When SMBs consider the hundreds of ways to market their businesses, determining which activities are essential can seem a daunting task. After all, there are online and offline strategies to consider, gray areas between marketing and sales activities, and a dizzying array of channels to use. Larger companies have economies of scale and specialized personnel to ensure that no stone gets left unturned, but SMBs are at a relative disadvantage.
The following are seven of the most common marketing mistakes SMBs often make. Methodically addressing these oversights will help to ensure long-term business sustainability and success in your marketplace:
1. Not having a clearly defined and articulated mission statement.
The real work to develop a mission statement is commonly given short shrift by SMBs, resulting in blobs of text that are mostly bland, uninspiring, and cliché. Yet a well-conceived statement can be a fundamental cornerstone for all your marketing objectives, roles, and activities. It defines why your company exists, its role in the marketplace, and what it does for the industry and customers. It may even include what your company does for the community or for important causes.
The significance of the mission statement is often overlooked, because people outside of marketing often view it as filler on a website that doesn’t drive immediate action. But if your statement is strong and true, it can be the foundation upon which your core marketing message is built, communicating to the world the primary ways in which your company adds value.
2. Not having a mapped-out marketing plan that supports the company mission.
So perhaps you’ve taken the time to develop a strong mission statement. But what comes next? Now you need marketing objectives that are well-aligned with your business objectives. Think about what you’re trying to achieve as a business and make sure all your marketing efforts are aligned with those goals. You may aspire to grow your presence in certain geographic or demographic market segments, or boost customer retention with clearly superior service. Follow these steps:
- Define your goals
- Document your marketing plans and clearly line them up with your business goals.
- Allocate resources to the marketing budget and determine which staff members will be held accountable for key objectives.
- Execute your plans
- Don’t forget to measure your results!!
3. Not knowing your target customer(s)
Large corporations have substantial budgets allocated to market research and customer surveys. This allows them to define, understand, and effectively target market segments for their products and services. SMBs design and sell products and services around market needs but can’t always pinpoint precise audiences to target. Selling to a broad audience results in diluted marketing messages, inefficient marketing investments, and generally lower ROI.
By understanding your best prospects—who they are and what they want—you can develop detailed descriptions called “personas.” With so many channel and media options available, it’s possible to cost-effectively target personas with compelling messages that align your products with their unique needs.
4. Not having a Unique Value Proposition (UVP) or Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
What distinguishes your company, products, and services from competitors? Many SMBs equally promote many of the features and benefits their products deliver, even though competitors can often make the same claims. When customers must choose from similar options, they choose the lowest-priced option. Competing exclusively on price is a losing proposition, even when you win the deal. Stake out unique ground in your market where competitors can’t make similar claims. Nobody else delivers the combination of products and services exactly the way that you do. Take the time to figure out and articulate how and why you’re different. Then tell everyone about it.
5. Not marketing your people
Many SMBs have a significant advantage over their corporate behemoth competitors that they fail to exploit: their people and their ability to have close relationships with their customers. You probably see this principle in action every day; a salesperson introduces a subject matter expert to a customer who can be used as a resource to solve current and future problems. Your business’ relationship with that customer is now solidified. He has a reason to be loyal.
Have you thought about promoting your subject matter experts and other helpful personnel on your website and in your marketing materials? Your people are primary reasons your prospects should do business with you, so make introductions at every opportunity.
These essential marketing activities all share a common thread. They are about knowing who you are as a business, what you have to offer, and who should find your offerings valuable. These are social principles, best executed by people with demonstrable social skills.