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How excessive marketing is killing your startup

Monty Majeed
27th Jul 2016
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Coming up with the perfect marketing strategy is a daunting task in these times where customers get access to information through varied, multiple channels. With the advent of social media, it has only become tougher to keep your customers engaged, put word out about your product or service and stay ahead of your competition. For startups, this exercise becomes doubly difficult with a unique set of challenges like limited budgets, restricted resources and the need to build brand visibility.

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An average person is exposed to over 500 advertising messages daily. Considering that today’s consumers have attention spans shorter than that of a goldfish, marketers need to be on their toes, always. Consumers are not just impatient, they are smart, too. They have learned the art of ‘blocking’ unwanted messages, or worse, ignoring brands that indulge in excessive marketing.

According to The Social Break-up, a report by Indianapolis-Based interactive marketing services provider ExactTarget on why consumers terminate their relationship with business and brands, it was boring content that made 49 percent of customers switch off or unfollow them on social media. While 54 percent was tired of the ever-so-frequent marketing messages bombarding their inboxes, 25 percent found these messages irrelevant to them. Similarly, about 44 percent of Facebook users also indicated excessive posting by brands as a reason to unfollow or unlike them.

For startups especially, excessive marketing could be akin to the death of your brand. If you go overboard in your selling efforts, not only are your limited resources being diverted to a useless cause, you are also running the risk of being dumped by your target customer base.

Here’s how you might be injecting slow poison into your startup and killing it with your excessive marketing efforts:

Potential wastage of limited resources

So you started your dream venture and want to take the market by storm. You want to put out a powerful ad and reach out to as many potential customers as possible by promoting your product on every possible channel. Good idea, isn’t it? No. This is particularly inadvisable if you are just an early-stage startup and even more so if you are working on bootstrapped funds. Do not spend too much money on marketing too soon in your startup journey, because there is a possibility that your marketing efforts may deliver little or no results. The other extreme is also possible: your campaign becomes the talk of the town and everyone wants to buy your product. Not great either! Here you are projecting a false image and creating unrealistic expectations that you will never be able to meet. If you are unprepared to handle such a huge volume of sales, you will end up with dissatisfied customers and bad word-of-mouth.

Diversion of limited resources

To support your excessive multi-channel marketing efforts, you will need a dedicated team of professionals working round the clock. This demands increased expenses in terms of more staff to be paid and investing in more office space and infrastructure. As a startup with limited funds, your priority is delivering a good product or service experience to your customers. By indulging in excessive marketing, you are diverting limited resources available to you for a secondary function like marketing. This will end up in you having to compromise on product quality and volume because of lack of available funds.

Creating brand fatigue

Toby Reed, vice president, sales and marketing at Tension Corporation, rubbishes the new style of marketing called ‘disruptive marketing’ and points out that most companies are adopting the strategy without a plan and executing it poorly. He dubs this new, lopsided strategy ‘interruption marketing’. “Interruption marketing doesn’t create a buyer paradigm shift about their own situation, but instead a shift in their perception of you as a solution provider,” says Toby. Excessive marketing will only make them think of your brand as annoying. If you keep hitting the nail of too much content onto your customers’ heads, Toby warns that customers will soon tune off from your product and company because of brand fatigue. This means decreased levels of trust and lower sales.

What to do instead

The key to make best use of your marketing efforts is by striking a balance. You should be able to identify that thin line between the optimal and excessive. This can be done by understanding consumer behaviour through market surveys or research, taking your marketing plan one step at a time and using cheaper options of reaching out to consumers in the beginning.

Find out which channel will be more effective based on your brand, product and target population. Take a cue from online shoes and clothes retailer Zappos.com’s experiment with billboard advertisements. “We realised that spending $25,000 on just one or two customers was excessive,” said the company’s CEO Tony Hseih. By market research and observing sales patterns, they saw that their strongest messages were all user-generated. Even today, the company banks on sales from repeat customers and word-of-mouth marketing. Instead of investing in huge billboards in stadiums, the company has gone for plastic bins at airport-security check-ins – a spot which will not be missed by the shoe-scanning passengers.

Marketing, at the end of the day, is based on respect for the consumer. Consumers want to buy from companies who honour their time and permissions. They are eager to interact with brands they trust provided that they put out engaging and limited content. So check your marketing plans and data metrics, and do not dig your own grave by turning your consumers off with unwanted messages.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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