Working with small business owners for many years has shown me it is easy to waste a lot of money on fruitless marketing efforts. I have seen many small business owners spend their advertising dollars based on assumptions they have made without critical evaluation and planning.
This approach to marketing usually results in poor sales and a business owner frustrated by costly ineffective advertising. Here are some mistakes that can kill the effectiveness of your marketing dollars.
Not showing how you are different: A lot of businesses create ads that describe their products and services but do not spotlight what makes the business different from the competition. If you are just a “me too” business that blends in with your competitors, potential customers will have no reason to switch from your competitors to you.
Does something set you apart from the competition? Do you offer added value for your customers? Can you be specific about this competitive edge when you promote your business? You must truly offer something different and be able to show customers it is worthwhile to change their behavior and buy from you.
Not targeting your advertising: A lot of small business owners focus on reaching the most people, advertising to everyone and hoping enough of them convert to customers. But to get results, you must choose advertising methods that focus on reaching the right people.
You should be able to accurately describe the type of person who is most likely to want to buy your product or service. This could be in terms of age, gender, lifestyle, ethnic group, income, etc.
Determining who you should target and then understanding how they acquire information and make decisions will help you choose the most effective advertising methods.
Not having a consistent message: When I am working with small business owners to evaluate and improve their marketing efforts, I often see marketing materials that vary greatly in content and appearance. Sometimes it is even hard to tell the materials are about the same business.
This can be confusing to potential customers. Don’t make it hard for them. You need to clearly define your business and what you offer, and develop a consistent look and message that drives this home for your customers.
It should be easy for them to recognize your business and understand why they should buy from you.
Not creating a budget: Often, small business owners cannot give an accurate account of what they are spending on advertising or where their advertising dollars are going. A lot of small business owners actually spend too little on advertising, but because what they do spend is ineffective, they feel they are spending too much.
You should develop a calendar of planned marketing activities with corresponding costs. This calendar will give your marketing efforts more direction and consistency. You will be able to evaluate how well the activities target the right customers versus the cost.
By comparing expected results to costs, you will be able to choose marketing methods that are more cost effective. A budget will also help you determine whether you are spending too little or too much in comparison to industry standards.
Not measuring results: Many small business owners don’t know what is working and what is not when it comes to their advertising. So they can’t make the changes needed to improve results. One excellent way of finding out what works is to simply ask your customers where they heard about your business.
You can also develop advertising that asks for specific action on the part of the customer, such as clipping a coupon and using it or mentioning a specific ad to get a discount.
There are also ways of monitoring your website activity to gauge its effectiveness.
So take steps to avoid the above mistakes so your advertising dollars are not wasted. Develop a marketing plan to improve the effectiveness of your advertising efforts. You can contact your local Small Business Development Center for assistance with developing your marketing plan.
Connie Edwards is a business consultant with the University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center. Contact her at 912-651-3200.