I think one of the biggest problems I see with startups in terms of marketing is that owners don’t understand that your marketing department and your sales department have to be aligned…at all times. Healthy disagreement is fine, in fact it often triggers great ideas, but your marketing team and your sales team must have the same goals, and your marketing campaign has to integrate with your sales campaign, or you will find that you’re pushing and pulling at the same time, which is a recipe for disaster.
The other challenge I often see is that a lot of startups don’t do a good enough job of defining what distinguishes them from their competition. You hear the words “unique selling proposition” thrown around a lot, and it’s just a fancy term for this: Why should a customer buy your products and services instead of the other guy’s products and services? A lot of owners of startups don’t answer this question before they launch, and then they’re puzzled that they can’t find traction in the market.
You have to offer something different from your competitors, and it can’t just be a lower price for the same products and services, because what happens when they lower their prices too? This all goes back to identifying and understanding your target market. As an example, let’s say you’ve done market research and discovered that customers want free returns that are processed within 24 hours. However, none of your competitors offer free returns that are processed within 24 hours. That means that you will have a competitive advantage if you fill that customer want, right? But the only way to know that is to properly identify and understand the market and whom exactly you want to target.
Finally, I think restricted marketing budgets are a challenge for startups. But here’s the thing. The digital age has made marketing so much less expensive, because you have social media platforms where you can mount campaigns that won’t cost you a lot of money. You also have automated email-marketing methods that are effective at branding products and services to your targeted market.