Marketing is critical for small businesses especially those without a big team of salespeople.
It’s one of the most frequent areas our clients invest new working capital. We also get a lot of questions from our clients about marketing pitfalls specifically, where have we seen others fail?
What’s the thing that makes your business special? How do you communicate that one thing? That’s marketing. We could spend hours, even days, discussing complex marketing strategies. Bleh! Here’s all you need to know.
Marketing is the investment of a small pile of resources (time and money) to acquire a larger pile of revenue. Marketing happens in hundreds of different forms, but it’s only successful one way when that second pile is larger than the first.
Here are the top four marketing mistakes small business owners need to avoid if they want to make the second pile larger.
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1. Not Having a Plan
As with any endeavor, from a family vacation to a political campaign, planning is step one. First, decide what you want your marketing to achieve for your business. Are you looking for broad awareness? Do you want to build a product or service that people love? Are you driving traffic to your website or to your physical location? Once you know your goal for marketing, you can begin to assemble a plan for how to get there.
Perhaps getting mentioned in a number of local news outlets would maximize your business presence. Maybe retooling your customer experience with a "WOW" factor will make people promote your brand. The key is to, zoom out, determine your business goal, then plan out how you want to achieve it.
2. Not Investing in Your Brand
Brands aren’t just for Coca-Cola; every business should think of itself as a brand. Your brand helps to tell your unique story to potential customers, it builds trust, and it makes you memorable. Even individual service providers, like dentists, lawyers, and accountants, should look to build their professional brand.
Your brand, many times, can start with a logo, but it hardly ends there. For you to be memorable and perceived as trustworthy, your brand needs to be consistent online and offline. Make sure the colors in your logo match your business cards, your offices or stores, your website, and your advertising. Consistency in look, feel, and voice will make you more memorable and promote the trust your customers look for in a business.
Related Article: How to Build a Strong Online Marketing Strategy from Day One
3. Mistaking Advertising for Marketing
Many business owners don’t realize how many aspects of their business are marketing-related. Usually, those who fall into the trap of thinking that marketing = advertising are those same businesses who find themselves with very little to show for the dollars they invested.
In your textbook, marketing is defined as price, product, place, and promotion. Is your service priced correctly? Competitively? That’s marketing. What about how your product looks and feels? Also marketing. And all the places around town or online where people might hear about you? Definitely marketing. Finally, when you promote your business, sometimes through advertising, that is absolutely marketing.
Are you thinking about all of your marketing or just your advertising?
4. Not Measuring Your Investments
So you took out an ad in a local paper, launched a new website, joined a local business association, and ran a few Google AdWords campaigns. How many new sales or new customers did you get from any of those marketing activities? Remember, the second pile has to be larger than the first. If you’re not measuring your marketing activities, then it’s going to be very difficult for you to know where to invest your resources in the future. There are creative ways to measure just about any marketing activity.
Taking an ad out in the paper? Make sure you use a coupon code specific to that paper. Launching a website? Make sure the site is tracking what visitors do while they’re there. Joining a local business association? Offer something special only to those members. Running an AdWords campaign? Just make sure you (or a tech-savvy friend) took care of conversion tracking.
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All of your marketing should be measurable, either in a sophisticated technical way or just through good old-fashioned pen and paper at the register. Knowing what kind of marketing drives your business means you can more efficiently invest your resources going forward.