Seven Stupid Mistakes Made by Startups

Startups are risky propositions but too many entrepreneurs shoot themselves in the foot by making stupid mistakes.

Armed with ideas and enthusiasm, Their efforts are under-mined by mistakes that could easily be avoided. These include:

  1. Not talking to customers on a regular basis. It is always puzzling to hear about startups focused on developing a product but spending little or no time connecting with customers. The only way to learn if a product has appeal is talking to the people who may purchase it or who have already bought it.
  2. Too much focus on features, not enough on benefits. Most entrepreneurs are fascinated with their products. It explains why they highlight features AND continue to add more features. Customers, however, are interested in how a product benefits them. In time, they will want to know about features but not right away.
  3. A reluctance to spend money on marketing, which is seen as a necessarily evil. Along with product development and sales, marketing is a key pillar for success. It creates brand awareness and amplifies the key messages to target audiences. By under-investing in marketing, a startup leaves itself vulnerable to having a product that no one knows about.
  4. Assuming that new customers will easily and quickly embrace your product. It is difficult to convince a consumer to purchase a product when there are so many alternatives. So why do many startups fail to provide new customers with the guidance to quickly see the value being delivered? Instead, they leave consumers to their own devices, which leads to frustration and buyers’ remorse.
  5. Spending money on things that don’t matter. I’m talking about “extravagances” such as cool office space, perks such as free food, drinks and social events, sponsoring events and travelling to conferences. Instead, the focus needs to be developing a product that delights, making customers happy, and spreading the word.
  6. Not enough focus on data. It easy to collect, analyze and generate insight from data. It can give startups important guidance on large and small strategic and tactical decisions. Too many startups focus on the number of users, while ignoring other important metrics and benchmarks.
  7. Worrying too much about the competition or ignoring the competition. Every business has rivals offering the same products and talking about similar benefits and features. It is dangerous to focus too much on rivals because it is a distraction. At the same time, competitors need to be monitored to prevent surprises. It is a necessary balancing act. Bottom line: Mistakes are an important part of the startup journey. While they can’t be completed avoided, it is possible to stay away from “low-hanging” mistakes. What mistakes do you see startups making?

I helped dozens of startups plan and build rock-solid marketing engines that drive more awareness, leads, and sales. There are different ways we can work together — everything from messaging and brand positioning to strategic planning and content to get customers into and through the sales funnel.