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How to Avoid the 7 Worst Marketing Mistakes Small Businesses Make


In my previous role as VP of Marketing in the corporate arena, and in the past 10 years of advising entrepreneurs and small businesses in their marketing efforts (and in my own business), I’ve seen great marketing strategies and tactics implemented, as well as terrible ones. In tough economic times like these, as in all times, small businesses must be very prudent in their investments and marketing, and understand exactly what to expect in terms of their return on investment.

Below are the top seven marketing blunders I see each and every day that are catastrophic to small business success:

1) Your business model is flawed

I’ve worked with scores of coaches, consultants and advisers over the years who’ve made the mistake of jumping into a new business that depends solely on one model that will never work for them – a model that can’t provide sustainable, consistent income or support what these business owners truly want to do in their work.

For example, many types of coaches are dependent on the hourly-payment model (getting clients who pay by the hour for sessions), yet are not able to generate enough clients each month to pay their bills. Look at your model and do the math – if you’re stuck with a model that’s not working, don’t keep your head stuck in the sand. Open your eyes to what your situation is telling you. You need new ways to generate income – different services, formats, approaches, products and programs that offer your expertise in new ways that will provide ongoing, consistent revenue. If you keep doing what isn’t working, you’ll fail miserably.

2) Your focus is misplaced

In my workshops and seminars, I commonly hear entrepreneurs obsessed with concerns about blogging, twitter, Facebook and other social media endeavors, when they don’t have a way to earn money in their business. Don’t focus your time on social media or building an audience before you’ve figured out what you’re doing in your business — what you want to provide, offer, or sell. Get clear on your offers first and creating viable products and services. Then you can worry about tweeting and blogging.

3) Your audience is a mismatch

Another serious marketing problem is that the audience you’ve attracted – through your writing, speaking, or services - is not the audience or community you need or want. I’ve seen examples of new coaches, for instance, who aren’t sustaining themselves through one-on-one coaching, so they decide to offer high-end mastermind group coaching programs ($50,000 for an 6-month mastermind, for example) because they see others do it. They expect to send out a newsletter to their audience, and instantly generate 10 customers at this level. But it doesn’t work this way (despite what scores of “millionaire” success coaches promise if you buy their services.) For your high-end programs to work, you must have an audience that wants it and can afford it. You also have to have created a fabulous program that is worth that price tag (in its outcomes and value the customer receives).

As one who believes that everything is “energy,” I’ve seen that you must also be able to resonate energetically with a sense of worthiness and value in order to earn the level of money you want (check out Gay Hendricks great book The Big Leap to learn about the “upper limit problem” so many people experience). If you have internal fears and doubts about the value of your programs, you won’t be able to attract great fees.

Finally, you need access to a large enough audience that will resonate with your products, pricing, and your particular service benefits. This doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t just throw out an expensive product and expect folks to flock to it just because you’ve created it.

4) You don’t like what you’ve created

Another serious marketing mistake is that you’ve decided to focus on a service offering or a customer base that you simply don’t like, because you thought you had to. I can’t count the number of small businesses I’ve advised around this issue, and how distraught the owner is in the realization that what she’s created is now the wrong fit for what she wants to do in the world. If you hate what you’ve built and who you’re serving, you have two choices – continue supporting something that is no longer aligned with your values and preferences, or change directions. Which do you think makes the most sense? (Here’s a tip – if you hate your customers or what you’re doing in the world, it will hate you back).

5) Your pricing is off

Pricing of your programs and products is not about what you want to earn – it’s about what the market will bear, as well as the perceived value of what you’re offering. You may think your product is life-changing or the best thing since sliced bread, but if it’s simply too expensive or ill-fitted for the audience you’re reaching, you won’t get it off the ground.

6) Your services don’t stand out

In every business or consulting arena, you’re in a global economy, competing against the best of the best in the world. You have to know specifically what makes your products and services better, different, unique than everything that’s out there, and be adept at communicating that. Why should anyone care about what you have to offer, and how can you prove — and validate — that what you have is truly different or better? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you won’t succeed in this highly competitive terrain.

7) You lack the readiness and willingness to do what’s required

Marketing your business (or your book, product, service, etc.) is a full-time job. If you’re not willing to do it, you have to hire someone who is or get marketing support in another way. People won’t just flock to you, with cash in their hands. You have to earn their trust and respect over time, through engagement, service, information, and relationship-building. And you need ambassadors for your work as well. You can’t do this alone and in a vacuum.

How to avoid these seven marketing mistakes?

Start by answering the following questions. If you don’t have the answers, go back to the drawing board and figure them out before you take one more step in your business:

  1. What is your platform – how do you get the word out about your products/services?
  2. What is your audience – the size, and their geographic, demographic and psychographic profiles?
  3. How can you grow your audience substantially? What is your reach and how do you spread the word about your work?
  4. Who is in your loyal community (colleagues, peers and supporters) and how can you build it – who are your committed ambassadors who will share the news about your great business and offerings?
  5. What makes your services and products different, better, unique than anything else on the market?
  6. Are your services, pricing, and offerings a match to the people who know about you and care about what you’re doing?
  7. What is your personal brand – what unique experience do you deliver and what is your business known for — emotionally, aesthetically and functionally?

If you care about making your small business work, don’t spend another minute wasting money, time and energy on directions that won’t be fruitful. Find an adviser or support system that can guide you through the landmines of entrepreneurial life, and help you achieve what you want to, and earn the money you need, while making the difference you long to.

Tags: Entrepreneurship Small Business

Kathy Caprino

Kathy Caprino

Kathy Caprino, M.A. is a nationally-recognized career success coach, writer, trainer and speaker dedicated to the advancement of women in business. She is the author of Breakdown, Breakthrough:The Professional Woman’s…
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