Marketing is critical to your business strategy. Last week I wrote about what you should include in your marketing plan. This week Im listing 12 of the most common marketing mistakes.
1. Not having a marketing plan. Without a plan you are on the road to failure. Goals and objectives are a good starting place. For each goal, list the action steps and time line needed to achieve the goal (what, when and by whom). Remember that your plan is dynamic. Follow the cycle of plan, do, check, act.
2. Not having a unique selling proposition. What makes your product and service unique or better than your competition? You need to stand out and not blend in with the crowd. Its all about meeting customer needs and expectations, and your selling proposition needs to address whats in it for the customer.
3. Not identifying your target market. Many businesses cast a wide net, hoping to catch any fish that swims by. Instead, focus your message to the target audience youd like to have. You cant know too much about your target customers as you will count on them to drive most of your sales activity.
4. Not testing how you promote your business. Are you using the yellow pages, newspaper and magazine ads, Facebook, fliers, your website? What has been the return? Which placements pulled and which didnt? Start measuring and emphasize whats working.
5. Underestimating your competition. Whether your competitors are selling the same or similar products, know how you stack up against them. What are your strengths, and where do you fall short? Perform a SWOT analysis on your top competitors to understand their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
6. Ignoring the use of social media. Users of Facebook, Yelp, Twitter and others testify to the benefits of these low-cost tools. You should have a website with the key words to get you on the first search page.
7. Unrealistic expectations. Its rare for immediate results to occur. It takes time to determine the promotions that pay dividends. Credibility and reputation result from continual superb service.
8. Know-it-all mentality. As is the case in many areas, sage advice from knowledgeable and experienced professionals is usually the most cost-effective approach. At a minimum, employees, customers and friends can critique your efforts and provide valuable insight to your approach. Remember, its not about you and what you like, its all about what will bring you customers.
9. Inadequate funding. Marketing funds need to be included in your budget. Often those funds are the first to be cut when times get tough. Think about Coke and Budweiser, two of the best-known products in the world. Millions are spent to promote their brands. Effective marketing need not be high cost, but do allocate some funds, perhaps 10 percent of your earnings.
10. Overemphasis on discounting. The message that discounting delivers to your customer is that your product is not worth the price on the tag. Customers will not likely return unless they can get your product for the discounted price.
11. Not sticking with a campaign thats working. Its OK to try new ideas, but dont stop doing whats already successful. Go slow. You dont want to turn an old idea into a loser or change too quickly before you can accurately measure the results you are achieving.
12. Ignoring existing customers. It is far more costly to acquire new customers than to keep existing customers. Youve identified the needs and expectations of existing customers, and you can build on that knowledge. Think about marketing programs for existing customers such as offering exclusives, bonus buys, referral incentives and perhaps a thank you event.
C. NORMAN BECKERT Idaho district director for SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives