Top mistakes founders make when trying to scale up

by | Blog

It’s often said that the biggest mistake a founder can make is not to think big enough. But what about when you are thinking big and begin to scale up your business—only to realize too late that you’re making critical marketing mistakes holding you back? 

Founders are often focused on product and technical milestones and often forget about the core brand fundamentals. This can lead to some common mistakes when trying to scale up. In this post, we’ll look at the top three marketing mistakes founders make and how to avoid them.

  1. Trying to serve too many customer segments 

I get it. It is very tempting to try to capture as much of the market as possible. After all, the more segments you attract, the greater chances you have of selling your product or services, right? In truth, several things are wrong with that statement, and I will be tackling them through all three points.

Let me start with the first. You want to serve as many segments as possible because you want to attract as many people as you can. The logic is there, but does this apply to the world of startup business? The answer is no.

As a startup, you should be intensely focused on one segment alone. This is called your “ideal client.” This ideal client is the one segment with the problem you are solving; they need to get it solved, have the means to pay for it and will tell others about you. 

Finding your one ideal customer should be one of the first things you do as you are establishing the business itself: you determine your target market. The operative word here is “target.” You are aiming for a certain segment. You can’t aim properly if you are looking at more than one target at a time.

So, the best way to go is to find your particular customer base, then create a plan to specifically address their needs and let them know about your solutions. Remember, it is better to be excellent at capturing a single segment than barely getting the attention of a few.

As you are scaling, you do not have the resources (time, energy, money) to target multiple segments with various messages and offers. Pick the one and serve them. Focus on solving their problem better than anyone else does.

  1. Not fully understanding their ideal customer

Now that you have dispelled the wrong notion of serving too many segments, what step should you take next? The smart thing to do is to define and describe your ideal customer. 

This is where the second point comes in. You want to make sure that you cater specifically to your target market. You don’t and can’t serve the entire world. Your job is to transform the lives of your ideal customer. Do that and let the scaling begin.

You should make sure that you have a clear picture of who your ideal customer is. Perhaps you’ve seen our framework called The Core Four (we’ve got a video about this if you’d like it). The Core Four incorporates.

  1. Who the client is
  2. What they want
  3. Why do they want that
  4. How do they want that delivered

You are essentially looking at the picture from your customers’ perspective and creating a profile of your ideal customer.

Understanding your ideal customer is key to targeting your market segment because, chances are, they have similar priorities, values, wants, and preferences. You can adjust your products and services, practices, approach, and overall brand fundamentals to attract this specific profile. 

  1. Not focusing on solving problems for their ideal customer

Successful founders know their one job is not selling products or services. Their job is selling solutions to problems. Specifically solving a critical issue that their ideal customer segment has. The bigger the problem, the more you can charge for your solution. Do you know what happens to companies that know solving customer problems is their job and make this their core focus?

  • They become a necessity (not a want or a nice to have).
  • They aren’t competing on price because they are creating real value. (Little secret, they can probably charge a premium).
  • Their ideal customer segment will tell others about you (another key to scaling).

Focus on the needs of your target market – one specific target market, to be exact. You want to be their go-to business when they need to address this particular problem. This is why you should focus on solving their problems instead of trying to sell your product or services. Of course, you will sell your products and services as you solve their problems – but the nuance is essential to grasp. 

Keep in mind that your value lies in how you can improve your customers’ lives and not how fast or how effective you can sell your offerings to them. You are valuable to them because they can depend on you to solve their problems. 

How Correcting These Mistakes Can Help You Scale

Every founder dreams of seeing their organization scale, and scaling up means that the business grows sustainably and efficiently. When revenue is outpacing costs, this is where growth lies.

The question now is, how can addressing these mistakes help you achieve scaled growth? The answer can be straightforward. Think about the resources and costs you need to cater to more than one market segment. Now, imagine doing your research and developing a product or service to solve the problems of every person in these segments. Then, try selling your products or services to them.

It would be nearly impossible to develop an offering that perfectly caters to the specific problems of people from these different segments. You might be addressing an issue of customers in Segment A, but you might be falling short for customers in Segment B. 

In short, these mistakes are costing you time, money, and effort for little payoff. By addressing these mistakes, you are using your resources more efficiently, creating a product or service with a higher value than anything in the market. 

A more focused approach is what can help you scale. Remember, customers would be willing to pay more for a solution that is proven to be effective and reliable. They will also tell others about it – for free.

The Bottom Line

These three mistakes can get in the way of you achieving scaled growth. By targeting a specific market, identifying your target customer, and focusing on their problems, you eliminate the pitfalls most owners tend to fall into. Once you understand this, you can build your marketing, operations, and brand around the correct principles. 

It is NEVER too late to go back to revisit, repair and revamp your company’s fundamentals.


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