(Or, Stop Shooting Yourself In The Foot And Start Basking In The Warm Glow Of Popular Approval Instead)
Small business startup or established national firm, no company is immune to occasionally stumbling over a “GOTCHA” when it comes to capturing the attention of those elusive prospects out there. It doesn’t help that these are complex times. Someday it may be as simple as “I tweet you, you Google me, and voila! a lasting business relationship is forged”, but let’s face it – it is not this day. In the meantime, watch out for these basic blunders that could be setting you, and your business back…
1. The ‘Field Of Dreams’ Business Plan If you build it, they will come. I love that movie as much as the next guy, but friend, no matter how wonderful and innovative your widget is, if I don’t know it’s there, I’m not coming. And neither is anyone else. Don’t deny the world your widgets! Tell us about them, and all the astounding things they’re going to do for us! Tell us who else is using them, and what dreadful calamity was avoided thanks to their discovery of your amazing widgets! Tell us how and where we can get them! Tell us all this and more, but remember, we don’t care about your widget-building equipment, or what the widget thinks about on rainy nights; we care about what the widget is going to do for US. So tell us! There are ways to accomplish this on even the most threadbare budget, so no excuses will be accepted on this one. Don’t assume people will magically find you. You simply MUST market.
2. The Scaredy-Cat Sinkhole Just because the sky is falling on Wall Street, doesn’t mean you should dive for cover on Main Street. Let your competitors slash their marketing budgets and passively watch their businesses shrink, while you seize the opportunity to put your own self in the spotlight and watch your business thrive. History has shown that this is precisely what happens. The company that cuts advertising loses customers, and the company that responds by crowing louder wins market share. An economic downturn is not a nuclear winter. Hedge fund managers and investment bankers can don cowboy hats and tutus as they clasp hands to jitterbug off a cliff, and people will still need the things people need. Boldly step up and provide those things.
3. ‘Do-It-Yourself Home Dentistry’ You’d probably never even consider this title in a bookstore, and yet it’s very easy to trick yourself into believing you can save a buck by producing promotional material in-house. Occasionally this works, but more often it ends in tears. First, do the math. By the time you factor in how many man hours you or your employees spend struggling with software and equipment that isn’t really up to the job, then add up the actual cost of the materials you plowed through, it may actually be less costly to outsource the project to a properly equipped company. Second, while it may be true that no one knows your company or product like you do, how much do you REALLY know about the art of advertising? Are you expert in the proper use of sales-boosting language, persuasive visual communication principles, and your audience’s emotional triggers? If not, you may get a pretty lackluster return on your investment. Most importantly, consider the quality of the items you are putting out there. They’re no less important than the clothes you choose to wear to an important meeting. Don’t defeat your own purpose by making a shoddy impression. If your collateral looks anything less than professional, you will too.
4. The ‘Magic Beans’ Clearance Shelf Whether you have a web presence or not, the Internet offers a lot of opportunity to get noticed, with scores of free directory listings and social media sites to take advantage of. It is also a great place to get marketing design tips and bargains on more traditional, proven tactics like print marketing. You’ll find companies who offer online printing at greatly discounted prices that can save you a sizable chunk of change. There are times and particular projects for which this cheap one-size-fits-all printing is an excellent fit. But there are many times when it is not. For starters, you go it alone without any guidance on designing material that will actually meet your objectives. The inflexible and limited choices in size and material can sometimes end up costing you more than the tailored solutions your local printer can provide. But be especially aware of sneaky surcharges, ‘rush’ fees, and grossly inflated shipping/mailing rates. The deal you get may just be a raw one.
5. “I’m Going To The Prom With Someone Else” Shock Syndrome So you’ve wooed them and won them – mission accomplished! Once you have a customer, they’re yours to keep forever, right? Go ahead and take them for granted. No need to ask how they’re doing or see if there’s anything else they need. Just ignore them, and they’ll call when they need something. They would never leave YOU. Sigh. Oh, how could you be so blind? Your existing customers are your most valuable asset! Don’t think your competitors aren’t waiting in the wings to whisk them away, because they are. Keep in touch with your clients, tell them about specials you’re running, make sure they know about other products and services you offer, let them know you care! Repeat business and referrals will be your reward.
If none of these missteps sounds even remotely familiar, congratulations! You are the first business EVER to avoid committing even one of these commonplace marketing sins. If one or two caused you to shuffle your feet in mild discomfort, welcome to the club. We’ve all done it, it’s embarrassing, but hey – we have cookies! The thing is, once you get the hang of it, marketing is one of the truly fun aspects of business. It’s the one area that actually requires you to let your hair down, unbutton that top button, and start thinking creatively. Dust off your imagination and dare to dream. Where would you like to see yourself and your business next year? Would steadily attracting a few more clients help you get there? Then start focusing on attracting them, instead of selling yourself. Step outside of what you know and what you want to do, and take a truly objective look at what your customers think, and feel, and want. This is more difficult than it sounds, so getting help from someone on the outside is never a bad idea – just so long as you select someone you can trust to steer you straight.
If you don’t take the customer’s point of view into account, you can’t be sure they’re even seeing your message. There could be a whole forest of trees obscuring the view, for all you know. Once you become sensitive to how THEY see things, you will begin to build the irresistible appeal of someone who understands, someone who listens, someone they can relate to, someone who can help them. Just typing that makes me want to call you and order something right now. The best part? Customer-centric positioning will automatically render you incapable making any of the above mistakes ever again.