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Susan Burnash
Marketing, Public Relations, Video Production
Atlanta, Georgia
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The Top Ten Marketing Mistakes Small Businesses Make (#7 - 10)

Learn the common mistakes small businesses make so that you can be sure to avoid them.
Written Jun 01, 2009, read 1287 times since then.


Editor's Note: This is part 3 of a 3-part article. Here's a link to part 1 and part 2.

Mistake #7: Underestimating the Value of Your Existing Customers

Most businesses think that the way to increase sales is to focus primarily on new customer acquisition. Unfortunately, this often means poor customer service to existing customers who, if serviced well, could provide a strong revenue stream to keep your business healthy and strong. And sadly, the lack of good service and communication with an existing customer often means that customer will go elsewhere to find what they need or want. After all, who wants to be taken for granted? If you want to stay in business and grow, you must be sure to turn existing customers into lifetime customers. Call to say thank you. Check in to see if their needs are being met. You might feel like you’re wasting your time, or being a pest, but ask any customer who stays loyal to a particular company and you’ll always get the same answer: “Good customer service!, it’s why I stay and when I don’t have it, it’s why I leave.” Listen and learn!

Mistake #8: Thinking that Advertising is Marketing

Often small businesses confuse advertising with marketing. Asked how they market their product or service they’ll explain how they’ve spent lots of money on advertising but often the results have been poor. From experience, I can almost bet that these same people have also committed Mistake 1 & 2. Advertising is not marketing! It is a piece of marketing, but only a small piece, and with so many ways to get your product or service out in front of potential customers, advertising should only be considered if 1) You have plenty of disposable money to spend on big ads that can run at least five times to increase your odds of being seen. 2) You are pooling your money together with other companies with limited funds to provide a variety of services or products that work together or draw from the same customer base. This is called cooperative advertising and done well; it is the most effective way to get the biggest bang for your buck. Before you spend a dollar on advertising, spend the time needed on a marketing plan and a marketing budget. Both will provide the roadmap and tools for measurement to ensure that advertising is right for you.

Mistake #9: Ignoring the Benefits of Public Relations

Myth, myth, myth!!! Public relations is the most inexpensive and effective way to get the word out to your target market that you have a product or service they need and want. Open any newspaper or magazine, listen to any TV or radio show and you’ll find that without small business stories, the press would have a limited amount of content to cover. So how do you become newsworthy? Develop a good story about your business, yourself, your product or service, a customer or your community involvement, and send it out as a press release to the appropriate editors, writers, or newscasters. You might not get a hit every time, but the more press releases you send (once a month is a good start) the better chance you have for peaking interest and eventually a story will be written. You’ll be amazed at how much recognition and business will result from getting your business and face in the press.

Mistake #10: Expecting Too Much, Too Soon

Often, someone just starting a new business will get terribly disappointed because they developed a brochure, ran an ad, attended a networking event, or sent out postcards with little response. They get discouraged and lose sight that marketing is really about developing relationships and, like any new relationship; it takes time to build interest and trust. To turn a potential customer into a new customer, you must reach out to them with consistent marketing messages (at least six times…more if you’re selling a high-ticket item) before they feel like they “know” and “trust” your company enough to take the risk of purchasing a product or service from you.

Remember to stay the course, follow your marketing plan and talk to other businesses that have been down the same path you are on. You’ll find there is no such thing as instant success. And if you are really unsure of what you are doing, find a business mentor or hire a marketing professional. You may find that by avoiding the ten biggest mistakes small businesses make, you are on your way to success!

Learn more about the author, Susan Burnash.

Comment on this article

  • Writing and copywriting services 
Portland, Oregon 
Dave Jarecki
    Posted by Dave Jarecki, Portland, Oregon | Jun 10, 2009

    Awesome that you stress the point that advertising IS NOT marketing! A lot of small business owners overlook the importance of building strong connections through networking, business groups, volunteer opportunities . . . essentially being out there, all of which helps them introduce themselves in a very "soft marketing" way. As you point out, the advertising component is only one part of the larger plan. Wonderful article through and through.

  • Accountant/Marketing 
Kirkland, Washington 
Chris Maxfield
    Posted by Chris Maxfield, Kirkland, Washington | Jun 11, 2009

    The 'gold' is in the followup. As she mentioned you've got to reach out to someone at least 6 times - a lot of us collect cards at an event and then forget about them. It's a trick when you go to a lot of networking events to 'do something' with all this material (cards) so you can followup even the first time let alone 5-6 more times!

    A trick but can be done!

  • Marketing, Public Relations, Video Production 
Atlanta, Georgia 
Susan Burnash
    Posted by Susan Burnash, Atlanta, Georgia | Jun 12, 2009

    Thanks for the comments. I totally believe in networking with a purpose. In one of the classes I teach I tell my students that when it comes to attending networking events that you shouldn't look at the people in the room as potential sales but potential sales peope. A strong referral from someone who truly knows you, trusts you and believes in your business model, service and product beats any other type of marketing or advertising you can do!