Avoid these marketing mistakes

In addition to the lessons we’ve learned from hundreds of Wisconsin/Michigan TEC members over the years, a special thanks to Jeremiah Wilson, a Vistage resource, for his thinking on this issue.

Marketing is all about delivering a product or service designed to profitably increase market share. Sales is all about the human skills and ability needed to achieve the objectives that marketing sets for sales.

So from a true marketing perspective, these are the eight errors of omission that seem to occur most frequently, especially with smaller firms:

If the results of a marketing project can’t be measured, then don’t do it.

The possible exception would be a charitable or pro bono project totally unrelated to the business. If you can measure how the project has strengthened your brand, then results could be quantifiable.

The most common faulty assumptions are based on the premise that you can readily distinguish customers’ needs from their wants, and that you have, in fact, truly identified their needs and separated them from their wants. All of this perpetual talk about “adding value” and “differentiating from competition” is great, but only if the underlying assumptions about customer needs are spot on.

One of the most glaring examples here is a firm that prides itself for the quality of its product or service, and competitive pricing. Problem is, the firm seldom delivers on time because its vendors have problems with back orders. It turns out the customer cares most about on-time delivery, as promised, not quality or price.

This is one of my favorites. A preoccupation with outbound or “push through” marketing significantly reduces the opportunity for inbound or “pull through” marketing.

In other words, if you’re concentrating on finding customers, but not letting prospective customers find you, you’re only doing half your job. Inbound marketing means making it easy and convenient for prospective customers to find you, and then even easier for them to communicate with you.

The likelihood of success with inbound marketing has never been better. That’s because of the Internet and the many contacts you can make via social media, coupled with targeted traditional advertising and PR programs.

We can’t be all things to all people, but marketers sometimes fail to understand that.

Here’s one remedy. It’s the old “sliced pie” routine. You take your existing customers and break them into definable pie segments. Each segment has one major unique characteristic. For example, you can separate them by business size, repeat purchasers, geography, psychological attributes, specific buying needs, qualifying as a key account, or industry type.

The total of the pie segments equals 100 percent of your sales, and another total equals 100 percent of your gross profits. The two pies may look very different. Your task is to figure how to best aim your marketing efforts at each segment for maximum effect.

Developing and maintaining a top-flight website requires a variety of talents.

For smaller companies with no technical skills or time for website management, there’s no option but to hire outside help to build the site and maintain it. Someone within the firm must be able to provide vendors with basic information about the company and whatever is needed to update the site. The company should evaluate the site at least quarterly, and also ask existing customers to rate it.

What should they rate? Overall appearance in support of the brand, timeliness of home page content, ease of navigation, the ordering process, customer service, and the use of testimonials throughout the content. Imbedded videos and blogs are musts these days.

Have you considered using apps with smart phone technology to promote your products and services? Facebook remains the number one social media site, with more than 800 million users. Strategic twittering has taken off beyond anyone’s imagination with millions of participants worldwide using Twitter for everything from handling customer service issues within seconds to educating consumers.

Cool marketing companies are finding ways to link reality cams with a master network that streams content to targeted areas of the Internet and social media.

I don’t care if you provide insurance services or stainless steel foundry products, if you’re not onboard with technology, it’s time to do it! Your competitors will leave you in the dust if you ignore the fact that new marketing technology is here to stay.

TEC has been built on a simple idea for 55 years: that people will always need the comfort and assurances provided by human contact and relationships to prosper and be fulfilled. That’s why the telephone and phone (cam) will never become obsolete, at least in our lifetime.

From a marketing perspective, using a phone to call customers and clients is more important than ever to pinpoint problems and reinforce the brand.

This seems way too obvious, and it shouldn’t be. Once the order is in the bag, or the contract signed, some firms simply drop the ball and assume that their marketing responsibility with the customer is done. They concentrate on fulfillment. That’s it.

You should never stop marketing to an existing customer. Instead, treat them like a prospective customer. That’s what your competitors will be doing. You already have the tools in place to continue the relationship and court them. You probably know exactly what they need. Your competitors don’t. In other words, don’t let the client believe that the honeymoon is over.

Until the next time, do an internal audit. Is your marketing house in order?

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