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This article was published on July 29, 2014

How most startups mess up their marketing

How most startups mess up their marketing
Katie Burke
Story by

Katie Burke

Katie Burke is the Director of Media & Analyst Relations at HubSpot. Katie Burke is the Director of Media & Analyst Relations at HubSpot.

Katie Burke is the Director of Media & Analyst Relations at HubSpot.

Recently, a startup called Pressfarm launched, promising to provide the names, emails, and Twitter accounts for journalists so that entrepreneurs could get outstanding coverage for their business.

There’s just one major problem with this business proposition: the hardest part of getting press for your startup isn’t getting reporter’s contact information at all. In fact, many reporters in the startup world provide emails in their Twitter bios. Those who don’t can often be found with a quick Google search, or better yet via an intro through a mutual connection.

Spamming reporters, consumers or investors about your startup is a surefire way to screw up your marketing before you even launch. So without further fanfare, here are the massive, common mistakes most startups make, and how your team can avoid them at all costs:

1. Expect journalists to hawk your product for you

Journalists are not salespeople. It is not their job to sell your product for you. It is their job to share newsworthy updates with the world.

While startup PR is and should be part of your launch strategy, do not rely on press to sell your product. Instead, startup press should help tell your company’s story, the product you’re solving and drive traffic to your website.

It’s then your job to deliver an optimal experience that keeps visitors them coming back (for more content or information) or engages them in a meaningful way to try out your product.

2. Rent attention rather than earn it

It is extremely easy to blow your entire marketing budget on paid advertising, but just because it’s easy doesn’t mean you should do it.

More and more consumers continue to block out paid advertising – and chances are, regardless of the industry you’re entering, there are incumbents and competitors who can outspend you for rented attention. Given that, do some basic keyword research using low level PPC and your own competitive research, and create content that will earn you attention for many years to come.

3. Waste time thinking and talking to people about marketing instead of actually doing it

A picture taken on March 26, 2010 shows

Most founders are perfectionists, and want to talk to every expert on earth about their marketing efforts before ever actually publishing anything. Invest time and energy into a few different tactics: blog entries, co-marketing efforts with complementary businesses to your own, videos and social media promotion.

Don’t assume the channel or medium doesn’t work for you if it doesn’t pay off right away. Test, learn and apply based on what seems to resonate with your audience.

4. Try to “go viral”

Most videos that attempt to go viral fail miserably. Instead of trying to create a video that’s campy or satirical enough to “go viral,” focus your time and energy on creating remarkable content that your prospects and leads will enjoy and consider sharing.

For example, Boston-based Kinvey created a map of the local startup ecosystem to put its company on the map (literally) with other tech companies in the space and garner attention from press and peer companies alike.

Stitch Fix is an absolute master of Pinterest, generating countless boards to attract its fashion-fascinated target audience. None of these companies tried to make their content viral, they just thought about what their future customers would truly enjoy reading or viewing and invested time and energy to create it.

5. Neglecting to optimize your site

Your website should be optimized for search (hence some basic keyword research), mobile (I’m amazed at how many startups don’t factor mobile into their Web experience), and give visitors a clear road map for what you want them to do.

Do you want them to sign up to subscribe to your blog? Watch a thirty second video explaining your value proposition? Follow you on social media?

Only your immediate relatives want to sit and look through each page of your website in gory detail (and even that’s a stretch) so make sure you use calls to action and effective, simple design to create clear pathways for each of your core audiences.

There is no one quick fix for startup marketing. Like anything else in the startup space, the ideas are easy, but executing on them can be a challenge. One of my favorite advice about marketing comes from HubSpot’s co-founder and OnStartups author Dharmesh Shah:

“You should start marketing the day you start building your product.”

Avoid the mistakes above if you can, but most importantly, don’t wait to tell the world your story: there’s no one better to tell it than you.

Read next: 6 ways content marketing has changed the way we do PR