There are most definitely no rules to startup marketing, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either mistaken, or misleading you. There are however, some guidelines--some questions you might want to ask yourself along the way.

Asking these questions then answering them won't guarantee anything, but it might be a good indication if you are on the right track. Let's talk about one of those questions.

As you progress with your marketing, ask yourself: Am I playing the long game here and building something sustainable or am I looking for shortcuts?

Playing the long game means building a brand, creating awareness, generating content, and establishing a community. Shortcuts include cutting corners, "growth hacking", and leveraging guerrilla tactics. Nine out of ten times, you need to choose. You can't do both.

So which one of these two strategies, both of which have a place in the life cycle of a company, are you leveraging now? Here are a few good indications that you are perhaps on the right or wrong track.

Buying Followers

It's somewhat of an anomaly to me how, in today's day and age, people think it's a good idea to buy followers on any platform. Before we get into it, let's analyze why people do this in the first place.

The answer is simple. Three letters. KPI, or Key Performance Indicator.

Their boss, the CEO, or their investor, or whoever is pressuring them on a daily basis to up the numbers: "More engagement, more followers, more awareness. Meet your KPIs!"

And so, that person, mistakenly I might add, tries to cut corners, buy followers, then go back to said boss and proudly declare that the numbers are going up.

Why is this the worst thing you can do? Because this actually achieves the opposite result. If you have five followers and each generates one comment, that's five comments, which equals 100 percent engagement. But if you buy followers, they're all bots who aren't really engaging. Those same five comments, now out of a thousand followers, is 0.5 percent engagement. 

You bought followers and instantly decreased your engagement significantly. This type of shortcut is actually tremendously detrimental to your brand.

Influencer Marketing

If I hear the words "I will pay a celebrity to be my brand ambassador and go viral overnight" one more time...

There is a place in this world for influencer marketing. There are even amazing companies built for this industry, but let there be no confusion, overnight influencer marketing does not replace your long term marketing strategy.

Influencer marketing done right takes time: researching the audience, targeting the relevant influencer, building the campaign, the copy, choosing the platform, and much more. Influencers can give your brand a nice boost, put it in first gear, but you need to keep pressing that gas to get to your destination.

The V Word

If your marketing plan has the word "viral" in it, and I recommend you do a CTRL+F to find it, delete it. Go ahead, I'll wait. No one can plan for content to go viral, no one can predict it, no one can expect it, and no one should include it in a marketing plan. 

Going viral is not a plan. Going viral is a fluke, a very lucky fluke, and if you are spending any time or resources on trying to go viral, you are wasting your time trying to cut corners. And you will fail. Guaranteed.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is the Enemy

We have all heard the acronym MVP thrown around. Companies often build an MVP to showcase it to potential partners or investors. After all, if a company has no funding, it is difficult to build the entire product, especially if it consists of hard technology.

There is somewhat of a catch-22. Without money, you can't build the product, and without the product, you can't raise money.

The solution? Build a minimum viable product. Except there is only one problem. If you are doing the minimum, that doesn't solve the catch-22. Who wants to invest in or partner with a minimal product? 

Instead of taking that shortcut and building an MVP, perhaps you should take a different route and build an MDP, a minimum delightful product. Do what you can with the resources that you have to delight your users. 

The product doesn't have to have all bells and whistles yet, but it has to delight. It is still possible to build a delightful product, even a prototype, with limited resources, but building an MVP is a shortcut not worth taking.

Ask yourself at every step of the way, am I playing the long game? Or am I am making short term sacrifices that I will pay for down the road?