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The Five Marketing Mistakes Every Entrepreneur Makes (and How to Avoid Them)

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Every marketer makes mistakes. If you are an entrepreneur with a limited budget and only a few chances to make your business a success, your goal is simply to avoid making too many.

The five marketing mistakes every entrepreneur is tempted to make are:
  • Betting on the Big Event: Gambling Instead of Planning

  • Depending on Others/Outsourcing the Wrong Things

  • Marketing Nonexistent Product

  • Failing to Measure

  • Adding Complexity
The good news is that you don't need to learn from your mistakes—you can learn from other people's mistakes, saving yourself trouble. Here's how:

1. Betting on the Big Event: Gambling Instead of Planning

The first mistake many marketers make is spending all of their marketing dollars in one place without calculating the odds of success first.

Attending a trade show, attending a local fair, or even taking the time to attend local business events can be prohibitively expensive. If the event doesn't generate the expected associated volume of sales, you may soon have no company to market.

So be sure you plan; don't gamble.
  • Always do the math on expected costs and resultant sales, underestimating sales when you plan. Remember this equation: your profit = [# of potential leads] x [likelihood of making sale] x [size of sale] - [total costs of attending event].

  • Equip yourself to make the most of the event. Put yourself in the customers' shoes—why should they stop by your table or chat with you? What will they see or hear? What will you talk to them about? What will they leave with? Why should they give you a business card? Answer those questions and come prepared.

  • Shop around, and understand whether your money could be better spent. Given the profit equation above, is there another way you could get as much in sales for less money?
2. Depending on Others/Outsourcing the Wrong Things

The second mistake many marketers make is making their businesses' successes or failures dependent on their hired consultants' successes or failures.

Many entrepreneurs forget that if the consultant they hired fails to perform a critical task, it's not only the consultant who fails.

So keep the critical things under control, and be sure of your help.
  • Check references. Call people and ask about your consultant's reliability and quality. Ask to see their prior work. Ask for situations where they failed. Be thorough.

  • Communicate and align expectations. Have a written agreement on costs, timelines, ownership of final results, and what those results will look like.

  • Have a backup plan. What happens when the consultant doesn't deliver?
3. Marketing Nonexistent Product

The third mistake many marketers make is over-marketing without business substance to back up their claims.

Never over-promise and under-deliver on your product or service—it will permanently drive away customers. Strive to match customer expectations with product (or service) delivery.

It doesn't matter if you're delivering a lot or a little; either way, customers are happy when they get slightly more than they expect. So give it to them.
  • Understand your customers and what they value about your business. A customer who expects a burger and fries in five minutes for $2 and gets them in two minutes for $1 will be happier than one who gets a 30 minutes for $50.

  • Sell what you have, not what you're planning to have, presented so your customers can understand how what you have today matches what they value. Don't sell the steakhouse you will be; sell the "fast and cheap...and tasty" you are.

  • Use "vision" presentations carefully, in a pre-thought-out way, to stall competition or explain why owning the current product is of more value than waiting. Why wait 30 minutes and pay $50 when you can have a full meal now and cash left over?
4. Failing to Measure

The fourth mistake many marketers make is completing a marketing program and realizing they have no idea if it "worked" or not or how to improve it next time.

What you'd like to know about any marketing program is how many people who became aware of you through that program went on to eventually buy something (vs. the number of people who became aware of you through other more or less expensive methods).

So take the time to prepare. Remember, if you can't measure it, it doesn't exist.
  • Understand what to measure—and always measure the program's linkage to sales. Do you really care about cost per person lured to your storefront...or per person who buys something from you? (It's usually the latter.)

  • Build ways of measuring into your marketing program. Are you asking people to call you? Set up a specific phone extension. Email? Add a special email alias.

  • Change one variable—one aspect of your program—at a time, and then repeat and re-measure. Did your sign not generate replies? Change the design or location, not both at once.
5. Adding Complexity

The fifth mistake many marketers make is making it hard for prospective customers to understand and purchase their products.

Simple is good! Most people can only hold five to nine pieces of information in their short-term memories at one time. If you present a marketing message longer than that, people won't remember it.

Your goal should be to make the purchase process as frictionless as possible for buyers—as every barrier you put in their way is one more opportunity for them to change their minds about buying.

So keep it simple for your customer.
  • Say it simply. Use concise, basic descriptions. A "solution for business continuity" gets less attention than one that talks about "zero failures."

  • Make it simple to do. It should be easy to do business with you. If your customers have to spend more time and attention on completing your process than they'll see in return (use $100 per hour as a value of return), you're doing them and yourself a disservice.

  • Don't ask too much of your customers. All you really want is their business. Balance the value of that which you're offering against the possibility of collecting multiple bits of information over a longer set of interactions—and don't attempt to force the qualification process so that only the truly desperate reach your salespeople.
You now have a three-step plan to guide you through each of the five most common traps marketers experience.

So are you safe? Absolutely not! You'll certainly make other mistakes as you grow your business. If you don't, you're not being aggressive and creative enough with your marketing.

But don't worry. The unwritten "fourth step" in every three-step plan is the age-old lemon lesson: when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Consider the number of great discoveries that were made by mistake; penicillin, Post-It notes, and Coca-Cola all originated with an error. As you are the entrepreneur, the final outcome of any situation often rests in your hands. So when it all seems to be going wrong, relax, take a deep breath, ask what the situation lets you provide to customers, and dive in.
On the net:Stupid Marketing: Blog

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