Five Marketing Mistakes When Starting a Business

By Jeff Owen, Partner, Clever Dogs Media

You set up shop, thanks to help from a bank. You hang a sign that announces you are open for business. You unlock the door on your first day and stand ready to sell and/or serve.

(Cue the cricket sounds.)

You wait, and wait, and wait…

You wonder why no one is buying your product or calling for your help.

(Did I mention that you are waiting?) What is missing? You forgot to tell your story. Or, maybe, you tried…and failed. No one knows you’re there.

Avoid the opening day cricket sounds. Here are five common mistakes new entrepreneurs make when marketing their business.

Engaging in DIY marketing

If you don’t budget 10 percent of your operational costs for professional marketing, go ahead and lock your doors, turn off the lights and tell the bank to come get your their assets. You might be a great widget maker, but it’s unlikely you are an experienced marketer. Although you are bombarded by advertising and promotional material every day, you are not necessarily an expert.

Think of it this way: What if your building needed a new roof. Even though you have never installed a roof, would you do it yourself and expect the roof to repel the rain? Of course not.

An experienced marketer can and will do two things – help you stay laser-focused on marketing strategies and costs, and get a return on your marketing investment. If done correctly, with the help of an experienced professional, you should see $4 of revenue for every $1 spent on marketing.

Tackling advertising without a Game Plan

Do you see those charts that NFL coaches carry around on the sidelines and constantly read before calling in the next play? That’s what your marketing plan should look like. In my practice, I have witnessed too many small businesses or non-profit organizations spend endless meetings fine-tuning their products, processes and services while neglecting marketing decisions. Then, in the last moment before launch, someone on the management team hastily screams: “We need a brochure by 5 o’clock!”

Your marketing planning should be equal in importance to your product or service process. You cannot simply create a business and hope someone finds it. “Build It and They Will Come”, was a line in a fictional movie, not a business plan.

Having no Unique Selling Proposition

Abraham Lincoln famously said: “Whatever you are, be a good one.” In 30 seconds, you should be able to tell someone what your company does and how you are different or better than your competitors. If you can’t do that: close your doors, turn off the lights and yada yada yada…

I once worked on a project team charged with selling a medical device that competed with a similar product made by a large, well-known manufacturer. (A modern day David v. Goliath story.) Our product was great. It performed as well as the leading brand — at a slightly more affordable price, yet we had to convince doctors to buy from us instead of them.

An engineer on our team came up with a brilliant idea – place marks on each of the two connecting parts. When the marks were aligned, the doctors were likely to have a more successful outcome with the medical procedure. We promoted the heck out of those tiny marks. We named those marks. The marks headlined our messaging. And thanks to that simple and unique selling point, we increased sales.

Believing technology alone will gain you customers

I love to hear that clients have invested in customer lead generation software. I hate to hear that clients expect the software alone to increase their sales.

Computers, websites and software are tools in your marketing toolbox. However, you still need human capital to make them work successfully. Investing in a new website and social media is critical when launching a business. Developing and updating ongoing meaningful and relevant content, though, is essential to growing sales.

I once heard of a company that lost a salesperson, and used the newfound salary savings to buy a customer retention software program. This software cued up data on sales trends, client purchasing history, etc. But (surprise!) the software could not pick up the telephone and call the clients or stop in for coffee to talk about their needs.

Chasing the bright shiny marketing object

Seminars on marketing provide lots of great ideas. The Internet is full of best marketing practices. However, all marketing activities should be implemented on their potential to reach your specific target audience, and not because a seminar presenter said it was the greatest thing since the discovery of peanut butter.

Let’s take, for example, those beautiful digital billboards along Interstate 65. Their state-of-the-art technology produces picture-perfect messages. They are ideal for restaurants trying to convince weary travelers to stop in for a bite to eat at the next exit. However, they probably are not cost effective for a local carpet cleaning company. What is the likelihood of someone driving from Chicago to Louisville calling a local company about removing a pet stain?

Successful entrepreneurs know and understand the importance of telling their story effectively and efficiently. To them, marketing has a seat at the big table.

If marketing is merely an afterthought in your business day, be prepared to close your doors, turn off the lights, call the bank and yadda yadda yadda your way out of business.

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