7 Costly Marketing Mistakes

28 September, 2011

As small business owners we know that we must invest in marketing in order for our businesses to thrive. But as enthusiastic and driven as these efforts may be, they’re often misguided and ineffective due to a lack of planning, creativity and patience. Here are 7 of the most common marketing mistakes made by small business owners.

Mistake 1: Not knowing why you’re special

One of the most common reasons small businesses fail is their inability to identify what makes them unique. By spending time defining your position in the market your customers will not only understand who you are and what you do, but what makes you different from everyone else and how that benefits them.

Asking yourself questions like:

–       What is the purpose of your business?
–       What is the problem that you solve?
–       What is the customer benefit for using your product/service over your competitor’s?

will help your customers recognise your business as the most appropriate to meet their needs, taking it to it’s rightful happy future.

Mistake 2: Being scared of a niche market

When businesses are small we want to attract as wide an audience as possible because we’ll get more customers this way, right? Wrong. By trying to be all things to all people you dilute what makes you special (see Mistake 1). People want to do business with brands that understand their specific problem and can provide tailor-made solutions.

As the cost of living rises and consumers become more cautious in their purchasing behaviour, it is crucial that brands become more caring. The only way to do this effectively is to understand the individual needs of your customer and to provide her with more value.

Mistake 3: Not developing a marketing plan

The old adage “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there” is particularly relevant here. Many small business owners jump right in with a-little-bit-of-this and a-little-bit-of-that, hoping that enthusiasm alone will lead them to the goal line. Most often though, this type of activity is inefficient and at best mediocre. Some experts call this ‘hope’ marketing. Others call it RAM (Random Acts of Marketing). Whatever you call it, it doesn’t work.

In order to successfully fulfill your target audience’s needs and desires, you need a marketing plan with a consistent message that will increase your brand’s visibility, expand your customer base and provide quantifiable methods to measure your results.

Mistake 4: Cutting marketing spend when the economy is bad

In a difficult economy most small businesses cut back on expenses, and often the first to go is marketing. This can be fatal. While your competitors remain visible to your target audience, your brand is nowhere to be seen, ensuring your share of the pie is reduced to well, nothing.

In recessionary times it is especially imperative that your customers know you are alive and well. Marketing helps keep you visible, generate leads and build credibility. It may be prudent to re-evaluate your marketing strategy to make sure your budget is spent wisely, but failing to spend at all can be deadly.

Mistake 5: Charging too little for services

This is going to sound odd considering today’s tough economic times. After all, consumers are becoming more cautious in their purchasing behaviour (see Mistake#2). However, here are 3 reasons why you should not compete on low price:

  1. You undermine your credibility – in spite of everything, if you are good at what you do, customers expect you to charge more for your products and services.
  2. You attract customers who know the price of everything and the value of nothing – customers who are loyal to their pockets are never loyal to you.
  3. It’s almost impossible to attract the number of customers you want – which means that business profits need to come from the customers you have.

When you charge a higher price you’re in a stronger marketing position because you’re not striving for volume, so you can provide each customer with a higher level of value and personalised service.

Mistake 6: Looking amateurish

Don’t risk your brand’s reputation on poorly developed marketing material and a weak brand identity. Yes your cousin may have just graduated from design school – with honours – so what? Perception is reality and people do not want to do business with feeble brands that have ‘amateur’ written all over them. If you want a strong, clear brand that speaks confidently to your target audience, invest in a professional to develop your brand identity. It’s worth it.

Mistake 7: Over-reliance on social media

The gurus have convinced many small business owners that a social media presence is critical to the success of their business. Before spending hours upon hours in the click-trance that is Facebook and Twitter, consider this:

  1. Do you have the time to invest in maintaining an appealing social media presence? Do you know all the functionality available to create an optimal brand experience?
  2. Are you content savvy? Can you come up with the kind of material that is going to make people want to hear from you over and over again?
  3. Does your target audience even know you’re there? Having a Facebook Fan Page is great. But without directing your customers to the site through offline channels, you might as well be winking in the proverbial dark.

Marketing a business is not a one-off. It requires consistent focus across all platforms (online and offline) and can be as complex as it is subtle.

What small business marketing mistakes have you seen or made that I’ve left off the list?

Robyn Young - Personal Leadership Branding for Executives

About the Author

Robyn Young

As a personal leadership branding strategist, Robyn Young helps individuals identify and articulate their unique strengths, values and goals, empowering them to build an authentic personal brand that resonates with their stakeholders.

Robyn has a keen eye for aligning personal attributes with professional aspirations, helping her clients project a powerful and compelling image in their chosen field.