If you are a small or mid-size business owner, you are most likely working early mornings and late nights to keep everything in motion. As a result, there is less time and resources for marketing, strategy, and growth planning since you have little margin for error and just try to keep things rubber side down.
No marketing plan will guarantee increased customer retention or profitability; however, not having a plan will limit your earning potential and success. According to Investopedia, one of the most common reasons companies fail is poor marketing and web presence. In a difficult climate where 20% of new businesses shutter in the first two years, and only 25% make it to 15 years or more, you need to play all of the cards available for sustainable success. The way people research, engage, and select service providers or companies to do business with has changed in the last ten years, and your marketing strategy may not have kept up with the trends. Here are seven common mistakes that I have seen and how you can remedy them.
01 Your Business Plan Has Problems… or Worse!
Perhaps your company has veered off course from your initial vision or business plan, or maybe your founding principles have become outdated through growth, time, or acquisitions. However, the reality of not having a clear focus on your brand, mission, identifiable goals, benchmarks, and corporate culture will limit your company’s agility.
What To Do
Find a coach or program to help you methodically assess your current operations, goals, and conduct a SWOT analysis along with a complete marketing review to check for alignment. From there, individuals like myself will help you refocus and rebrand aspects of your business or, if needed, a complete restructuring for strategic, well-calculated investments of time and resources that allow you to meet your potential.
02 You Don’t Study the Competition
Knowing what services or amenities your competition offers potential customers is equally important as understanding your strengths and unique benefits. Market research will help you investigate gaps in the market, areas of oversaturation, and opportunities where you can leave your mark.
What To Do
Analyze your business plan for the service(s) and value that you deliver to customers. Then, research the top competition for each of those areas in your local area. Look for differences and then hone in on those. For example, if you are an automotive dealership and two of your strongest competitors do not offer weekend service hours, yet you all have a customer shuttle service, what else can you do? To offer weekend service hours, you have to run an analysis of staffing availability and costs. If that is not fiscally feasible, perhaps a value-added convenience of vehicle drop-off and pick-up service within a 15-mile radius will give you enough competitive edge to test customer engagement for a limited time. Know each other’s strengths and weaknesses to leverage your marketability.
03 You Fail to Identify Your Target Audience
Once you have a business plan and conducted a preliminary SWOT analysis, it is critical to know your target audience. It is important to know customer demographics and psychology and understand the marketing channels they utilize the most.
What To Do
Think in terms of a customer persona – a fictional customer who embodies the attributes and characteristics of your target audience. Market research, surveys, and interviews can help you understand your customer base to develop and curate content and brand messaging that appeals to them via their preferred marketing channels.
04 WWW-What? Your Internet Presence is Lacking
While we have all heard the adage “location, location, location” – the same can be said for your location on the Intranet and various social media outlets. Failure to properly market your company online is a sure-fire way to help pad the competition’s wallet.
What To Do
In the same way that you have to know your target audience and align your marketing efforts with traditional media, you must also reach the right audiences online. For example, highway billboards may be a great marketing tool for dealer services, but not so much for a web design firm. Similarly, paid online ads may not benefit a trucking company if it is not the proper outlet. Influencer partnerships may work for some but not all. Build relationships that align with your brand voice and target audience. An online presence is often the first touchpoint for customers in today’s digitally-focused culture. Hence, a robust company website with impactful, SEO-rich content is as important as social media channels. Never neglect having an official web presence to only focus on social media. They work in tandem.
05 You Don’t Crunch the Numbers
Knowing the costs and marketing analytics is crucial for successful campaigns. You have continually analyzed your ROI, keyword optimization, campaign adjustments, and conversion rate to know if your investments are paying off.
What To Do
Create key performance indicators (KPIs) before launching a marketing campaign. Some goals are not easily quantifiable as the quality of leads is essential; however, some metrics help measure traffic, engagement, and conversion. Set a routine schedule to review your cost-per-click and tracking information to seek trends as well as what is working and what is not.
06 You Focus on Obtaining, not Retaining, Customers
Getting a client or customer is one thing; retaining them is entirely different. That service after the sale or an experience that keeps them happy to do business with you is what separates the good from the great. A Harvard economics study on e-loyalty showed that it costs 6x more on average to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one. So let’s go one step further. Repeat e-commerce customers spend more than double what new customers do!
What To Do
Clearly, it pays to focus on retention before conquest accounts. Conquest means growth, but that is secondary to cultivating what you already have. It is crucial to ensure that your current customers are satisfied, feel valued, and will continue to stick with you. Happy customers are also your best marketing resource, as favorable referrals speak volumes louder than paid advertisements. High-quality customer service is not about gimmicks but dependable, high-quality items or services at a fair price. Personalized communication, pleasant interactions, and trust will out-leverage a gift with purchase. Undersell and over-deliver.
07 You Are Afraid to Take Risks
While this may be the minority of small-business owners, this may apply to someone. Entrepreneurs tend to be risk-takers by nature. But perhaps you are in a position where things are going well, and you don’t want to rock the boat. On the other hand, if you are content, you should fear complacency creeping in.
What To Do
Risks do not have to be putting it all on black and letting it ride. Well-researched, scalable risks can still protect your core business operations and allow for growth. So do not make hasty decisions but find opportunities for future growth or revenue streams and put those into your 5-year or 10-year business plan. Growth only happens outside of your comfort zone.
If you find some of these items are areas of opportunity that you wish to improve in your company, feel free to drop me a line to chat more about the next steps available to you to maximize your marketing potential.