Marketing Assumptions that Destroy Start-ups

5 Bad Marketing Assumptions that Destroy Start-ups




5 Bad Marketing Assumptions that Destroy Start-ups

In the U.S. Army, Ft. Knox has long been a legendary place to attend Basic Training. The final test before becoming a soldier is a 10 mile march with heavy equipment on the men’s backs. The march includes three hills — Misery, Agony, and Heartbreak. The last hill on the march being called Heartbreak because it’s on the last mile or so of the march and you get a full view of it just before you start up the steep path. Often, seeing this last hill after a grueling march is heartbreaking. The soon-to-be-soldier gets a glimpse of that monstrous hill and some simply stop — it’s too much to bear.

Business start-ups are not too different from this basic training scenario. After months or years of working hard and expecting a big breakthrough in a short amount of time, reality strikes. The fact that success is still on the other side of yet another hill sends some business owners packing, but this doesn’t have to be the case for all business owners.

A long-term approach to building up a business with incremental growth is critical. Keeping expectations realistic will give any start-up better odds of weathering those tough first few years, and one of the best ways to keep your head on straight is through defensive maneuvers. Avoiding some common pitfalls in marketing can save a lot of money and heartbreak, meaning that you have a lot better chance of making it past that final obstacle before acheiving victory. The following are some of the most common misconceptions that lead most small business owners to give up before attaining their goals:

1. Gonna Happen Fast

The harsh truth is that most start-ups don’t get traction right away. You might have some initial energy from a product launch or grand opening, but maintaining this energy is difficult to impossible.

The key is to think long-term with finances and planning. Big marketing pushes are helpful, and remember this includes print as well as web-based advertising. Think 3-5 years out before seeing lasting results. Hope for the best and plan for the worst. It can be a long march, but it’s worth the effort.

2. If I Build it, They Will Come

Just because you have a website does NOT mean customers will start pouring in. This is a misconception we see all too often. Yes, the Internet reaches a whole world of potential customers, but how are they going to find you?

To be clear: you NEED a website. When customers are researching purchase decisions, typically the first place they look is a website. If you don’t have one, they’ll likely find someone who does. So a website is important, but it is likely not going to be an instant money-maker for you.

3. Search Engines Are the Customer

The truth is that website content is king. If you design a site well and put quality information on it, search engines will start taking notice. But search engines are NOT your customers.

Search engines facilitate web users in finding content and this gives you an opportunity to convert them to customers. The key is to simply answer questions search engine users are asking. As you build trust, you will have a much greater chance of getting a customer.

The big mistake here is trying to build a website that attracts search engines rather than focusing on your real customers. Often these two parties converge — meaning that when you write quality content for your website you will also find that search engines start finding you. So focus on your actual customers and tweak for search engines.

4. Search Engine Marketing Will Make Me Millions

Very rarely does a singular, one-dimensional approach to marketing result in major financial windfalls. Search engine marketing is a very important dimension to any marketing plan, that is if your customers even use the Internet to find and purchase your goods and services.

A balanced approach to marketing on the Internet should result in around 33% of visitors from search engines, 33% from referral websites, and 33% from direct visits (typing your website right into the web browser). Of course, these numbers are very dependent upon your industry.

The key is to be driving people to your website from multiple sources. Search engines should be sending traffic your way, but referrals from other websites work, such as word-of-mouth advertising — Facebook and Twitter are two strong examples of referral websites. And direct visits indicate name recognition or returning visitors. So a long-term approach should see these three types of visitors to your site balance out.

5. Internet-based Marketing is All I Need

If you only intend to sell to online customers, then you may be right. But for the vast majority of start-up businesses, a balanced advertising and marketing approach is much more likely to work in the long run.

It all starts with understanding your customer, so you have to develop campaigns that connect. The Internet should certainly be a part of that mix, but not the only piece. For example, if you have a small service business catering to consumers, consider sending out postcards or door hangers to people in your immediate vicinity. This, with a nice website and a modest Facebook page can help build trust, exposure, and start driving customers.

The key is to understand how to get in front of your customers and build a long-term approach to keeping your products and services in front of them consistently. Then you will be able to see the bigger picture and have much more realistic idea of just how much and how long it may take to turn your small business into the company of your dreams.

Tara Hornor has a degree in English and has found her niche writing about marketing, advertising, branding, graphic design, and desktop publishing. She writes for, an online printing company that offers postcards, posters, brochure printingpostcard printing, and more printed marketing media. In addition to her writing career, Tara also enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.


  1. saif afridi December 4, 2011
  2. Etta Wiman December 11, 2011