Business strategy

3 critical mistakes startup founders keep making with growth marketing

- October 3, 2022 4 MIN READ
Photo: AdobeStock

If you ask startups about their key objectives, they will tell you one thing — growth. 

One of the best ways to achieve their growth goals is by incorporating growth marketing strategies as part of their overall strategy. 

While many startups have the growth marketing talent and resources, they often fall short or limit their potential due to three critical and often common mistakes. If you’re a marketer or founder, avoid these mistakes to unlock your true growth potential. 

Mistake 1: Not Tracking Experiments Effectively (Or Simply Not Tracking At All)

Regarding growth and marketing success, we think of Silicon Valley’s most famous startups, such as Airbnb, Dropbox, and Slack. We’ve all heard and read the famous case studies of these brands and the fantastic results they achieved. 

What often gets overlooked is the process of what brought them success for their top campaigns and growth strategies. What’s the process these companies pride themselves on? Well, it’s experimentation with continuous iterations to find what works and, most importantly, what doesn’t.

Running experiments and iterating on data is pivotal for startup success. From A/B split-testing, running ad account campaigns, testing open email rates, and other marketing channels, all startups, and eCommerce brands want to improve results faster than ever.

Yet, what’s the most prominent mistake startups make that hinders their ability to grow faster? Usually, it is not having a systemic process to track experiments. Or worse, not tracking experiments at all. 

Tracking experiments effectively is vital because you test your hypothesis in a structured manner. Then, you receive data on your performance, know what’s working, and what to prioritise to improve results. 

Dan Siepen, Growth Marketing Consultant at It’s Fun Doing Marketing sees this often lack in startups. “Startups want to grow as fast as they can, but they lack the discipline of having a data-driven approach to growth.” 

“The goal is for product and growth marketing teams to become well-oiled machines, and the best way to achieve this is by running experiments through an experiment tracker. They are easy to set up and help track, analyse and prioritise campaigns and tactics based on performance.” 

There are a few ways you can set up experiment trackers using tools such as Google Sheets and Asana.

Make sure to include these key criteria when it comes to experiments: 

  • State your hypothesis.
  • Duration of campaign or tactic.
  • What channel(s)?
  • Most important metrics.
  • Results.

Introducing this experimental approach will help you achieve your growth targets in a shorter period.

Mistake 2: Poor project planning, management, and workflow setup

While a fast-paced environment and having the ability to move fast is essential for startups, poor internal workflows and loose project management lead to bottlenecks, overspending, and missing deadlines. 

In fact, 50% of organisations experience failed projects and campaigns due to undervaluing the importance of project management. There’s no perfect practice, but here are seven critical project management tips you should ensure your startup marketing team implements:

  • Use a project management software tool like Asana or Trello.
  • Integrate with your favourite apps such as Gmail and Slack for notifications and communications.
  • Set clear rules, agree on overall setup and conventions, and clearly label project tasks.
  • Incorporate time tracking to track efficiencies.
  • Have realistic milestones and do regular check-ins.
  • Have retrospectives at the end of each week to unlock bottlenecks.
  • Decide on a project management ‘champion’ who can ensure best practices.

Duncan Jones, Head of Marketing at Cluey Learning (ASX:CLU), finds brainstorming and developing growth ideas fun and easy. The hard part is getting buy-in on those ideas, rolling them out correctly and on time, testing them, and scaling them if they win. 

“The essential part of that process is project management, ensuring every part of your plan or sprint is documented and ticked off as you go, so nothing essential can be missed. Nominating one person to lead this process — which doesn’t have to be you or someone with extensive marketing knowledge — who has excellent project management skills will ensure you complete and test the ideas you need to grow.”

Mistake 3: Hiring agencies expecting silver bullet success

Agencies can be effective for growing startups when expectations are aligned. However, they can also often be the scapegoat when results don’t go as intended, expectations aren’t met, or are not appropriately managed.

Too many times, startup founders and marketers hire agencies to provide them the ‘golden key’ to success when they’re either not ready or expecting them to achieve explosive growth in little time. 

Ben Bocarro, Growth Marketing Manager at Basiq explains,Do your due diligence in researching the agency, its team, and its track record. Determine what challenges need to be solved and establish what success looks like. Ask your network for recommendations. Happy clients often refer the best agencies.”

“Agencies should be viewed as a partner and extension of your internal team, where startups leverage the specialist expertise they don’t have in-house to solve particular challenges.”

While agencies can do wonders for your startup’s growth (and can produce incredible results fast), it’s crucial to understand their role and what’s expected. 

  • Be clear on your goals and expectations. 
  • Communicate your problems and needs to your preferred agency before engaging. Lay it all out on the table.
  • Have the right processes in place to manage the relationship. If you have messy processes, the relationship will also be messy.

Not only is it essential to set expectations and goals, but you must also pick the right agency that understands your problem. Here are some tips on hiring the right agency and what to look out for.

  • Interview multiple agencies. Get different opinions. 
  • Read their case studies on the services you want to engage with.
  • Please take note of the questions they ask. Good questions lead to better conversations and problem-solving.
  • Assess their industry knowledge.
  • Look at their reviews and what their strengths are.
  • Find out if they care enough for your business and where you want to go.

Summing up

Avoiding these common mistakes can enable startups to reach their goals faster. Ensuring good discipline by incorporating the right systems, processes, planning, and agency partners can be a game-changer for your business.