5 Messaging Mistakes Your Startup Should Avoid At All Costs

Startups don’t have a huge window to “make it”. You’ve either reach your audience and start making sales or the funding runs out and you’re in a pickle. So how do you reach, connect with, and convert your prospects? Well, messaging is the place to start. Once you develop a strong message, you can begin delivering it to your target market. If you’re making the following mistakes, however, the messaging is going to fall flat.

1. Not niching down hard enough

When you launch your company, it’s easy to think that everyone needs what you have. It’s amazing, after all! The problem is that if you’re trying to appeal to everyone, you’re not serving anyone. Niching down too hard is a common fear among startups. Founders think they need to go wide so as to not miss out on any opportunities. While I would absolutely suggest testing out different audiences and angles in your marketing, you’ve got to go deep, not wide.

Going wide means generic. It means that your messaging, your value propositions, and basically everything customer facing is just going to skim the surface. This leads to vague messaging and an uninterested audience.

When you go deep, however, you’re able to speak straight to the heart of the people you’re trying to serve. Going deep allows you to focus on one person (or type of person!) and address their specific pain points in a truly effective way.

2. Getting caught up in who they want their customers to be

Part of going deeper with your marketing is truly understanding who your customers are. You should know what their desires are, what’s bugging them right now, where they live, where the shop, what ice cream flavor they like best. (Ok, I’m kidding about the ice cream thing, but it certainly couldn’t hurt!)

You can’t do any of this if you’re caught up on who you want your customers to be instead of accepting who they actually are.

Believe it or not, this is easy to do! When you first get started, you’re making some educated guesses about who you serve, and that’s ok. It’s perfect! But over time, as you actually start selling, you’ve got to go back and learn about the people who are actually buying from you and make adjustments to your strategy accordingly.

3. Ignoring the importance of analytics and data

I’m sure you’ve heard of a little thing called analytics, right? And analytics are no longer just a thing on the Google. They’re everywhere. You can tell how many people opened your email, how many people scrolled down a landing page, how many people saw a Facebook post, how many people signed up for a free offer. You must be analyzing that data and optimizing based on what you find.

When you’re not, that’s called “winging it”. We, as marketers, have so much valuable information at our fingertips. It’s just silly not to use it to our advantage.

4. Focusing on the brand instead of on the customer

HUUUUGGGGEEE mistake right here. Huge. We’re all passionate about what we do, so it’s easy getting caught up in the “we” trap. Things like “we have this feature”, “we serve you like this”, “we believe”; etc. Now I’m not saying that you can’t talk about your company at all, but all these “we” statements add up after a while and take their collective toll on the reader. All that good intention quickly becomes a poor reflection on the brand as it appears braggy or self serving instead of focused on the real hero of the story: the customer.

I usually see it as a features versus benefits issue. Features are all the amazing things we provide our customers. Benefits are how those features will positively affect the customers. Coming at your messaging from a benefit-centric place will reframe the way you speak about things and will help you focus more on the customer.

5. Being unwilling to pivot

Last but not least, the one huge mistake that kills startups is the founding team’s unwillingness to pivot. I get it; you’ve been working tirelessly on this idea for months or even years. You know it’s valuable. You know there’s a market for it. But all that “knowing” is useless if you’re not making money.

Sometimes the customers will tell you they need something differently, subtly or explicitly. If you’re unwilling to part ways with your original vision or at the very least, see it become something new, it can be tough or completely impossible to become profitable because the market will just leave you behind.


So what have we learned here? Your startup has everything it needs to thrive at its fingertips as long as you’re willing to get to know your real customers, optimize for them, and pivot when necessary. Your brand will only evolve when you do, and startup life changes quickly. Are you ready to roll?

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.