Marketing

Four marketing mistakes that practically guarantee failure

Allan Dib /

For entrepreneurs and small business owners, getting marketing right can mean the difference between rapid growth and painful failure.

Every year, new businesses open their doors hoping to become a success story. Everybody else is making millions at 25, so why can’t you?

But now, it’s a year in. You’ve sunk your savings into your business and things aren’t looking good. You’re exhausted from your 16-hour workdays, your social life is a distant memory and you twitch when you spot a bill in the mail.

By now you’re wondering where you went wrong, and more importantly, how to turn it around. While 44% of startups fail in the first five years, there’s no reason yours should be part of that statistic.

Here are some of the top marketing mistakes that practically guarantee failure. Or, in other words, here’s what not to do.

1. Forget the plan

You know marketing is the key to rapid business growth (and that’s absolutely true).

Great, so where’s your marketing plan? Don’t have one? You know what your customers want and how to reach them, right? Wrong.

First lesson: assumptions are the enemy.

Your marketing cannot be driven by your gut feeling or the recommendation of a friend. You’re going to lose money and likely go out of business.

Recently, a survey by OutboundEngine found that 50% of small businesses don’t have a marketing plan.

If pilots operated without a flight plan, the rate of airline crashes would skyrocket. A plan aids in navigation. No matter if it’s a startup or an aircraft, If you’re trying to get from point A to point B, you need a plan to get you there. No exceptions.

Market on purpose.

Marketing works, but you need to do your homework. Figure out who your target audience is, what media they consume and what pains them. Then find out what you need to do to get them to buy from you and keep buying from you.

Get your marketing plan right and you’ll quickly begin to see your customer base — and bank balance — grow.

2. Target everyone

You’ve decided that anyone with a pulse is a potential customer because you’re concerned about excluding people or you think you’ll maximize sales this way. Convincing yourself that a broader audience equals more new customers is a huge mistake.

Second lesson: niche down.

Let’s get real. By targeting everyone, you’re really targeting no-one.

A tighter niche allows you to create a highly targeted message that grabs your market’s attention and results in a better conversion rate. You also waste less on marketing that falls on deaf ears.

Become a big fish in a small pond. If you’re trying to be all things to all people, your message will be weak and ineffective.

Remember, before Amazon became ‘the everything store’ it was a bookstore, then a DVD store then, well, you know the story.

Dominate one niche before adding other market segments.

3. Prioritise your product

You’ve spent years building this product. It’s your baby, and like any proud parent, you show it off to everyone. You also prioritise its features and benefits in all of your advertising.

Third lesson: no-one cares about your product.

Bad marketing is highly product-focused. Good marketing focuses on the customer. It targets their pain and offers a solution to their problems.

Get into your customers’ minds. Once you’ve decided on a niche audience, craft a message that speaks to them directly. For example, let’s say you’ve developed a CRM app for sales reps. It helps them close more deals and keep track of their pipeline while on the go.

Now ask yourself, What are the common challenges sales managers face? Is it getting out orders from field staff quickly or cutting down on after-hours administrative work?

Talk about the pain these problems cause and show how your app can solve them. Then go to market with that message. It’s highly targeted, so it will resonate better.

4. Hope for referrals

You might have read or watched The Secret. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but no matter how much you visualise your customers referring new business to you, or how much positive energy you put out into the universe, you won’t get referrals until you have a referral strategy in place.

Fourth lesson: hope is not a great referral strategy.

Make referrals part of doing business with you. Whether you ask during the onboarding phase or after completing a job, ensure you have a systematic way of integrating it into your workflow.

Asking for a referral is not asking for a favour. If you’ve delivered an outstanding product, the customer will be happy to refer you. If you do the same for their friend, it makes them look good. Also, since 77% of consumers are more likely to buy a product referred by a friend, you’d be crazy not to ask.

Here’s what your note should cover when asking for a referral.

  • Thank them for doing business with you.
  • Acknowledge and connect with them.
  • Incentivise. Give them a reason to refer your business. A discount voucher or coupon to pass onto a friend works nicely. It’s a value add that sweetens the deal.

Referrals can be a huge part of your customer acquisition strategy but you need to be deliberate about the process.

Consistent marketers don’t just survive, they thrive.

The key to success in marketing is persistence and consistency. Test, measure, deploy then rinse and repeat.

Learn from your mistakes, and always follow your data. It will show you what’s working and what isn’t.

In marketing, the more you know, the more likely your campaign is to succeed.

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Allan Dib

Allan is a business coach and the founder of Successwise, a business specialising in practical marketing and business growth strategies for business owners and entrepreneurs. He has started, grown and exited several companies and is the author of bestselling book The 1-Page Marketing Plan: Get New Customers, Make More Money And Stand Out From The Crowd.