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9 small business marketing mistakes

In helping small businesses and small nonprofits with communications and marketing services, I've noticed 9 common mistakes they make, simply because they lack the training and experience to know what to do. Here are the top 9 mistakes I see, listed in chronological order from when a new business is created.

#1 Mistake:

Fail to Identify your Service or Product

Are you going to provide lots of products or services, like Walmart, a one-stop shop, or are you going to be limited so as to fill a niche by topic or industry or by product / service? There are advantages and disadvantages to each, but you need to determine what sets your service or product apart. Put it in words.

#2 Mistake:

Fail to Identify your Desired Company Image

It’s better for you to direct your company marketing and behavior so that it creates the image you want customers to have instead of it happening without any intention. Otherwise, you may have a brand image you don’t want. Choose 3-5 words that are what you want people to think of your company.

#3 Mistake:

Fail to Identify your Client / Customer

A shot-gun approach reduces the return on investment. In other words, you’re paying more for fewer customer leads. Identifying what type of person is your most likely customer or your preferred customer can make your marketing dollars produce more results. Online marketing has made targeting effective.

Once you have determined the products or services, the public perception you want to create, and your prospective customers, you are ready to create a strategy and marketing products.

#7 Mistake:

Trust Nonprofessionals for Writing

Talking and writing are different skills. We forget the grammar that we learned in school, and there are different grammar rules for different types of writing. You don't know what you don't know. So hire a professional. Bad grammar is a turnoff to those who do care; it hurts the image of the business and hurts credibility. It stumbles the mind and makes the reader pay attention to the words instead of the message. The wrong tone will fail to convey the company image. Also, overly complex writing or bad text formatting will be ineffective or confusing.   

#8 Mistake:

Use the Wrong Channels for Marketing

With the big increase in media options, a company can waste a lot of time and money by trying to be everywhere. Matching the marketing strategy to your prospective clients--that is be where they are--can increase your return on investment. Not every company needs to be on Facebook. Not every company needs to use search engine optimization on their website. You need to consider your industry, whether geography is important, prospective client demographics and behavior, and more. Using the right marketing channels will make your marketing more efficient.

#9 Mistake:

Fail to Set Aside Funds for Long-Term Marketing

Budget for at least one year of marketing without relying on sales to support it. Marketing on the cheap means bad marketing. Success comes from numerous exposures from different channels. This creates familiarity, which leads to trust, which leads to action. That takes time and money. Many companies don't have the time to continue marketing efforts when business is strong, then they don't have the money to spend on marketing when business is down. The cumulative benefit comes when time and money are consistently budgeted for marketing.

#4 Mistake:

Fail to Create an Overall Marketing Strategy

A new client or purchase comes after a trust is created, and trust comes from familiarity (an awareness of company values). Always selling (using ads) limits your opportunity to develop that trust. People pay more to avoid ads, and they hang up on phone solicitors. Younger people, especially, prefer authenticity. They view overly produced marketing as dishonest or contrived. Better to create awareness by being informative and helpful. 

#5 Mistake:

Rely on Nonprofessionals or Do Design on the Cheap

Hire a professional or learn it. You don’t know what you don’t know. Design includes logo, website, fonts, design styling, colors, etc. For your design elements to communicate your brand image, you should not choose based on what you like, not rely on the vote of friends, not rely on a template, and not have an AI program  design it. Everyone has an opinion. That doesn’t mean it’s a good opinion or an opinion based on marketing and brand expertise.

#6 Mistake:

Be Inconsistent in the Use of Text and Design

If it doesn’t look the same, it’s not the same company. Design communicates faster than words. If your "look" is different in different places, or if the font style is sending a different message than your color choice, then you are not developing a brand image, meaning you are failing to communicate your company values. Design elements include font, graphic elements, colors, opaque or transparent, soft or hard edges, etc. Not just the logo. 

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