It feels like everyone has a startup these days. In fact, about 100 million companies are started every year, and of those around 90% fail.

There are also probably 100 million or more different reasons why businesses fail, but here are the most common mistakes that startups make.

If you can avoid committing these sins you'll have a much better chance of being among the 10% that survives.

1. Talking down to customers

Finding the right voice for your business is key to having great marketing and keeping customers loyal. Having a really aspirational tone works for some businesses, or being light and funny might work for some but not for others, for example. However, having a bossy, condescending voice in your marketing rarely works no matter what kind of business you have.

There's a way to be authoritative without being a jerk in your messaging, and if you keep your tone approachable and positive you're going to attract a lot more people.

2. Irrelevant content

Businesses would love to see their content be the one that goes viral and end up on everyone's Facebook feed. In the fight to go viral, though, a lot of them throw "quality over quantity" right out the window and instead take a "throw it all at the wall and see what sticks" approach.

Creating content because you're hoping something will stick can get really annoying really fast, and it cheapens your business' image.

3. Focusing too much on marketing too early

PR is great for building a brand and getting your name out there, but often people think that if they get their business featured somewhere they're going to see their sales skyrocket. Unfortunately it rarely works that way, and as a new business you can't be wasting time or money on something that isn't going to see a result.

You're better off doing marketing in small batches and reviewing the effects to see what your customers respond to best, especially when you're just getting going.

4. Making empty promises

It's OK to talk about your company and what you want to achieve, but once you start making huge claims or talking about how amazing and better than everyone you are you're pretty much asking for trouble.

Not only are you probably going to come off as smug, if someone does have a bad experience with your business it's going to feel that much worse. If you do make a mistake and end up unable to fulfill promises, the best policy is to be honest with your customers and admit your mistakes.

People are a lot more likely to forgive and stick with a company if they don't feel like they're being lied to.

5. Not having a solid plan

You might think you have the best idea in the world, but ideas are not the same as businesses. And guess what, people come up with new amazing ideas every day, and one single idea has never been enough to launch a successful business.

If you don't have a solid business plan from the start, you're going to have a seriously hard time actualizing your ideas, so the more strategizing, organizing, and brainstorming you can do from the start the better your business will be in the long run.

6. Blissful ignorance

You have so much free information at your disposal, you might as well take advantage of it. Between stories from other business owners, user analytic tools, and researching anything and everything you can related to your product and market, you should never feel like you know everything.

As a business owner you should always be asking yourself (and your team) how you can learn more about your customers, learn from your competitors or other businesses, and stay on top of the changing market.

7. Trying to do everything by yourself

If you're a business owner, especially the founder of a startup, it probably seems like you're never really off the clock. But it's been proven over and over again that working long hours doesn't actually end up being very productive (you start to see significantly diminishing productivity around 40 or 50 hours per week).

Overworking yourself with the additional stress of being a business owner is almost certainly going to take its toll on your physical and mental health with enough time.


There are plenty of ways to avoid making these mistakes and others. Some ways include finding a mentor who's made the same blunders themselves and can help you through them and always striving to stay fresh when it comes to new marketing trends and tools.

If you're guilty of any of these sins with your startup, don't worry- you're definitely not the only one.

Once you know that you're making a mistake you can take steps to fixing it and seeing your business benefit from better practices. Sometimes it just takes a small change in process, marketing, or your team and all of the sudden your business is doing measurably better.

Have you been guilty of any of these "sins" before, and if so how did you correct that mistake?

Published on: Aug 4, 2016
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