Sunday, October 7, 2012

7 Marketing Mistakes In Small Business

In 2006, I hired a strategic branding firm to help me with a branding slogan, consistent messaging, collateral materials, website, etc. And while it was a sizable expenditure, it was worth every dime. Why? Because their expertise strategically moved my business in the direction it needed to be going, along with timely implementation.

Now, we are moving more and more into digital marketing. Small businesses often have a limited budget for marketing, if any budget at all. Most small businesses don't budget for marketing or advertising and often become reactive to the newest trends instead of creating a marketing plan.

Being a small business owner, I procrastinated integrating new digital marketing trends into my existing marketing strategies. And one thing I have learned about myself over the years is that when it comes to new marketing ideas, I either I take out a checkbook to pay someone to do it for me or I sit in the classroom and learn. I've done both and I can honestly recommend either. You must decide which one suits you and your marketing team best.

I was told years ago that advertising is not effective for consulting or advisor types of businesses. I agree to a certain degree, yet, I still see many advisors who consistently advertise in their target market with great results. The key here is consistency. No matter which channels you use to push your message out, you need to do it consistently, over a long period of time. This is true for digital marketing as well. Although I am an advocate for Pull Marketing or In Bound marketing, the reality is you need to integrate push marketing consistently before you'll get any pull or inbound results.

Here are 7 mistakes to avoid when directing your small business marketing team. Yes, I said TEAM. Don't expect to be able to market your business on you own, unless are a marketing professional yourself.

Mistake #1: No clear objective or message to communicate - Have a clear target market - know who your audience is. Don't try or expect to be all things to all people. Once that target market is well defined, find out what they care about, or their challenges, and help them. Without exception, all your communication efforts speak to that target audience. Your team also needs to know your audience and messaging to them clearly.

Mistake #2: Jump at the latest and greatest tools too soon - It seems human nature is to react. Long term planning or strategically looking at things is not our nature. So before you jump into social media, SEO, or even on-line marketing, be sure you understand and know what you're buying into, or most importantly, that it will produce the results you're looking for.

Mistake #3: Nothing is integrated - Your message is inconsistent from brochures, flyers, website, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, etc. You say many things, and your messaging comes across as inconsistent or not integrated. Without integration and consistent messaging, you will not create a pulling effect.

Mistake #4: Doing It ALL yourself - For many small businesses, budget or cash flow is tight, so you end up being the CFO, CEO, CMO and janitor. Find out how much your time costs and look at your ROI if you manage your own marketing. For example, most social media tools offer free accounts, but your time is not free! Unless you are able to make very good contacts and form valuable networking groups, you may need to examine whether your time might be better spent closing deals or scheduling more appointments with prospects or servicing existing clients IRL (in real life).

Mistake #5: No ROI or measurement of all marketing regularly - After all marketing plans are in place and set, implement a method to measure your campaign results. Set your goals at the beginning of your campaign with percentages and numbers that are trackable, such as aiming for a 20% increase in prospects calls or a 30% increase in inquiry of services. Your campaign could be daily messages on a social media account. Those efforts may drive traffic to your website, but do they result in more click conversions? You'll want to measure every aspect.

Mistake #6: Not setting favorable sales conditions - I get very confused when marketing or technology firms tell me that we'll increase traffic on your website or we'll get you on the first page of a Google search. Okay, that is nice, but does it create a favorable sales condition? Take Zappos, which promises a 365 days return policy plus free shipping both ways. That guarantee sets a favorable sales condition, because as a consumer, you know you won't risk losing money in the online transaction. Offers and promises of satisfaction also work in this way.

Mistake #7: Not implementing regularly - You may have already made the deadly mistake of implementing a tactic only once and then moving on to the hottest and latest tools out there. If you're spending money, time and energy in marketing, implement regularly. You gain momentum by doing little by little, and over time, you accumulate results. Regular implementation helps you improves your marketing efforts.

Chia-Li Chien, CFP, CRPC, PMP; CFO for Women Entrepreneurs. She is chief strategist of Value Growth Institute dedicated to helping private business owners increase the value of their firms. She is the award-winning author of Show Me The Money and faculty member of American Management Association. Her blog is named a top small business resource by the New York Times.

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