Running your own business can be incredibly exciting and rewarding, but navigating the marketing minefield whilst making the most of essential funds can be a daunting prospect. I come across many businesses making marketing mistakes that are easily avoidable – here are ten of the most common.
Let’s get stuck straight in…
1. Understand your customers
A lot of businesses kick-start their marketing with a shiny new website before they’ve given proper consideration as to who their customers are. If you don’t know who you are talking to, then how can you hope to include messages in your marketing and website copy that attracts their attention and resonates with them?
If you don’t want your website’s bounce rates to go through the roof, then it’s essential that you invest time in a customer profiling exercise. You need to make sure everything in your marketing toolkit appeals to your target audience. So think about what sex and age they are; where they shop; what they read; what they like to do; what brands they buy, what social media they use etc. Build up a detailed profile or profiles – depending on how many target markets you have. The important thing is to always keep them at the forefront of your mind so that all your marketing messages hit the right note – first time.
Create customer profiles for your target audience
2. You before I
One of the biggest marketing blunders you can make is to focus your marketing messages on what you do, as opposed to what you can do for your customers. Marketing isn’t just a big trumpet-blowing exercise. Your audience needs to identify with what you’re saying and see the advantages of using your product or service. That’s why you need to use ‘you’ and ‘your’ far more than you talk about ‘I’ and ‘we’.
For example, don’t write ‘we do this because it’ or ‘our amazing widget has this feature’. Instead focus on the customer and messages such as, ‘this will give you’, ‘this will help you’, ‘this will enable you to’. A general rule of thumb is to use ‘you’ and ‘your’ four times more than you use ‘I’ or ‘we’.
What are the advantages of your product/service to your customers?
Review your copy: how often do you use ‘you’ and ‘your’?
3. Evolve your website
A good website is absolutely essential. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune and creating one isn’t as scary as it may seem. However, if you’re short on time and you need help to design and build your site, then it’s worth investing in the services of an established and reputable company that offers web design services. Why? Because you want your website to last and that will mean fixing glitches, adding to it and adapting it in the future. You need your trusted partner to be there to help and support you, otherwise you will end up having to fork out for a new site earlier than anticipated.
Review your website: is there anything that could do with a refresh?
If you don’t wish to make website updates yourself, have you found a trusted partner?
4. Use a content management system
If you’re not willing to make website updates yourself (see above), it’s probably because you haven’t got a good content management system (CMS). A CMS allows you to easily edit the content on a website without the need for any technical skills (the level of ease depends on the CMS in question). And being able to easily add and change content is important: not only is it great for search engine optimisation (SEO), you don’t want to have to wait for someone to make the updates for you, or to have to pay them to do it. If you’re building a website for the first time, consider what the website is being built with (a common and easily edited CMS is WordPress). If you already have a website: is there a CMS? Do you have access to it?
5. Get strategic – not scattergun
Many businesses focus their initial marketing efforts on designing a logo and building a website. They then dabble a little in social media and investigate advertising opportunities before baulking at the cost and looking around for other ways to promote their business.
There are many ways to market your business, but one thing is for sure, a scattergun approach doesn’t work. It will only waste time and money. Putting together a 6-12 month marketing plan is time-consuming, but it pays dividends. What your plan entails will depend very much on your business and your target audience. So first things first, make sure you’ve done your customer profiling exercise (see point 1). Then you can start to plan which channels you’re going to use to reach your customers, where you’re going to allocate budget, and what your messages need to be.
Plan which channels you’ll use to target your customers
Allocate a budget against each channel
Brainstorm messaging to use in your marketing
Compile the above into a 6-12 month marketing plan
6. Test & measure
If you don’t track the results of your marketing activities, then you’re never really going to know what is working, what needs adapting and what needs ditching. Marketing is a moveable feast. You’re definitely not going to get it right the first time and even when you think you’ve got into your groove and are getting good results, you can’t get complacent. A new competitor could pop-up at any time and take your market share. That’s why it’s so important to test and measure. How you do this will depend on your marketing activities, but it should definitely involve tracking your website traffic with Google Analytics.
Set up Google Analytics on your website
What will you measure to evaluate ‘success’?
7. Get customer feedback
The worst thing an unhappy customer can do is to simply walk away, silently resolving not to repeat the experience, or to remain unhappy until an alternative option entices them away. If they walk, you have not only lost the possibility of repeat business, but also your best source of referrals, and most importantly, the opportunity to make improvements to the way you do business. You’ve got to agree, those are three extremely powerful reasons to ask your customers for their feedback.
How you obtain feedback will depend on your business. You might try an automated customer survey; a focus group or advisory board, or you may just have a chat over a cuppa. The important thing is to understand what they’re not happy with, so you can make changes before they walk.
Brainstorm ideas on how you can obtain customer feedback
8. Focus on customer retention
Every business will lose customers along the way, but too many accept it with a ‘you win some, you lose some’ attitude. They concentrate all their time and effort on generating new customers when by far the easiest way to grow a business is to not lose customers in the first place.
A major part of your marketing strategy should, therefore, focus on customer retention. If your customers are happy with your product or service, not only will they keep coming back, but they are likely to bring you new customers, especially if you actively encourage them to do so. You need to:
- Make sure their expectations were met.
- Make sure they were satisfied with their experience and the result.
- Make sure they are frequently reminded of the value of your product or service.
How can you encourage repeat purchases? Think about your available resources and channels (e.g.social media and email marketing.)
9. Commit time
A lot of businesses give up on marketing because they don’t see results as soon as they’d like. It might well be because they’re not testing and measuring, but it is more than likely that they’re being too impatient. It takes time to create a buzz around a brand, product or service. Building credibility, trust and a good reputation are not going to happen overnight. Don’t stop marketing because you’re not seeing results. Marketing requires dedicated time and commitment. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a full-time job, but it isn’t something you can simply set-up and leave to run on its own.
Dedicate a certain amount of time each week to your marketing
10. Ask for help or advice
Running your own business is incredibly exciting and fulfilling, but there are plenty of times when it can also be lonely and overwhelming. Start-ups and small business owners are expected to wear so many hats that they simply don’t have the skills for. Finding a local mentor to support and advise you or joining a local business network is a great way to tap into a wealth of valuable resource and knowledge. Networks provide a brilliant forum for offloading, learning tips, sharing experiences and getting advice. You might even be lucky enough to find a business mentor through your network.
Explore your support channels – can you join a local business network?