4 growth marketing challenges: Startups and Scale ups


Is your business entering the post-startup stage? Or perhaps you have been growing solidly for a couple of years and you consider your business more of a scale up? 

While this may be an exhilarating period for your business, it can also be tainted by marketing problems common for those in growth-ready position.

This quick article walks through four of the typical problems I’ve seen over and over again in my decade of experience as an in-house digital marketer, as well as from consulting different businesses on their marketing challenges more recently.

So if you’re a CMO, marketing, commercial or programme director tasked with restructuring and shaping the marketing strategy of your business, read on…


Growth marketing challenges for startups and scale ups:

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Marketing hiring errors

As your business grows it collects a number of assets that need managing, for example your blog, website and social media. To scale up and grow further you definitely need somebody looking after the business’ marketing needs full time. Yet often companies get this first hire so wrong. 

At this stage, the salary of a senior marketer with experience in things like strategy and managing a budget seems a huge investment to directors. So businesses often wish to take a low-risk approach and hire someone junior, or perhaps mid-level at best. 


After a while, the cracks begin to show.


From the perspective of the business owner, or a director responsible for the hire you might feel:

  • The hire is not getting the concrete results you expected.
  • They do not work autonomously, and lack the confidence to execute campaigns without lots of hand-holding.
  • The campaigns that are being run seem “hit and hope” in style.
  • There is a lack of reporting.


Here is the thing. Your marketer is not to blame.


If you are hiring someone with little or no experience in planning, executing and monitoring an entire digital marketing strategy it is unfair to expect them to “hit the ground running”. 


From the perspective of your hire, they might feel:

  • Overwhelmed at the number of marketing tasks to do and prioritising them.
  • In the dark about your exact expectations, and lacking the experience to advise a way forward.
  • That they are missing the guidance and structure to drive results. 


Occasionally, senior management and the marketer are able to work through these problems. But most often they sadly go their separate ways - both frustrated that it didn’t work out. The business is left with nothing to show for the costs of hiring and training up the marketer, nevermind the money spent on campaigns that didn’t go anywhere. 


Marketing agency problems

Sometimes, alongside or instead of an initial marketing hire, a business might seek out the services of a marketing agency.

These agencies might be executing a range of tasks for you - whether it’s paid advertising, search engine optimisation or building out your business’ digital marketing strategy.

If you’re able to get a good agency (and there are plenty of amazing marketing agencies out there), then they could achieve very satisfactory results for you. 


However, many business directors and owners experience the following pain points when dealing with agencies:

  • Although the initial pitch and case studies presented to you when you committed were impressive, they seem extremely expensive for the output of results.
  • There is nobody in-house with the time or skillset to communicate with the agency and brief them properly.
  • The agency seems to apply a “cookie-cutter” strategy that doesn’t more deeply look at the needs of your business and the niche you operate in.
  • When results are reported back to you, there is a lack of benchmarking and clarity on what makes a “good” result.
  • Continuous monitoring and evaluation is non-existent after the work is done.


I want to reiterate that many marketing agencies out there do care about driving the best results possible. These agencies will inquire deeply about your current position, objectives, competitors and niche.website-g62780ebdc_1280

However, there are a fair few agencies that over-promise and under-deliver. They wow you upfront with impressive case studies and slide decks showcasing their approach. But once you sign a contract and get into the project problems arise. Copy on marketing campaigns seems generic and not inline with your brand voice. Requests for an evaluation of results are met with smoke and mirrors - as well as lots of bamboozling digital jargon you are not familiar with.

Of course, the quality of information you put into an agency greatly dictates what you’ll get out of them. A key issue here is that often businesses at this stage do not have someone in-house with the perspective and experience to manage this relationship. This person would be able to sound the alarm before a business makes the wrong choice. They would also be able to brief the agency in the most efficient way to minimise back and forth, and they would have the knowledge to confidently hold an agency to account over lackluster results.


Lack of direction

Getting a business past the startup phase is often a frantic effort. Founders and early employees all chip in with the shared goal of making the company’s vision a reality. And now you’ve made it!

As a scaleup, you probably have funding or several big contracts - meaning more resources at your disposal. This bigger budget needs to be leveraged effectively for rapid business growth, and it can be tempting to start throwing money at different ‘shiny’ elements to achieve this. That gritty and frantic work ethic powered you through the tricky startup phase, but it would be to your detriment to take the same approach now.doors-g0c24fe0f7_1280

Ultimately, digital marketing is a massive beast. And no budget you have is going to permit you suddenly be everywhere, all at once. The number of options at your disposal can be overwhelming and prioritising them an absolute nightmare that no one in-house has time for. 


You might also be experiencing the following teething issues:

  • Ignorance about targeting and channels that fit your niche best.
  • Gaps in knowledge regarding target audience behaviours online.
  • No formulated Ideal Customer Profiles (ICPs).

Often the best solution for this is consulting with a third-party with the right experience. They can extract the objectives and KPIs that really matter to you and craft a digital marketing plan to meet those goals. They can also lay the foundations for scalable marketing efforts, another key challenge businesses face in this stage of growth.


Making marketing scalable with growth

What do I mean when I say ‘scalable’?


This can apply to a variety of elements, but here are some examples:

  • Things that can be automated (e.g. email lead nurturing), are.
  • Tracking and analytics are set up in a way that makes reporting on past, present and future campaigns effortless and low-maintenance.
  • Systems are in place to ensure prospects do not get forgotten about and slip through your fingers.
  • Your website is in good health, and has been audited to check for any serious issues whilst it is at a manageable size.
  • Your data hygiene and legal compliance (GDPR) is solid. 


During the hectic startup phase these elements often get swept under the rug - with the reasoning that they can be corrected and optimised later. But the scaleup stage is the very last opportunity to address these issues. Correcting them further down the line will only get more expensive and more complicated the longer you wait.



How to resolve these issues

All of these common problems can be addressed by a third-party with the relevant experience and expertise.money-g3d4694d84_1280

A digital marketing consultant will be able to audit all your assets and practices, making recommendations that will save you a lot of pain and time later. They will also go through a deep period of inquiry with you regarding your current position, processes, audience and goals. From this, they will then be placed to craft a digital marketing strategy that prioritises actions and campaigns based on your objectives. Being in possession of this strategy will then give you the structure to confidently make future marketing hires, knowing that you are giving them a clear path to driving results. 


Your budget gets optimised through choosing the right campaign types, granular targeting and relevant content.


You have clear, scalable tracking that informs future strategy and budget.


And, most importantly, your business is ready for high-growth - with a tailored plan for the future.


Sounds good?

Book a free consultation with me today to learn how we can take your business to the next level.

Scale up your business the smart way. Book a consultation.

Digital Hydra

For the last 10 years I've been driving results in-house for B2B companies within a variety of industries. I'm a full stack marketer with specialist knowledge in SEO, paid advertising, content, data analysis and strategy. Whilst the majority of my experience has been in SaaS, I have also worked within the life sciences and publishing industries.