It’s imperative for a start-up to get its message out there. You may have a stunningly brilliant range of products or offer clients the best service in town, but if no one knows about it, your personal pride in your firm won’t prevent it leaking money like a sieve.
Unfortunately, there are many pitfalls when it comes to marketing your business. This list doesn’t cover all of them, but here are 10 reasons to make you stop and think before you go all Don Draper and start drawing up ad campaigns.
Talking to the wrong audience
Before you even start to market your business, you need to be aware of who you are marketing to. It sounds like a simple mistake to make, but many start-ups fail to fully identify their customer base and then botch their attempts to reach them.
Your customer base should be outlined in your business plan. They are the lifeblood of your business, so you need to know who they are, what their habits are and what they like. Invest in some research to find out what media your target demographic consumes. Do they read newspapers? Or are they heavy online users? Only then can you reach out to them.
Flouting pricing promises
The ACCC is currently cracking down on price component laws. In plain English, this means that you have to show the full price of your products or services in your marketing, not just a small element of the price.
Price promotions are a tried and tested way of generating interest in your business. But make sure that you show the full amount a customer will have to pay, as you will not only have to deal with the wrath of customers who feel ripped off, you may also feel the weight of a law.
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Not showing a point of difference
You can just about get away with starting up a business that offers something similar to a rival, if you can do it better or more cost effectively. But you stand little chance if you can’t demonstrate a point of difference in your marketing.
Analyse your competition and find out what their strengths and weaknesses are. Your advertising should show consumers how you will meet a need that is currently being overlooked. Don’t think that larger rivals will automatically crush you if you point to their flaws – just look at how online electrical retailer Kogan has generated PR and media mileage out of its high profile campaign aimed squarely at the Harvey Norman behemoth.
Pretending you’re something you’re not
Marketing can stretch reality a little but it shouldn’t break it. An essential element to your marketing plan is fulfilment – will your customers get the experience that you promise them in your advertising?
Of course, you are allowed creative license, but don’t overdo it. Keep in mind the debacle that surrounded retail chain Witchery last year when it posted a series of online videos under the guise of a young woman seemingly searching for love.
What appeared to be a genuine plea to find a mystery man after a brief encounter in a café turned out to be a marketing stunt for Witchery’s new men’s section. While the backlash will be less for a start-up business, bear in mind that people aren’t keen on being fooled.
Stuffing up your offers
A new business will often try to secure a customer base by dangling the carrot of money off or instant loyalty rewards.
This can prove to be an effective tactic, but tread carefully. Make sure that not only are the offers attractive to consumers, but also that your business can honour them without damaging your bottom line.
Earlier this year, Grill’d launched a two-for-one promotion in a student magazine, only to be deluged by electronic scans of the coupons. The healthy burger chain refused to accept the tokens, causing plenty of customer ire.
Also make sure that targeted offers reach their actual target. Last year, Virgin Blue mistakenly emailed customers to tell them that they had been upgraded to its Velocity Gold membership, only to immediately send out another missive telling them that the correspondence had been sent in error.
Making search term errors
Not many start-ups will immediately be able to dive into paid search terms on Google. But those that do should heed the warning of Tourism Northern Territory, which linked itself to the racially offensive word ‘Abo’ via Google.
The tourism body’s media agency issued a grovelling apology for the incident, but the lesson was clear – search marketing is an increasingly important part of communications and you need to think carefully about how you are represented on Google and other search engines.
Not integrating your message with social media
Apologies to former Age columnist Catherine Deveney, but Twitter isn’t just like “passing notes around in class”, especially for businesses. The micro-blogging site is now an important marketing tool that needs to be taken seriously.
As explained in last week’s top 10, there are several ways you can use Twitter for your business. But when it comes to marketing, you must make sure that you fully integrate Twitter, and other social media, into your strategy. Recent research shows that just 10% of firms have a digital strategy – make sure you aren’t in the other 90%.
Butting into social media conversations
Some businesses that do fully embrace social media go a little overboard. They crash into forums and hijack them with their marketing messages. They pretend to be impartial consumers on comment threads and then spruik their wares.
If you want to market yourself via social media, make sure you’re being honest, genuine and conversational. The audience will respond more positively to this than being bombarded by one-sided messages.
Infiltrating online conversations with unwanted marketing messages is just one kind of spam. There are laws in place to prevent Australian consumers from being deluged by unwelcome mail, email and SMS marketing.
The rules require that recipients give their consent to messages and are given a clear option to unsubscribe. Not only will you annoy people by breaking these rules, you could also face damaging legal action.
Remember, your marketing is the visual representation of your business. As a start-up, market awareness of you is extremely low. The only impression people have of you is the ad that they briefly glance at.
Spend the time and money to come up with marketing campaigns that not only grab attention, but also accurately represent your business. If you are a premium, exclusive company, your marketing material should reflect this. If you have a price-based proposition, the style and tone of marketing should be entirely different. Consider using outside help to make sure your strategy and execution are consistent and of decent quality.