Ten Marketing Mistakes Small Businesses Make

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Ten Marketing Mistakes Small Businesses Make

How do you judge the effectiveness of your small business marketing efforts? Easy...does it produce results? Great looking ads, fancy logos and flashy web sites are worthless if they don't bring business to your door. This list of 10 common marketing mistakes can help you produce better results.

1. Not Having a Clearly Defined USP.
Do you want to fit in or stand out? In order to thrive in today's cluttered marketplace, every business owner must be able to clearly articulate an answer to the question, "Why should someone do business with you rather than your competitor?" "What makes you unique? Your answer to these questions constitutes your Unique Selling Proposition. Do you offer 24-hour, 7 day a week service? Do you offer the lowest price? Do you offer a no risk guarantee? A strong USP helps you to stand out in a crowded field.

2. Selling Features Rather than Benefits.
Someone once said, "No one ever bought a drill bit. Millions of people have bought a hole" People don't buy features, they buy benefits. They are tuned into Radio Station W.I.I.F.M. (What's in it for me?) Tell them clearly how the features of your product/service will help them, make their life easier, etc.  

3. Not using headlines in print advertisements.
You have at most a couple of seconds to grab someone's attention when they read a newspaper, magazine etc. Using an attention-grabbing headline ensures that the reader will continue to read the rest of the advertisement. The headline is an ad for the ad. Take a look at some newspaper ads. Which ones attract your attention? You will probably find they have utilized an effective headline.  

4. Not testing headlines, price points, packages, pitches, everything.
How do you know what ad, what price, what offer most appeals to customers? By putting them to a vote. Test everything. Rather than running one newspaper ad for three weeks, why not run three different ads for three weeks and measure which draws better? Rather than putting all your advertising into newspaper, why not split between newspaper and direct mail and measure the results? Why not price your products/services at different points and see which sells more? Is cheaper always better? Not necessarily. Each situation is unique. One price may outperform another for a myriad of reasons. Your job is not to know why, but to find what works. Test, test, test.

5. Making it difficult to do business with you.
Are your sales staff knowledgeable about your products? Does someone answer your phone promptly and in a friendly manner? Can people find your phone number, location? Can customers find things easily in your store? Put yourselves in your customer's shoes. Don't make them work-they won't. I've seen a web site that undoubtedly cost the company thousands of dollars and NOWHERE could I find a phone number or email address. Your customer has better things to do than struggle to do business with you.

6. Not finding out what your customer's needs are.
What is the first step in filling your customer's needs? Discovering what they are. What's most important to them? Don't even try to guess. You may think price is most important when what they really want is fast service. You may believe fast service is what they want when what they desperately want is a friendly, personal touch. How do you find out? People won't tell you unless you ask. So ask.

7. Not maintaining an up to date customer database.
Your customer list is pure gold. Rather than always working to bring new customers in the door, why not take advantage of the good will you have already built with your existing clientele? Experiment with extending special offers to your customer base. Ask for referrals. Send them a card on their birthday. Call and ask what they most enjoyed about doing business with you (or what they disliked doing business with you). You worked hard to develop these relationships. Recognize their value and work hard to "re-delight" them.

8. Not eliminating the risk.
What stops a customer from buying from you? Are they unsure that your offer is worth their hard-earned money? Make it easy to decide to buy from you. How can you reduce their risk? If you are in a service business, let them try your service at no cost. If you are a lawyer or consultant offer them a free consultation. Offer them a money back, no questions asked guarantee on any product they buy. Why not? Are you afraid people will take advantage of you? Give it a try for a month. You may be very pleasantly surprised. Not confident in your product or service? Then go to work on improving your service.

9. Not educating your customers
Don't just claim that your service is better. Explain why. Are your staff better trained? Do you utilize a technology that increases service turnaround or quality? Don't expect people to just take your word for things. Quality, Service and Value mean nothing. Everyone claims to offer these. Make these claims real for the customer by offering credible explanations why they should do business with you.

10. Not knowing what works, and sticking with it.
Do you know which ads are effective? What media pulls best? What offer gets the best reaction? By testing (see above) you will. When you find something that works, don't change it until you find something that works better. Just because you're sick of an ad/offer isn't a good enough reason to change it. You can supplement with other ads and offers. If it works, keep it.














In ninety percent of all cases, a person's first contact with your business or organization will occurs when your receptionist answers the phone. In addition, your receptionist will greet all of your customers and clients every time they walk in the door. Most organizations, however, look at receptionists as the low rung on the ladder, pay the position barely more than minimum wage, and then wonder why they have an unending stream of bad receptionists who create a poor firs impression. Give priority to hiring a bright, friendly, energetic, well-mannered, and unflappable person for the job and then pay enough to keep that person for a long time.


You receptionist should be more than a greeter. He/she should be able to instantly direct clients and customers to whoever can best serve their needs. Therefore, be sure your receptionist is thoroughly familiar with the work that each company member does and what types of clients or customers each work with. In addition, your receptionist should have a list of key referrals; i.e., personal injury inquiries go to Jane Smith, sales inquiries go to John Doe, etc. This will let the public know immediately that yours is an efficient organization catering to client and customer needs. Finally,your receptionist should never be eating lunch or reading a magazine at the front desk. Find other more productive tasks for the times when the phone is not ringing.


While voice mail has been a technological blessing, make no mistake about it. THE PUBLIC HATES VOICE MAIL. Every client and customer will tell you the same thing: each wants to talk to a real person who can solve their problem as soon as possible.Therefore, keep all voice mails brief and informative. Your voice mail when your receptionist is unavailable should only be used when your office is closed. It should concisely state the name of your business, your office hours, and welcome the caller to leave a message or call back during regular business hours. It should also give your fax number for those wishing to send a fax. If you are using voice mail frequently during the day, then you do not have enough phone lines and you should make arrangements to add additional lines. If your staff members have voice mail, it should be changed daily and briefly state when the staff member will be in the office and reachable. It should also invite the caller to leave a message or return to the operator. ALWAYS GIVE THE CALLER THE OPTION TO SPEAK TO SOMEONE REAL. Again, this says we care about serving you more than any voice mail message will.


Despite the belief of many lawyers, doctors, and other professionals, you do not need fancy offices with expensive furniture and art works to impress the public. In fact, many members of the public know that such overhead is worked into the monthly fee and would prefer not to be paying for your art work. A lobby needs only a few things to make a good first impression. Make sure your furniture, including the receptionist's area, is comfortable, attractive and in good shape. No bright purple chairs, scratched and dented furniture, or bizarre art. Give it good lighting. Be sure the carpet is not overly worn and clean. Add a few green plants and some good prints on the walls. Magazines should be available which are informative, but not gossipy. Time, Newsweek, Self, Sports Illustrated are all appropriate. The National Enquirer is not. Finally, be sure there is some literature, such as a brochure, that tells what you do and how well you do it. The client or customer can then learn about your business before he/she ever shakes your hand.


No, hallways are not storage areas, no matter how short on space you are. Again, be sure your carpet is clean and not well worn. Add some inexpensive, but lovely prints to the walls. Remember that your clients and customers will walk down these hallways every time they see you so the hallways are as important as the lobby space.


Your client has walked through your attractive lobby and halls.The client now walks into Jane Smith's office and sees a desk littered with paper, files everywhere, and Jane has to hunt for a pad and pen to begin taking notes on what the client needs. Is your client impressed? No. Is your client confident that Jane can take care of his/her needs in an orderly and efficient manner? Absolutely not. Will your client remember Jane's disorganization when she neglects to adequately serve him/her? You bet. Therefore, instill in each staff member that their office is a reflection of the respect they accord their clients, customers, and themselves. You r public image will not only grow, but as a bonus, your staff will be more productive as well.



Clients and customers immediately sense tension in the air. Moreover, an unhappy employee, let alone several, will never convey a positive image for your business.Therefore, take reasonable steps to be sure your staff both enjoys and takes pride in their work. The president or manager should provide the staff with positive reinforcement on a regular basis and good work should be rewarded both financially and emotionally for its contribution to the company's success.These steps will produce employees who quite naturally convey a positive image for the company and easily attract and keep clients and customers.


Again, fancy is not necessary or necessarily better. A service organization should convey that they simply and efficiently respond to a client's needs. Letterhead and business cards, therefore, don't need complex logos or gold embossed printing. Instead, use a good stationary stock. Cheap paper will communicate that you cut corners with quality. Then, use a standard ink color such as black, navy, brown, or burgundy. Your letterhead must tell a client how to reach you. It should contain your company's name, address, phone, fax, and e-mail. If you have a web page, your web address should appear as well. It should say what you do; i.e., "Detail Management - Event producers and Organizers." If you must have a logo, keep it simple so that it does not overwhelm the information about who you are and what you do. Have matching envelopes. In addition, the same rules apply to business cards.


No initial public impression lasts for long. Whether your business or organization maintains a positive impression depends on the service rendered to the client or customer. Therefore, anticipate your customers needs and fulfill them before you are asked. Add value to your service on a regular basis. Most importantly, communicate constantly with your clients and customers. Return phone calls within 24 hours. Inform them when something important has occurred which impacts the client and/or the client's business. Think about the professional who serves you best and emulate that service to your clients and customers. Your clients will then augment your first impression by their last impression: a service organization that not only serves, but serves well. As a result, you will find your business growing and prospering.


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