Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Top 10 Marketing Mistakes Small Businesses Make

By Susan Burnash

Marketing is critical to the success of every business. Unfortunately, many businesses discount the effect it can have, and they forgo marketing because they believe they can't afford it or simply don't have the time or energy to create a plan. ... Below you will find some of the most common marketing mistakes businesses make.

Mistake #1: Not Developing a Marketing Plan

... What is a marketing plan and why create one? Because it's the foundation of your business and it helps you design your product and service, identify your target audience, and provide a roadmap to head you towards your final destination: Success. But equally important, a marketing plan provides the specific details needed to increase visibility, expand your customer base, and provide quantifiable methods to measure your return on investment (ROI).

Mistake #2: Not Planning a Marketing Budget

Most businesses without a marketing plan also lack a marketing budget. ... From the very beginning, and while you are writing your Marketing Plan, it is important to focus on the financial costs of implementation. A general rule of thumb says that at least 10% of your revenue should be designated for your marketing efforts. That means dollars specifically pinpointed for Web site design and maintenance, logo design and brand development, marketing collateral, both print and electronic, and paying someone, if you don't have the time, skills, or desire to do so, to handle all of your Public Relations needs. But make sure when allocating money for marketing that you also have a means for tracking your ROI. If your ROI is low after several months of trying a particular strategy, go back to your marketing plan and look at trying something different. ...

Mistake #3: Not Targeting a Specific Target Audience

... [Identifying] your target market is critical to your success. It is also critical to choosing the appropriate marketing techniques to reach potential customers. ...

Mistake #4: Not Developing a Clear and Consistent Marketing Message

Messaging is the careful development of the precise and concise language that quickly conveys the key message(s) you want known about your product or organization. ...

Mistake #5: Believing Your Product or Service Will Sell Itself

... The reality is people need to be told why they should buy your product or service. They need to be convinced that they can't live without it. And once they have it, you need to provide them with customer service and personalized attention to ensure they will continue to use it. All of these things require marketing. ...

Mistake #6: Not Clearly Defining Your Product or Services' Benefits

... Educating your customer is critical. ... By defining the unique selling proposition for your product/or service you will help your target audience differentiate you from the competition. ...

Mistake #7: Underestimating the Value of Your Existing Customers

... If you want to stay in business and grow, you must be sure to turn existing customers into lifetime customers. Call to say thank you. Check in to see if their needs are being met. You might feel like you're wasting your time, or being a pest, but ask any customer who stays loyal to a particular company and you'll always get the same answer: "Good customer service!, it's why I stay and when I don't have it, it's why I leave." ...

Mistake #8: Thinking that Advertising is Marketing

... It is a piece of marketing, but only a small piece, and with so many ways to get your product or service out in front of potential customers ... Before you spend a dollar on advertising, spend the time needed on a marketing plan and a marketing budget. Both will provide the roadmap and tools for measurement to ensure that advertising is right for you.

Mistake #9: Ignoring the Benefits of Public Relations

... Public relations is the most inexpensive and effective way to get the word out to your target market that you have a product or service they need and want. ... You'll be amazed at how much recognition and business will result from getting your business and face in the press.

Mistake #10: Expecting Too Much, Too Soon

Often, someone just starting a new business will get terribly disappointed because they developed a brochure, ran an ad, attended a networking event, or sent out postcards with little response. ... To turn a potential customer into a new customer, you must reach out to them with consistent marketing messages (at least six times...more if you're selling a high-ticket item) before they feel like they "know" and "trust" your company enough to take the risk of purchasing a product or service from you. ... And if you are really unsure of what you are doing, find a business mentor or hire a marketing professional. You may find that by avoiding the ten biggest mistakes small businesses make, you are on your way to success!

About the Author: Susan Burnash is the owner of Purple Duck Marketing in Kirkland, WA. Her company focuses on marketing, public relations, and video production for businesses and nonprofits. For more information, please visit

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