Top 3 Mistakes a Startup Marketer Should Avoid!



Today Loi Nguyen, our new hire for the Marketing Lead position, is talking about his experience during the first two and a half months working for the NSS and especially pointing out the three major mistakes he and the team have made during such a short period of time. Here’s his story:


As an accelerator, parts of what we want to teach startups are how to find out their core values, how to define their buyers, and how to communicate those values to the said validated customers. We’ve done properly the first few steps, meaning that we know who we are selling to, what we can deliver, and how valuable they are to our startups. However, when it comes to presenting what we have in store to them, we’re still struggling to let our brand be known, especially to the international audience that’s outside of Finland or the Nordics.

There’s no denial that B2B Marketing is challenging, even more so for a startup that naturally doesn’t have enough human or financial resources. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned during a short period of two and a half months of doing digital marketing for a startup accelerator and working with some other startups. Hopefully, founders or whoever’s responsible for the marketing department in your team can find this useful to some extent.


Disclaimer: This is based on my subjective perspectives and the little hands-on experience I’ve collected in less than 3 months at NSS. They could be wrong by the book or not applicable to other companies, but they are my honest observations and reflections. Let’s dive in.


1. Too academic approach


Holding two bachelor’s degrees in International Business and Management Studies (one of which is a Double Degree), and currently finishing my Master’s degree in Marketing Management, I’ve been working with academic papers for half of my life at this point. They’ve definitely equipped me with much theoretical understanding of my work and I’m extremely grateful for that. However, applying them to real life is a whole different story.


My first mistake was to start off several tasks with the academic approach that I’ve grown accustomed to for so long. I would scout all over the internet for reliable sources or do a bunch of research before writing and posting. It slowed me down. I could make an excellent post on social media with much in-depth information, but at the expense of time spent on other tasks, and more dangerously, our online presence. Yes, having just one good piece of content in a week means nothing as regards boosting the engagement or interest among our online audience. Social media, especially LinkedIn would reward for the frequency of the posts than their quality.


Silly me even put all the references on top of the post as if it’s an academic paper. Protip: Don’t do it

I’m not saying we should put out trash content for the sake of increasing the post volume. What I’ve learned is that it doesn’t matter if you make a spelling mistake here and there, or if the texts/images on the graphics are not perfectly aligned. It’s far more important that you provide educational and valuable content in a professional yet CASUAL manner and on a REGULAR basis. I find it especially true in the entrepreneurial environment where everything is moving so fast and startups are expected to grow exponentially in a short period of time. Marketing should therefore keep up with this pace. Perfectly polished copywriting would be a hindrance than it is of help.


At NSS, we usually tell our startups that flawless launching doesn’t exist. Let it be the continuous process of experimental trial and error. Overthinking and waiting for the perfect moment to introduce the product would just consume more resources in vain. It’s the most ideal time to learn and make mistakes when both your brand voice and the audience haven’t been settled yet.


2. Failing to measure results


Another fatal mistake that I’ve made is failing to keep track of the relevant metrics. Many people, including me, think that your job is done after posting or publishing that piece of content, now let the algorithm takes over. And that’s where I failed.


Not knowing how our online platforms are performing or what kinds of content are right for our specific audience led me to so much confusion and at times, panic when I’m stuck on ideas and what to do next. Because I didn’t know what works and what doesn’t for our social media content or where the traffic was coming from on our website, I wasted so much time doing a little bit of everything yet nothing is properly done as a consequence. It also prevented me from looking at our marketing effort from a strategic point of view.


After realizing the mistake and discussing it with the team, we’ve come up with a systematic framework to test out our ideas going forward, which allows us to set objectives and goals for the KPIs, monitor them, learn from them, and find out the best practices.


We developed a table of hypotheses to make sense of the best way to effectively talk to our potential candidates.


We then decided on the data we want to record and examine to see prove the above-mentioned hypotheses. Hopefully, we’ll soon get hold of all of the missing information that has troubled us since the beginning.


3. Lack of smart scheduling and tools


I’m a pretty much pen and paper guy, and that’s my approach when I started this job. It took me a while to figure out all the fancy tools we’ve been using. I call them fancy because they actually are, in a positive way.


Believe me when I say not having a proper schedule to put out content and utilizing the right tools drains more energy than you think. It slowly and surely burned me out because I failed to pace out the tasks and ended up cramming a lot of them at the same time. There are a trillion action points on your to-do list when you’re a startup. Therefore, organizing them in order of priority is a must to get things done fast and efficiently. Multitasking is great but finishing off the tasks one by one is more important.


Availing yourself of suitable tools is equally vital here. As I have mentioned earlier, you’d be amazed at how helpful they are at giving you holistic control over your progress and letting other teammates know what you’re up to and where they can jump in to help. Here are some of the examples of tools we’re using internally (I’ve changed them up to not reveal too much 😁 so not the actual content)


Airtable. Planning out our blog and social media posts

Mural. Planning out a certain project

Those are some of the most bitter yet rewarding lessons that I’ve learned during my first days at the NSS. I hope it could somehow serve you either in giving you some idea or simply just as sympathetic reassurance that we all make mistakes, which I’m sure I’ll personally make many more in the future but that’s ok. That’s how we grow. Let’s learn and grow together. Thank you.


Please check out our 0-to-1 program for early-stage startups at Nordic Startup School

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