Marketing activities that are generally a waste of time

I’ve been thinking back to marketing activities I’ve done that have proven to be a waste of time. Much like venture capital, marketing follows the 80/20 rule aka only 20% of what you do actually makes an impact. Here are a few things you might want to avoid. As usual, this is mostly geared towards early-stage companies:

User Personas

I’m not sure who made these up, but let’s blame academia or perhaps the big consulting firms. Generally, I see startups make 4 vague personas, proudly display them to the team, and then file them away never to look at them again. In the early days your user persona is whoever will pay you. Focus on making them super happy and finding more of them.

Marketing Conferences

I suppose it’s no surprise that marketers like to market themselves to other marketers at marketing conferences (phew). Sure, I’ve spoken at many of these venues at least during pre-covid times. If you’re a newbie founder or marketer I can see the appeal of hearing the CMO of blah blah blah talk, but their advice is usually not very tactical. The truth is you need to find your own strategy. Replicating what some very senior marketer did at some super well-funded company will probably not help you.

One-time campaigns

Let’s test that new channel but not spend too much time or money on it! With that statement you have pretty much sealed the fate of this new channel. Any new channel or tactic takes time and iteration to validate. Throwing $500 and a few hours of your time at it will almost guarantee you don’t see results and therefore don’t pursue it further. While it’s good to kill bad ideas quickly, it’s also bad to make assumptions on very limited effort and of course limited data. Real growth can only be achieved through repeatable tactics and channels.

Fancy Analytics Tools

How many SaaS marketing tools should a sassy SaaS startup use? You have so many to choose from and they all look so shiny! I don’t think you actually need any of them until hitting a certain amount of scale (like millions of monthly events and/or millions in annual revenue). Up and to that point you just need Google Analytics (free!) and a lot of Google Spreadsheets (also free!). I think you’ll also find your developers hate to integrate/instrument these tools and who can blame them. Better to save their energy to work on your core product and you do some extra number crunching instead.

Social media and Blogs

Getting too much marketing advice from social media sites like LinkedIn, blogs, and from supposed experts. Oh no! It’s already too late if you’re reading this! Better close this tab right now and start working on your growth experiments and optimizations. Go! Go! Go!

Sean Percival

Sean Percival is an American author, investor and entrepreneur.