The top 10 small business marketing mistakes, Part II

(Part I included the first five mistakes and appeared in last month's Courier.)

Marketing is critical to the success of every business. Unfortunately, many businesses discount the effect it can have, and forego marketing because they believe they can't afford it or simply don't have the time or energy to create a plan. Perhaps this is why a high percentage of small businesses fail. But you don't have to be a statistic when you approach marketing with the importance it deserves.

Mistake No. 6: Not clearly defining your product or services' benefits

Today's highly competitive marketplace is constantly changing and often consumers are confused about the products and services they purchase.

Educating your customer is critical. Defining your product or service benefits is imperative. If you can't put into writing what makes you different from the competition (i.e., local vs. out of state) or what makes your product or service different from the competition (i.e., organic vs. processed), how can a potential customer make an informed decision to buy?

By defining the unique selling proposition for your product/or service, you will help your target audience differentiate you from the competition. Isn't that what you need to do to increase your sales?

Mistake No. 7: Underestimating the value of your existing customer

Most businesses think that the way to increase sales is to focus primarily on new customer acquisition. Unfortunately, this often means poor customer service to existing customers who, if serviced well, could provide a strong revenue stream to keep your business healthy and strong.

Sadly, the lack of good service and communication with an existing customer often means that customer will go elsewhere to find what they need or want. After all, who wants to be taken for granted?

If you want to stay in business and grow it, you must be sure to turn existing customers into lifetime customers. Call to say thank you. Check in to see if there needs are being met. You might feel like you're wasting your time, or being a pest, but ask any customer who stays loyal to a particular company and you'll always get the same answer: "Good customer service! It's why I stay and when I don't have it, it's why I leave." Listen and learn!

Mistake No. 8: Thinking that advertising is marketing

Often small businesses confuse advertising with marketing. Asked how they market their product or service, business owners will tell how they've spent lots of money on advertising but the results have been poor. From experience, I can almost bet that these same people have also committed mistake numbers one and two.

Advertising is not marketing. It is a piece of marketing, but only a small piece. With so many ways to get your product or service out in front of potential customers, advertising should only be considered if 1) You have plenty of disposable money to spend on big ads that can run at least five times to increase your odds of being seen, or 2) You are pooling your money together with other companies with limited funds to provide a variety of services or products that work together or draw from the same customer base.

This is called cooperative advertising and, done well, it is the most effective way to get the biggest bang for your buck.

Mistake No. 9: Ignoring the benefits of public relations

Myth, myth, myth! Public relations is the most inexpensive and effective way to get the word out to your target market that you have a product or service they need and want. Open any newspaper or magazine, listen to any TV or radio show and you'll find that without small business stories, the press would have a limited amount of content to cover.

So how do you become newsworthy? Develop a good story about your business, yourself, your product or service, a customer or your community involvement and send it out as a press release to the appropriate editors, writers or newscasters. You might not get a hit every time, but the more press releases you send (once a month is a good start) the better chance you have for piquing interest and eventually a story will be written.

Mistake No. 10: Expecting too much, too soon

Often, someone just starting a new business will get terribly disappointed because they developed a brochure, ran an ad, attended a networking event or sent out postcards with little response.

To turn a potential customer into a new customer, you must reach out to them with consistent marketing messages (at least six times...more if you're selling a high ticket item) before they feel like they know and trust your company enough to take the risk of purchasing a product or service.

Remember to stay the course, follow your marketing plan and talk to other businesses that have been down the same path you are on. And if you are really unsure of what you are doing, find a business mentor or hire a marketing professional. You may find in avoiding the 10 biggest mistakes small businesses make, you are on your way to success.

Susan Burnash is the Director of Marketing of Residence XII and a marketing consultant. Information: susan@ or 780-9097[[In-content Ad]]