As a small business owner, you need to make sure that you are using your resources in the best way possible. It can be easy to let things fall through the cracks, but you need to make sure that your marketing strategy is on track otherwise, it will be hard for you to succeed.
Here are six big marketing mistakes many small business owners make, whether they are just starting out or they have been in a business for a while and have hit a plateau in growth.
Targeting too broad an audience
As a small business owner, if your audience is too broad you will find that you go through your budget quickly and you won’t see great results because you are trying to reach too many people. Instead, conquer your audiences one niche at a time and let your reputation spread organically. If you do it right, your loyal customers will do your marketing for you. Focus on more grassroots and targeted initiatives to stretch your budget while getting bigger results. For example, you could run an influencer campaign to reach a small group of bloggers or other “celebrity” type influencers who will share your brand story with their audience. This helps you to amplify your marketing message while only marketing directly to a smaller group.
Not knowing where you fit into the competitive landscape
I have run into countless business owners (or those at the idea stage) that truly believe that they are the only one out there selling their product or service. While that might be true, chances are, you’re not first to the market with a product or service that is similar. And just because a company isn’t offering the exact same thing as you doesn’t mean that their similar product doesn’t have some of the same benefits. They may not be a direct competitor, but they are a competitor. Do your research before launching your business to see what else is out there that is similar. To ensure that you stay on top of industry developments, you should be constantly looking for new players in your market to see where your product fits into the industry and why your customers and target audience should buy what you are selling over your competitors.
No big picture strategy
Your marketing strategy needs to be carefully planned out in advance so you can see how all of the elements fit together. You can set yourself up for success better if your marketing objectives tie directly into your business objectives. Develop detailed timelines for each tactic you are looking to implement over the next year and set milestones to measure your success by. Keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be a rigid planning document. You can adjust your timelines and the overall strategy as you go as needed. But it will act as a guide to keep your marketing strategy moving in the right direction.
Not starting early enough
A common mistake many small business owners make is not starting early enough. This has to do with both planning and marketing for specific initiatives. Unless you have an unlimited budget that will allow for you to create a massive spectacle that can’t be missed (ie. Public stunts in multiple cities, or one major public stunt that is larger than life) you want to make sure people know what’s coming so they can get excited for it and start helping you build buzz. For example, if you are planning your product launch for September, you need to start planning in detail in June (at least!) and start talking about it publicly – even as a teaser at least a month in advance. Another example would be if you plan to run a holiday gift guide campaign where you intend to be included in media gift guides. For certain media, you need to start that in August.
If you are bringing in a third party to execute your strategy (like an agency), bring them in at the beginning and figure out the best timeline for success. You might think you are saving money by bringing them in later, but in reality, you are just cutting your success short.
Starting out free gets your name out there
This is a highly discussed topic. Sometimes people think that giving away your products/services for free in the beginning will mean that you will gain more exposure. While you might get more exposure, it’s not generally the kind you should be looking for because you are severely undervaluing yourself. In many cases, once people get something for free, they will continue to expect free, which doesn’t help you in growing your revenues. The first thing I tell brands/experts is to stop working for free just for exposure.
The only time giving your product/services away for free is acceptable is if it is part of a larger media strategy where you will get third party reviews from credible sources. This type of exposure can be very helpful in amplifying your brand message because you are tapping into their networks and building trust. It is also ok to choose a small test group of customers at the beginning for market research to get feedback on your product/service, but it should end there. Giving severe discounts and freebies to everyone in the beginning is going to make it difficult to start charging what you’re actually worth.
Candace Huntly is Founder and Partner at SongBird Marketing Communications, an award-winning agency working to take organizational and individual brands to the next level. With a passion for all things related to creativity and strategy, she specializes in business intelligence, marketing & branding, content strategy & development, media & influencer relations, and social media. Basically, if you need to put your brand, product, or cause in the public eye, she will find a way to do it, while making the approach unique to you.
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