Aug 022011

Five Common Mistakes To Avoid in Marketing Your Small Business

Is marketing your small business not going as well as you would like?  There is always room for improvement!  The following five common mistakes are fundamental to effective marketing and sales.  If you are committing these mistakes in marketing your products and/or service, correct your approach as soon as possible and you may be surprised how quickly your sales and profitability head in the right direction.


Common Marketing Mistake #1:  Not Focusing On The Prospect

 90+ percent of the marketing materials I see are focused on the many wonderful attributes of the SELLER!  Their marketing communications focus on them — where they went to school, how big their business is, their wonderful office location, the great technology they have, etc.

Is this what the prospective customer really cares about?  Or are they more concerned with hearing that you understand their problems and can help them with the challenges they are facing right now?

Rather than telling them that your company is such and such, tell them you and your company understand the issues they are facing.  Tell them you understand them and in fact, your whole focus is on helping people in their exact situation address those and similar problems.  You’d like them to know that you can’t get enough of helping people like them and you’ve done it effectively, over and over again.

You can and should, of course, let them know that you and your company have the necessary qualifications to get the job done and solve their problem.  But rather than just listing your credentials, get that message across by telling them the many stories of how you’ve successfully helped others with the same challenges they are facing.  Show them the knowledge and insights you’ve applied to help clients solve similar issues.

 Common Marketing Mistake #2:  Trying To Be Too Clever

If you read and study enough advertising and marketing pieces, you will realize that the vast majority are trying to be clever – too clever.

The point of marketing and advertising is not to show people how smart you are or how great a vocabulary you have.  The point is to get your prospects to take a specific action.  To call you.  To buy your product.  To join your email list.  The surest way to NOT make this happen is by using too many big words or fancy concepts and images, or by using subtle graphics that you think are cute or clever, but that leave the prospect wondering what you’re talking about.

Prospects are bombarded by advertising and marketing messages and images these days.  This constant bombardment has forced people to be even more selective regarding what they pay attention to.  Not surprisingly, what most often grab and hold prospects’ attention are messages that are clear and are clearly relevant to issues they facing right now.

Develop the habit of writing very directly in all your business writing, and particularly in your advertising and marketing materials.


Common Marketing Mistake #3:  Emphasizing Features Rather Than Benefits

The famous example goes, “People don’t buy a hole puncher (or drill), they buy the ability to make holes”.  Or people don’t buy a driver (golf), they buy the ability to hit the ball further and straighter off the tee and impress their friends.

When you are marketing your product or service, don’t expect that simply writing up a long list of incredible features will magically incentivize your prospect to take out their credit card (or check book, or purchase order) and buy what you have to offer.  It simply does not work that way for the vast majority of buyers.

Rather than tell them, “my product is all this,” or “I’m all that,” tell them, “You have this issue you are confronting and what I am offering is the best way to solve that problem, quickly and economically, as we have proven over and over, with challenges just like yours”.


Common Marketing Mistake #4:  Not Offering a Guarantee

Your prospects are worried that your product won’t work for them. So put their worries to bed by offering a risk-reversal – that is, a satisfaction guarantee. Unconditional, strong and long guarantees usually deliver the best conversion rates to you.

This may seem like big risk to you, but if it does, ask yourself this question: How good is my product/service?  If you believe in what you are offering, you are less likely to have a big concern about offering a satisfaction guarantee.  If you’re still concerned, offer the guarantee for a limited time and see how it goes.

If you look around, you will notice that most of the savviest marketers out there offer a no questions asked, unconditional money back 30-day (minimum) guarantee.  This is not easy to apply to certain products and services, of course, but for most, it works very well.


Common Marketing Mistake #5:  Not Creating a Sense of Urgency

You need to have a call to action at the end of your sales letter or other marketing piece that tells your prospects exactly what to do next (e.g., “get out your credit card and click here to get started now…”). But you also need to give your prospects a good reason to act NOW, otherwise they may become distracted and never come back to your marketing piece.  As discussed, prospects are bombarded with other offers and other sensory inputs on an almost constant basis these days.  We increasingly live in the “age of distraction”.

The solution? Create a sense of urgency by:

  • Reminding the prospect that her/his pain and problems will be over when he/she buys the product or service.
  • Offering a limited-time discount or bonus offer.
  • Offering a limited quantity of products.
  • Offering a bonus or discount to the first few hundred (or whatever number makes sense in the context of your offer) people who order.

You just learned about five common marketing mistakes that may be causing your marketing not to work as well as it could.  To the extent you haven’t already, get to work now on correcting these issues.  It will be some of the most productive and profitable time you ever invest.

Don’t just pick and choose the methods you like best. Instead, address all five mistakes … and enjoy the results!

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Paul Morin

  • Hi Paul,

    You are so right! You have to change perspectives and think about what the prospective customer/client wants and needs rather than how great you are! On the other hand, once they see that you can fill their need, I think people buy from you because they resonate with you in one way or another. So it is important to be authentic and let yourself shine through in your marketing, at the same time you are letting people know that you genuinely care and want to serve them. Thanks for another great post!


  • Sherrie Koretke

    Great list, Paul. I’ll refer back to it when I start ramping up my marketing in the fall. Thanks!

  • Thanks, Sherrie. Sounds good. Paul

  • That’s true, Laur. Once you’ve done the hard work of putting yourself in the prospects’ shoes and making sure all your marketing materials are written to address their needs/pain points/challenges, it’s key that the image you are presenting of yourself and your company is unique and genuine. One typically does not work well without the other. You’re absolutely right — it’s very important to be authentic! Paul

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  • Margaret (Peggy) Herrman

    Paul, your post is spot on. When I am wearing my Orchid Ladies hat, we do all the above in sales except to create that sense of urgency. Any tips on face-to-face ways of getting around “its the economy” type of statements?

    We are about to go national with e-trade and are building in incentives to drive sales. For some reason the face-to-face local is even harder. Very interesting. 🙂

  • Hi Peggy,

    Can you give me a little background on what Orchid Ladies does?


  • Margaret (Peggy) Herrman

    Thanks Paul, I think you are also on the Peggy Herrman page. it is a personal page as well as a temp. landing page for Orchid Ladies. We create really fun and sometimes stunning floral arrangements using either live plant orchid or permanent botanical materials. We work thru and with 3 local shops and have been building a local following using Facebook. Is working (so is the persistence). We are also going e-trade just as soon as all of our packaging and other systems are in place (working on that & a really good web page as we speak). That’s the background.

    I think the e-trade will go well. Would love to continue to build locally by placing produce in offices and thru even planners. Have knocked on many doors, many times and will continue to do so. My understanding is that we need to knock/approach a location at least 12 times (at least 12 rejections). Sure would love to build that sense of urgency at that level (or at least cut the number of rejections a tad). You might just be hearing fatigue. and I know the economy drags and this is NOT an essential buy. But??

    So, yep, I do conflict. love to, will always do conflict (and really well), but orchids feed the other side of my brain and the challenge of building that business is fun. Just want to push it further, faster.

    any insights would be so appreciated. thanks. Peggy

  • Hi Peggy, wow, that’s very interesting! I spent a good portion of the last couple of years in Costa Rica and other places in Latin America. In Costa Rica, the orchid trade is huge and there are expositions all over the place. I was amazed by how many types of orchids there are — hundreds, if not thousands, I think! They are truly beautiful and the variety of colors and shapes is stunning. I can also see how this would feed the other side of your brain, as you said, given that by their very beauty and elegance, they exude a “right side of the brain” sophistication that any human would find it tough to match. Ok, enough about the beauty and magic of orchids. Let’s talk about the challenge you are facing and how you may be able to create more of a sense of urgency.

    While I’m not familiar with all the marketing materials you’ve produced, I’m confident that you’ve been able to communicate all the positive features of these magical flowers. I think you said you had this aspect covered, but I’d be interested to hear/see how you translated the features into the benefits that prospective customers care about. It will be key too that whatever assertions you make about the benefits, you back up with third party validation — testimonials and other tangible evidence of the “upside of orchids” at events or in particular types of venues/offices.

    If your conversations mainly are with office managers and with event planners, it’s key to try to step into their shoes to think about what they’re trying to optimize. In the case of an office manager, they are most likely given a particular budget for plants and flowers. In all likelihood, they have no particular affinity for orchids versus any other type of flower. In the case of event planners, it’s probably not particularly different — they’re given a particular budget and told to make everything pleasing aesthetically. My assumptions may be off — you know far better than I do on this, but the point is that you have to put yourself in their shoes.

    In terms of trying to create a sense of urgency, you hate to do it just on price — that’s going too quickly to the lowest common denominator. That said, it’s likely that these buyers are trying to get the most out of their budgets (who isn’t), so price will undoubtedly be a piece of the equation. You may also play the “scarcity card;” however, given that you’re dealing with buyers and not collectors, that may have little effect. Another one — just brainstorming — would be to weave a “story arc” about the increasing popularity and awareness of orchids (assuming this is true) and how they may want to get in front of the “fashion trend” and have these flowers at their event and/or in their offices before the whole world catches on. This will create a sense of urgency to be first, or at least ahead of the curve. Depending on the mentality of the buyers, which will likely vary based on the characteristics of the events/offices, this could be an angle that has some legs. If it does, you could further play this up by giving fashionable names to particular arrangements, etc — something you probably already do.

    Hopefully this gets you on the right track for thinking through the urgency issue.


  • Margaret (Peggy) Herrman

    Paul, you are fabulous! Our sales concentrate on value and staying in budget. the fashion trend idea just may be a key. thank you!!!!! 🙂

    Have not assigned names to the designs yet. we do personalize with the company name and have have them doing all sorts of things like getting dressed for a party. we will play that up on the web (actually there are all sorts of things that are doable on the web. My goal has been to relax folks, get them to giggle with me a tad, enjoy the beauty, then buy. Seems people think they are marrying the plants & back off. We work to disspell that fear all the time. But, being fashion forward is nice :-0 really nice. hugs

  • Sounds good, Peggy. Keep me apprised of your progress! Paul

  • Margaret (Peggy) Herrman

    will do 🙂

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  • If you decide to start running events as part of your marketing mix, it’s easy to think the most challenging element will be the logistics. Finding a venue, ordering the AV and staging, sorting out the detail of your handout packs… the list goes on.

    In fact often the piece of the puzzle that requires the most work is marketing the event itself. How are you going to get those illusive bums on seats?

    We’ve been organising and marketing events for some time and because of this, we’ve seen a lot of mistakes made. See how many of the following mistakes you have made and let’s hope we can all avoid making these in the future.

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