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Top Small Business Marketing Mistakes

Recently we were having lunch at Columbus’ Curry, a new quick dining establishment specializing in Indian cuisine.  During this visit, we had the fortunate opportunity to meet the owner.  Turns out that they had only been open for four weeks, but they indicated that things were going well thus far.  At some point, our conversation turned to what the “most important” thing to focus on should be.  Our response?  Generating sales!

As we’ve said in previous posts, nothing happens in an organization until a sale is made and sales don’t happen without marketing.  Unfortunately, many new/fledgling small businesses often underestimate their marketing needs.  With that said, we figured we’d discuss the top marketing mistakes new business often make and how you can avoid them.

No marketing plan.  Failure to plan is like planning to fail – we’ve all heard that statement correct?  Well, if you don’t have a marketing plan, then you can rest assured that your marketing will not be is effective as it needs to be.  People often think that a marketing plan needs to be this overly complicated document that takes months to develop.  That is not the case.  A simple marketing plan can be made in short order.  Take a look at this article to see just how to put one together and what it should contain.

No marketing budget.  Equally egregious as not having a marketing plan, is not having a marketing budget.  When you start a business you may be consumed in pouring all of your dollars into research and development, product engineering, hiring staff or outfitting your headquarters.  However, if you don’t have the budget to tell your target market about your product or services, how will they find you?  “Oh, if we build it they will come” is your response?  Read the next bullet dear friend.

Having a “build it and they will come” mentality.  We’ve written about this before in our Small Business Marketing 101 post.  The key takeaway from it is that even with a highly visible location it’s EXTREMELY hard for potential customers to “see” you.  The only way to ensure that the do, is to market to them.  Furthermore, even if they know you are there, what is going to make them choose you over your competitors?  For that, we recommend that you emphasize your Unique Selling Proposition or USP in all of your marketing collateral.

Failing to “test” your marketing.  Marketing should never be viewed as a “one and done” type of activity.  The one thing that is constant in the world is change.  Thus, you must frequently look at your marketing activities, vehicles, collateral, etc. and make sure that it is working.  If it isn’t, then you need to make adjustments to it.  If you do a mailing and you get a 2% response rate, test doing a similar mailing but tweek the headline, body, mailing list, etc to see if the results change.  Keep “testing” various elements of the campaign until you get the desired result.  All of this leads us to the next point.

Not holding your marketing accountable.  If you are involved in various marketing activities, you should always hold your marketing ruthlessly accountable for revenue.  One of the first things we ask customers is how they heard of us.  Why?  We want to know which vehicle brought them to us.  We then track various metrics associated with this such as number of leads, leads converted to customers, revenue spent per customer, cost of client acquisition, etc.  If we don’t see the return on investment for a particular vehicle we either 1) test it, 2) change it or 3) abandon it.  If we get to the third, that allows us to shift those dollars to something that IS producing desired results.  The worst thing you can do is continue to pour money into something that is not generating sales.

Trying to reinvent the “Marketing” wheel.  Marketing is not hard stuff (in simplistic terms of course).  Yes, there is the need to reinvent and refresh your marketing so that it remains relevant and in sync with the times, but you don’t have to go back to the drawing board to make it yours.  In this post, we talk about 50 ways that you can market your small business.  The point?  You don’t have to start from scratch; look at the items, choose what works for you and then make it fit your business.

Continuous planning without execution.  The fear of failure is a very powerful thing.  In this post, our CEO Jared Rogers talks about getting over his fears when he struck out to head the Beverly office.  In the end he got over them and started doing things. The point is that you can be so busy preparing, organizing, and researching your marketing to prevent failure that you never get around to the actual marketing.  To combat this remember:

  1. Activity is not productivity.
  2. In order to sell a million of something, you have to sell the first ONE.

At some point you have to start your marketing and just see what happens.  Remember, mistakes are the price of entry into the world of success. A failed promotion means you have SUCCESSFULLY determined what does NOT work; and that is a invaluable tool in getting you closer to discovering what DOES work.