Marketing is just as vital to any organization as any other piece of the operation. No matter how ground-breaking, penny-saving, top-of-the-line, best-bang-for-your-buck the product may be, if people do not know about it, they can not buy it. But, like any other part of running a small business, marketing your product must be done correctly in order for it to be effective. Simple mistakes in the approach and execution to promotion can prove to be very costly to the small business owner. Below you will find some of the most common marketing mistakes businesses make. Feel free to use the list below as a reference sheet as you, the small business owner, develop your company’s campaign to the public.
Mistake #1 – Not Creating A Marketing Plan
Just as you made a plan for how your company would bring in profits, you must create a clear cut plan as to how your marketing will be effective. It is understandable that by this point you are eager to get everything going and start seeing returns on your investment. But, the fact is if you do not set a succinct, clear-cut game plan as to how you will execute, eventually, you’ll find yourself running in circles; frustrated, exhausted and sadly disillusioned by an idea that not too long ago created the exact opposite effect. So, how do I create an effective marketing plan? Glad you asked. Well, simply put, there are three main parts to focus in on:
Target Audience, Message, and Budget. Each equally important, I will touch on all three.
Step One – The Target Audience
Identifying your target market is critical to your success. It is also critical to choosing the appropriate marketing techniques to reach potential customers. If you are selling a woman’s product, be women-centric with your marketing, advertising, and PR campaigns. If you offer a service or product for small businesses, stick to small business publications and mailing lists. Targeting Fortune 500 companies is a waste of time and money. They already have established vendors in place. So, don’t try to be everything to everyone. Once you have identified who you want to market to, now it’s time to develop the message.
Step Two: The Marketing Message – Get to the Point
Take some time with this. Carefully develop concise language that quickly conveys the key message(s) you want known about your product or organization. In today’s competitive landscape time is absolutely of the essence. If you can’t convey your message quickly and have it resonate, you’ll be losing potential customers. It is as simple as that. Also, make sure your message and images recognize your product. Even if your message is, say, comedic in nature, remember what the ultimate goal is: to sell. Make sure that the underlying theme of every marketing message highlights the greatness of your product. The last thing you want is to confuse a potential customer by losing focus on what is really important.
Step Three: The Marketing Budget
Most businesses without a marketing plan also lack a marketing budget. And companies without both have the highest rate of failure. After all, would you run your personal life without a budget? Unless you enjoy debt, I didn’t think so. While you are writing your Marketing Plan, it is important to focus on the financial costs of implementation. A general rule of thumb says that at least 10% of your revenue should be designated for your marketing efforts. That means dollars specifically pinpointed for Web site design and maintenance, logo design and brand development, marketing collateral, both print and electronic, and paying someone, if you don’t have the time, skills, or desire to do so, to handle all of your Public Relations needs. But make sure when allocating money for marketing that you also have a means for tracking your ROI. If your ROI is low after several months of trying a particular strategy, go back to your marketing plan and look at trying something different. If your ROI is high, stay with what is working, but go back to your plan and budget and accelerate to the next phase.
Mistake #2 – Underestimating the Value of Your Existing Customers
Most businesses think that the way to increase sales is to focus primarily on new customer acquisition.Unfortunately, this often means poor customer service to existing customers who, if serviced well, could provide a strong revenue stream to keep your business healthy and strong. And sadly, the lack of good service and communication with an existing customer often means that customer will go elsewhere to find what they need or want. After all, who wants to be taken for granted? If you want to stay in business and grow, you must be sure to turn existing customers into lifetime customers. Call to say thank you. Check in to see if their needs are being met. You might feel like you’re wasting your time, or being a pest, but ask any customer who stays loyal to a particular company and you’ll always get the same answer: “Good customer service!, it’s why I stay and when I don’t have it, it’s why I leave.” Listen and learn!
Mistake #3 – Ignoring the Benefits of Public Relations
Public relations is the most inexpensive and effective way to get the word out to your target market that you have a product or service they need and want. Open any newspaper or magazine, listen to any TV or radio show and you’ll find that without small business stories, the press would have a limited amount of content to cover. So how do you become newsworthy? Develop a good story about your business, yourself, your product or service, a customer or your community involvement, and send it out as a press release to the appropriate editors, writers, or newscasters. You might not get a hit every time, but the more press releases you send (once a month is a good start) the better chance you have for peaking interest and eventually a story will be written. You’ll be amazed at how much recognition and business will result from getting your business and face in the press.
Mistake #4 – Expecting Too Much, Too Soon
Often, someone just starting a new business will get terribly disappointed because they developed a brochure, ran an ad, attended a networking event, or sent out postcards with little response. They get discouraged and lose sight that marketing is really about developing relationships and, like any new relationship; it takes time to build interest and trust. To turn a potential customer into a new customer, you must reach out to them with consistent marketing messages (at least six times…more if you’re selling a high-ticket item) before they feel like they “know” and “trust” your company enough to take the risk of purchasing a product or service from you.
I hope this list was helpful. Please add other common mistakes/advice that you feel I may have missed.