7 Costly Small Business Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Everybody makes mistakes and entrepreneurs are no exception. But for an entrepreneur with a limited budget, committing mistakes too often can be very costly. It is an open secret in the business world that most of the mistakes that can be committed in business have been committed; so why not just learn from them, saving you the agony of committing them yourself.

With that said, here are 7 costly small business marketing mistakes every entrepreneur must avoid:

1. An Incongruent Marketing Message

To effectively sell your product or service, your customer has to “get” the marketing message. A customer-centric marketing message educates your prospects and persuades them to become customers. Too many small businesses make the mistake of focusing their message on the product or company, instead of how the prospect would benefit by purchasing their product. Prepare the right marketing message with some of these in mind:

o Identify the prospect’s problem.

o Explain to the prospect why the problem should be solved immediately and explain why your product or service is the right solution to their problems.

o List the benefits your prospects would enjoy upon purchasing your product and provide an unconditional guarantee to allay any fears they may have.

2. “Spray-and-Pray” Marketing Instead Of Precision Marketing

The days of marketing as a zero-sum game are over. You must demand accountability from your marketing efforts, expecting tangible results in the form of a healthy ROI (return on investment). Differentiate your marketing messages and target them to meet the specific needs and wants of your prospects and customers.

Many small businesses are guilty of the dreaded “spray-and-pray” marketing ideology, which inevitably drains their resources to the point where it very often leads to their demise.

Do not commit this same mistake, but instead practice precision marketing, where every aspect of your marketing and advertising efforts are measured and tracked for maximum returns.

3. Failing To Realize Marketing Is About Value Creation

To create a sustainable small business, you have to market something of value to the prospect and customer. Marketing is your business and creating value for your customers should permeate through all your marketing efforts. Strive to always over-deliver because customers love to receive more than they expect and the easiest way to do so is to develop a thorough understanding of their wants and desires.

4. Selling Instead Of Educating

You must have heard about the age-old principle that “people love to buy but hate being sold to.” It is a principle that will continue to hold true for ages to come, but unfortunately, many small businesses still fail to adhere to it. The fastest way to get rid of a prospect is to try forcing a sale out of him or her.

Education-based marketing, however, is a powerful marketing strategy to overcome this problem of being sold to. This strategy makes use of giving away valuable information, educating your prospect about the benefits of owning your product or using your service, offered to them as free reports, video cassettes, CDs, or DVDs in exchange for their contact information.

It is a strategy that builds trust with the prospects resulting in a much higher closing ratio. So, forget about throwing a sales pitch and try educating your prospects instead for a higher conversion rate.

5. Failing To Test

The biggest mistake any entrepreneur can make with their business is the failure to test every possible variable most important to their customers. This applies to both online and offline marketing efforts.

I can understand if small businesses faced more difficulty with market testing because of limited budgets years ago, but the Internet has done away with this excuse. It has become so cheap to conduct price tests and sales copy tests and identify what campaigns, keywords, and metrics give you the best ROI online that not testing any of these has become a cardinal sin.

6. Not Following Up With Prospects Or Customers

Small businesses spend a great sum of money acquiring customers, which makes it all the more difficult to understand why many of them don’t follow up with their customers, or even their prospects after the “front end” sale.

It has been well documented that true riches are to be found in the backend sales and the reason for this is simple. If a customer or prospect raises his or her hand to do business with you, it means an element of trust has been established and a business relationship is ready to be formed. They are more then likely to buy from you repeatedly if you make it a point to capture their contact information and develop a follow-up system for communicating with them frequently.

7. Selling To The Wrong Target Market

Never assume that your product or service will appeal to a general audience because this assumption has profoundly resulted in many small businesses shutting up shop. Large businesses are guilty of this too, but you can save yourself from committing such a rash mistake by asking yourself these two questions:

o Who are your customers, or who is your target market?

o Who will use your service, or who will buy your product?

Answer these questions with absolutely clarity and segment these markets by demographics and psychographics to zero in on your ideal customer. The time spent doing this correctly will add nicely to your bottom line.

Just remember that to succeed, you must be prepared to fail, so don’t fear the eventual mistake but learn from it.

The Fundamental MUST DO’s of a Small Business Marketing Strategy

The ultimate small business marketing strategy is really no secret if you stick to the fundamentals. As a small business owner, you are constantly being barraged with what someone is telling you is the latest and greatest marketing strategy. Before you waste your time and money on something new, you really need to ask yourself if you are doing the basics well.

Take a moment and remove yourself from your business and think of your business as your athletic team. It’s the beginning of the season and you are psyched about the year ahead. What is the first thing that you are going to do to prepare for the year? Do you start by practicing trick plays? Of course not! You practice the fundamentals.

  • If you’re a baseball team, you practice hitting and fielding.
  • If you’re a football team, you practice blocking, tackling, throwing and running.
  • If you’re a soccer team, you practice kicking and passing.
  • You don’t start running plays until your team is in shape!

Okay, now that practice is over and you have showered and cleaned up, it’s time to get back to your small business marketing strateg!

7 Critical Small Business Marketing Strategy Fundamentals

Is your team (staff) in shape? Do they know the fundamentals? Do you have them practice and rehearse the right way to do serve your customers or do you let them wing it and hope they’ll such a great job that your clients will be magnetically drawn back to your business?

Guess what? If you leave it to chance and assume clients will return, you risk taking your business into the world of mediocre results where you will join the legions of small business owners who are wondering where there next customer is coming from. Don’t leave your success to chance and then grasp for the magic bullet that will save your business. A powerful small business marketing strategy begins with the fundamentals. Here are 7 critical steps to your business success:

  1. Critical Fundamental #1: You must have a Unique Selling Proposition, which answers the question “Why should I do business with you?” Your USP is much more than we give good service or do a good job. Your competitors are saying the same thing. Your USP should have the prospect saying “Oh really? Tell me more!” It helps get your prospect interested in buying from you. Give them a powerful reason to do so.
  2. Critical Fundamental #2: Your business must be living your USP. If you make the claim, play the game by making sure everyone in your company lives the USP. If you claim great customer service but you let your phone ring 10 times before anybody answers it, your are not living a USP founded on customer service. FedEx doesn’t claim packages will usually get there overnight, they get them there overnight. If you make your clients go through 5 phone prompts to place an order, you are failing on a service claim. If your delivery driver doesn’t thank your customer, your competition’s will.
  3. Critical Fundamental #3: You must know the fundamentals of selling. It usually costs a huge amount of money to get a prospect to come to or call your business. Once they are there, doesn’t it make sense that you should have the skills to sell to them and maximize the value of the transaction? You do so by cross-selling and up-selling. Don’t expect the customer to ask for more , you must help them along. Sales training is one of the best investments that you can make in your company. Everybody who comes into contact with a prospect or client should know the basics of selling.
  4. Critical Fundamental #4: This fundamental is one of the most critical and obvious but most overlooked element of a successful small business marketing strategy! You must have a system to capture client and prospect information such as name, address, phone number, email address, buying history, preferences and other information relative to your business. Today’s technology makes that very inexpensive to do. When you have this information, you can develop a close relationship with your clients based on what THEY like.
    1. Here is a real world example: My wife and I eat out at a nice restaurant at least once a week and we like to go to different places. There is only one restaurant in the Cincinnati region that has ever even asked for my name and address. They send us coupons regularly so we eat there regularly. All of the rest are wondering how to get new clients in the door and spend a lot on advertising to get them there. Now that doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it? Why don’t the others ask about me and what I like? It is real easy and inexpensive but most business owners are out of touch when it comes to knowing their clients.
  5. Critical Fundamental #5: You must have a system in place to regularly communicate with your prospects and clients. You should be frequently hitting them with unique offers, birthday cards, newsletters and special customer only specials. Your customers DO WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!!! The research proves it. If you don’t talk to them, you are communicating an attitude of indifference towards clients and opening the door for your competition to take them away from you.
  6. Critical Fundamental #6: You must leverage your marketing efforts by establishing joint ventures and alliances with other companies who have similar client profiles in a non-competing business.
    1. Look at this scenario: You own a restaurant and have 1,000 clients who know and trust you and like your food and service. The florist down the street also has a 1,000 clients who know and trust her. You approach her with an idea. You will pay for amailing to her list in which she endorses your restaurant and offer a special coupon for a free appetizer to her clients. You mail a similar endorsement for her shop to your list. You will both get a huge infusion of new business. Now doesn’t that make more sense than running an ad on the radio or in the paper?
  7. Critical Fundamental #7: First of all, notice all the above fundamentals don’t ask you to risk money on media advertising and any one of them can easily increase your sales 20% or more. However, if you choose to advertise in the media, TRACK YOUR RESULTS! Don’t fall in the trap of building a brand or getting your name out there. If you are investing in something, know your return on your investment. If you put $5,000 dollars into an investment portfolio, you expect a minimum return and you closely track your results. Do the same thing when you invest in marketing.

You Must Get the Fundamentals in Place
Or You Are Losing Business!

As we discussed earlier, a good small business marketing strategy starts like a sports team does in preseason, by getting back to fundamentals. If you are following these small business marketing strategy fundamentals, you should congratulate yourself because you are one of the few who are getting repeat business, referrals and new customers for a fraction of what the average small business spends to attract a customer.

If you are not doing so, get started. It is a lot easier and less expensive than you think and your returns will be huge and you will literally reap exponential increases in sales.

Small Business Marketing Strategies for Tackling Big Competitors

One of the great challenges facing small business owners is that they must often battle for customers against larger competitors, who can afford to run more advertising, offer lower prices, and who are better established in the marketplace.

And yet some small business owners do it very successfully. How?

There are some proven marketing strategies to use when competing against larger, more established competitors. These strategies have been used successfully by companies of all sizes to drive sales and carve out a sustainable position in the market. They apply to online commerce and traditional small businesses.

Here are details on two such strategies that you can use as a small business owner to help grow your business when competing with larger competitors:

Take the “Alternative” Position

If you are up against the market leader in your business, shift your market position so you don’t compete directly with them on their turf. Become the “alternative” to the market leader – that is, promote and advertise an aspect of your product/service that the leader simply can’t offer. This is a classic marketing strategy that has been used successfully by small companies and major corporations, because it allows you to compete with the leader in a part of the market where they may not be very strong.

Pepsi couldn’t beat Coke at the cola wars, because Coke was viewed as the original cola drink that had no substitutes. That was fine with Pepsi. It let Coke have that territory, and instead marketed itself as the “Choice of a New Generation”. Its marketing appeal and target audience was young and cool – everything that Coke couldn’t be with their more traditional positioning. Pepsi successfully carved out the number 2 position in the market by becoming the primary alternative to Coke, and made billions in the process.

The rule applies to everything from .com companies to local furniture stores. Survey the competitive landscape in your market and determine how you can position your business as the best alternative to the established market leader. Second place in a given market can be a very nice place to be from a profitability standpoint.

Sell what they don’t have – You!

Many small business owners have found success by building their personal reputations as experts in their field, with significant benefits to their small business. They have become the “public face” for their company.

Some large companies have a “public face”, a person who represents the company in the minds of customers (Richard Branson for Virgin is one). But most don’t. As a small business owner, you can effectively represent yourself as an expert in your area of expertise, and drive awareness for your small business in the process.

One of the most effective ways to build your reputation is through the credibility that comes from publicity and media relations activities.

Here are some guiding principles to working with the media as a small business owner:

View it as a relationship – reporters need story ideas and expert sources – you can offer both when it comes to your area of expertise to create a win-win situation

Pitch story ideas about what’s new and what’s changing – the media likes to break news about emerging trends, either in your industry or related to your experience as a small business owner

Strive for repeat business – once a reporter has identified you as a good source of information on a topic, they will keep coming back to you – so ensure that early in your relationship you are available to them and willing to offer help in getting information for them to pull a story together

Having a single person leading the charge to build media relationships and run the company makes it easier to transfer the goodwill that you achieve in the media over to your business activities. This doesn’t work nearly as well for larger companies, so leverage this competitive advantage and take a personal approach to building your business through publicity.

You Can Compete!

Small business marketing is all about leveraging the built-in advantages of being a small enterprise in the battle against larger competition for customers and sales. Establishing your business as an alternative to the market leader in your business, and building personal credibility that can be transferred to your small business are just two strategies that you can implement to help your small business succeed against bigger competitors.

Using Your Small Business Marketing Tools to Differentiate Your Business

Perhaps the most important quality for your small business marketing materials is that they are different. If you do nothing else right in your small business marketing, at least be different.

Why is differentiation so important? Because, in most industries, there are hundreds – if not thousands or millions – of other businesses that claim to provide the same service or sell the same product as you do. If you don’t differentiate your business from all those others, the chances that you’ll get many customers are pretty slim.

Some common ways to differentiate your business are:

Superior service

Greater product availability

Higher quality

Better performance

Greater durability

Prestige

Technology leadership

Satisfaction guarantee

Lower cost

Faster delivery

More customer support

But even if you are very different than your competitors – you offer superior service, greater durability, or a satisfaction guarantee that beats all others – it won’t matter unless your prospective customers know about it.

That’s where your small business marketing strategy comes in. Businesses have been using their small business marketing strategies to announce how they’re different from their competitors as long as they have been using small business marketing strategies. Think Maxwell House’s “Good to the last drop,” Campbell’s Soup’s “Mmm, mmm good,” or WalMart’s “Always low prices.” Those highly successful taglines not only get prospective customers to remember the company name, but also convey a message about the difference between that company and others.

To make differentiation a part of your small business marketing strategy, you first need to understand your competitors – you can only explain how you’re different from them once you know what they’re like. Learn what your competitors offer, how they differentiate themselves, and – most importantly – what your prospective customers think about them (if you know what qualities your prospective customers see as shortcomings in the other companies in the market, you’ll have a good idea of the market gap you can fill).

Once you’ve decided how you are different from your competitors, you need to tell your prospective customers about it. Building that differentiation into your tagline can be a very effective start. Then include that tagline, along with your logo, on every piece of small business marketing collateral you have. Another small business marketing way to publicize your differences is to write a press release. Explain how you’re filling a need in the market that no other company has filled.

Once you’ve differentiated your company and used your small business marketing tools to publicize your differences, you have to follow through on your promises. If you say that you’re the cheapest – or the highest quality, or the friendliest, or whatever – then you better be just that (nothing turns away a customer like a failed promise).