#17 10 Marketing Mistakes Tanking Your Small Business
Updated: Oct 21, 2019
Full Disclosure: Before I get into these common advertising blunders, I want you to know that we’ve ALL done them. (Myself included.) Most business owners are GREAT at their craft, but have never received any professional marketing training. (And that’s why I have a job.) So don’t beat yourself up if you’re currently making a few of these blunders, they’re easy to fix.
1. Not advertising at all. I’ve spent the last 15 years working with small business owners and this one never ceases to amaze me. There’s a lot of small business owners who think, “If I build it, they will come.” (That only happens in Kevin Costner movies about baseball.)
Not advertising at all, or thinking people will just flock to your business because you hang an “open” sign on the door is naïve at best. Think of it this way. You’re throwing birthday party. You buy the cake and decorations but you NEVER send out the invitations. Advertising is the invitation. Your business is the party. Invite people to your party.
2. Lack of consistent advertising. Ok, so you open the business, send out the invitations and people come to your party. Then, you stop sending out the invitations. I mean, they know where you are, and came to your party once, shouldn’t they just “know” to come back? NOOOOOOOO.
Your business is a ‘party’ that doesn’t just happen ‘once’ a year. It happens every day you’re open, which means you need to consistently invite people in. Why? Because they forget about you. (Shocker, I know.) Plus, they’re distracted by all the other cool parties they’re getting invited to. Advertising is a journey, not a one stop destination.
3. Relying solely on word of mouth. Look, unless you’ve been in business for YEARS and work ONLY off referrals because you’re so in demand that you can’t possibly take on ANY more customers, fine. Skip this one.
But for the rest of you (probably 98%) here’s your reality check. No one cares about your business more than you. And people, for the most part, will NOT go out of their way to initiate a discussion about your business. (Unless it’s bad OR it benefits them.) Sure, it may come up in conversation, (someday), but as the business owner you have NO control over that. Unless you offer some form of reward. But make sure it's a GOOD reward. Don't offer a $5 off coupon for a $100 service.
People who tell me, “Word of mouth is the best form of advertising,” are right. But it’s also the SLOWEST...AND it can work against you. Studies show that people are more likely to tell their friends, (and anyone else who will listen aka social media), when they have a BAD experience than when they have a good one. Also, people lie. Don't rely on other people to 'get the word out.'
4. Buying Stupid Advertising. I once went into a restaurant who had invested in a huge quantity of BUMPER STICKERS. (Big ones too, the kind that stick to your car like superglue.) When I left, they offered me one to put on my car to help them advertise their business. Uhhh, no thanks. I don’t even put my kid’s HONOR ROLL stickers on my car. (I hang them up in house where everyone who visits my home office can see. Yes, I’m THAT mom.)
As a business owner, you will get hit up for EVERYTHING. Just use common sense. Ask yourself, is this REALLY the best way to spend my money? If you’re not sure, call me. (And because I felt awkward saying no, I took their stupid bumper sticker home. Then I threw it away.)
5. Spreading your budget too thin. Pick a form of traditional mass media, (1 radio station for instance), and stick to it. Doing a ‘little here and a little there’ only makes YOU feel like you’re reaching “everybody.” But you’re not. In fact, it will only slow the process down. It might make YOU feel better mentally when you don’t have “all your eggs in one basket” but the truth is: repetition is key. Don’t believe me? Ask your kid to clean his room. Does he do it on the first ask? Didn’t think so.
Your customers are kids in grown-up bodies. You CAN’T be repetitive if you are doing a ‘little here and a little there’. Advertising Legend Bill Bernbach famously asked, “Would you rather reach 100% of the people and convince them 10% of the way, or reach 10% of the people and convince them 100% of the way?” (The last one is faster.)
6. Jumping from one medium to the next. If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a 1,000 times. “I TRIED radio/newspaper/TV/fACEBOOK and it didn’t work.” Usually, what didn’t work about it is you didn’t stick with it long enough. With nearly every form of advertising, there’s a “chickening out phase”. (In radio it’s usually 3 months.)
Pick one, be consistent and do it right. (By doing it right I mean, choose the right schedule, make your advertising persuasive, etc.) Chances are you’re quitting too soon, your ads suck, (not your fault…blame that one on your rep), or you didn’t purchase the right schedule.
7. Boring ads. Today, we live in an Attention Economy. (Attention is a resource. And your customer only has so much of it.) Your copywriting, whether it’s for traditional media, social or online media HAS TO GET ATTENTION. This means, be creative and authentic. (Or hire someone who is.)
And for the love of everything good, DON’T USE CLICHÉS. (Friendly, knowledgeable staff,for all you blah blah needs…YUCK.) Lead with your customer’s pain, follow up with how YOU stop that pain, and show them what their life will look like after they do business with you. Then give them a call to action. (Call now. Visit our website. Stop in today.)
8. Over promise, under deliver. Advertising must match the customer experience. If you advertise the “BEST TASTING COFFEE IN THE WORLD”, it better live up to it. Be you. Focus on your strengths. Be genuine. If you run a sandwich shop but your advertising reflects a fine dining experience, you’re going to lose people fast.
9. Only advertising on mediums YOU like. YOU are not your customer. We’re not trying to convince YOU to buy from YOU. Most people think, “Well…if I listen to this station, everyone else must.” OR let’s go even deeper. Psychologically, when we see, hear or read our own ads, it reassures us somehow that everyone else is seeing it too. (Nope.)
Figure out WHO your customers are, and talk to them, where they hang out. If it happens to be where you hang out, fine. But if it doesn’t, don’t assume that just because YOU listen to a certain radio station or YOU don’t use Facebook that nobody else does.
10. Advertising where your competitors do. As a business owner, you’re competitive by nature. Advertising sales people will use this against you. They’ll say, “ABC Company (aka your biggest threat) is doing it…” or they’ll passive-aggressively bring in their newspaper as an example or show you a website that just “happens” to have an ad from your archnemesis right where you can see it.
Don’t fall for that crap. They’re doing the same thing to the other guy/gal. Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated into making advertising decisions based on what OTHER people are doing. Do it because it’s good for your business, not for your ego. Besides, why fish in the same pond everyone else is fishing in?