Five Common Marketing Mistakes Small Businesses Make

These costly mistakes lead to marketing that misses the mark.

Mistake #1: No goal: All marketing starts with knowing your goals. It is your goals that should determine which tactics you take, not the other way around. However, many business owners start with tactics, stating something like I want to start to use Twitter when asked to describe their goals. Ask yourself what do you want to accomplish? Do you really want to accomplish using Twitter, or do you want to accomplish raising awareness of your brand? Probably raising awareness. Using Twitter isn’t the goal in and of itself, it’s just a tool for reaching your goal. Approaching marketing with no goal is like going for a drive with no defined destination. The results will be random at best. Make sure your goals are SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound. Once you define your goal then you can decide how you will accomplish it—this is your strategy. Your strategy includes what tactics you will use, if you will use social media, or direct marketing, or advertising, etc.

Mistake #2: Trying to reach everybody: Who and where is your audience? Knowing this is the single most important aspect of a strong marketing campaign.  Business owners commonly resist choosing a target market. They say “everyone is my target market” afraid to exclude any potential customers. The question of defining your target audience isn’t who could feasibly buy from you, it is who is most likely to buy from you. It’s not about whom you’re willing to sell to, but where will you spend your limited resources attracting the lowest hanging fruit. Before embarking on a marketing initiative, outline who your ideal customer is. Remember the marketing adage, when you try to reach everybody, you reach nobody. Trying to market to every possible potential customer results in watered down messaging that won’t resonate with anyone.

Mistake #3: Trying to do too much: The temptation is there to rush to try every new tactic that is out there, to list in every possible directory, to use every new and old social networking tool, to be all over the place. Marketing isn’t about doing everything. It’s about doing a few things well. Go deep, not wide in your marketing plans. The truth is marketing takes time and/or money, if you spread yourself too thin you risk being ineffective. Most small businesses will do well choosing no more than three primary marketing activities. If you use more than three main activities it may become difficult to execute well. Yes, choosing only three requires a certain level of commitment, and passing up other marketing possibilities, so choose carefully. Once you choose, commit to the campaign with the knowledge that you chose the best activities for you.

Mistake #4: Selling on social media sites: Many small businesses jump into social media eager to sell their products or services. Don’t make this mistake. Social media is about socializing, not direct selling.  People aren’t on Facebook looking for things to buy, they’re there to be entertained and to connect with others. If you’re new to social media, or feel you may be using it ineffectively, read up on social media best practices so not to risk making social faux pas that could be perceived as creepy.

Mistake #5: Overlooking customer service: Many people are eager to get the word out about their business through P.R. or social media, failing to recognize that most of their business will come from referrals, and offline word of mouth. Focus on first things first, keep your existing customers happy, this is the true key to marketing your business effectively. Focus on streamlining your processes for keeping them happy and mining your existing client base for more business first, and reaching out to people who have yet to hear about you second.

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