There’s no doubt that growing your business is an uphill battle. It’s a challenging economy and the rules have changed for marketing and sales. Gone are the days when you could just run an ad somewhere and expect your phone to ring.
Effective marketing (and sales) today is a much different game than it was even 5 to 10 years ago. Interruption tactics (like cold calling, direct mail or blasting advertisements) can still work but they are less effective every day. Instead you have to find ways to attract your prospective clients – get them to hold up their hand and show they are interested in learning more. Bottom line? You have to think through your marketing and approach it strategically if you want to generate leads. There’s no room for mistakes if you want successful marketing.
That said – here are 5 things that small business owners are doing to sabotage their marketing success in today’s environment. Do any of these apply to you?
5 Marketing Killers
Not following up or following through
This one is a cardinal sin and it’s so stupid…but you see it happen over and over again. A potential client expresses interest or a need in your products or services…and they don’t get any follow up or response. It may not be a guaranteed sale, but interest is interest!
Personal example: I recently needed to hire a caterer for an event. A friend of mine recommended a local caterer and introduced her to me. I expressed interest in learning more and received a quick (but friendly) response a few days later suggesting a call for more details.
I gave her several times I was available for a call. I received no response.
A week later, I tried one more time to engage (running out of time for my event) and the only response I got was a phone call on a Saturday several days later during a soccer game. Not being able to hear while at the game, I recommended a call on the following Monday…and received no response after that!
Obviously I went with another provider – maybe my business didn’t matter, but Kansas City can seem like a small town and this particular caterer now has a bad reputation for professionalism with me (and others who I might talk to). If you’re too busy to follow up, then you need to rework your business approach and try something different.
Recommendation – Are you following up (in a timely manner) on all of your potential leads and introductions? If not – make that your top priority. Not only are you potentially missing out on business, but you’re burning a referral source as well.
No consistency on marketing activities
Arguably the most important thing you can do for your marketing is to be consistent. A great marketing message will fail if it’s not in front of people in a consistent way. An excellent marketing tactic that’s not executed consistently is a waste of time.
How many business owners do you know who have a blog or a newsletter but rarely if ever actually update it or send it out? Life and your business is crazy with lots of ups and downs, but if you don’t figure out how to consistently apply your marketing, you will never get out of that roller coaster world.
Recommendation – Identify at least a few tactics that you can reasonably achieve and make a black and white commitment to do those activities every week or every month. Build on that once you’ve got the basics down.
Marketing to Everyone!
“So who do you work best with?” If your answer is some variation on anyone who breathes, then you have already failed at your marketing and your wasting a lot of time and money. By marketing to everyone…you are marketing to no one!
We are all getting inundated with literally thousands of marketing messages every single day. A generic message that could apply to anyone is never going to break through that noise…and is never going to be heard.
Recommendation – Who are your BEST clients? Carve out a subset of them and get really specific about who they are and what they’re looking for? Try crafting a message just for that niche and see if you don’t get a much better response.
Not using Content /Educational approach for your marketing
Buyers are looking for solutions to their problems and most of the time they have several choices when it comes to providers. Who are they more likely to choose – Company A who clearly understands the problem and provides lots of educational materials and helpful ideas or Company B who only has feature descriptions on how cool they are? Who would you buy from?
Content and educational marketing makes you relevant to the large majority of potential clients who aren’t ready to buy yet. If you can educate, inform and maybe even entertain someone who isn’t ready to buy yet, you stay in the running and likely top of mind for when they are ready to buy.
Recommendation – Start thinking like a consultant. What’s the last thing you did to help educate your target market? What could you create that would add value and establish you as an expert?
Not being found online
Quick – do a Google search on your company’s name. Is your website on the first page of results? If not…or if you don’t show up at all, then you don’t have any marketing. The vast majority of buyers use online search as a key step in their decision process. If they see your company in an advertisement but can’t easily find you online then you don’t exist and you wasted that ad!
Also do a search on the problem you solve. Does your company come up on the first page in that case? It’s more likely people are searching on problems or outcomes (keywords) than for your business name. This is a bit harder to solve, but carries a lot more weight.
Recommendation – Quick fix…make sure you and your business have a presence on LinkedIn and Facebook – both are good sources for Google. Longer term fix – leverage content and education based marketing (blog or articles, whitepapers other content) to address your keywords and the problems your prospects are searching for.
It’s Not Rocket Surgery!
None of the above ideas are rocket surgery…or even brain science! However most small business owners are failing at least one of the above five ideas and many are missing on 2 or more of them.
How about you? Are you onboard and in good shape with all 5 of the ideas above? Anything else I’m missing that’s a critical marketing step? I’d love to hear your thoughts – leave me a comment and let me know what you think.
Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach
Photo by Alex E. Proimos