The Top 5 Communications Mistakes Start Ups Make

Esther Katz
Aug 3, 2018 · 9 min read
Silicon Valley ©

If startups were paid 1 Bitcoin for every mistake they make in their marketing campaigns, they would all make Elon Musk feel broke. Actually, this sad joke is an inevitable reality of the modern startup world. Many years of research show no matter how big and super charged a company is when it comes to promotion and PR, the founders sooner or later fall into the trap of marketing blunders costing them a pretty penny.

According to positive thinking, we should find opportunities and ways to reach goals without analysis of negative outcomes. In the case of startups, this concept often is the reason for failure. That’s why it’s useful to proceed from the opposite direction, defining destructive things to be avoided before attempting them. In this article, we’ve gathered the top common marketing mistakes of startups with effective tips for how to not become a victim. Do or don’t? It’s really all up to you!

Don’t # 1: We Confused You With Someone Else

At the very beginning of development, many startups don’t build their identity. “Fake it till you make it” is their operational philosophy hiding the real essence of their product or service behind other companies. Of course, it’s far easier to take an example from more famous and successful brands, but in fact, this approach moves you a few steps backward. Instead of developing a unique strategy, you adopt foreign features, and over time, you run the risk of wandering away from your real potential. Faking is acceptable as a temporary solution in the initial stages. In this way, you are able to raise your credibility, motivate your team and attract the first buyers.

In some cases, fortune is gracious and a stealing marketing ideas doesn’t lead to a global scandal. For example, in 2010, Adidas launched a promotional video of their sneakers, and later it turned out that their main competitor Nike had already created a similar ad 6 years ago. No one also expected to catch everybody’s favorite Сoca-Cola in this plagiarism. In the same fateful year of 2010, during the Super Bowl, they showed an advertisement evoking extremely positive emotions. In just a day, it was reported that Coca-Cola copied a clip launched by Yotvata production firm in 2002 on Israeli television.

Keep in mind, plagiarism can lead to terrible consequences, including legal proceedings.

Do: Find your authentic “self”

The best way to build a strong, world-famous brand is to start with a unique idea. Users don’t need the second coming of Facebook, Uber, the wheel, or Amazon; they need something sensational opening new horizons and giving additional possibilities. That’s a starting point for a search. Come up with a high-demand product or service letting consumers experience new emotions or trying new things. Figure out how you can simplify and improve their lives.

Pay special attention to your company’s mission, vision, and values which are the foundation determining global strategy and directions for further work. No other company or person has the authority to dictate the rules of the game. You’re the boss. Listen to yourself and your team, and build your uniqueness.

In addition, developing an executive brand profile is recommended for key spokespeople consisting of core marketing topics and platforms. Using this tool, you’re able to find press, social engagement or speaking opportunities to promote your public persona and brand around these specific topics, filtering out opportunities that don’t benefit your business.

Don’t # 2: Why Are You So Complex and Boring?

The biggest pitfall the majority of startups face during their promotion is the impulse to complicate simple things. For example, the founders make up huge text canvases before an interview to impress spectators with their mental sharpness and “ideality” instead of an unprepared organic speech with notes for improvising. Or how about the creation of a 100-page brochure consisting of bone-dry content instead of one piece of paper with a creative company overview presentation? Excessive complexity in marketing is considered an obsolete approach since it doesn’t attract consumer attention and is perceived as a dull, cliched advertisement. Often this happens because you don’t really know what you are selling. You are not selling a complicated feature. You are selling less working hours for your customer, who can API it.

Do: Be simpler and more inventive

People love fresh ideas and easily understood things. Find a unique language that will be easily perceived by the audience, even more so if you are trying to reach foreign markets.

In addition, don’t be afraid to try absolutely new marketing solutions to present your company. This can be a funny video clip where you appear in a wacky costume (i.e., in an alien suit) or a miniature booklet with a short, exciting message and your contact data. Or how about the OSA DC startup creating an advanced Manga story? The design of their electronic book combines both traditional and modern features as a dark blue background and black-white images. Generally, this is a great example of how to impress users with your branding marketing solutions.

Believe us, this type of campaign can amaze your audience or at least, you get noticed.

Don’t # 3: Are You In The Cast Of 50 Shades Of Blue?

Color coding is an important part of startup branding identity. The color scheme of your website, logo and other marketing materials not only determines how users perceive your brand but also indicates how advanced and trendy you are. When browsing, you notice almost every tech startup website is blue, black, or grey. The reason is, 15 years ago someone decided these bleak, boring colors are symbols of technology. Since then, the Internet has been filled with a thousand faded web pages, unremarkable and fairly boring. It’s doubtful users stop to view your website with this obsolete color spectrum. If you decide to select one of the symbolic colors, try to diversify it with interesting design elements.

Do: Wake Up, It’s Already 2018!

Don’t be afraid to experiment with colors for your website and come up with extraordinary design solutions. Despite the fact the majority of your competitors follow a traditional design approach, there are pioneers who have been brave enough to choose orange, magenta, red, and other catchy colors for their brands.

For example, a digital company Kramer amazes users with a stylish black-white design with colorful 3D elements. In general, their website looks truly fresh and modern.

Another great example of a vivid website is . Unlike hundred of competitors in business analytics, they chose bold yellow-black combination directly associated with working tools to strengthen their brand message.

Drink the elixir of creativity and keep up with the times!

Don’t # 4: When will you stop talking?

Every businessman knows interviewing is an integral tool for companies to promote, create and sell their startup. But, we need to remember there are both light and dark sides of this technique. There are a lot of different factors leading people to talk too much and too transparently in interviews. In most cases, it is ego, the fear of being misunderstood, or nerves. However, it’s not always a matter of getting carried away or being too chitty-chatty, but rather sitting down for interviews you shouldn’t be doing in the first place. Some people have an intense desire to get the necessary message or their side of the story out there to use it for their own purposes. This can cloud your judgment when it comes to leveraging the press. You should clearly understand when you’d better close your mouth and start to listen to other people. Once you finish an answer, the journalists or your interlocutor might sit and look at you, baiting you into saying more. Or they quietly write in their notebooks, with their silence swallowing the room until it gets awkward and uncomfortable. You need to know your message, deliver it and then put a period on it. When it comes to the press, you may not know exactly what the final draft is, or on how the story turns out. However, you should have complete control of what you say and how you say it.

Do: Have a talking limit

It’s important to remember while it’s easy to be friendly with reporters, you have a job to do — and so do they. You and they have different roles. Most journalists aren’t out to get you, and they’re not there to do your PR for you; don’t expect that. Their main goal is to find a story, and in some cases, what you want to tell and what they want to hear may not match up. It’s important to be mindful of this and make smart decisions about what to participate in and what to pass on.

You don’t know exactly what a reporter might ask. Do some homework by reading the journalist’s recent pieces to get a feel for his or her style. Create a list of questions you fear most. That way you can head into any interview knowing the five worst things you could be asked and have at least an outline of how you’d tackle them. At the beginning, you can face such a widespread pitfall as the lack of strategic resources, which is a typical case for startups concentrated on product development. They are in acute need of branding agency services including market analysis, competitors activity screening, mapping customers behavior, and formulation of the essence of the brand. After that, obtained results should be translated into visual language. This process occurs equally to the psychotherapy, but in this case, the therapist actually does the job of talking.

Avoid the negative, since there are a number of techniques reporters use to try to get you to go down a dark path to make a good headline which can be bruta for your business.

Don’t # 5: You Must Always Be The Leader

Internal comments are often overlooked. Sometimes, the most important audience is inside your own building. A lot of executives think about it as an afterthought or a nice-to-have. However, employees really should be your number one audience, and you need to communicate with them often. They can actually help your external PR efforts. If your story is not resonating with your employees, it’s not likely to resonate on the outside. Use them and tap into the vested interest they have in your company to help you tell your story better.

Do: Let Others Be You

Provide the company’s professionals with tools like notes and summaries of important matters. It helps them be not only better communicators, but it also enables a timely cascade of communications throughout the organization. Additionally, aside from company-wide touchpoints, it’s important to create moments to connect in small groups. Try to communicate with employees in an informal atmosphere, for example, over a cup of coffee or at an event. It gives employees valuable face time with you, and it can be a great experience for you as well. It’s a new way for you to talk to a broader cross-section of the team and gather their thoughts on your top-of-the-mind topics. This is a perfect opportunity to get information on how people of all levels of the organization are feeling and hear any concerns or issues they bring up. Employees need to feel a deeper connection to you and the business.

Making mistakes is part of running a business. For startups, however, the dynamics and vibe are way different. They don’t usually have the luxury of time or the money to do marketing experiments and make mistakes. Of course, you don’t need to constantly live in fear of making a mistake. I’s a normal part of being an entrepreneur. What’s important is you learn from them and keep finding ways to improve your business.

Esther Katz

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Investor relations and communications for AI, blockchain and SaaS Companies