Starting a business requires confidence, a design, a way to demonstrate the value the enterprise delivers, and milestones – short-term goals that add up to long-term success.
Every business owner or manager has made at least some of these errors.
1. You marketed your business on the fly. You started the company, incurred the expenses associated with a start-up – legal fees, the cost of fixtures, rent, security, signage – even a small start-up spends big money to get a little traction in the market.
The thing is, you don’t have big money. You have little money to promote your company after monthly operational outlays. You can’t afford a mistake. One sad-looking tri-fold, or a six-page restaurant menu printed on your home computer are likely mistakes – and mistakes that are costly to repair.
2. So, what’s the plan? Marketing without focus is a big waste of promotional dollars. Study your market. Retirees? New parents? Small business owners? Sports fans? Define your target market in a single sentence.
“Our buyers are affluent retirees and empty-nesters who have the time, the finances, and the motivation to move to a warmer climate.”
Easy. Reams of statistical sales data may identify system flaws, but if your company has a cross-channel promotion campaign to celebrate your company’s latest market entry – which implodes as soon as it hits retailers – all the stats in the world won’t tell you where the train went off the tracks.
3. How do we deliver the company message to the sweet spot of our highly-focused market? If your company sells data services, does it make sense to advertise in print? Oh, a couple of industry-insider journals might be worth a test run to see if a print advert sells CRM software, but I wouldn’t recommend spending a lot on print here.
Go where buyers go and if you’re selling CRM software, prospects go online and they attend industry events.
4. You didn’t test your promotions. It was so good, so compelling, so intriguingly beautiful, you printed up 40K mailers, bought a mailing list and sent out a promo no one read.
You thought it looked great. Your spouse loved it. The office team thought it was perfect. And you got two orders and a $25,000 bill from the printer.
Employ impartial focus groups and don’t rely on the opinions of those who have a stake in seeing you launch a new product or service, or expand your service area. These are not impartial people.
5. Your adverts talked all about your company and just how great you are at doing whatever it is you do. Every exec believes he or she delivers the best at the best price, and they also believe that a flashy mailer or online website will convert.
It won’t. Prospects want to know what benefits you deliver to them. Stop focusing on your company and focus on your prospects, their needs and wants. If your market demands same-day delivery – and a competitor is offering same-day delivery – guess who gets the contract? No, it’s not you. Sorry.
6. You’re a phoney wannabe. You’re trying to reach teens and you’re 56 years old. They don’t talk like you talk, never heard of Duran Duran, and they think as a group with the gravitational pull of peer pressure sucking them in.
Don’t try to be something you’re not, and you’re not a teen-ager. You don’t know what teen-agers want, and you wouldn’t know what buttons to push that’ll spur them to action.
The same applies if you’re trying to reach a particular demographic. If you can’t talk the talk, DON’T try to walk the walk. You’ll trip, guaranteed.
7. You’re marketing a single product. It’s easy for prospects to decide yes or no, but with more options to buy you’ll sell more. Selling a single product or service is putting all of your eggs in the proverbial basket.
Sell more products. Sell more services. Increase the opportunity to make a sale, even if it’s a loss leader.
8. You timed your promo incorrectly. You don’t sell air conditioners when it’s cold. You don’t sell fleece wear during an Australian heat wave.
People on vacation aren’t thinking about a new boiler or a new roof. They’re on vacation. Hot weather usually keeps people indoors. As a rule, winter in Australia isn’t a great time for a product roll-out – especially a roll-out of big ticket items.
Sales tend to pick up as the weather improves. Wait to get the most impact from a direct mail piece, an email blast, a smartphone push, or even a print ad in specialty magazines.
9. You outsourced incorrectly. You don’t have much money so you posted your job description on one of those low-rent job boards, got some off-shore writer to draft your promo text for a penny a word, and had a bunch of these sell sheets printed up as take-aways at the next industry trade show that’s costing you $5,000 for a few square metres. (Extension cords extra.)
Prospects grab a copy of your marketing materials as they pass by. The plan? Read them later, of course.
Unfortunately, the text isn’t smooth or clear or compelling or anything. It’s barely English. Outsource back office activity. Smart source any business activity that engages a prospect, i.e. client care.
10. Finally, the biggest mistake you made? You don’t have enough for a second mailer. I always feel badly when I get calls from entrepreneurs making that last roll of the dice. By then, it’s usually too late to keep the dream alive.
Under-capitalization is probably the single-most difficult challenge small business owners face. You need money to make money – an old adage, but a true one.
So, how many of these missteps have you made? And how did you fix the problem to improve ROI for marketing costs?