When you’re first starting a business, marketing can be a major challenge. In fact, most small business owners consider marketing and branding to be their biggest challenge, a UPS Store survey found. When small business owners were asked to name their toughest task, 31 percent said marketing and branding, making this the top answer, coming in ahead of lack of time and insufficient financial resources.
One reason marketing is such a big challenge for small business owners is that most entrepreneurs don’t have any marketing training. This makes it easy to fall into common traps that more experienced marketers know to avoid. Here are three of the most common start-up marketing mistakes to avoid, along with some tips on how to navigate these pitfalls successfully.
Failing to Do Market Research
One of the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make is starting up a business or a marketing campaign based solely on what they think is a bright idea. A problem with this is that just because an idea appeals to you does not mean it will appeal to buyers. In order for your idea to be a marketing success, it must appeal to a sufficient number of other people who want to buy your product or service. The only way to determine this objectively without guessing is to do market research. Market research helps you gather key information such as who buys the type of product or service you sell, how large your target market is, and what types of benefits appeal to your intended audience.
When you’re first starting out, the easiest way to do market research is to tap into research other companies have already done. Data collected by government agencies such as census data, market research polls by companies such as Nielsen, and market research reports by companies such as MarketsandMarkets are good places to start. HubSpot provides a list of top market research tools you can use. As you begin to develop your own customer base, you should also conduct your own market research by analyzing data such as your website traffic, social media following, email list, and surveys of your customers. Tools such as Google Marketing Platform, Facebook Audience Insights, SalesForce, and Survey Monkey can help you do your own market research.
Trying to Market to Everyone
Another common mistake is trying to market your brand to everyone. If you ask the average entrepreneur who their target market is, they’re likely to answer, “Everyone.” The problem with this is that few products and services genuinely appeal to everyone, and if you try to market to everyone, you’re going to end up wasting a lot of resources trying to sell to a lot of people who aren’t interested in what you’re selling. Instead, find out who truly wants to buy what you sell so you can focus your marketing efforts effectively.
A good way to do this is to develop a profile of your ideal customer. Marketing author John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing recommends that you start by zeroing in on a very narrow target market so you can define their demographic profile and create a value proposition that addresses the needs and preferences of that group. You can then test your value proposition out on actual customers and adjust it to better define your ideal buyer.
Failing to Communicate Your Brand’s Identity
Once you know who you’re trying to reach, the next step is to craft a branding identity and marketing message that appeals to them. Unfortunately, most small businesses put the cart before the horse here by choosing a company name and image and marketing message that appeals to the company’s owner, not to the company’s target market. This would make sense if you were trying to sell to yourself, but if you’re trying to sell to other people, you want a message geared toward your target buyers.
One key component of your branding message is your logo. Optimally, your logo should convey the benefits of your brand and the emotional associations you want the customer to attach to your brand. An effective logo should also be designed so that it visually appeals to mobile and online customers, who constitute the bulk of today’s consumers. FlashMarks provides tips and tools that show you how to design a logo and assist you with creating a logo that is suitable for mobile and online marketing.
In addition to an effective logo, another vital piece of your marketing message is your unique selling proposition (USP), which is a brief statement telling your target market what you offer, why they should want to buy it, and why they should buy it from you instead of your competition. A good USP should sum up in 90 words or less what makes your brand’s value proposition stand out from competitors. Copywriting legend Bob Bly provides some guidelines to help you craft an effective USP.
Market research forms the foundation for a winning marketing campaign. Defining a clear target market helps you focus your marketing efforts effectively. Honing your brand’s identity through your logo and USP helps ensure that the message you’re communicating is the one you want to convey to your target market. Following these guidelines will help you avoid common mistakes and attract customers.