Let’s face it random “hit and miss” marketing techniques won’t help you win the battle of capturing new customers. But a solid marketing strategy could give you the edge you need to achieve your goals. Make sure you avoid these major mistakes made by many business owners when developing your plan of action.
1. Not Creating a Written Strategy
A written marketing plan is one of the most important business documents you will create as a small business owner. A carefully thought-out plan spanning several communication venues will help maximize your budget and impact consumers. Include these elements as recommended by Business Know How.
- Mission Statement — The purpose of your business.
- Market Research — Record data collected about your particular market, including customer demographics, industry specifics and supplier information.
- Target Market — Detail the ideal markets you will targeting.
- Product/Service — Present the details of the product or service you offer.
- Competition — Describe the competition and how your company differentiates from others in the same industry.
- Marketing Strategies — List all the marketing channels you are considering.
- Price, Positioning, and Banding — Detail the formula you will use to price your items or services, how you will position them in the market place and how you will create brand awareness.
- Budget — Detail your budget and anticipated expenses.
- Marketing Goals — List measurable marketing goals.
Remember that despite this tightly structured plan, you have permission to change or update. No marketing plan is set in stone. There are too many variables at play, such as customer response, updates in technology and price changes.
“The company without a strategy is willing to try anything.” ― Michael Porter, Bishop William Lawrence University Professor at Harvard Business School
2. Not Focusing
Marketing strategies geared toward everyone are typically too generic to make an impact and fail miserably. Adam Kleinberg Co-founder and CEO of Traction warns business owners to resist the temptation to be everything to every customer. “Your one thing is the unique value that your brand delivers,” writes Kleinberg. “Volvo keeps you safe. IBM is building a smarter planet. 7-Up is the uncola.”
So find your core message. Determine why your customers should buy your product or service and create a powerful, one-sentence statement to guide your efforts. Answer these questions to help create that statement.
- How is your product or service different from others? Consider why you started the business, what you offer that the competition does not, and what you plan to accomplish.
- Who are your customers? Create a detailed demographic of your customer. These often include gender, race, education, career, income, location and age. The goal is to know exactly who your customer is.
- Why would your customer choose you above the competition? Ascertain the need you are fulfilling for your customer and how you plan to do so.
- What is your business personality? Some business personalities are more casual while others need to portray a more professional image. For example, a lawn care business could get away with casual and even humor, while a home healthcare company would do better to exert a softer spoken, caring persona.
Roughly draft some statements based on your answers. Then, keeping your company’s personality in mind, sprinkle in one or more of the following components to add some power to the message.
- Add a strong, emotional component. A message that stirs the emotion tends to stick. For example, Hallmark is there for you “When you care enough to send the very best.”
- Add a solution that takes care of your customers’ problem. Like Visa’s “It’s everywhere you want to be.”
- Add humor. “Nothing Sucks Like Electrolux.” Remember, make sure humor fits well with your business personality before considering this option.
Finally, run your final product through this test:
- Is your message believable?
- Is your message relevant to customers?
- Is your message simple enough to understand and plant itself into a person’s mind?
3. Not Marketing Consistently
Remember, consistency doesn’t mean overload. Keep it slow and steady. Too much will have an adverse effect. But consistency is important for several reasons:
- It keeps your customers updated. People appreciate staying up to date with new products or services you offer. In some cases, sharing employee information might be appropriate, such as an employee of a construction company who recently received LEED certification.
- It develops an awareness of your company to customers. You want to be the first company people think about when they need products or services you offer. By “dripping” into their email, social media and/or mailbox consistently, it increases the probability that they will remember you.
- It builds relationships between your business and the customer, generating customer loyalty. Consistency means you are always there. Your foundational message is always the same. They can trust that they will receive an email every other week with new insights into what you do and why you do it, as well as special offers, articles, and studies. And the more opportunities you give them to interact (such as prodding them to respond to a question on Facebook or a survey via email), the more likely they are to remember you.
- It presents your company in the proper light. Providing consistent marketing helps customers discern what your company does and why. They no longer have to guess or count on third-party sources that may or may not be friendly or accurate.
While it’s imperative to have a marketing plan, remember to keep it flexible. What works today may not work tomorrow. You can change it. You have the power.
4. Not Building an Online Presence
According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, “roughly eight-in-ten Americans are now online shoppers.” The truth is, people expect you to have an online presence. And, bonus, you can reach thousands of more potential customers by placing your business on the Internet.
With a website you not only have the potential to reach thousands of people, but you also have the platform to tell the story of your business. And you don’t need a lot of money or technical skills to create one. Many website-building platforms, such as Weebly, Wix or Word Press, are free and offer tutorials to help you design your site. In most cases, your company website could be up and running within an hour. To determine content for your site, simply look up businesses similar to yours and find what works. Note the constants, such as the “about us” page or the “contact us” page.
Social media can be a great tool to grow and maintain customers. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter are just some of the options available. These outlets give you further online exposure while optimizing customer engagement. The personality and tone of your social media should be personable and fit your business.
5. Not Tracking Metrics
Jayson DeMers the founder & CEO of AudienceBloom, a Seattle-based content marketing firm stresses that “measurement is what makes marketing a science, rather than a superstition. Take time to learn how to interpret your marketing metrics.” Marketing efforts are fruitless if you don’t discover the best way to reach the customer.
Google Analytics contains the tools you need to track results. A few of the measurements DeMers considers important to the small business owner include total visits, bounce rate, total conversions, new sessions and cost per lead.
Metrics teach you the habits of your customers. Study this data once a month and tweak your marketing strategy accordingly.
6. Not Knowing the Competition
If you want to be a successful athlete, you check out the competition. You know their stats, their training habits, their goals. If you are in business to succeed, you need to do the same. Tim Berry a business plan expert and entrepreneur believes you should familiarize yourself with your competitor’s location, their product or service line, their prices, their marketing messages, and reputation.
Keep in mind that any information you gather is subject to change with time. Work at keeping up to date with your industry. Check out your competition at conferences or trade shows, on social media and sign up for their email newsletter. Not only will knowing the competition help you decide how to differentiate yourself, but it may also keep you up to date on industry trends and enlighten you to resources you did not know existed.
7. Not Budgeting Appropriately
You need to build your business, but you don’t feel like you have the money to invest in marketing. In Laurel Mintz the founder and CEO of Elevate My Brand refers to this as chicken and egg marketing. She states “I’m here to tell you, to establish a brand you have to crack many, many eggs. That’s why it’s so critical that startups and established brands alike are well funded.”
Also, avoid pouring the bulk of your marketing monies into one project. Generating one TV commercial while neglecting all other streams of promotion will most likely fail. Study your customer, then create a diverse strategy to promote your business.
Every business is unique, so no magic one-size-fits-all marketing template exists. Rise above the competition by being proactive in learning your customers’ habits and tweak your marketing strategy accordingly.
Author: Cindy Lynn Sawyer
Cindy specializes in writing features, how-to articles and informative pieces on topics of interest to entrepreneurs and homeowners. She owns and operates her own company, Capitol Hardware, LLC, with her husband. As an experienced business owner, she has developed expertise in various areas of entrepreneurship, but emphasizes, “There’s always something new to learn.”