To be successful and profitable, you must START using the most effective marketing strategies possible. Less obvious, is the fact that you must also STOP using the most ineffective, money-wasting marketing strategies. I call them The 13 Fatal Marketing Mistakes.
While this list doesn’t cover all of the possible marketing mistakes, it does describe some of the most expensive, destructive and most common made by many small business owners.
It’s relatively easy to produce profitable results with a well-planned, tested and proven marketing strategy. However, it’s even easier to lose thousands of dollars by making any of the following 13 Fatal Marketing Mistakes.
1. Trying to generate sales with the One-Step marketing strategy.
This is the most basic marketing strategy used by most small business owners today. It’s everywhere.
It consists of an ad, flyer or other marketing device that simply announces the business name, possibly lists a few basic features of the product or service and ends with an address and phone number.
The prospect is now expected to respond to this type of marketing piece by immediately purchasing the product or service.
Unless you are offering an extremely high-demand, hard-to-get product/service (an original Van Gogh painting, Super bowl tickets, etc.) this marketing strategy almost always results in little or no response.
This strategy totally disregards the psychological buying sequence of consumers. It’s very much like walking up to a stranger at a party and asking Would you marry me? What do you think the response would be?
2. Not knowing for sure which of your marketing efforts are producing results and which are big money-wasters.
Even new businesses are investing in up to a dozen marketing devices at any given time. Not only are we talking about traditional media, like newspaper or Yellow Page ads but many others that may not be as obvious.
These marketing devices are either contributing to your business profit or destroying it. Most business owners don’t have a clue as to which is which.
If they did, they could easily guarantee increasing their profitable results by investing more in the winning devices and eliminating the money-wasting losing devices.
3. Expecting your prospects to know exactly what you want them to do.
Never, never, never assume. Take a look at most small business ads and you’ll see that the business owners are almost always assuming that the reader/prospect will know exactly what they want them to do . . . without telling them.
At the bottom of the ad there will be a phone number and an address. Usually nothing more. Ask one of these business owners what they wanted the prospect to do after reading their ad and they will most likely reply, Buy my product! Isn’t it obvious??
The answer is a resounding No!
- For one, there is rarely enough information in the typical marketing piece for a consumer to make an immediate buying decision. Therefore, that can’t be the action expected from the consumer.
- Second, the marketing competition for the prospect’s consumer dollars is fierce. The prospect is usually exposed to dozens of ads for basically the same product/service. Obviously, he or she is not going to take action on every single ad.
How do you insure that they will respond to your marketing piece and take the specific action you intended? Certainly, not by assuming that they will know or figure out what you want them to do.
In order for a business owner to tell prospects exactly what action to take next, the business owner must know what that action should be. Once you know the psychological buying sequence the next expected action becomes obvious.
4. Expecting your prospects to Call for More Information.
Closely related to fatal mistake number 3, is the marketing piece that again simply announces the business name, lists a few basic features of the product or service, ends with an address and phone number . . . and then asks the prospect to Call for More Information.
One of the last things a prospect wants, is to feel dumb. What information should they ask for? Does this mean that the business doesn’t have a brochure or any other literature? Are they going to have to take notes?? Will there be a test?
The other thing no prospect wants is to feel pressured. Whether it’s true or not, the average prospect assumes that they’ll get a high-pressured sales pitch if they call. Most do not want to risk this pain. Therefore, the Call for More Information tag is almost always ignored.
While some prospects may not have a problem responding to this vague directive, the majority do. If you doubt this . . . try putting it at the bottom of your marketing pieces. You’ll soon be convinced that few prospects, if any, respond to the Call for More Information fatal marketing mistake.
5. Focusing your marketing efforts on you or your company.
It seems natural to tell your prospects about you and your company. We’re proud of what we do and how we do it and we assume that our prospects will be impressed and motivated to take action.
- We’ve been in business for 16 years…
- We are an award winning, cutting-edge organization…
- We are equipped with the latest micro-techno, laser-guided, nuclear-activated widget-gizmos…
Too often these phrases evoke the following responses from prospects:
- So what?
- Big deal.
- Who cares?
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that your marketing materials shouldn’t include background information about you and your company and/or specifications about your product/service. I’m saying that this should be supportive information, not your primary marketing message.
It’s a fatal marketing mistake to think that prospects care about the same things you care about. They rarely do. However, they do care deeply about something entirely different. Once you know what that is, and you address it powerfully and clearly in your marketing, you will begin to draw prospects to you like a magnet.
6. Not taking advantage of the many free or low-cost but profitable, marketing methods.
Ask the typical small business owner what marketing is, and he/she will probably reply, Advertising.
What kinds of advertising? Yellow Page ads, newspaper ads, magazine ads, radio ads, television ads, billboards, bus cards, Val-Pak mailings, etc.
While all of these advertising devices can certainly be a part of a successful marketing strategy, there are also dozens of low-cost and no-cost marketing methods available to the small business marketer.
By simply discovering and applying these simple low-cost, no-cost methods, you will be able to significantly stretch the effectiveness and profitability of your marketing efforts.
7. Copying the mistakes of your competitors.
If everyone else is doing it, then it must be the right thing to do. Remember mom’s admonition, If everyone was jumping off a bridge, would you want to jump too?
Look at the local, small business ads in any newspaper and you will find the same basic format, same basic message, same basic strategy (see Fatal Marketing Mistake No. 1). . . and the same basic results; little or no response.
We feel safe in the crowd. Safe doing what everyone else is doing. We also assume that if it works for them, it can work equally well for us.
Unfortunately, a business’s success is rarely from one element in their marketing strategy. Their success is the result of many diverse marketing elements; from their location, to their possible lack of competition, to their personality and abundance or lack of marketing aggressiveness. But we rarely take all of these strategic elements into consideration when copying our competitors.
Copying a single marketing element from a competitor is like reaching into their pile of puzzle pieces, pulling out one piece and then trying to make it fit into your puzzle. It rarely works because your marketing puzzle is unique and each piece must fit perfectly with all of your other pieces.
In addition, whatever success a competitor may be experiencing can often be from a few of their less obvious or visible marketing methods. Often the highly visible element (ad, flyer, brochure, etc.) is one of the least effective. You end up copying the profit losers, rather than developing your own profit winners.
8. Directing your marketing to everyone but to no one in particular
Many small businesses have failed to determine who their best prospects are, where those prospects live or how to reach them effectively and efficiently. This is a critical first step in any successful marketing strategy.
By skipping this step, they resort to running vague and generic one-step ads in mass media, such as local newspapers, magazines, radio, television, cable, Val-pak mailings, Internet web sites, etc.
Their hope is that by presenting their generic message about their business to the greatest number of people, the result will be the highest number of sales. Wrong. Unfortunately for them, effective marketing doesn’t work that way.
The fact is, in most cases only a small percentage of the readers/listeners/ viewers of mass media will have a need for your product or service at any given time. Some business owners may have a hard time believing this, but nevertheless, it’s true. Everyone does not need or want your product or service.
By not targeting your marketing to your very best and logical prospects, you are wasting most of your marketing dollars on people who have little or no interest in your product or service.
If there are only 100 true prospects for your product or service out of 10,000 possible readers of a publication, why would you want to spend thousands of dollars presenting your message over and over to the 9,900 non-prospects? Yet, this is the method most small business owners choose because they don’t know that there is a much more cost-effective and profitable strategy.
9. Wasting your money on Image marketing
A major marketing mistake made by many small businesses is that they pour their marketing dollars into image marketing. Some of their marketing pieces may be clever, even humorous.
That kind of marketing rarely asks prospects to take action. The result? Wasted marketing dollars . . . vague ideas of who saw the marketing pieces . . . and frustration.
Giant corporations like Pepsi or Nike are interested in name recognition and a specific image for their brands. Therefore, they spend millions of dollars on creative, often fun marketing pieces designed to impress their target market with their image rather than to generate a direct or immediate sale.
Obviously your image and name recognition are important to the success of your small business. But even more important are immediate and steadily growing sales.
How can you determine if your marketing is primarily focused on image marketing? Your marketing pieces don’t ask for immediate and specific action from your prospects. This money-wasting and sales destroying marketing mistake is much more common than you may think.
10. Giving up on your prospects after just one or two follow-ups
Effective marketers know that persistence and repetition are vital for success. The sale begins when the customer says “no.” But too many business owners spend a great deal of time and money attracting prospects to their businesses and then either follow-up with them just once, or, as incredible as it may sound, never follow-up with them at all.
Successful people in sales know that most of the sales are made after the seventh or eighth call. Few are made after just one follow-up call.
Your prospects have many reasons for not buying from you immediately.
- They may not be ready to make a decision.
- They may have more pressing things on their minds.
- They may not feel comfortable enough with you, or trust you enough to buy right now.
- They may have more questions about your product/service, that haven’t been answered.
- They may have information from you and 2-3 of your competitors and are trying to determine which company would be their best choice.
By following up repeatedly, you will have a dramatic advantage over your competitors, since few of them will follow up more than once. When your prospects are ready to buy, which could be one week from now, or six months from now, you will have a better chance of getting the sale if you are uppermost in their minds. You can only do that by consistently following up.
11. Changing your marketing strategy frequently
Henry Ford once told an ad executive from his advertising agency, “It’s time for you to come up with a new ad campaign. We’ve been using this one for too long and I’m sure the public has to be bored to death with it.” Ford was reportedly miffed to hear, “But sir, we haven’t even started running this campaign yet. The public has never seen it.” Having seen the campaign presentations dozens of times, he was bored with it. He wanted to see something new and different.
You should never, never stop using something that is still working, because you, your employees or your friends are bored with it. In successful and profitable marketing you should only be listening to your customers since they vote with dollars rather than opinions.
12. Expecting word-of-mouth referrals to come your way . . . just by chance
Word-of-mouth referrals are an extremely important element of any business’s marketing success. But most small businesses are making a big marketing mistake by believing that those referrals will come automatically.
It’s true that if you provide good service and your prices are competitive, you will probably get some word-of-mouth referrals. But to generate an abundance and highly profitable level of referrals takes more initiative and effort.
Unless someone comes to us and specifically asks for our recommendation of a good dentist, doctor, veterinarian, insurance agent or auto alarm specialist we are probably not going to actively promote these businesses to our friends and neighbors.
How often in any given year are you asked to recommend a good dentist or auto alarm specialist? The chances are . . . not very often, if at all. That’s why expecting referrals to come to you . . . just by chance (as most small business owners do), is a fatal marketing mistake.
The most Fatal mistake of all . . .
13. Basing your marketing strategy on guesses, assumptions or advice from friends, relatives or business associates
Guessing at the elements of your marketing strategy is probably the worst way to invest your marketing budget.You are practically guaranteeing the same results you would achieve by guessing at the specific sequence of numbers needed to open a combination lock. Since each consecutive step is linked to the success of the previous step, one wrong guess destroys your chances for success.
Most people, including many small business owners, mistakenly believe that marketing is more of an art than a science. Those of the marketing is art point of view believe that anyone’s opinion concerning marketing is just as valid as anyone else’s. In reality, marketing is very much a science with specific principles, rules and quantifiable results. Because of this marketing is art philosophy, most of what people believe about marketing is based on myths, not facts.
Show ten people two ads and ask them to select the one they think is the better ad. Nine out of ten will select the profit loser rather than the profit winner. Why? Because they are unaware of and don’t recognize the marketing principles and strategies that make a powerful marketing piece a profit winner.
So they base their opinion instead on such vague, subjective criteria as cleverness, cuteness, different and artistic look, and the ads fun/pun appeal. These criteria rarely have anything to do with generating maximum response but they have everything to do with wasting your marketing investment and destroying your potential sales.
The best way to develop a successful and profitable marketing strategy is to use the knowledge, experience and skills of someone who has already discovered the marketing approaches that do work as well as the approaches that don’t work.
These discoveries should always be based on measurable results from objective tests . . . never subjective opinions or assumptions.
About the Author:
- 12-Step Template to Write an Effective Sales Letter
- Top 10 Ecommerce Mistakes
- How to Create an Effective Marketing Plan
- 7 Steps to Web Sites That Sell
- Pros and Cons of Financing a Business