Sales, customer service, finance, HR, admin, marketing….phew, it’s a busy old time. However experienced you are, in whatever field, it’s unlikely you have the knowledge or skills to manage all areas of your business efficiently. It’s like trying to spin plates!
When you’re running a small business and investing so much of yourself in the process (you may even be ‘the brand’) it can be very easy to lose sight of the wood for all the darn trees. It’s no wonder many small business owners fall into the trap of making some poor marketing decisions.
Beware the mouse trap! Check out these common small business marketing mistakes and ways to avoid them.
Trap 1 >> Lack of planning
The phrase ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail’ was coined for a reason! Marketing doesn’t run itself. You need to make time for some up-front planning, budgeting and regular reviews. To avoid running the risk of falling into Trap 2 later, decide your marketing plan of attack now and make sure it fits perfectly with the overall direction of the business. Having a strong understanding of what your business is all about and where it’s headed will ensure that your decision making is more focused.
Trap 2 >> The scattergun approach
You should try new things. In fact I’d recommend it. However, don’t jump at every marketing opportunity that comes your way, or make knee-jerk decisions about your activity. Stick to your plan and double check that each new piece of activity fits. Make sure you’ve got the right content and offer in place before jumping headlong into an exciting new campaign.
Trap 3 >> Not knowing your target audience
You could try and market your business to any Tom, Dick or Mandy that might possibly want your product or service at some point, one day, ever. You’d be wasting your time and money though. Find out who your customers are and which ones are the most valuable to you. Find out why they buy from you and when. Then, focus your marketing efforts and your money on trying to reach more people like them and (this is just as important) on keeping the ones you’ve got already.
Trap 4 >> Message monogomy
Don’t assume that one size fits all when it comes to messaging. You might draft a killer sales letter, but if it’s not relevant to half of your audience then you’ll be wasting time and money sending it to them. If you’ve avoided Trap 1 by doing some proper planning then you’ll know what your business is about, how it’s different and why people should choose you. Sidestep Trap 3 by getting to know your target audience, then jump right over Trap 4 by tailoring your messages to those people accordingly.
Trap 5 >> One hit wonder
Marketing is an ongoing process requiring time and management. You can’t fire off an advert and then sit back, job done. Different activities that overlap and flow on from each other will give your message greater impact and build your exposure over time. If you go silent for long periods at a time, or limit yourself to a single method of communication, then expect to see a corresponding silence from your customers.
Trap 6 >> It’s my baby
You’ve conceived your business idea, watched it grow and invested yourself wholeheartedly in its development. Of course you’ll be protective of it. Does that make you a marketing expert though? No. Does that mean you should maintain a vice-like grip on all marketing related decisions? No. Unless you genuinely do have the experience, skills and time necessary to manage your marketing strategy properly, then take a deep breath and hand over the marketing reins to someone who does. Stay involved, challenge where necessary, but remember that Design By Committee and being the Boss-Who-Knows-It-All are a sure-fire route to lacklustre marketing.
Trap 7 >> Inconsistency
Logo on the left, logo on the right. This colour, that colour. A differing tone of voice from one email to the next. Stop. Inconsistencies in your marketing approach are a simple and quick way to completely and utterly water down the impact of your activity and confuse your customers along the way. Inconsistency can also suggest unprofessionalism, which you want to avoid like the plague.
Trap 8 >> Holding the purse strings too tightly
An effective marketing strategy doesn’t have to break the bank. A well-planned, well-targeted strategy with a small budget can be just as effective (sometimes more so) than a big bang brand campaign. There is some powerful free marketing out there too, such as social media, PR, networking and word of mouth. Spend your time and money wisely, but remember that marketing is an investment. Choking off your marketing spend or spreading it too thinly could land you straight in trap 5.
Trap 9 >> Fear of the unknown
Marketing is a dark art. Something unpredictable conjured up by wizards. Really? If you don’t understand something, that’s no reason to strike it off your to-do list. However, don’t over analyse and suffer death by data either. If you don’t understand how to balance your books, you call an accountant. If you’ve got a knotty legal issue, you call a solicitor. If you don’t know your Content Marketing from your Customer Retention, then call a marketing professional. Simple.
Trap 10 >> Working in silo
For marketing to be effective it should touch every corner of the business. Employees (if you have them) should be brought up to speed on the strategy and made aware of the part they play in bringing it to life. Even someone who thinks their job is entirely unrelated to “all that touchy feely stuff” is an ambassador for your brand. Working in silo, keeping your marketing strategy under wraps or having a wishy washy vision for the company will do you no good. Be clear, confident and inclusive with your marketing and it will work harder for you.
Admittedly, many of these marketing mistakes can be made by big businesses too. Even those with huge marketing teams, rafts of analytical data and budgets a-plenty. My advice is that you sense check your marketing activity to make sure you’re treading carefully round those traps, and think about getting some support if you need it. You’ll find your marketing is more effective and so is your plate spinning.
P.S Not convinced you need a marketing team? Consider outsourcing. View these 6 good reasons to use a freelance copywriter
If you want to step your marketing communications up a gear but don’t have the time or resource, then give me a shout and let’s talk it over.