Marketing is a very well established principle and one that has been practiced before it was even called that. If you think about it, the ancient world has definitely used advertising tactics when promoting a gladiator fight, a chariot race, or some royalty celebration.
The similarities of entrepreneurs’ problems to another used to surprise me. I have finally accepted that most entrepreneurs are marketing challenged and that’s when I decided that I’m going to use my spare time helping others improve their understanding of marketing so they can avoid being discouraged.
Being discouraged is the worst state in an entrepreneur’s journey. If you are frustrated and often confused, just remember reading this blog and find comfort in the thought that the entrepreneur next to you is also figuring it all out.
This blog is to help you understand the consequences of poor marketing strategy. I hope that you find it helpful and feel free to contact me for more information or discussion.
Here goes the 7 deadly sins in marketing…
- NOT DOING YOUR RESEARCH
The best thing about research is that we no longer have to make a trip to the library to search the archives. Google is definitely our best friend but sometimes, we pretend otherwise. Get in the habit of checking facts or existing examples before you start working on any project.
Before you plan an event, look for ideas. Before you create a brand message or campaign, search for examples. Before you introduce a company or product to a new market, study the demographics and learn from previous events and competitors in that market.
When conducting your marketing research, you need to answer the following questions:
- Has this project/product been done before?
- If not, what similar projects have been implemented? If yes, what were the results?
- What did their marketing collaterals look like? How could you make yours better?
- How many people attended their event?
- What are the reviews on Yelp and on Facebook for your competitors?
- What is the demographics of your market? What are their characteristics?
- What are the major and well attended events in the market? This should give you answers as to what types of leisure activities the residents in that area are interested in? This is important to know so you can plan an effective community outreach.
- What are the trusted local brands and stores in the market? What do they have going on?
- Search Instagram or Twitter using your market’s location and get an idea of what conversations locals are engaged in.
- What are the top local charities that residents trust and support?
These are just some examples of what you can research to help you formulate the best plan for your launch or your new campaign especially if you are penetrating a new market.
- MARKETING WITHOUT METRICS
Whether you are in charge of marketing or you’ve hired a company to perform the task, metrics must first be established. If you want to print flyers for your business, for example, you must first research to see how successful flyers look. Then set some goals and deadlines that you’d like to accomplish with these flyers.
If you want to create a flyer for simply for publicity, you should consider taking it a step further and include a coupon. The coupon serves as a way for you to measure your ROI. If you manage a frozen yogurt business planning for a grand opening, you should consider creating a bounce back coupon instead of a plain informative flyer. This offers a way to measure how many people were converted into customers.
Note: A bounce back coupon is a term used describing a promotional marketing collateral offering discount that can be redeemed at a later date. In essence, you want your customers to come back for more.
Note: Sales made using the coupon on the flyer (minus) Cost of flyer (equals) your ROI.
When you plan to reprint the same flyers and the last batch of flyers are still at large without an expiration date, it would be wise to use a different color or code for your next batch. This offers a way to measure your ROI separate from your first batch of flyers especially if you modified it in hopes to improve the redemption rate.
If you’re planning a special event to boost sales then your marketing strategy should be measured by the sales at your event. Unless of course you’ve created coupons that you distributed at that event then the sales from using those coupons should also contribute to your event’s overall ROI analysis for this particular event.
If you’ve hired a third party marketing service provider then they should typically have metrics for their proposed service. If not, then it is your duty to establish the metrics before they begin their work. You want to be clear on what it is they need to accomplish and how you can justify paying for their services. Sometimes, the metrics isn’t a monetary value. Sometimes all you want is 1,000 more clicks or 100 more comments or 10 more click thrus to your website. Your metrics should not stop there. You have to challenge your strategy turn clicks and comments into dollars.
One of the common errors in this process is expecting too much, too soon. Let’s take for example a salon that had little to no social media engagement. The first few social media metrics should focus more on increasing engagement for the first two to four months. As a business, you have to earn the buy-ins of your potential customers on social media first. They have to understand your message, witness your consistency, and have clarity on what your offer and core competencies are. The first two to four months should be about showing examples, reviews, “before and after”, and other informational photos or videos about hair or beauty in general. Remember that people don’t want to be sold to but they are always ready to buy.
After the first two to four months of adjusting and perfecting your social media content, you can then start soft selling and adding marketing metrics to your methods. How many of your customers are really coming from the digital efforts that you are making? Set a goal to see at least one new customer per week from your social media efforts at first. Then continue to drive that conversion rate of followers versus actual customers.
Another way to take it a step further is to always strive to improve your ROI. If your first campaign yielded $1,000 ROI then shoot to yield $1,500 on your next ROI analysis. This is one way to prove that what you are doing is working and that your business is growing.
- AVOIDING SOCIAL MEDIA AND ANY OTHER TREND
Let me break it down to you gently… according to smallbiztrends.com:
- 97% of online adults age 1-64 say they have visited or used a social media network within the last month.
- Internet users have an average of 7 social accounts, up from 3 in 2012.
- Around 1 in every 3 minutes is devoted to social media and if they aren’t on there to keep up with friends, they are reading news or simply passing time.
Why would you not want to be a part of this daily cycle?
If you’re on social media for personal reasons and not investing your time learning how to use it for business then you are doing yourself a disservice. It is not because you do not know how. It is because you refuse to invest your time. Notice that I used the word invest and that’s because there is definitely a return in the equation.
Understanding social media is vital. Everyone is doing it and it has been successful for those who have learned it. Don’t be that person who finally figured out social media when everyone else has moved on to the next trend.
Keeping up with the trends is important in the marketing world. Society loves to keep up with the trend and your business must be flexible enough to follow the right trend. Social Media has been the main trend in the last few years. It has brought us different micro-trends like Facebook business pages, Twitter hashtags, Instagram stories, Snap Chat, Vine, YouTube and so much more. Apps have been created to help supplement your social media content like photo editing apps, video editing apps, image animation, Flipagram, filters and geofilters, automation and more! Read my blog on the top 10 apps you should download to help you with social media management at sweeneymae.com.
People are always fascinated by what’s trendy. They can’t escape it. Given that not every trend is the right fit for your brand, you should find a way to stay on top of it and consistently evaluate quickly if you should jump on the bandwagon or not. One of the best ways to keep up with the trend is to follow national and trendy brands. Subscribe to newsletters that can give you access to what is new in your market or your industry.
Keep up with the right trend and don’t get left behind. Avoiding social media and digital trends will only make you that much more behind in comparison with your competitors. Furthermore, you may lose prospective customers and visibility if you are not utilizing the social media space simply because your competitors are!
- LACK OF TARGET MARKET DEFINITIONS
Defining your brand and target market is one of the first tasks you must accomplish at the start of your business. It is and should be a part of your marketing plan. Most entrepreneurs rely on the fact that they know who their target market is and don’t feel the need to articulate it in writing.
Defining your target is more than just saying that they are “women age 35 – 60”. You need to be able to eloquently tell a story about who they are, what they do, how much they make, what kind of lifestyle they live, what they do on their spare time, what means of communication they use, what they believe in, what other brands they align themselves with, where they live, who their friends are, what possible reason they have to purchase your product, and so much more.
Some entrepreneurs would admit that they’re target is anyone who would want their business. The problem with that is you are robbing yourself of the opportunity to communicate specifically to your audience when you advertise. If you don’t know who you are talking to how could you possibly know what to say?
You need to elaborate a story about your target market as a reference for your employees, your possible investors, your contractors, and even for yourself. It’s so easy to get lost in the day to day activities of your business and forget who you are really serving. That’s right, I said “serving”. As a business, you have created products that serve a specific demographic and it’s easy to lose sight of who they are if you don’t have it written down.
Also keep in mind that you are allowed to have multiple target market. If you have a clear distinction between your targets then you must describe them separately and include different tactics for both audience. The more you are able to customize your message, the easier it is for your audience to be able to relate to you. This is called market segmentation.
Think of it like this, your target market speaks a foreign language and you need to be able to communicate in a way that grabs their attention. You wouldn’t speak Chinese to a German crowd, would you? Same goes for your audience, a 22 years old woman will most likely communicate differently than a 55 years old woman. They’re not even in the same generation!
Defining your target market should take as much effort as designing your brand. After all, you wouldn’t be successful without your customers. Once you have defined your target market, your next step is to establish a list of ways on how you can successfully reach them. How can you design a campaign or strategy that can get them to invest in your product? How will your product improve their lives? Why would they buy into your company?
- LACK OF BRAND MESSAGE DEFINITION AND POSITIONING
Your brand message is the foundation of your company. Why does your company exist? Why would anyone purchase your products or services? What does your company stand for? What type of personality will your brand embody? What are your core values? What type of employees are you looking to hire? How do your products and/or services compare to others (brand positioning)? If your brand message is vague, it will make it difficult for your employees to sell, for your partners to help, for your customers to refer others, and most importantly for your business to grow.
Your brand message is the image that you create for your potential customers because perception is reality. When someone new visits your website or social media pages what image do they see? What tone of voice does your brand use? The first question you’ll need to be able to convey right away is what is your service or product then who is it for or what problem does it solve? With so many distractions online, customers want to be able to identify those two important messages before spending any more time on your website or social media pages. The next message that you need to convey is why your service or product is better than your competition (positioning). What is your competitive value? Is it better service, nature-friendly, charitable, or cost efficient?
You can also include your tagline or mission statement within your brand message. Another important element is creating a personality for your brand. This can help determine the tone of voice you use on your website and social media content. Will your brand use trendy lingo, comedic tone, or formal/professional tone? Your brand message and positioning will set the tone for the rest of your company. It can help you determine what type of employees to hire, what kind of organizations to collaborate with, what type of events to host, and most importantly, what type of service to offer.
The fastest way to lose your customer is through inconsistency. Customers expect consistent delivery of your brand message, quality of your service and products. Imagine having someone follow you as you drive to a destination. It would be difficult to follow if you are inconsistent with your speed and direction with sudden turns and lack of turn signals. You can really loose them and worst, they may give up following you and just turn around and go elsewhere.
Social media makes it more convenient for customers to provide and share reviews about your business. Customers are more apt to spend more time elaborating a bad experience over a good one. They will film and post a video to discourage anyone else from doing business with your company in the future. Customers take their treatment very personal because they understand that they can take their money somewhere else and choosing your brand means you have an obligation to serve them. When customers’ feelings are hurt, they
When your brand message is inconsistent, your customers will get confused and confusion is the prelude to frustration. Be clear on what your brand is about, what you stand for, what you promise to deliver and deliver what you actually promise.
Inconsistency is also reflected in the little things like the flyers you create, the social media images your upload, the type of information you publish. Have you ever stopped to appreciate the fact that Target or Walmart store layouts are similar across the country? You know what you are getting yourself into when you enter their store. You spend money buying concert tickets to your favorite celebrities because you know what to expect. You are scarred for life the moment they disappoint you. If you are super loyal, you will keep giving them chances but think about what it took to get someone to be in that superior level of loyalty? I bet it took years of consistency. Customers will not give you loyalty after one, two, or three amazing experiences. You are lucky if customers even show you loyalty these days. There are just so many options available and your best chance of customer loyalty is delivering consistent high quality service, value and product.
- REFUSING TO SET A BUDGET
The most common and silent misconception, I find, is that small business owners think that budgets are only for established corporations. I referred to it as silent because no one really says it out loud but that is the sense I get when I advise people to set a budget.
Start with $100 a month if you’re skeptical. What’s $100 in one month anyway? You probably spend that on coffee, junk food and other frivolous things. Besides, marketing expenses are write offs for your business. Start with $100 per month for your digital marketing budget. Use that money to boost your posts on Facebook, Instagram, or try Google ad words.
Be strategic with how you are spending your marketing budget. At first you won’t really know what will work so feel free to try something and be sure to track the results. At the end of your campaign ask yourself what did your money kick back in return? Did you gain more likes? Did you receive more inquiries on your services? Did you get more sales? Did you meet more new customers at your event? Keep a record of how much you spent, what you spent it on and what the return of your investment is. Keep making adjustments until you gain more confidence with what works for you and it won’t be because you are guessing. It will be because you have tried and tested it. There is nothing more rewarding than knowing exactly what you are doing and that there’s a method to your madness. You will only reach that point if you allow yourself to go through a trial and error phase.
Marketing is one of the largest principles in business management. It involves a lot of creativity and patience that most entrepreneurs just don’t have time for. By remembering the seven (7) deadly sins that you must avoid, I am confident that it can help improve your ROI.