Marketing is critical for small businesses - especially those without a big team of salespeople.
But what is marketing? Marketing is what lets people know who you are and what you do. It communicates what makes you special and different from your competitors. Economically speaking, marketing is also the investment of resources (time and money) to acquire revenue through sales. It happens in hundreds of different forms, but it can only be called successful when the revenue generated from your efforts exceeds the cost of those efforts.
You could spend hours, even days, discussing complex marketing strategies. Here are the top four marketing mistakes small business owners need to avoid if they want to ensure that they are making money through proper marketing.
1. Not Having a Plan
As with any endeavor, from a family vacation to a political campaign, planning is step one. First, decide what you want your marketing to achieve for your business. Are you looking for broad awareness? Do you want to build a product or service that people love? Are you driving traffic to your website or to your physical location? Once you know your goal for marketing, you can begin to assemble a plan for how to get there.
Perhaps getting mentioned in a number of local news outlets would maximize your business presence. Maybe retooling your customer experience with a "WOW" factor will make people promote your brand. The key is to zoom out, determine your business goal, then plan out how you want to achieve it. Make sure that “how” is clearly defined, so you’re not left with a pile of generalized ideas but, instead, a list of actionable items that have clear steps.
2. Not Investing in Your Brand
Every business should think of itself as a brand. Your brand helps to tell your unique story to potential customers, it builds trust, and it makes you memorable. Even individual service providers, like dentists, lawyers, and accountants, should look to build their professional brand.
Your brand, many times, can start with a logo, but should hardly end there. For you to be memorable and perceived as trustworthy, your brand needs to be consistent online and offline. Make sure the colors in your logo match your business cards, your offices or stores, your website, and your advertising. Consistency in look, feel, and voice will make you more memorable and promote the trust your customers look for in a business.
3. Mistaking Advertising for Marketing
Many business owners don't realize how many aspects of their business are marketing-related. It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that marketing is the same as advertising. But usually, those who do, find themselves with very little to show for the dollars they invested.
In Econ 101, marketing is defined as price, product, place, and promotion. Thinking about these elements is a great place to start thinking about your business’ marketing. Is your service priced correctly? Competitively? That's marketing. What about how your product looks and feels? Also marketing. And all the places around town or online where people might hear about you? Definitely marketing. Finally, when you promote your business, sometimes through advertising, that is absolutely marketing.
Are you thinking about all of your marketing or just your advertising?
4. Not Measuring Your Investments
So you took out an ad in a local paper, launched a new website, joined a local business association, and ran a few Google AdWords campaigns. How many new sales or new customers did you get from any of those marketing activities? Remember, you need to know whether your investment of time and money into marketing is resulting in attention and sales. If you're not measuring your marketing activities, then it's going to be very difficult for you to know where to invest your resources in the future. There are creative ways to measure just about any marketing activity.
Are you taking an ad out in the paper? Make sure you use a coupon code specific to that paper so you can track how many times it’s used on your website or in person. Are you launching a website? Make sure the site is tracking what visitors do while they're there. Are you joining a local business association? Offer something special only to those members. Are you running an AdWords campaign? Just make sure you (or a tech-savvy friend) took care of conversion tracking.
All of your marketing should be measurable, either in a sophisticated technical way or just through good old-fashioned pen and paper at the register. Knowing what kind of marketing drives your business means you can more efficiently invest your resources going forward.