The 4 Biggest Marketing Mistakes You're Making as a Business Owner

From cherry-picking customers to working only on your time, here are the four biggest mistakes your business needs to avoid.

As business owners, sometimes you find yourself in a pickle, but it's always important to try to not get yourself in that pickle in the first place!  From mindsets to actions, these are four common marketing mistakes business owners make which impact their business and customer experience.

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    Mistake No. 1: The customer is on my time. Unless you've set clear guidelines from the start or have your timeline listed on your website, don't get angry if customers don't get back to you promptly. When customers are in the planning stage, they’re the driver of time.  You can't get upset if they don't get back to you as soon as you'd like.

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    Mistake No. 2: I only want to work with low key customers. Customers who don't pay are customers you don't want to work with. Customers who yell or are disrespectful might not make the cut. But, a customer who is indecisive or disorganized or takes little extra management is not someone to write off. The toughest customers will teach you the most!

    Mistake No. 3: I'm not going to invest in marketing. My customers come from word of mouth. When funds are right, the marketing budget always seems to get cut. But Every business should have a marketing budget at all times. Word of mouth will only go so far and if you're not investing now, you'll be left behind in the long run.

    Mistake No. 4: It's my way or the highway. You get to decide how you want to run your business and it's important you pick a path that makes sense for you and your team, but being flexible is the key to great customer service. Maybe you always do deliveries on Thursday, but a customer has a last-minute request—make the delivery on Wednesday! Give in sometimes and don't leave a customer hanging just because their small request doesn't match up with your process.

    Always put your feet in your customers' shoes, and your business will learn how to operate with empathy and business knowledge for proven success. Mistakes can be fixed, but avoiding them in the first place is important! 

    Annie Pryatel is the owner of AMP Brand Studios. Learn more about how AMP is helping small businesses succeed by clicking here.


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    Next up: The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users

    The Art of Social Media: Power Tips for Power Users

    Many small businesses today are finding success promoting their brand on social media. But for every success story there are dozens more about the ineffective usage of social media. One of the main reasons social media can be a valuable marketing tool is that it gives businesses the ability to interact and engage with a wider audience. Big or small, everyone today is looking for strategies that work to gain visibility in this new marketing age.

    Many small businesses today are finding success promoting their brand on social media. But for every success story there are dozens more about the ineffective usage of social media. One of the main reasons social media can be a valuable marketing tool is that it gives businesses the ability to interact and engage with a wider audience. Big or small, everyone today is looking for strategies that work to gain visibility in this new marketing age.

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    The Art of Social Media, published in December 2014, was written by Guy Kawasaki, the legendary former chief evangelist for Apple and a pioneer of business blogging and social media use for business, and Peg Fitzpatrick, a successful social media strategist.

    This book offers sound practical advice on ways to be effective in the digital market today and has quickly become the go-to resource for small business owners looking to up their social media game. “I am a passionate marketer and have seen the amazing importance of winning in the digital marketing space over the last 10 years,” says Mike Foti, president of Innovate Building Solutions. “This book is practicable and actionable and written in bite-sized chunks so you can learn some things, put them into practice, and then pick it back up at a later date for more input/advice.”

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    “Small business owners all have the same challenge – time – and the reality that social media is free is a myth. It takes time to do it right,” says Foti. “This book provides resources and methods to save time on social media and offers helpful advice and important lessons that any small business owner can use to improve their social media footprint.” 

    This article originally appeared in the July 6, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.


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    Next up: The Best Decision I Ever Made

    The Best Decision I Ever Made

    The best decision I made in my business was to incorporate the theory of mise en place [mi zɑ̃ ˈplas] in everything that I do. Mise en place is a French phrase meaning to ‘put in place.’ It is used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging ingredients.  I learned the term in my first year of restaurant management and it stuck.

    “The best decision I made in my business was to incorporate the theory of mise en place [mi zɑ̃ ˈplas] in everything that I do. Mise en place is a French phrase meaning to ‘put in place.’ It is used in professional kitchens to refer to organizing and arranging ingredients.  I learned the term in my first year of restaurant management and it stuck.

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    Putting everything in place to me means having every aspect of my business or work day arranged so my team and I can execute it in the most effective and impactful way. If you have everything laid out and are prepared for the unexpected, it is easier to handle the inevitable daily chaos. 

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    As a business owner, it is extremely important to ‘set the table’ and get everyone focused and on board with both strategic goals and daily tasks. The catering business offers exciting daily challenges and every one of our teammates at Food For Thought is set up for success by having the best ingredients at their fingertips to create a consistent wow-factor for our customers. If you are able to always put the right ingredients, including talent and resources, in place at the beginning, you will be able to exceed expectations. I believe our focus on mise en place is our secret ingredient.  

    If this kitchen analogy doesn’t resonate, think of the soft high lob on the tennis court, the set-then-spike in volleyball, or teeing it up on the golf course. Whatever vision works, create the set up and have confidence in your deliverables.”

     

    BONNIE MATTHEW, President/Owner, Food for Thought

    This article originally appeared in the August 3, 2015, edition of Small Business Matters.


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    Next up: Video: The Biggest Challenge Facing My Business Is...

    Video: The Biggest Challenge Facing My Business Is...

    During COSE’s recent Annual Meeting, we asked attendees what the biggest problem is that is currently facing their business. And, more importantly, what steps they’re taking to overcome those challenges.

    During COSE’s recent Annual Meeting, we asked attendees what the biggest problem is that is currently facing their business. And, more importantly, what steps they’re taking to overcome those challenges.

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    Watch the video below to find out what they had to say.

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    Next up: The Doctor Is In: Discipline, Desire Lead to Sales Success

    The Doctor Is In: Discipline, Desire Lead to Sales Success

    Our “Sales Doctor” Marvin Montgomery is accustomed to diagnosing all types of sales woes that could impede your success, and he provides the prescription to alleviating these ills. Today’s column focuses on how to achieve the self-discipline you need to stay on task and get your critical action items checked off every day.

    What are some of the most important tasks you have to do every day, but you procrastinate because you don’t feel like doing them? Is it cold calling? Writing proposals? Maybe you delay filling out your CRM report?

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    If you do not have self-discipline, none of the above will get done in a timely manner and your work is going to suffer. Retaining a healthy amount of self-discipline will help you get all of your checklist items done when they need to be done because it requires you to do:

    1. what you are supposed to do;

    2. when you are supposed to do it; and

    3. whether you feel like it or not.

    Tips for Prioritizing:

    1. Collect a list of all your tasks.

    2. Identify urgent vs. important.

    3. Assess value.

    4. Order tasks by estimated effort.

    5. Be flexible and adaptable.

    6. Know when to cut.

    Start today holding yourself accountable for all of the important tasks that you need to accomplish today. A lot of this comes down to having the desire to succeed, plain and simple

    The desire to succeed

    At the end of the day, you must desire success. The dictionary defines “desire” as: “A strong feeling, worthy or unworthy, that impels to the attainment or possession of something that is (in reality of imagination) within reach: a desire for success.”

    When you have that strong desire for success, the self-improvement that you are trying to attain will become a reality. You may want to improve your time management or become an active listener and do less talking. It’s right there within your reach! It just requires a desire to make a change.

    Marvin Montgomery is an author, motivational speaker and professional sales trainer. Learn more about Marvin by visiting www.MarvinMontgomery.com. And you can reach him via email at SalesDoctor@MarvinMontgomery.com.

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    Next up: The Easy Way to Earn Repeat and Referral Business

    The Easy Way to Earn Repeat and Referral Business

    Making the first sale with a customer is easy. But making the second, third or fourth? That can be tricky. Read on below to learn the easy way to start earning repeat business from your customers.

    Time to focus on “Marketing R & R” not getting away from it all but really getting all into it. With every sale or engagement, savvy entrepreneurs ask: “How can I earn repeat or referral business?” The answer is easy to understand but hard to do. So, read on for “R & R” best practices.

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    To ask or not to ask?

    Two schools of thought here. One says never ask for repeats or referrals. If your customers were pleased enough, they’d do it for you without being asked. To ask for them may even look immature, weak or annoying.  If you concur, good for you. Stop reading now, because I’m not going to try to change your mind.

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    I subscribe to the other approach, which says always ask because you always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. If you concur with me, then hang on for a fast ride.

    Everything is earned!

    Not too hard to make the first sale with a customer. What’s much harder is proving your value and living up to your brand promise enough to make the second, third or fourth sale. So, winning the second sale begins with nailing the first one:

    • Ask good questions and listen to what you hear.
    • Summarize what you think customers want so they know you listened and understood.
    • Be sure you can do what they want at a competitive, still make a fair profit and enjoy the process.
    • Under promise and over deliver.
    • Always thank them for the business at the point of sale and at the point of delivery if different.
    • Follow up on satisfaction.
    • Keep in touch … unless they ask you not to.

    If you asked enough good questions up front, you should have a good sense for their needs going forward. In a separate email or phone call, ask when you can discuss other needs.

    It’s usually with the same decision-maker/contact, but might involve:

    • Same product or service with a different end-user.
    • Different product or service with the same end-user.
    • Or, different product or service with a different end-user.

    If you learned enough from your initial conversations, suggest some next steps to consider. Be patient, follow up when they ask you to and think, “Yes” until you hear, “No.” But don’t confuse “No” with “Not now … not ever … never!’

    Internal referrals

    Depending on the size of the organization, there might be other departments, divisions, locations or even subsidiaries that would benefit from your products or services. You won’t know until you ask.

    If Bob, your current customer, gives you the name of colleague Sarah in a “cool” lead, you can certainly contact Sarah and follow up. “Bob gave me your name … ‘should be good enough for a few minutes of her attention. The higher Bob’s position is in the organization, the more time and professional courtesy you might get from Sarah.

    “Cool” leads or pass-offs can be very useful, but “warm” leads or three-way connections are usually better. In this case, Bob offers, or you ask him, to contact Sarah on your behalf, describe your relationship, his satisfaction with you work and connect you with her. This connection can be done in person, by phone or even with an email.

    In both cases, you now have two people you need to turn into raving fans, not just one.

    Bob has some skin in the game, so if things don’t go well with Sarah, that could backfire and impact your future relationship with him. 

    External referrals

    Potentially even more valuable can be referrals to professional colleagues in other organizations. If Bob works in a small company, the internal potential may be limited or non-existent.  But, if Bob is well-connected in the local industry or community, he could refer you to lots of colleagues and become a strong extension of your marketing effort. Nice work if you can get it.

    The same “cool” vs. “warm” lead concept applies. You can always start by asking for a “warm” lead and settle for a “cool” one if you need to.

    Gratitude magnitude

    A key tactic for a successful Referral Strategy is the magnitude of your gratitude. In the above example:

    • Start by thanking Bob for the initial business.
    • An email is good, a phone call better and a hand-written note the best. Why not do all three?  Remember to sit on the ‘ask’ for the next conversation.
    • If Bob does offer you a referral to Sarah, thank him for his help and support. 
    • After contacting Sarah, thank her for her time, even if nothing comes from it.
    • If Sarah does buy something, thank Bob for the lead when you thank her for the initial business.
    • Then, ask Sarah for repeat business as well as internal or external referrals.
    • And the beat goes on …

    Sounds like a lot of time spent expressing gratitude doesn’t it. Absolutely. But, since most people don’t bother, anything you do will clearly and positively differentiate you from the pack of ungrateful amateurs you compete against.

    Fini

    Best of luck mastering the art of Marketing Repeats and Referrals and do share your success stories.

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com,

    440 449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.  


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