Marketing Mistakes, Strategy, Joe GirardUnless you already have all the customers you can handle, you are probably wondering what to do about marketing. And most likely, you are feeling overwhelmed by all of the opinions and options for what you should do.  If you are like most business owners, you are feeling frustrated by your marketing efforts and want to know how you should attract and retain those new customers more effectively.  

Today, I am going to help you out with some insights into a few major marketing mistakes and how to fix them.

Marketing Mistake #1 – Trying to be all things to all people

This is probably the most common marketing problem I see and why we are going to address it first.    As a business, you don’t want to miss out on any opportunities, right?  So you try and make your marketing appeal to as many people as possible in a generic way, in the hopes that they decide to get in touch with you.  Mainly these are advertisements about products, services, features, benefits.  This is essentially fear-based marketing.  If I asked you who would use your product or service, most likely you would get excited and say, “Well anyone really could!”   And therein lies the problem.  When you try and market to anyone, guess what? No one knows you are speaking to them.  In today’s noisy, overcrowded marketing world, you don’t want to become just more noise.

How to fix it:  The first step to fixing this mistake is to take a step back and understand your customer segments. With my clients, I go through a series of activities to really dig into specific customer segments until we have identified 3 very distinctive groups.  Then we make sure that we know as much about that group’s problems, fears, and desires as possible to ascertain exactly how our products and services solve those problems uniquely.  This activity does take some time, but is the most valuable step in crafting your marketing message.  One that will make your target market say, “Oh they are talking about me!”  You will get more qualified leads and can actually drop your marketing spend.  And to combat your fear about missing opportunities, just make sure that the segment you are chasing is ten times larger than your ability to serve it and you have a viable target.  As you grow, you can expand your segment.  Remember, your goal is to be #1 in your segment, not #5, 10, 20 in every segment.

Marketing Mistake #2 – Not having a plan

As I mentioned in my previous post on strategy vs tactic, it is easy to get excited about the next shiny idea, especially when it comes to marketing.  I know my Facebook feed is littered with webinars, coaching programs, and various other ways to “Dramatically increase your leads with the latest in____!”  And there are some awesome ideas out there for you to check out, for sure.  But, when you don’t have an overall game plan, you can quickly get swallowed up by marketing hype.  This is a very familiar feeling for many business owners.  A lack of a marketing strategy will cause you a ton of headaches.

How to fix it:  Well this one may sound simple, but…build a strategy!  Take some time this week and go through my post on strategy and ask yourself where you want to be in a year from now.  What monthly revenue would be a realistic goal?  In order to have that monthly revenue in a year, work your way backwards quarter by quarter, month by month, and week by week to determine how many leads you actually need to achieve those goals. Then you can break down your leads into categories, segments, and lead source.  Once you have identified all of this, then you can build your monthly and quarterly marketing strategy around your actual plan.  When the next shiny, new idea comes across your desk, you will be able to identify how it fits with your strategy and decide to do it now, wait, or not do it at all.    

Marketing Mistake #3 – Not tracking and testing effectiveness

Let me be clear, tracking is vastly different from testing.  Most of you should have some basic understanding of analytics for your business and should at the very least have a marketing spreadsheet that you tracks your effectiveness.  If not, we should chat!  One major mistake I see is that businesses go through each week blind, not observing what is happening with their business – especially their marketing efforts.  And then we wonder why it’s “not working.”  Remember those three little words – BASED ON WHAT?  If you aren’t spending time each week putting your eyes on your business, you might as well buy a slapping machine and turn it on full blast.  Watch this video and go to th 4:20 mark.

Each week you should set aside some very important time to observe your marketing effectiveness by analyzing your reports.  You are looking for trends, opportunities, and insights to help you  with better decision making.

And let’s not forget about testing.  I will go through testing more in detail soon, but essentially you want to see what works and doesn’t by doing small variation tests in all your activities.  But, in order to make the most of it, you will need to have that strategy in place.  To be honest, variation is what kills business.  One great month and you are on top of the world, and one bad month and you could be out of business.  Then the decisions become based on incomplete information.

How to fix it:  Your mission, should you choose it, is to measure results, test for effectiveness, and reduce variation. Here’s what to do.  Each week, look at your marketing results.  Find some opportunities you may have missed.  Find a trend or something that tells you things worked or didn’t.  Make a plan to test ONE thing the following week.  It could be switching an ad, changing a tagline, or even attending a different event.  Then measure the changes you got from that one activity.

To test for variation, look at your numbers over the previous six months.  track them in a graph.  Do the peaks and valleys vary dramatically?  If so, why?  Can you find a way to reduce that variation in such a way that you can produce consistent outcomes?  So that you can predict more easily the direction of your business?  Most of you may say that this seems like a lot of work and that you’re too busy.  I will just ask you one question.  “Do you have twice the revenue you did over last year, or are you just twice as busy?”  

Marketing Mistake #4 – Not aligning marketing with sales

Don’t let salespeople tell you they’re special and that it’s marketing’s fault with bad leads.  And don’t let marketing tell you they’re doing great if only sales could convert.  And of course, your operations team gets blamed as well, and then passes the blame back to sales and marketing.  “But that’s not MY job!” seems to be the mantra of most companies.  Note: For a one-person business, you may have to wear all the hats – marketing, sales, new product development, etc.  So I can only empathise with the split personality disorder you feel.

You must view your business as a system of interdependent activities and people.  No one can operate in a silo and communication is a must.  If you look at Mistake #1 above, it takes that whole team to build a system that:

  1. Understands the customer and their problems (marketing, sales, new product development)
  2. Develops products and services to solve those problems (new product development)
  3. Crafts marketing messages that let them know you have the products and services (marketing)
  4. Works with the customer to get the cash in exchange (sales)
  5. Organizes a team the delivers on the promises of the product/service (operations)
  6. Solicits feedback on the ability to solve customer problems (everybody)

That, in it’s simplest form, is every business!  If you think that any one role is more important than the other, I will stress again the value of the slapping machine.  If you have teams operating in isolation or you treat these activities as separate, you have problems.  Your leads may not be qualified, your promises may not be delivered, your staff may not understand what their roles are, and you may miss opportunities to gather feedback from your best customers.

How to fix it:  Marketing should be working with sales to ensure that the leads coming in are qualified or at least have the potential to be qualified.  Through the process of tracking and testing, you should be able to see a smoother transition between your leads, prospects, qualified prospects, and customers.  Look for the weak point in the conversions between these four areas and develop a solution (marketing and sales) to test and try and gain some increased conversion.

For example, if you are struggling at the stage between prospect and qualified prospect, you are not adding enough value to the discussion.  You should create some persuasive tools to help educate and inform your customer.  This is even more effective when marketing is involved because they can use the insights gathered through their customer segmenting activities.  You can then test to see which ones bring in more qualified prospects and you stop CHASING!

Marketing Mistake #5 – Focusing on new customers only

Often, we focus too much on the fresh meat – new customers!  We forget that our best source of business can come from our existing customers.  When was the last time you did a customer appreciation day?  Or connected with your best client?  Have you done something completely out of the blue to surprise one of your recent customers?  Overdelivered?  Well, if you haven’t, get on it!

How to fix it:  Read my other post on 8 tips to get more referrals for your business as a start.  But more importantly, add a portion of your marketing strategy to be all about wowing your existing customers.  Don’t just wing it, but make it part of the plan.

Well as you can see, I am a big fan of strategy.  And the reason I so much?  It works.  Ask anyone you know who is successful or where you aspire to be and ask them if their success happened by luck.  See if they have a plan.  I would love to hear your comments below and ways that you are taking your marketing to the next level.  And as always, get on the email list below to stay up to date and to connect with me! 

Joe Girard
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    2 replies to "5 Marketing Mistakes: And How to Fix Them"

    • Dermot Gilley

      Yeah, being all things to all people doesn’t work. And people don’t buy it anyhow. However, “being ONE thing to ALL people” has more credibility, but is difficult to achieve. iPhones, tooth paste, doughnuts are examples. No one changes their tooth paste for a special customer. “One size fits all” (the differentiation in the marketplace comes from later competitors trying to grab a share – which they couldn’t if they only copied you. A baker makes his doughnuts in the night – he either gets them right then, there’s no second chance later in the day. However, he has established criteria to go by. But creating new products and services is a dodgier thing: if you’re not experimenting and do the same as others you won’t be noticed and there’s no need for you (provided the incumbents can scale to new demand). But if you experiment it’s a bit like “all things to all people” – you need to test and for that you need to be more than ‘the’ one thing to as many potential customers as possible. Until you find the untapped niche. THEN you revert to what I alluded to in the first sentence. It is this difference between an initial phase of experimenting and the later phase of sticking to your guns many start-ups don’t get.

      • Joe Girard

        Awesome response, thanks for the comment! I totally agree in the testing until you find the untapped niche as you never really know “for sure” where that ideal customer segment is. Research alone will not get you there. And you are bang on that most start-ups wait and wait to try and get it perfect. Then when they open their doors, they’re surprised that no one comes knockin! Prototyping and following the concepts of the “Lean Startup” are the ways to go. Even with established brands, big companies forget to just test and even ask their customers what they want. And you hit the nail on the head with the part about the opportunity to grab a share and not copy. If something is working well in a marketplace, find a way to leverage it and segment it further to a niche. Great comments, love it!

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