Ten Common Marketing Mistakes

By Orvel Ray Wilson

Assuming You Don’t Have to Market

Coca-Cola is by far the most widely recognized brand name in the world, and one of the world’s largest advertisers, investing tens of millions of dollars annually in marketing. Even if you’ve got a better mousetrap, the world will not beat a path to your door. Every business must market itself constantly, aggressively, or fail.

Assuming You Need Big Money to Market

Jay Conrad Levinson, in his best-selling book Guerrilla Marketing Attack*, lists 100 marketing weapons, and 50 of them cost you nothing. Even the smallest one-person business should cultivate good relations with the press. Read Jeffery Lant’s book, The Unabashed Self Promoter’s Guide, to learn how to write dollars worth press releases and articles that will generate thousand of dollars worth of free publicity.

Improper Targeting

Try to say something to somebody or you will be saying nothing to everybody. “Narrow cast” your marketing message to a specific group who want, need, or have to buy your products. Advertise to remind rather that to impress. Repetition is key; mail postcards weekly for a month instead of a single multi-page brochure blitz. Enclose a business card with everything.

Confusing Image and Identity

Guerrillas strive to communicate their identity, not their image. Image implies something contrived or counterfeit. Your identity is who you really are. Customers recognize and appreciate the truth. Put your picture on your business card and your address on your stationary. How else will they know where to send the check?

Undervaluing the Product

Hungry retailers routinely sell their work for a fraction of the fair market value. Be competitive, even aggressive, but don’t give products or services away. Customers will not place a value on your work unless you do.

Incomplete Customer Feedback

Follow up every order after several days to make sure the customer is still satisfied. Ask everyone, “How are we doing?” and “How could we improve?” Take every suggestion seriously. If you really listen to your customers, and do what they tell you to, you can’t fail.

No Specific Marketing Goals

Define exactly the outcome you want your marketing to produce É to inform, to educate, to entertain, or to persuade? Every dollar spent on marketing is an investment, so expect a specific rate of return. Be clear about your goals and track your response rates in registrations per hundred calls, or sales per thousand brochures.

Insufficient Information

The belief that people don’t read long copy is a common marketing myth. Readership falls off dramatically after the first 50 words, but long copy sells to readers interested enough to finish. Put the “5 W’s” up front (who, what, when, where, why), then use enough ink to tell your whole story so your customers can make an informed decision.

Failure to Develop Vendor Relationships

Don’t always go with the lowest quote. Get to know a printer, designer, or agency that understands your needs and will compete for your long-term business. For example, ask them to price the printing of your newsletter on a monthly-for-a-year basis.

Switching Too Soon

Easily the most costly, and certainly the most common mistake, is changing the theme, format, or media used in your marketing campaign. This one is so important that it should be listed as number one. Just about the time you’re sick to death of your marketing, your prospects are just beginning to recognize who you are. Instead of updating your advertising, spend the money repeating your message, again and again and again and again.

Orvel Ray Wilson is an author and speaker on sales, marketing and management, and co-author of Guerrilla Selling: Unconventional Weapons and Tactics for Making the Sale. For a free copy of The Guerrilla Selling Newsletter, call 303-637-1461.

*guerrilla marketer (n) 1: one who deploys irregular marketing weapons that are effective, inexpensive, and productive. 2: one who uses time, energy and imagination, instead of brute marketing force to gain an advantage.

[From Connection Magazine, March 1994]