Startup Marketing Mistakes

Guy Smith speaking at Draper University on the marketing mistakes that kill startups

How do founders kill their companies? Most often by not understanding the basics of marketing strategy. I spent a pleasent hour at Draper University speaking to students about the top three ways Silicon Valley startup founders crash their own companies. Draper kindly provided video from the event, and you can watch the whole presentation.   For a full course on the basics of marketing strategy, get a copy of our book The Start-up CEO’s Marketing Manual at (if you have technical difficulties watching the embeded video above, it is available at YouTube at … Continue reading

Restricted Brand

censored content google facebook twitter

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am not a Republican, Democrat, liberal or conservative. Hence, this article is non-aligned. Are Facebook, Twitter and Google corrupting their brands by being socially underhanded? Of late, both Facebook and Twitter have been publicly accused of censoring non-left-of-center content. Now Google admits to blocking advertisements due to Google’s perception of social desirability. In each instance, these corporate goliaths, which together control the flow of most online human interaction, either admit to or are accused of filtering legal content based on their perception of what should or should not be. The new media is aping the old media, and runs the risk of the same fate. Regardless of if you agree or disagree with the filtered content, the troubling aspect is that large corporations are deciding what content their users should and should not see. Outside of endangering activities (e.g. terrorism, child porn, congress convening), the Internet has … Continue reading

Problematic Problems

Nothing is as insidious as staring so intently at a problem that the solution is obscured. Back in my IT guru era, I once wasted an entire day staring at a single line of code trying numbly to figure out why the program was misbehaving. It was a simple syntax error (switching between Pascal and C can be tricky), but the problem was about my looking for logic errors when the more simple and likely syntax mistake was staring back at me. Marketers have wasted a lot more than a day by doing the same thing. Long ago, I had a near-client who insisted that the right go-to-market strategy for his company was 100% commitment to social media marketing. He came by this conclusion due to the success of another person who marketed a different technology using the same approach. The problem was that the successful person was selling to … Continue reading

Escalated Advertising Warfare

The gray puzzle piece on my screen is a sign of why marketers are their own worst enemy. The Chrome browser allows you to disable any automatically executing media it encounters. I enabled this feature after growing sick (and tired) of auto-playing videos on web pages I visited for text content. It is rather annoying when sitting alone in a quiet office, and focusing intently on the meaning within a paragraph, for a loud and often off-screen video to start playing, shattering the silence and destroying your concentration. Thanks to marketers who thought auto-playing videos were a smart idea, now all advertisers using playable media are banned from my laptop. It has been said that 99% of marketers give the other 1% a bad name. These ratios may be a bit off, but it illustrates the point that bad marketing practices cause marketing to fail. This has been the talk … Continue reading

Ridiculous Research

An ancient joke has a child looking into a telescope and saying “Daddy, the universe is a very small place” to which the patient father replies “You are looking through the wrong end.” Oddly, this describes the effect of misguided market research. The twin goals of market research are to identify missions to take, then how to accomplish those missions. The mission may be to reduce cost, grow revenues, expand market share. But unless you know what mission you need the take, you can never know what research you need in order to accomplish that mission. This recently came to light when the good folks at Zintro asked me to participate on a panel where selected experts explain the most common mistakes in market research. Of the two mistakes I cited, not understanding the problem to be solved was a primary ill. Some companies have offered Silicon Strategies good money … Continue reading

Research Perspective

America ranks near the bottom of the list for violent crimes in industrialized countries. This is not the perspective most people have (though some clever folks at an overseas justice ministry discovered this with some groundbreaking multinational research). Thanks to the news media and some serious inner-city problems, Americans and the rest of the world views the U.S. as a deadly place, despite violent crime rates dropping precipitously over the past few decades. Perception can be distorting. A lot of companies have inaccurate perceptions of themselves, and this leads to inaccurate research. I was polled by Zintro on the most common mistakes clients make in market research. Biased perspective was my top choice for research wrecking errors. If one asks the wrong question, the answer is typically meaningless. If one has an improper perspective, they tend to ask the wrong question. Hence if an executive is viewing his market, his … Continue reading

Question Yourself

Take your market research seriously … unless you didn’t take it seriously from the beginning. It is relatively easy to screw-up market research because there are many ways to do so. The most careful of statistical validation calculations are meaningless if you asked New Guinea tribesmen their first class cabin cocktail preferences. The heart of research (market and marketing research included) is knowing what you need to learn, learning it correctly, then applying it appropriately. That last one can be tough for start-ups when visionary founders resent market researchers telling them that their baby is ugly. There is no way to exhaust the list of methods for creating lousy research, but some of my favorites include: Not having a business purpose behind the research My first question to executives looking for primary market research is … Continue reading