Three Strategies for Avoiding Small Business Marketing Failure

Whether you’re a small business owner, marketing manager, or consultant, there are many misconceptions and pitfalls that can derail your marketing plans.

Depending on how you look at it, marketing a small business is either a necessary evil, a fun challenge, or something in between. However, there’s no disputing the fact that business growth usually happens in direct proportion to the amount of effective marketing that takes place.

Unfortunately for many small businesses, a lot of ineffective marketing happens more frequently than the more productive variety, and misconceptions about the value of different marketing strategies are the byproduct of failure.

Craft a Strong Message and Get It to the Right Audience

Take, for example, direct mail and advertising. I’ve put those two things in the same category because the reasons they don’t always work are often the same. Have you or someone you know ever placed an ad or sent out a sales letter, postcard, or brochure, and not received one single response or new customer? There are dozens of potential reasons why that could have happened, but in the majority of cases, it boils down to a handful of likely causes. The following are a few of the major reasons.

The Message Was Ineffective

If you fail to catch your prospects’ attention, get them interested in your offer, create a desire for your product or service, and/or motivate them to take action, then chances are, your sales pitch will be quickly forgotten. With the massive influence of the Internet, social media networking, text messaging, and instant messaging, it’s truer than ever that people have short attention spans and need to be given a reason to pick up the phone, visit a web site, or make an appointment.

Corrective Strategies: The challenge of advertising and marketing is to convey the impression that your product or service can solve a problem, provide safety or security, increase profits, improve efficiency, or enhance the quality of life better than any other business solution can. Even after you’ve accomplished that, it still might not be enough to motivate people to take action! To reach a tipping point at which people are compelled to take action, it’s often necessary to offer a limited-time discount, a coupon, or some sort of free bonus, all of which would expire within the next three to 10 days. Another important aspect of creating a successful marketing message is to get people to start imagining and anticipating the benefits they’re going to experience as the result of using your product or service. Once you’ve started appealing to the prospect on an emotional level, then you’re more than halfway to the point of acquiring a new customer. The old advertising adage of selling “the sizzle” rather than the steak is a good way to fully grasp the concept of marketing the “benefits” instead of just “features.”

The Message Reached the Wrong Audience

In the marketing planning process, a lot of thought and discussion needs to take place about who comprises your primary and secondary target groups. Identifying the best and most cost-effective ways to reach that group is another key part of building a business marketing plan. One of the best ways to increase your marketing ROI is to make sure your advertising message is reaching prospects who are pre-qualified for your offer. And as a side note, it’s unrealistic to try to “be all things to all people” or to rationalize that prospects who aren’t currently interested in your offer will either save it for the future or pass it along to someone who¬†is¬†interested. Chances are, that’s just not going to happen.

The Message Is Impersonal

Did you every receive a mailer or letter that starts out “Dear Homeowner” or, even worse, “Dear Friend”? The hard-and-fast truth that we, as marketers, sometimes forget is that everybody wants to feel special and recognized as an individual. Form letters or anything that looks like a mass mailing stands a much greater chance of being tossed into the circular file than an advertising message that contains an element of personalization. Emails are usually easy to personalize, especially using any of the well-known email marketing services that are out there. But many people have a much lower tolerance for receiving unwanted email solicitations than they do for getting postal mail offers, so it’s important, for a number of reasons, to get people’s permission before sending them commercial emails.

Some strategies for avoiding, or even benefiting from the pitfalls of small business marketing, are to carry on learning as much as you can about this ever-changing topic, create and be familiar with your own small business marketing plan, and be willing to make mistakes and learn from them (“fail forward”) as you proceed on your path to business growth and success.