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13 elementary marketing mistakes made by tech startup CEOs

This piece is from the heart. I’ve made my fair share of marketing mistakes running two tech companies – Intelligent Games and Turbine – and I’ve seen them repeated again and again by tech companies in the decade or so since I started Articulate Marketing.

When you’ve made those mistakes, hindsight is a wonderful – but a useless – thing. That’s why I’ve summed up some of the biggest missteps that tech startup CEOs make; so that you can avoid them the first time round.

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1. Pretending to be all big and grown up. Big organisations are boring, po-faced and beige. Startups are exciting, interesting and colourful. So talk about your journey, like Basecamp and Buffer do. Share your processes, tools and insights, like Pivotal labs. Make your startup status work for you. Find allies as well as customers.

2. Building it, and expecting them to come. Big companies can afford brand-building ad campaigns. Startups can’t. But that doesn’t mean building a website and hoping people will find it. Social media, great content and content-led search engine optimization will connect you with you your customers.

3. Confusing marketing with sales. We’ve seen tech companies with 20 salespeople and one – just one – marketing person. Sales and marketing can be a dream team, but only if they're each team is resourced adequately.

4. Not delegating. No matter how much you want to control the image of your new business, the CEO can't also be the main marketing person: you just don't have the time to do it properly. Luckily, marketing isn't just one of the most important things to delegate, it's one of the easiest. Give your marketing team clear briefs and creative freedom they'll have the time and flexibility to shape an effective marketing strategy.

5. Thinking about your features not customer needs. The secret to selling technology is: don’t talk about technology. People don’t care about products or services. They care about their needs, dreams, problems, goals, emotions and ambitions. Talk to people on this level and you will engage their interest long enough to demonstrate how your business can help them.

6. Using unclear personas. All marketing is targeting. You can’t talk to everyone about everything – you need to focus. Your company needs great marketing personas because they allow you to segment, target and engage your ideal customers.

7. Spending too little. Typical marketing budgets in B2B firms run from four percent up to nearly 14 percent of turnover. How much are you spending? Marketing is an investment in your future sales: if your strategy is to work, it needs to be funded adequately.

8. Spending too much. If you’re pouring your marketing budget into badly-managed PPC advertising or a fancy-schmancy website with no lead capture, you’re wasting it. Startups should take a lean, iterative, agile approach with their marketing budgets as well as their product development.

9. Using your language, not theirs. Too many technology businesses reel off acronyms and indecipherable product names and simply expect their prospective customers to understand. Our free video – Copywriting secrets for marketers –teaches you how to talk to leads in language they will listen to.

10. Getting stuck in tunnel vision. Yes, it’s important to have a good logo, a well-designed website, a memorable domain name and so on. But don’t obsess about one jigsaw piece and forget the whole puzzle.

11. Not supporting your website after launch. Tech CEOs spend months working with agencies to launch a new website and then ignore it for two or three years. Websites should be a journey not a destination: look for agencies that provide ongoing website development using growth-driven design.

12. Thinking a website is the same as digital marketing. Without a predictable way to attract more traffic and an effective way of capturing visitors as leads, your website is as effective as a Ferrari with no engine.

13. Indulging your inner Steve Jobs. Too many tech CEOs suddenly discover that they are design gurus once they look at a website or piece of graphic design. In marketing and design, expertise and experience are as essential as they are in any other industry. Hire good people, listen to their advice, give them clear briefs and together you’ll do a great job.

Still need advice?

In reality, for a startup CEO who doesn't have a great deal of experience in marketing, there a huge number of marketing mistakes you could make.

That's why we’re offering qualifying tech startups a free digital marketing review worth £995. We’ll take a look at your website, SEO, content, copywriting and give you valuable, no-pressure, hands-on advice about how you can improve.

Click the link below and book your review with one of our marketing consultants today:

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Matthew Stibbe

Matthew is founder and CEO of Articulate Marketing. Writer, marketer, pilot, wine enthusiast and geek. Not necessarily in that order. Never at the same time.