Businesses are going under more than ever in recent times. I’d hazard a guess that during the good times in the past, the economy was thriving and the weak survived. Of course, now the weak die and the weak usually have a weak marketing strategy or don’t have one at all (never had to when times were good, then all the work went away).
Here are 5 mistakes businesses are making with their marketing that I recommend they avoid:
(1) Not seeing the value in marketing.
I’ve covered this obvious one a little above but to expand a little further, Marketing is everything to your business. I know, I know! Most people’s eyes kind of glaze over when they encounter the word ‘Marketing’. You can see people visibly shut down. This is usually because they’ve been baffled with jargon they don’t understand before and had a negative experience thereafter.
“the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit. Marketing identifies unfulfilled needs and desires. It defines, measures and quantifies the size of the identified market and the profit potential. It pinpoints which segments the company is capable of serving best and it designs and promotes the appropriate products and services.”
Dr Philip Kotler
Many business owners don’t value marketing because they don’t understand the term. This is understandable. The above quote is the best one I found out of myriad explanations and definitions. That is because there are so many approaches to marketing. Each business must have a different approach and philosophy on marketing. But failing to value marketing is failing to value your business. Failing to value your business ends up in the business failing.
(2) Jimmy the installer also has ‘marketing experience’, let him do it.
This may seem crazy to some. Not crazy at all to others. If I had a dollar for every meeting I had with a client where they said they had a ‘Jimmy the installer’ who was a bonus because he ‘had marketing experience’, I’d be a rich man. A worker tells their boss they have marketing experience, it turns out they did a course at school, a unit at TAFE, covered it for one day in a business course, learned how to use Photoshop and are a whiz at Microsoft word. No! This is not marketing.
Don’t let part timers fill critical roles connected to growing your business. Your ability to solve the customers’ internal, external and philosophical problems and motivations and close their story gaps is critical to effective marketing. You must be able to communicate properly. Communicate badly and you don’t know who you are driving away (most won’t tell you!). I’ve already mentioned that marketing is highly subjective even between experts. Well it’s down right guess work at the lower levels. You wouldn’t trust your Porsche to a beginner. You wouldn’t trust your business (much more valuable) to one either.
(3) Not having a strategic marketing plan
OK. So many businesses do commit to using an expert. They hire a marketing expert with a wealth of experience and put them on salary. They redefine the company’s mission, vision and values. The define the brand story. They do the market research. They do a brand audit. They define the competitor sets. They define what the priorities are and where you can get the most out of your marketing budget. Everything they say has the owner on board. They are so convincing and clever and what’s more, they have all that marketing jargon that the owner doesn’t understand but they don’t care! – they are the expert and the owner was smart enough to hire them!
They write great copy. They direct relevant, nuanced and engaging creative projects. They build great relationships with creatives. They cross promote with other companies and influencers. They know Google Adwords. They are a gun at social media. They are growing the business and showing measurable results!
One problem. They never gave the owner a plan. They never wrote one because they ‘had it all up here’ (points to brain). There were other more pressing priorities and they needed to show immediate results to justify that salary! One day they walk out the door and on to bigger and better things. They take their wealth of knowledge with them and the results seem a little short term. Time to start all over again with the next expert.
Another issue. Some businesses commit to using an outside expert. The wrong one.
They engage an SEO company when their website doesn’t convert. They engage a Digital Marketing company for their $1,000,000 product and never sell a thing online. They engage an Instagram Social Media company when their audience is on LinkedIn. They engage a high level design firm because they thought branding was marketing and couldn’t work out why the beautiful new logo, pretty advertising flyers and brand new signage didn’t pay off! Don’t laugh, this is a regular occurrence.
They sought help from the professionals. But they put the horse before the cart and didn’t know until afterwards. They took the long way around back to square one. Not many good sales representatives make money from telling you you don’t need them. So make sure you know who you need.
This is why all good companies have a strategic marketing plan. A full strategic marketing plan should start with a discovery workshop that defines why the company exists, performs a situational analysis, prepares marketing assumptions and defines measurable marketing outcomes and objectives for the short, medium and long term success of the company.
This allows owners and key leaders to actively engage in and contribute to the effective marketing of their business. Once the discovery is performed, a strategic marketing plan is written that delivers the empirical knowledge business owners need to be in control. They know the platforms they should be focusing on. They know the toolkit of content they need created. They know where they need to focus their resources. They know the budget required for those resources. They know the expert help they need to source is accountable to the plan. They know that the module marketing business they hire is accountable to the plan. So the business is modular, allowing it to interchange resources and still stick to the bigger picture.
Do your research. Make sure the strategic marketing firm you engage is one committed to working with you and building with you in the long term. A good strategic marketing plan should be agile enough to allow for developments in the business, changes in the product or service offering, allowing for different or revised approaches over time which won’t cost a bundle.
(4) Failing to commit to the marketing plan.
One of the greatest failures a company can perform is to go to the effort, investment and commitment of a strategic marketing plan and then not commit. Being busy or ‘flat out’ trying to deliver for clients is not an excuse. Being ‘snowed under’ is not an excuse. ‘When it rains it pours’ is not an excuse. Good businesses don’t make excuses, they find a way. Good businesses don’t get ‘snowed under’ and let their clients down. Good businesses that are ‘flat out’ should be generating a profit. Good businesses generating profit should reinvest. Business owners being too busy to commit to the strategic marketing plan that they themselves put together and invested in shows that they aren’t being accountable, and should realise, that’s when they need the plan more than ever.
(5) Being a ‘me too’ business.
Even businesses that have a marketing strategy are still getting it wrong. This is because they make the cardinal sin. They go to all the effort of researching their competitor set, then say the exact same things their competitors are saying. Why? This can be because of owners rationalising that there is generally accepted terminology they believe their clients need to read, see or hear. In some cases this true. However, this should be limited.
When you see what your competitors are doing, this is your opportunity to be an industry leader. To redefine the industry and create a point of difference. You can do so with positioning statements that are relevant yet inspiring. Visions that are ambitious, yet realistic. Missions that are compelling and motivating. Brand stories that take the industry offering to a new level. Industry leaders stand out. They become the authority. They become recognised in the market place as the accepted standard that their competitors need to strive for. So don’t be a me too business, be an industry leader. Find a way to communicate it to your customers, you won’t even be competing with your competitors anymore, you’ll be in a class of your own.
There is a famous quote by Sun Tzu from The Art of War:
Every battle is won before it’s ever fought.
This is because those that plan and prepare best before the battle will be the winner. In business we are in battle against competitors and in many cases, against the economy. Prepare to plan. Plan to win. That’s doing it the right way.
What is your next step for winning your business battles?