The top 10 small business marketing mistakes

(Part 1 includes the first five mistakes. Part 2 will appear next month.)

Marketing is critical to the success of every business. Unfortunately, many businesses discount the effect it can have, and they 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. Below you will find some of the most common marketing mistakes businesses make. Learn and prosper!

Mistake No. 1: Not developing a marketing plan

Most entrepreneurs or small companies understandably are eager to see a return on the investment of time and money they have made in their business. A business trying to sell a service or product without first creating a marketing plan is much like a marathon runner with no finish line. At first, you may feel like you are moving forward and passing by some of your competitors, but sooner or later, you'll find yourself running in circles, frustrated, exhausted and sadly disillusioned by an idea that not too long ago created the exact opposite effect.

What is a marketing plan and why create one? It is the foundation of your business and helps you design your product and service, identify your target audience and map out a roadmap to head you toward your final destination: success. But equally important, a marketing plan provides the specific details needed to increase visibility, expand your customer base and provide quantifiable methods to measure your return on investment (ROI).

Mistake No. 2: Not planning a marketing budget

Most businesses without a marketing plan also lack a marketing budget. And companies without both have the highest rate of failure. After all, would you run your personal life without a budget? If you said yes, you may be overextended with credit or on the verge of bankruptcy. If you own a small business, this can be avoided by simply creating and living with a well-conceived marketing budget.

From the very beginning, and while you are writing your marketing plan, it is important to focus on the financial costs of implementation.

A general rule of thumb says that at least 10 percent of your revenue should be designated to your marketing efforts. That means dollars specifically pinpointed for Web site design and maintenance, logo design and brand development, marketing collateral both print and electronic, to handle all of your public relations needs.

But make sure while allocating money for marketing you also have a means for tracking your ROI. If your ROI is low after several months of trying a particular strategy, go back to your marketing plan and look at trying something else. If your ROI is high, stay with what is working but go back to your plan and budget and accelerate to the next phase.

Mistake No. 3: Not targeting a specific audience

When it comes to sales and marketing, there is nothing truer than the saying, "You can't be everything to everyone." That's why identifying your target market is critical to your success. It is also critical to choosing the appropriate marketing techniques to reach potential customers.

If you are selling a woman's product, be women-centric with your marketing, advertising and PR campaigns. If you offer a service or product for small businesses, stick to small business publications and mailing lists. Targeting Fortune 500 companies is a waste of time and money. They already have established vendors in place.

Mistake No. 4: Not developing a clear, consisten marketing message

Messaging is the careful development of the precise and concise language that quickly conveys the key message(s) you want known about your product or organization. In today's competitive landscape, if you can't convey these messages quickly and have them resonate, you'll lose your potential customer to someone else.

Make sure your message and images are consistent, concise and cohesive. Focus on the basics: who you are, what you have to offer and what the benefits are of doing business with you. Remember, it takes six touches of the same message for the audience to finally recognize your product, so be consistent. The last thing you want to do is to confuse a potential customer by losing focus on what is really important.

Mistake No. 5: Believing your product or service will sell itself

Many companies make the mistake of thinking that their product or service is so great and so different that they don't need to market it at all. This may make sense to you, but think of all the products and services you use today. Did any of them just find their way to your door simply because they were perfect for you? The reality is people need to be told why they should buy your product or service. They need to be convinced that they can't live without it. And once they have it, you need to provide them with customer service and personalized attention to ensure they will continue to use it.

All of these things require marketing. If you have limited funds start with business cards, a Web site, informational collateral (print or multimedia), an introduction/sales letter and a customer service/thank you letter. Once things are moving along you can add to your tools with direct mail postcards, electronic newsletters, video emails or product/service CD brochures. No matter how great your product, don't forget you still need to market it to get it sold.

Susan Burnash is the director of marketing of Residence XII and she recently spoke at the Kirkland Chamber of Commerce's morning business connections program (held every fourth Tuesday at Lake Washington Technical College). For more Information: or 780-9097.[[In-content Ad]]