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10 Marketing Mistakes Entrepreneurs Must Avoid

Our digital marketing agency, Straight North, has worked with thousands of startups and entrepreneurial businesses over a span of more than 20 years. Many of these clients came to us after having been frustrated by poor results from their marketing efforts. While hundreds of issues can throttle a marketing campaign, we’ve seen several issues come up over and over. Avoid these 10 marketing mistakes, and you’ll be far more likely to succeed, whether your goal is lead generation, online revenue, brand awareness, or a combination.

1. Spreading Yourself Too Thin

If you’re starting up a business or are somewhat new to marketing, every marketing option looks good: You want to be on social media; you want SEO; you want to do an email campaign, etc., etc., etc. However, if in your enthusiasm you dive into multiple campaigns, you’ll quickly learn that successful marketing in any form requires a great deal of time (and in many cases, money) to produce dial-moving results.

Most entrepreneurial businesses lack the human resources and funds to conduct four or five campaigns. Concentrating efforts on one or two campaigns you judge to be most promising is far more effective. As your business grows, you can expand into other types of marketing, or, as is sometimes the case, simply expand the campaign that is already succeeding.

2. Not Having a Clear Objective

Being on social media because a bunch of your competitors is on social media is not a good idea — it’s possible all your competitors are wasting their money. But even large companies with sophisticated marketing departments often fall into the trap of engaging in a certain type of marketing mistake because it’s hot or because everybody seems to have been doing it for the last five years.

Instead of following the herd, ask hard questions. How will we benefit by being on social media (or by doing SEO or an email campaign)? What specific objectives must we set? How will we measure our progress toward those objectives?

Answering these questions vastly improves the odds of success and spares you many sleepless nights wondering whether your marketing efforts are paying off or will ever pay off.

3. Not Having the Right Objective

In marketing, sometimes what you think you want is not really what you want. A good example is a company doing SEO that single-mindedly invests in trying to rank #1 on Google for a highly popular search term. Often, this is a misguided strategy: The search term may be so competitive that it’s cost-prohibitive to pursue it; the search term may generate website traffic but no conversions, making it essentially worthless; the search term may not even generate traffic. Another example is the company that pours everything into being on social media to improve brand awareness when what it really needs is lead generation.

Give adequate thought to all possible upsides, downsides, and ROI potential of a marketing objective(s) before you dedicate resources to pursuing it.

4. Having Unrealistic Expectations

Prepare to be disappointed if:

  • You think you can get a valuable page-one ranking on Google in a month.
  • You think you can achieve a 10% conversion rate on your first PPC campaign.
  • You think you can double your business in six months through an email campaign.
  • You think you can get meaningful results on any marketing campaign with a budget of $200/month.

Having lofty goals is an excellent aspiration, but in marketing, lofty goals require lofty budgets, lofty expertise, and lofty patience. Better to set a series of small goals and be pleasantly surprised than to set an impossible goal and be seriously disappointed.

5. Buying into Deals Too Good to be True

With SEO and many other forms of digital marketing, you’re likely to run into agencies selling low-cost package deals promising great results. Canned marketing campaigns seldom live up to expectations. A certain degree of customization is almost always necessary for a truly effective campaign because every company has a unique starting point, in terms of a target audience, geographic coverage, competitive environment, customer acquisition cost, and a host of other factors. Trying to cram all companies into a one-size-fits-all marketing box just doesn’t work.

If you’re considering a campaign of this type, use extreme caution and avoid any marketing mistakes: Vet the agency carefully, look at online reviews, read the fine print.

6. Building the Website Incorrectly

This is one of the important marketing mistakes. A poor website is a business killer. Think about your own online behavior as a customer. Will you wait 10 seconds for a page to load? Will you spend 10 minutes on a site ferreting around for the information you need? Describing all the ways in which a website can go horribly wrong is well beyond the scope of this article, but here is a quick list of characteristics your website must-have.

  • Built on an SEO-friendly platform (even if you’re not doing SEO right now)
  • Coding that follows web development and SEO best practices
  • Credibility elements (to give prospects confidence to buy)
  • Custom images
  • Customizable page templates
  • An edited, professionally written copy
  • Fast page-loading speed
  • Mobile-friendly design
  • Persuasive calls to action
  • Scalable as your business grows
  • Solid back-end analytics
  • User-friendly inquiry forms
  • User-friendly navigation
  • User-friendly, customizable shopping cart (for e-commerce businesses)

7. Company-centric rather than Customer-centric Content

Organizations of all sizes fall into the trap of talking about themselves rather than what’s in it for the customer, but entrepreneurial businesses are especially vulnerable. Entrepreneurs tend to be excited to tell their story — often because it’s a very good story.

Unfortunately, prospects are mainly interested in features and benefits. And because time is of the essence in online marketing, cluttering the message with any other information easily leads prospects to become impatient and click off your website to go to a competitor.

Stay on point — especially on your home page and all product/service pages.

8. Giving Up Too Soon

Sales professionals know that a prospect often says no five or six times before saying yes. The same applies to marketing. An email campaign may require several blasts before gaining traction. An SEO campaign usually takes several months to generate significant gains in traffic and conversions. A PPC campaign can also take a few months of data analysis and testing to find the sweet spots.

Discerning the difference between failure and setting the stage for success in a marketing campaign is not always easy. One thing is certain, though: If you continually bounce around from one type of marketing to another, you’re sure to fail every time. As a rule of thumb, give any campaign at least six months before passing judgment.

9. Not Evaluating Results

You’d be surprised how many companies do almost everything right in their campaign strategies and ad executions, and yet fail to analyze the data and continuously improve what they’re doing. Putting a marketing campaign on autopilot is never wise. Not only will you miss opportunities to make a good campaign a great one, but you may also see results decline rapidly if new technologies, changes in Google’s search algorithm, or one of a hundred other variables causes your campaign to become inefficient or obsolete.

10. Overlooking Non-digital Marketing Options

This one might sound odd coming from a digital marketing specialist, but yes, non-digital marketing options can still be valuable parts of an overall marketing strategy. Direct mail, especially for local businesses, can be quite effective. Telemarketing, printed sales collateral, business cards, signage, event marketing, trade shows, print advertising — any or all of these can complement a digital marketing campaign quite nicely and help ensure you reach all segments of your market.

The bottom line here and with respect to all ten of these marketing mistakes: Never wear blinders when you’re marketing. Consider all possibilities with the widest possible lens and then narrow down your field of vision until everything you see is in crystal clear focus.

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