Let me be clear from the start: There are no rules for building successful startups. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either wrong or lying.
There is no set of rules that guarantees the success of your startup. However, there are many things that you should avoid. If you don’t avoid these mistakes, your chances of success as a startup consultant decrease significantly. However, here are three all too common mistakes found by founders that you should avoid at all costs.
1. Wait until you have your finished product to start your marketing activities.
This is such an important point that I repeat to entrepreneurs on a daily basis. Say, “I don’t have a product yet. How can I do marketing?” uses the same logic as “The train has not left the station, how can I get on?”
If you wait to have a finished product to start marketing, you’ve missed the train. By the time you are ready to use your product, you should have been building this audience for months.
Now I know what you’re thinking “Should I market my product if it’s not finished and give my competitors a head start?”
Nobody said anything about marketing your product, but there are many marketing activities that you can do without discussing your product. For example, is Red Bull marketing the drink or is it focusing on building the brand that in turn sells drinks?
You can do the same. Use content marketing, social media, and even some PR, but not through the product itself. You can build an initial hype that something big is coming without giving away what it is. The point is, start marketing as early as you can and definitely don’t wait for the product to finish.
2. Confuse marketing with self-promotion and glorified sales.
Curious about the difference between sales and marketing? I mean they both have to sell the product at the end of the day so what’s the difference? In one word? The difference between sales and marketing is subtle. If you’re doing your marketing well, the other side won’t even know they’re being marketed.
The most common mistake is that many people see marketing as just a glorified sale. They think that writing blog posts about how great they are or press releases about how they are revolutionizing their industry is marketing. That couldn’t be further from the truth.
While promoting yourself or your business is the worst thing you can do, promoting others is the best. Interview people in your field on what helps build a relationship with that person, you will get targeted traffic for that person shares the article, and will make your brand stand out when the people reading the interview put you in with that person Bring connection who is a thought leader in this area
Do not advertise yourself. Promote others.
3. Expect short-term results and, if they don’t, stop marketing efforts.
This is a really big pet annoyance of mine. I meet startup owners every day and often we focus on marketing of all kinds. In many cases over the years the founder comes back to me a few months later and says my ideas didn’t work.
“Tell me what exactly you did and let’s find out what didn’t work,” I ask.
“I published two blog posts and nothing happened,” they will say.
See, that’s the problem. People want results, but not the work. Marketing takes time, and the fact that your two blog posts didn’t generate any sales is completely irrelevant. In fact, if two blog posts were generating sales, I would ask about this sorcery.
Marketing requires patience and consistency. The more you put in, the more you will get out. As simple as that.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not Inc.com’s.