The Lean Marketer Blog

Top 3 Marketing Mistakes Tech Startups Make

In the last few weeks I’ve led several lectures and workshops with tech entrepreneurs about lean marketing. Most recently at the DreamIt Tel Aviv Accelerator, and at the BizTec Competition at the Haifa Technion. For me these workshops are tons of fun, since I get to hear all the latest and greatest things that youngsters are inventing (“young” is a state of mind, however, since a 60+ year-old serial entrepreneur approached me after one of the lectures and his attitude is younger than some 30-year-olds I know), and the questions they pose always force me to flex my marketing muscles.

One of the great questions at the end of a recent lecture was “what are the top 3 marketing mistakes startups make?” and this question forced me to sum up a two-hour lecture (and years of experience) into a three-bullet-point answer. Here’s what I answered:

  • Mistake #1: Thinking your customer is yourself, aka looking in the mirror. While the spark of your startup’s idea might come from wanting to solve your own problem, if you continue to think only of yourself as your customer, you will likely end up with a customer base of one. Your own reflection may be beautiful, and you may be supersmart, but you need to get out and talk to some real prospects.
  • Mistake #2: Reaching the end of development without having tried out the product with a single person outside your organization. I wrote about this in a recent post on lean product management, but I cannot stress it enough. It is frustrating to see someone try and fail to use your product, but this is what will happen to your first customers if you don’t adequately test. I’m not talking about beta testing which of course you should do. I’m talking about testing concepts and flows long before you’ve finished writing the code. You might say, what does this have to do with marketing? well, everything. If people can’t actually use your product, it makes it extremely hard to market it.
  • Mistake #3: Trying to market to everyone at once. Even if your product can be used by everyone in the known universe, as a startup you need to identify and focus on your first segment, ideally a segment who will buy and implement your solution quickly and provide useful market feedback. Later on you can branch out to slower and potentially more profitable segments.
There are lots more marketing mistakes that startups can make, but these are what I would consider the top three.

What do you consider to be the top three marketing mistakes? Have you made any of them yourself? Tell us about it in the comments!

By the way, in case you’re interested in viewing my slide deck from the most recent lecture, here it is:

Image credit: stock.xchng

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