Nine Common Small Business Marketing Mistakes

You’ll find a variety of common marketing mistakes’ lists on the Internet.  But I thought it might be helpful to present these issues in reference to the stages of the sales cycle that I’m defining as: 

  1. Prospecting, trying to build a list of contacts or “filling the pipeline.”  This phase includes networking and non-personal promotional activities such as advertising.
  2. Following up with prospects / contacts.
  3. Turning prospects / contacts into presentations.
  4. Converting presentations into sales.

Additionally, I’ve also provided a few questions and suggestions to help address these common mistakes.   

First, not taking or making the time to clearly define and promote your benefits.  As an example, you may be talking about the features and advantages of your product, instead of focusing on what the purchaser needs and how your product or service will benefit them.   

Potential benefits may be saving time, saving money, increasing revenue, simplifying a process, or saving a life. This of course can also apply to staff at a retail store.  Are they trained to state benefits prior to features and advantages?  Do your advertisements promote benefits? 

Second, not focusing on the correct target market.  Have you taken the necessary steps to identify your target market to know who really needs your product at this point in time or in the near future?  Do you know where they live?  Do you know what they read, listen to or watch?   

What information do you have about existing customers that can be researched for answers?  If you’re starting a business, what industry information can you obtain about your competitors and their customers’ needs? 

Third, not being able to succinctly state what he or she does.  When you’re meeting new people, this core message is called an “elevator speech” or USP, unique selling proposition.   No matter what you call it, you want to tell people how you solve problems, such as helping small businesses fix their computer problems, or helping people maintain a healthy lifestyle.  This statement encourages them to ask for more information, instead of just stating “Oh that’s interesting” when you tell them you’re a computer repair specialist or a fitness instructor.   

Fourth, if you have a website, not providing enough information to generate leads.  Does it clearly state benefits and provide testimonials and examples?  Have a few non-vested people look at your website to obtain objective input about the design, content, colors, ease of using, etc.  Websites can be interactive to sell, handle customer service and/or accounting issues, or they can be just an informational site. 

Fifth, not using an effective contact database system.  Have you established a system to routinely update your database with new contact information?  Are you keeping track of enough information to ask additional qualifying questions?  

One expert recommends the use of index cards for maintaining contact information only if you have less than three hundred contacts.   Perhaps you might benefit from asking patrons to fill out a card when visiting your store or leave their business card. 

Sixth, not adequately listening. Remember, based on customer service research conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Institute, the number one thing people want from someone they do business with is to be listened to!   

Do you focus on what the prospects are telling you in terms of their needs?  Your business may not be able to help them solve a big problem, but you might know someone who can.  Personally, I think of this follow-up stage as the time to develop meaningful relationships.  

This also applies to retail staff.  Do they have adequate information about the various products sold in the store, where they are located, or how to obtain service and installation? 

Seventh, not following up with enough contacts.  What type of item or contact would be useful to your business and fit your style.  Should you write a monthly or quarterly newsletter?  Should you send out postcards with helpful information?  Are phone calls the best option for your industry? 

Eighth, not identifying meaningful solutions.  Have you clearly understood the need or the urgency of the prospect’s situation?  Are you adequately answering their questions, or are you providing a cookie cutter response?  Are you talking too much during the presentation?  Are you showing enough examples of your work, providing enough references or sharing enough testimonials?   

Ninth, not adequately preparing for presentations.  What type of feedback have you received about your written and verbal skills?  Are you comfortable with public speaking if that is an essential part of your presentation?  Should you consider taking some type of class or joining a group that provides public speaking opportunities?  Can you honestly say you know your material well enough that you’re flexible to address all of or the majority of issues that might surface during a presentation? 

This list does not address the importance of focusing on repeat customers and the six marketing fundamentals for all businesses posted under the Strategy category on April 16, 2007. 

If you would like to discuss solutions to these and other marketing problems that you may be encountering, please contact us at 817-488-2761 or