By Anna Roberts

Marketing, like any aspect of business, is easy to get wrong and difficult to get right. For startups in particular, a cost-effective marketing strategy is a huge challenge to implement. With limited resources, cash flow pressures and plenty of catching up to do, the odds are stacked against your fledgling business.

There are an endless variety of ways you can approach marketing. No marketing approach is one-size-fits-all, and the effectiveness of your campaign is dependent on the nature of your business. But, there are some marketing mistakes that almost every startup can make. These blunders could cost your business dearly – either through missed opportunities, low return on investment, or setting your startup on a path that ultimately leads to failure.

1. No Strategy

When you’re in the process of creating a business, you’re focused on getting the product to market. Your enthusiasm and passion for the brand drives you forward, and stopping to create a marketing strategy doesn’t seem a good use of your extremely limited time.

With a restricted budget, you can’t afford not to define target markets. A marketing strategy will help you understand your potential markets and their needs, and how you might meet those needs. By completing a marketing plan at an early stage, your efforts will have focus – enabling you to use your time more efficiently in the future.

2. Not Having a Website

Every startup owner knows that without a website, you might as well not exist. However, that doesn’t stop small businesses from neglecting their website while their startup is in its infancy.

If a potential customer Googles you and finds a blank website with no further information about the company, they won’t come back.

As soon as you’ve settled on a brand name, jump on a domain. Before you start selling products or pushing ahead with other marketing, create a website – not just a lame homepage with ‘under construction’ stamped across it. At the very least, find an affordable responsive template and populate it with your contact information and links to social media accounts.

Go back to the website later – when you can afford to – and make it perfect.

3. Too Much, Too Soon

At the opposite end of the scale of neglectful marketing is going too big, too soon. Spending your annual marketing budget on a high profile TV advertising campaign that sets you back a five-figure sum isn’t wise. You may hope that the campaign will help you reach critical mass, but if it doesn’t work out that way, you’re stuck with no marketing money for the rest of the year.

Even if your campaign is wildly successful, there’s no guarantee you’re in a position to take advantage of the buzz. For example, your website servers may not be able to cope with the influx of visitors. You might not have the production capacity to meet demand (until interest has died down).

Before opting for a huge marketing campaign, you should have solid foundations in place and be completely satisfied with your product(s).

4. Social Media Overload

Many businesses feel that they need a presence on every popular social network in order to be taken seriously. There’s an argument for claiming company usernames on all social networks as soon as possible, but that shouldn’t be mistaken for attempting to maintain a presence on all social networks.

Instead, choose one or two social media sites to commit to. This decision should be based on your target markets. If you’re hoping to reach out to teens and young people, consider Tumblr. If you’re in B2B, LinkedIn and Twitter are where you should concentrate. Facebook isn’t as dominant as it used to be, but B2C startups should build a presence here.

With only a couple of channels to concentrate on, your social media efforts will be far less time consuming and far more effective.

5. Being Impatient

Once your social media pages and company blog are set-up, you can’t sit back and expect your efforts to pay off straight away. Building up followers in an organic manner takes time, but these high quality followers will be much more engaged with your content than bought followers.

With impatience comes the temptation to spam. When you aren’t being noticed, shouting repeatedly seems a logical way to be heard. But it doesn’t work like that in cyberspace, where anyone can mute you with a single click. Don’t alienate the followers and email subscribers you’ve worked so hard to secure.

All startups make mistakes – and yes, mistakes are opportunities to learn and evolve – but some mistakes are more costly than others.

By avoiding the mistakes discussed in the post, you can give your startup a fighting chance of pulling off effective marketing campaigns without killing your cash flow.