Marketing is much more than a couple tweets and an occasional image on Instagram.  It takes research, planning, execution, measurement, and review. This article provides a few tips to make sure you don’t make these 5 marketing mistakes in your small business marketing.

You don’t know who your target audience is

As a small business marketing professional, this is one of the first questions I ask when talking to a prospective client. Unfortunately, this question is either answered with a blank stare or even worse, “everyone is our target audience”. This is the surest way for your marketing efforts to fail. Regardless of what service you offer or product you sell, you need to have an understanding of who your target audience is so you’ll know how to market, where to market, and what to say in your marketing messaging. So what exactly is meant by “target audience” and why is it important? According to a blog by Duct Tape Marketing, CB Insight analyzed hundreds of stories on failing startups and concluded that 14% of them hadn’t examined their client. That means products and services are being created without having the end user in mind. Marketing dollars are being spent reaching prospective clients without really knowing who they are. Your target audience is the demographic best suited for your product or service. Even if you sell water for a living, you should be able to prioritize which demographic is best suited for your water:  who has the money? The most need? Will be a repeat customer? Will become a brand advocate and tell others about your company? Look at your current clients as a good place to start. Who is the most profitable, best, most loyal client demographic you have right now?  Think of it this way:  if you had limited time and money, what ONE group of people would you go after? THAT is your target audience.

You don’t know who your competitors are

Your business offers a product or service that absolutely no one else offers so, you assume, that means you have no competitors, but you’d be wrong.  Competitors are not necessarily companies who offer a similar product or service. They are merely companies who you compete against for dollar share and consumer attention. What companies show up online when searching for a product or service like the one you offer? THEY compete with you for consumer attention (and dollars). Which companies offer a product or service similar to yours, but theirs is inferior?  They are your competitors. There’s no such thing as “no competitors”. Your small business is either competing against like companies, or you’re competing against perceived like companies. At the very least, you’re competing for consumer attention and consumer dollars. Find the top 3-5 companies who you’re competing against and see what they’re doing right and wrong to attract clients. Watch and learn. Not knowing the competitive landscape is a big mistake many small businesses make.

You can’t articulate what makes you different

Also known as your unique value proposition, what exactly is it that makes you so different from everyone else out there? How would you answer the question, “Why would I do business with you over company XYZ?”. You need to be able to clearly articulate your UVP and make sure your marketing message supports it. Potential clients need to understand what makes you different and better. Don’t leave it to them to try and figure it out on their own; spell it out and say it often.

You don’t know what your weaknesses are

Yes, your company has weaknesses. Every company does, so take the time to figure out what yours is and how to address it before it comes up with a prospective client. Every company’s service or product has some weakness from a competitive standpoint. Understanding yours and being able to position your company in its marketing efforts appropriately will help you keep and maintain clients. Even if the very nature of your company was designed to be a certain way, (e.g. you only work with companies under $1M in sales or you only sell to the military), SOME prospective client is going to come along and see that as a weakness. If you don’t position your marketing to show why you don’t consider it a weakness, or what the benefit to the client is for that kind of focus, they’ll simply perceive it as a weakness or flaw and go elsewhere. Make sure you understand your weaknesses in your company when you put together your marketing efforts.

You don’t preface your marketing efforts with a marketing strategy

No small business owner starts a company without a business plan. So why would you start marketing efforts without a plan?  If you don’t start with marketing strategy creation, how do you know what your marketing message should be?  Who you should target?  Where to target them, such a social media or print or video? It’s critical for small businesses to start their marketing efforts with a well-designed, thoroughly researched marketing strategy. A well-thought-out marketing strategy will provide not only the insights on who to target, what to say and where you should be putting your marketing efforts, it’ll also provide baselines for measurement, goals to establish, and how to determine the ROI for your efforts. All of these items are critical to ongoing marketing success.

Understanding the importance of marketing in the small business environment and how to do it correctly will go a long way to ensuring a successful path for your marketing efforts.

Patty Hughes
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