15 Ways To Kill Your Marketing Software Startup

As a senior software engineer and VP of engineering, I’ve spent my career building marketing software products that companies love. 

From easy-to-use email platforms to cutting-edge eCommerce solutions, I’ve helped build startup teams that have gone on to sell over $50 billion in services to Fortune 500 companies like Viacom and Visa.

But as every entrepreneur knows, building a successful business isn’t always smooth sailing. Take it from me: growing a marketing software startup can be fraught with missteps and dead ends. 

Many startups are doomed to fail before they even get started! Thankfully, I’ve learned plenty of lessons the hard way so you don’t have to! Here are 15 ways to make sure your new company crashes and burns:

9 SaaS Marketing Mistakes & How to Fix Them | Dekker Fraser
1. Avoid neglecting customer feedback.
2. Don’t underestimate the importance of market research.
3. Steer clear of overspending on unnecessary features.
4. Don’t rush the product development without validation.
5. Avoid ignoring the competition’s strategies.
6. Don’t rely solely on a single marketing channel.
7. Avoid overlooking the need for a scalable infrastructure.
8. Don’t neglect building a strong brand identity.
9. Avoid ignoring the changing industry trends.
10. Don’t underestimate the value of a skilled team.

1. Not Spending Time In Your Target Customer

If you’re like me, you might find yourself getting caught up in the daily grind of running a business and forgetting to spend time with your target customer. The best way to avoid this is by learning how to be a good listener.

You need to talk to people who are different from you and your team: people who use software (not just friends and family).

People who aren’t necessarily going through the same struggles as yourself or your team members, people who don’t agree with everything that comes out of your mouth (I’m looking at you startup founders), people who have never heard of what it is that you do before, etc.

This can be difficult because if someone disagrees with something, we tend to get defensive but this isn’t about becoming defensive! It’s about listening to understanding and learning why someone thinks differently than us so that we can improve our product accordingly.

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2. Assuming That People Understand What You Do

One of the biggest mistakes that people can make is assuming that their product is so great, so useful and so revolutionary that people will just automatically know what it does and be willing to buy it.

People won’t. They don’t understand your solution. They don’t know if they need your product or service at all; in fact, most of them probably have no idea why you’re even pitching them at all! So instead of taking for granted that they should just automatically get what you’re offering (and buy it), assume nothing and educate them on every aspect of how things work.

3. Pointing Fingers When Things Go Wrong

You’re going to make mistakes. That’s inevitable with any new venture. When things go wrong, though, it’s important not to point fingers in any direction other than yourself no matter who or what you think is to blame for the problem. 

It could be your fault, but often it isn’t (and if it was your fault, at least you can learn from the experience).

Here are some examples of companies that might have been better off if they had taken responsibility instead of blaming others:

In 2001, Microsoft Windows 2000 crashed because it used an obscure calculation method that produced an abnormally large value in one of its files a bug called “the millennium bug.” 

Had they taken responsibility instead of blaming their competitors’ operating systems (like Linux), they would have had more time and money available to fix this problem properly before releasing their software on time without scrambling around for patches afterward.

In 2010 when Apple launched its iPhone 4S with Siri’s voice-activated assistant feature which turned out to be nothing more than a marketing gimmick due to its lack of functionality like not being able to send text messages from your phone or access email accounts through the device itself despite claims otherwise by spokespeople for both companies involved (Apple & AT&T). 

The result was angry users complaining about how expensive iPhones were compared to competing phones from other manufacturers which cost less yet did much more than what was promised by Apple’s Siri feature alone.

Namely being able to send messages via email accounts connected directly to phone apps themselves rather than needing third-party software on top such as iMessage service provided by Apple Inc., etc…

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4. Keeping Your Marketing In-House

There’s a common misconception that modern marketing can be done in-house. It can’t. It should never be done in-house.

The most successful startups are those that have outsourced their marketing to experts and let them do what they’re good at (creating content, managing social media accounts, etc.).

A great example is Buffer. They’ve built a team of people who know what they’re doing when it comes to marketing software startups like yours and they’ve been very successful because of this decision.

5. Being Afraid To Say No To Customers, Investors, And Employees

The worst thing you can do is say yes to every customer, investor, and employee. The reason? You need to be able to make decisions on what’s good for the business and what isn’t.

You have to be willing to say no, even if it means losing a customer or turning down an opportunity. 

This is why having a strong team of advisors is so important your advisors will help you vet out customers who aren’t a good fit with your product, investors who won’t add value, and employees who don’t understand the product or company vision.

If your company isn’t profitable yet (or if it never will be), then why keep selling products that aren’t helping anyone? 

It doesn’t matter how much money people are willing to pay; if their business model isn’t working for them, then there’s no reason for anyone else on board except for those who don’t care about results but just want more money in their pockets without doing any work!

6. Singing To The Choir

The first is to “sing to the choir.” This means saying the same thing over and over again, hoping you’ll eventually convince someone who wasn’t already convinced.

The other side of this is that you’re not being open-minded enough about your customers and competitors: You have to get out of your office and talk with people who aren’t already on board with what you’re doing. 

You have to understand how they think, which means understanding their problems and needs as well as how these relate to your product or service offering.

In addition, it’s important for marketers at startups in any industry, not just software to look outside their industry for inspiration as well as guidance on what’s working elsewhere right now; 

Otherwise, they may find themselves behind their competition before long because they didn’t do their homework early enough!

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7. Thinking Being A Generalist Is a Good Thing

I have had to put down many a Marketing Software Startup over the years. While there are some common causes of death, there is no single way that will guarantee your business’ demise. 

However, there are some warning signs you should look out for that could indicate if your marketing software startup is on the path toward failure:

Thinking being a generalist is a good thing – I see this one all the time. It’s like having an audience with Barack Obama or Mark Zuckerberg when they were young and hungry startups (or even now). 

You want their advice so badly that you don’t realize how much more valuable it would be if they were focused only on one thing at a time like creating tools for social engagement.

Or connecting businesses online by making them easy enough to use without help from others who may not have a stake in their success like themselves do because they created them first!

Not knowing where your niche lies. This one might seem obvious but it happens all too often with me every day when working with clients who come into my office asking questions about why their sales aren’t as good as expected since nobody seems interested in buying anything except maybe once every few months so what should they do?

8. Starting With A Product Instead Of Customers

Before you start building a product, you should be spending most of your time talking to customers about the problem they’re trying to solve and how they’re currently solving it. 

This is not only good for learning about the market and customer needs, but also for validating that there is a problem worth solving. If no one cares about it or has any interest in buying from you, then why would you spend months (or years) building something else?

Having No Understanding Of Marketing Fundamentals

Marketing should not be the last thing on your mind when starting up a SaaS business; it should be the first thing on your mind! 

This means having a clear understanding of what marketing channels exist today, which ones are worth investing in right now based on where you are in terms of growth stage/revenue generation, etc…

9. Making Up On The Fly How You Ll Get Customers

This is where many startups fail. They don’t have a clear plan for how they will get customers, and they don’t ask for help.

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice on how you can grow your business. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with a particular problem in your marketing software startup (for example, getting more leads). 

Don’t make things up on the fly as if you know everything about marketing software startups.

Always remember: asking questions doesn’t mean that you are stupid or that there is something wrong with your business idea! Asking questions shows that you are interested in learning new things and improving yourself as a person and professional!

10. Not Giving Your Customers Two Things They Want More Than Just About Anything Else, Hope And Help

You can’t just assume that your customers know what they want, or even that they know why they should be using your software. You have to help them see the benefits and you have to do it over and over again. You also have to give them hope for the future.

Customers want to hope for their business and their livelihoods, and they need help learning how to use your product or service (you know, since it’s new). 

If you don’t provide this hopefulness and education in addition to your product or service offering then customers will simply leave after realizing that what you’re selling doesn’t meet all of their needs.

For example, if someone is interested in starting a business but doesn’t know where to start then providing simple resources like checklists and action plans will go a long way towards helping them become more successful as entrepreneurs by guiding how best to utilize the resources available at hand before making costly mistakes!

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11. Don T Spend A Dollar Until You Know It Will Work (At Least Somewhat)

You will be tempted by all the cool new marketing software that you see around you. But before you spend a dollar, ask yourself if there’s a way for you to do it for free.

You can always test your marketing out on a small scale first (e.g., publish a blog post on Medium or Reddit), then expand as necessary if it proves successful. If not, no harm done!

Or try taking a page from the Lean Startup playbook and run experiments with different types of marketing at once like putting up posters in different locations or running an ad campaign that spans several channels like Google Ads and Facebook Ads. 

See what works best for your business model without wasting too much time or money!

12. Don’t Waste Your Time Trying To Sell To Individuals And Companies That Aren T Willing Or Able To Buy From You (Yet)

You shouldn’t try to sell to people who don’t have the money, the need, or even the desire to buy from you. If a prospect is not ready to buy and you are still focused on selling them stuff, then it will be a long time before they do buy anything from you.

You should only focus on those who have money and want what you have for sale. The sooner that happens, the less time will be wasted trying to convince them otherwise (or vice versa).

13. Hiding Behind Technology

Technology is a tool that can help you do your job better. It’s not an excuse to avoid the hard work of building relationships, nor should technology be used as a substitute for personal responsibility. Using technology as a crutch can lead to some serious problems, including:

  • You don’t learn how to build relationships
  • You become complacent in meeting people face-to-face or on the phone
  • Your startup becomes a one-man show

14. Lack Of Focus On Engagement And Relationships With Current Customers Before Expanding Your Base

It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of growing your customer base, but if you’re not focused on engagement with your current customers, it’ll be impossible to expand.

You need to know what they want, how they use your product, and where they are in their journey as customers.

Customers are the most valuable asset you have. They’re also the best source of feedback and ideas for new features or services that can help them reach their goals faster than ever before or even get started with you in the first place!

More than 50% of startups fail because they don’t have enough funding or resources to scale quickly enough once traction hits (or doesn’t hit). The only way around that is by keeping up momentum through good customer relationships from day one and beyond.

15. Don’t Kill Your Marketing Startup By Making These Mistakes

But keep in mind that if you do make mistakes, they’re not the end of the world. They can be incredibly helpful in the long run!

One thing I’ve learned is that when your startup fails to gain traction or makes little progress toward its goals, it’s important not to panic. 

Instead of focusing on how bad things are going and how much work needs to be done before you see results, shift your focus toward a more positive mindset:

  • Don’t let insecurities get the best of you; keep working towards making progress no matter what!
  • Don’t overcomplicate things simplify them whenever possible!

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If you’re a software startup, there are two options for how your company will end up.

Option 1: Your product and business end up being so good that the world flocks to them and you become an industry leader.

Option 2: You do one or more of these 20 things and kill your business before it even has a chance to get off the ground.

Now, I’m not naive enough to believe that if you avoid doing these 20 things then you’ll be successful in software marketing. There is simply no way to guarantee success in any industry (if there was, everyone would do it). 

However, I am confident that if you avoid doing these 20 things, then at least you won’t actively shoot yourself in the foot and make your job much harder than it needs to be.

Further Reading

Explore these additional resources to gain more insights into startup challenges and effective marketing strategies:

20 Ways You Can Kill Your Startup Short Description: Discover common pitfalls and mistakes that could hinder your startup’s success.

Ways to Successfully Align Your Sales and Marketing Teams Short Description: Learn strategies for creating synergy between your sales and marketing departments to drive growth.

Startup Marketing Strategy: The Ultimate Guide Short Description: Delve into this comprehensive guide to understand how to craft a robust marketing strategy for your startup.


What are some key factors that can lead to startup failure?

Startup failure can be attributed to various factors, including inadequate market research, poor financial management, lack of product-market fit, and ineffective marketing strategies.

How can aligning sales and marketing teams benefit a business?

Aligning sales and marketing teams can lead to better communication, improved lead nurturing, increased customer retention, and a more cohesive customer journey.

What steps should I take to develop a successful startup marketing strategy?

Developing a successful startup marketing strategy involves defining your target audience, setting clear goals, identifying competitive advantages, and selecting appropriate marketing channels.

How can I avoid the common mistakes highlighted in the article “20 Ways You Can Kill Your Startup”?

To avoid common startup mistakes, it’s essential to conduct thorough market research, create a solid business plan, manage finances wisely, and continuously adapt to changing market conditions.

What are some effective tactics for building a strong online presence for a startup?

Building a strong online presence involves creating valuable content, optimizing your website for search engines, engaging on social media, and leveraging online advertising to reach your target audience.