It makes no difference whether you’re young, old, experienced, or brand new to the world of small business marketing; when you’re starting out, it is imperative that you present a clean, sincere and professional image from day one. Understandably, many entrepreneurs are so anxious to begin making money that they lose sight of the underlying–and incredibly vital–need to establish a positive brand identity.
While there are hundreds of contenders, here are our picks on the most common rookie marketing mistakes for new and small businesses.
The Homemade Business Card
The business cards that you printed-from-home using your inkjet printer have a purpose, but we promise you that it has nothing to do with long-term branding. If you must use them, be mindful of the message they may impart. With the exception of use as backups, or distributing to family friends (who will not be factoring their quality into any purchasing decisions) we strongly recommend opting towards high quality business cards.
Poor paper selection
Choosing project-appropriate paper is something that many new marketers learn as they go along, though we feel it’s important to master this skill from the onset. For many, it often comes as a shock to learn that things like proposals, presentations, formal letters and other customer-facing documents should never be printed on 20# copy paper.
Many times when new businesses are in the process of developing their own flyers, signs and websites, they find themselves low on stock images and useable, relevant graphics. As a result, old versions of logos–as well as concept designs–end up being used as space fillers. This is a good idea only if you’re looking to absolutely baffle your prospects and thwart all branding opportunities. Keep your logos consistent and limited to one universal, current design per visible page.
Inappropriate content or message
Countless marketers are guilty of this one: wanting to market a specific product or service, only to trail off into some long-winded spiel about why they started their business, their facility or any other number of irrelevant directions. Whether it’s a brochure, a door hanger, or a specific page on your website, be sure to not lose sight of the message you’re competing to send. It allows the reader to better understand what you’re offering, without getting lost in a verbal maze of buzzwords.
Essentially, leave your story for the About Us section of your digital or print ad, make sure that each piece has one goal and that all copy is created towards that goal.
There are times when inexpensive stationary is acceptable, such as communicating not urgent information with existing clients, general non-client correspondence, inter-office distribution, etc. For most business matters, though, you will do a great service to yourself by having professionally printed stationery. Using a more professional design and better paper stock will tell your prospects and clients that you take your business, and its image, seriously.
Undefined – or Poorly defined– target audience
You’ve heard the phrase know your audience, right? There’s a reason why this mantra is ingrained in the minds of business owners both new and legendary: it is crucial. Unless you’re rubbing elbows with the Wal-Marts® and McDonalds® of the world, blanket marketing really doesn’t do much but waste resources, time and effort. Having a deep knowledge and understanding of who will buy your products or services, will allow you to position them in channels that are most likely to result in sales.
Whenever you’re producing a new ad, campaign or piece content imagine your target persona, give them a name, age, occupation and produce for them. That will make it easier as you start out.
Bad offer, low incentive
Todays’ consumers and purchasing agents are spoiled by a world of choices at their fingertips. If you’re going to take the time to develop an incentive-based campaign, make sure that it is one they feel compelled to respond immediately to. It should inspire a genuine impulse response, without promising more than you or your company can realistically deliver. Also, don’t insult their intelligence by offering some boilerplate incentive which they know to be free.
Weak or No Call to Action
There are two things to keep in mind when developing a sound call to action. First, never forget to include some sort of customer-specific action in the outro of your marketing materials. From clicking the “order now” button to picking up the phone, we live in a world where people have become conditioned to being prompted for virtually everything. Finally, make sure that your call to action is realistic, easily implemented and worth their while.
Forgetting the follow-up
This is a big one. Obviously, there are some marketing actions where following up with every contact is impossible (mass mail, commercials, e-mail blasts, etc). Many, however, are perfect opportunities for a personal follow-up. A few of the most significant include sending a personalized thank you after a big meeting, thanking customers for visiting your store, or requesting a meeting after an initial phone call. Taking just the slightest extra initiative could be all that’s standing between you and your first big contact.
Did we miss anything here? What marketing mistakes were you forced to learn the hard way? Share your comments, tips and feedback below and help spare other creative types the same embarrassment.