outcomes, review the strategy, correct the bugs, and repeat it again. If you want to get really good results, just think repeatable and don’t stop if you fail at first. It is important to constantly improve your ideas and find your perfect recipe.
Continuously experiment with marketing strategies
If there are no results, just keep experimenting. In the end, it is better to try and fail than not trying at all and not even giving a chance for something good to happen.
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