Marketing is crucial for growing your business.
As an entrepreneur or employee at a startup, you have to wear many hats. Chances are, marketing isn’t your favorite activity – and you may not even have much experience – but you know it’s important for growing your business. And while they say that experience is the best teacher, wouldn’t you rather learn from others’ mistakes? Here are seven common pitfalls to avoid, and some tips to help you get the most from the time you spend wearing your marketing hat.
1. Making it all about you.
You’re very enthusiastic about your product or service. That’s a good thing. You’re passionate about what you do. But unless you channel that passion into a customer-centric context, your zeal can work against you. While you live and breathe your product/service, your customers don’t. Your marketing will be much more effective if it focuses on the customer and their challenges and desires, rather than your product/service and its features.
2. Over-rotating on things that don’t generate revenue.
There are only so many hours in the day and you want to use them wisely. That means sometimes you have to get things to a “good enough” stage and move on. A rule of thumb to help you determine whether you need to spend the time to get it perfectly right, or whether “good enough” is good enough, is to think about whether it will have a direct impact on revenue. Your logo is a great example. You absolutely want to invest in developing a professional, polished logo that’s going to represent you well. But it’s very easy to spiral into endless variations of color shades and font choices. Ultimately, whether your logo uses the slightly mossier green rather than the forest green, or a serif rather than sans serif font, it isn’t going to have any impact on sales. Take a stand, pick one, then focus on something else that will help grow your business.
3. Focusing on what your competitors are doing.
You shouldn’t completely ignore your competitors, but it’s easy to get so focused (even obsessed) with what the competition is doing that everything you do ends up being reactive. The problem with this “me too” marketing is that you are never creating anything new and fresh because you’re always playing in a space they created. Of course, you do need do know what your competitors are doing. Sometimes they will have very good ideas and you’ll want to incorporate them into your own marketing plans. But looking at what the competition is doing is always better as the last step in the planning process, never the first.
4. Under-estimating the importance of your website.
In many cases, your website is the first impression people will get of your business. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does have to be polished, functional and informative – and it must do two things. First, it has to represent you appropriately. If you want your business to be perceived as a credible operation, your website has to reflect that. Second, it has to provide visitors with the information they expect to see – and it has to be very easy for them to find that information. Contact details, including physical address and phone number, should be prominent. And don’t just guess – ask a few customers what information they want to see on your site.
5. Over-estimating the importance of your website.
This isn’t a contradiction to point #4. Your website does warrant time and investment to get it right. But, some people believe that their website will be a lead machine and they can sit back and watch the customers roll in. That’s a mistake. Your website is important, but it’s only one component of your marketing mix.
6. Ignoring social channels.
If you aren’t comfortable with social media – or if you just plain hate it – it’s easy to say that social media doesn’t matter and ignore it. But while it may not matter to you, it could be a valuable channel to reach your customers and prospects. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a huge amount of time managing accounts on every social network. Pick the one or two where your customers are most active and focus there. Then carve out just 15 minutes per day to spend on those sites. And remember that social media isn’t a one-way street – listen and engage in addition to posting.
7. Not enlisting the help of your customers.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget about a valuable marketing resource that’s right there in front of you: your customers. One of the most powerful marketing resources is a customer reference, whether that’s a testimonial quote, formal case study, or positive review. But don’t just passively wait – ask for it! And don’t forget to use customers to find out what they do and don’t like. You may not have the budget for a full-blown market research project, but you can ask several customers for their opinions.
Whether you view marketing as a fun part of your job or as a “necessary evil,” these tips will help you focus on activities that will grow your business. And here’s a definite marketing “do”: let your genuine passion and enthusiasm shine through everything that you do.