Marketing is an essential part of building your brand, with the potential to make or break your business. Unfortunately, some entrepreneurs either fail to incorporate marketing into their broader strategy or they commit mistakes that damage their brand and stunt the growth of their business.
Here are some of the worst marketing mistakes entrepreneurs make, so you know how to avoid disaster:
Not having a marketing plan.
Some entrepreneurs are fortunate enough to make a splash right away, enjoying brisk sales and wide customer support. When business is good, they fall into the trap of believing marketing activities aren’t necessary. The trouble is, growth can be followed by a subsequent lack of sales — unless you’ve designed a marketing plan that sets goals and tactics for months, if not years to come.
Not identifying your USP.
What’s special about your business? Effective marketing starts by identifying your unique selling proposition (USP) — a precise statement about what sets you apart from the competition and gives customers a rock-solid reason to buy only from you.
“Choose one single thing that marks you out from every other company and work your marketing around that,” says Hannah Martin, cofounder of Talented Ladies Club. “It will give you standout, attract customers who value that quality, and increase your chances of being remembered.”
Trying to sell to everyone.
Many entrepreneurs mistakenly assume their great new product or service is something everyone wants. While it’s fine to aim for a broad audience, the best marketing efforts identify a narrower niche market. This enables you to customize your strategies and message for an ideal target audience.
Ignoring the competition.
In order to set your business apart, you have to know how competitors are marketing their products, what strategies they employ on social media and other ways they’re attempting to lure customers away from you. With this knowledge, you can identify their strengths and weaknesses, and use this information to refine your own marketing approach.
Failing to establish brand guidelines.
Do you have a set of brand guidelines to follow in your marketing efforts? For your brand to gain a place in customers’ minds, it must have a consistent look and feel across the board — from the way the logo looks, the brand colors you choose, the type of images portrayed in your materials, to the voice you use to reach out to prospective customers.
When you establish these guidelines, experts say, be sure to stick to them. “Every time you deviate from your stated brand guidelines, you dilute their power by some small amount,” notes Sujan Patel, vice-president of marketing at When I Work. “By doing so, you’re essentially introducing a new brand image to your customers, diminishing the strength of the association they’d have to a more unified branding campaign.”
Lacking a coherent social media strategy.
Most entrepreneurs understand that social media is the most effective and least costly marketing resource available. Still, they sometimes make the mistake of trying to blanket every platform out there with their message or, conversely, focus all of their efforts on a single site.
Concentrate instead on one-to-three social media sites you know your customers frequent. Offer content of value on these sites (no spamming!) and then measure results using tools like Google Analytics to track how many clicks you get on your tweets or blog posts.
Talking too much about yourself.
It’s great when your business receives an industry award or you’ve just added some shiny new bells and whistles to your offering. Just don’t assume this is information your customers are dying to have. Remember — people want to know what you can do for them.
“To successfully market your small business, don’t sell the customer your product (or service),” says marketing executive Alyssa Ellis. “Sell them your solution.”
Don’t neglect your existing customers.
Yes, it’s important to keep marketing to a growing customer base, but current customers deserve your attention as well, since repeat business is a vital element of growth. Stay in touch with the people who purchase your product or service, and incorporate ways of rewarding their loyalty in your campaigns.
Marketing can be costly and time consuming, but by getting your message out there and consistently building your brand, you pave the way for a bright future.
“Marketing isn’t an activity you perform for right now, it’s what you do for the future,” says small-business expert Melinda Emerson. “Continue your marketing efforts so your brand stays in the spotlight permanently.”
Claire Prendergast is the Director of Marketing Communications at agencyEA, a brand experience agency specializing in experiential, digital and traditional engagement in Chicago. She guides the strategic vision of the company’s brand, messaging and voice, while supporting and evolving brand strategies for clients. Prendergast also oversees all of agencyEA’s internal and external marketing communications, including digital marketing and public relations.