4 Messaging Mistakes That Are Killing Your Startup Growth

Messaging is a key component of any marketing strategy. What will you say to people? How will you say it? We want our messaging to be strong and vibrant and unique—but it can be really easy to miss the mark. Without the proper insight or community feedback, brand messaging often falls flat. Here are the mistakes you never knew you were making with your marketing messaging.

Focusing on features instead of benefits

Shouting to the rooftops about all your amazing features isn’t a hard thing to do. (Afterall, you’ve got an amazing product, right?!) And so, we tend to focus on all the things that we offer and go deep trying to explain how different and unique each feature may be.

The problem here is that people don’t often concern themselves with features…. They want to know about how those features will positively impact them…. And that’s called a benefit.

Stop for a minute and think critically about the point behind each feature. Why did you create it? How does it make your customer’s life easier? More efficient? More enjoyable? More effective?

When you can answer those questions—basically showing why the feature matters—only then will you truly be able to grab your audience’s attention.

Using language that doesn’t resonate with your people

I see it all the time: startup founders are certain that they’ve nailed their messaging because it makes them feel good. The problem is, however, that they haven’t actually talked to any of their customers or potential customers about it.

Messaging can easily go awry if you assume you know what your audience wants, what they need, or the language that resonates with them without actually asking them about it.

This assumption usually leads to messaging that falls flat because it doesn’t actually resonate with your ideal buyers.

Want a simple solution? Do some market research. Ask your people what words, ideas, and messaging appeals to them. They won’t steer you wrong!

Not getting outside perspective

This may not feel like a messaging mistake but hear me out: you are an expert in your field. You know everything there is to know about your business and about the solution you offer. And that’s exactly the problem.

When you already understand something on a deep level, you assume things are a given when they’re not. This becomes evident in your messaging when you believe that you’ve made things very clear, yet no one seems to understand what you’re talking about.

It’s so very important to get outside feedback on any messaging before you go live with it, simply due to the fact that you need another perspective to guarantee that you’ve explained things in a way that can be easily understood, so matter what your visitor’s prior understanding might be.

Using “I” or “We”

This is ultimately the biggest mistake you can make. For the longest time, I had to correct one of my favorite clients because they would always make their messaging about them….

“We offer amazing solutions.”

“We really care about your success.”

“We do things differently than those other guys.”

Maybe it’s just that I read Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller, but anytime I see messaging like this, I can’t help but think: “It’s not about you! It’s about the customer!”

So yes, our companies do bring some amazingness to the table, but as it usually is with life, your messaging isn’t always about what you say, but rather how you say it. When you position yourself or your business as the hero, your audience will likely zone out. Your messaging needs to focus on empowering them, not glorifying your brand.


Your startup growth will inevitably stall if your messaging isn’t on point, and it’s easier to get off track than you had ever imagined. First of all, make sure you talk about how your product or service benefits people because that’s what they’re going to remember—how you help them. Next, it’s essential to be aware of how your audience talks and what kind of language piques their attention. Always ask them and get their feedback whenever possible. Lastly, make sure that your audience is the focus of your messaging, not your brand. This is a subtle shift that makes the difference between messaging that converts and messaging that misses the mark.

Shauna Armitage.png

Meet the Author: Shauna Armitage

Shauna is a Marketing Director or Fractional CMO helping early-stage startups scale with effective strategies, creative solutions, and unparalleled integrity by making the most of small budgets for maximum impact.

As a vocal advocate for women in business, Shauna is on a mission to redefine what it looks like to be a working woman and to support other women doing the same. She spends her free time traveling with her husband and four kids while drinking Coca-Colas. Connect with her on Instagram at @shauna.armitage.

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