Starting your own business is nerve-racking, and it can be especially terrifying if you’re self-funding a startup. You know you need to go-to-market as fast as possible and make money.
A bootstrapped startup needs sales like a vampire needs blood.
So, don’t get me wrong. An impulse to start selling is a good thing. But before you begin advertising your business, you need to make sure you have some basic presentational items properly in place. Otherwise, you’re going to scare off customers.
Why? Because first impressions matter.
If your business doesn’t look established, professional, and credible, you’re going to spook your potential customers before you even get the chance to sell them.
So how do you steer clear of a frightening first impression?
It’s easier than you think. Here are 7 simple marketing mistakes that will haunt your business if you don’t avoid them right from the start:
1. Your Website Is a Horror Show
Nowadays, it should go without saying that you can’t launch a business without a professional website. Whether you’re a software company or a landscaping business, if your website looks janky, your potential customers are going to think your business is janky.
The good news is setting up a professional site isn’t as time consuming and expensive as it used to be. With services like Squarespace and WordPress, the process is cheap and easy for anyone to do – no matter your skill or experience level.
To get you started, here’s a quick checklist of business website must-haves:
- Professional logo
- Consistent font & color scheme
- Clear & concise copywriting
- Easy navigation
- Clear call-to-actions
- Mobile responsive design
2. Your Business Phone System Is Unnerving
A well-designed website can make you look professional but you need a business phone system so you sound professional.
Think about it.
If a potential customer visits your website and can’t find your business’s phone number it’s a red flag. Or even worse, a customer calls your business phone number and it’s clear the phone number is just somebody’s cell phone.
Now you’ve gone from fishy to frightening.
The good news is, like websites, setting up a professional business phone system isn’t as time-consuming and expensive as it used to be either. With services like UniTel Voice and Grasshopper, the process is cheap and easy for anyone to do – no technical skills needed.
Here’s a quick checklist of business phone system must-haves:
- Custom toll free & local phone numbers
- Professional sounding auto attendant
- Department & employee extensions
- Smartphone mobile app
- Ability to route calls to any device
- Afterhours greeting
- Virtual voicemail
- Built-in faxing & texting
- Live customer support
3. You’re Using a Creepy Email
Don’t use a free email like an @gmail.com or an @yahoo.com address. You’ll look shady to customers and you’ll look shady to email client spam filters.
Your email URL should match your website URL.
When you register your website address you can usually set up a business email account at the same time. Squarespace allows you to set up a business Gmail account as an add-on to their system – it couldn’t be easier.
It’s also a good idea to set up a business email marketing service so when you send mass emails you also look professional.
The good news? You guessed it. Like websites and phone systems, it’s not hard or expensive to get going.
Services like Mailchimp make it simple and affordable for anyone, even beginners.
Here’s a quick checklist of email marketing must-haves to get you started:
- Editable email templates
- Merge tags & HTML editor
- Embeddable custom forms
- Segmentation & groups
- Subscriber profiles
- Email drip automation
- Spam filter diagnostics
- Analytics & reports
- Mobile responsive design
4. Your About Us Page Is Spooky
Whether you call this page on your website “About Us”, “Our Story”, or “Our Mission”, it serves one essential purpose. It tells website visitors and search engines who you are and what you’re all about.
Your About Us page is a place where you can tell your founding story, introduce your founding team, and show off your business’s wins.
But first and foremost, an About Us page is a sales page that answers the most pressing question new customers have about your business: Why should I trust you?
Unfortunately, too many small business owners see their About Us page as an obligation rather than an opportunity. They don’t realize it’s the best page on their website to build credibility with potential customers.
Or worse, they treat their About Us page as an afterthought and instead of impressing customers they spook them with generic content and nonspecifics.
Don’t do that.
And don’t feel like you need to fake it until you make it.
No matter how early-stage your business is, you have a story to tell. As long as you are authentic and transparent, you will win over customers because honesty leads to trust.
And if you can get customers to trust you, you can get customers to do business with you.
Here are the critical customer questions your About Us page should address:
- What do you do?
- Okay. Why should I care?
- Do other customers like me care?
- How do you do what you say you do?
- How will you improve my life?
- Okay, let’s say I believe you. Now what?
Wants some examples of great About Us pages?
Here you go:
- 15 About Us Page Examples from HubSpot
- 25 About Us Page Examples from SEJ
- 27 About Us Page Examples from IMPACT
5. Your Social Proof Is Horrifying
Social proof, in the context of marketing, is evidence that other customers have purchased your product or service and found value in it.
Social proof also fuels what is called the bandwagon effect.
In other words, Social proof helps customers see how popular your business is among like-minded purchasers. People are more likely to buy a product when they see others already buying it.
On the web, social proof comes in many forms.
Here are five core examples:
- Customer testimonials & case studies
- Online reviews & ratings
- Trust symbols & awards
- Partnerships & affiliations
- Press & social media mentions
The fact is your business’s online reputation is directly linked to your business’s body of social proof.
If you have no testimonials on your website, or more serious, lots of negative online reviews, your business’s reputation will suffer and so will your sales.
So how do you protect your online reputation?
Collect customer feedback.
It’s the most important thing a startup can do because it tells you if your business is headed in the right direction.
It also allows you to do something insanely useful: identify your happy customers and your not-so-happy customers.
Why is that so important?
When you know who your happy customers are, you can ask them for testimonials and reviews. Make it easy for your happiest customers to spread the good word about your business. That’s without a doubt the fastest way to generate powerful authentic social proof.
And don’t be afraid to give your happy customers a little nudge to review your business or share their experience with others. Sometimes all it takes is a polite email or friendly phone call.
Likewise, it’s also incredibly useful to know who your unhappy customers are so you can reach out to them and perhaps fix what went wrong before they go out and bash your business online.
Understanding where your business is doing well and where your business is struggling is the key to growing your startup and attracting new customers.