One can make a strong case for marketing as being the most important single area for success in a business enterprise. If it’s not, it certainly belongs near the top of any list. Seven major mistakes are common to businesses everywhere. Have you made any of these blunders?
Marketing blunder #1: Assuming that word-of-mouth will suffice.
Some entrepreneurs begin with the assumption that if their products and services are sound from day one, word will get around, and a great deal of marketing will become unnecessary. Although this reality is what every business owner should strive for, its being enough is another issue. In the reality of today’s marketplace, you need to create more than just the reality of a sound business; you also need to communicate that reality to prospective customers.
Marketing blunder #2: Misreading your competitors.
It is common for business owners both to misread and to underestimate their competition. If your most serious competitors are hoping to draw customers from your business, how will they do it? Take a close look at that question and be proactive in meeting the challenges.
Another related mistake is to assume that because a competitor isn’t in exactly the same business as you are, then the threat is less. However, in a very real sense, a competitor is a threat any time he or she could capture the dollars that would otherwise go to your business. When you change your definition of “competitor” to this one, you suddenly see how much competition any business truly faces—especially in tough times when customer dollars are fewer.
Marketing blunder #3: Lack of clarity on the nature of your target market.
As a successful entrepreneur, you must be able clearly to identify who your customers are. A college student with a pet training business identified her target market as “pet owners everywhere.” A consultant asked her, “Does that include owners of boa constrictors and iguanas?” Her identification of her target market was far too general. It should have included only dog owners (her only actual market) and demographics specific to her geographical area. If you can’t identify your target market, you be will unlikely to ever fulfill needs.
Marketing blunder #4: Not being able to have a sustainable competitive advantage.
What is your competitive advantage? In other words, what do you have that gives customers a viable reason for preferring your business to your competitors? This area also includes having qualities that cannot be readily copied. For example, offering “area-wide delivery” can be easily copied by a competitor. You need to be better than other similar businesses—not merely “just as good.”
Marketing blunder #5: Forgetting what you are selling.
Your business is not selling products or services only; it is selling benefits. For example, you don’t sell clothes; you sell a sharp appearance, style, attractiveness, comfort, and warmth. You don’t sell toys; you sell happy moments for children. You don’t sell insurance; you sell peace of mind for people and their families. You sell benefits. Are you sufficiently articulate about what those benefits are? Do re-examine them regularly to see if they have changed?
Marketing blunder #6: Paying too little attention to the law of supply
When demand for your company’s products or services wanes or shifts, are you immediately aware of the changing realities? When you make pricing decisions, are you taking supply and demand into consideration? In a slowed-down economy, this issue can be especially important, especially in some of the more volatile areas of wholesale and retail.
Marketing blunder #7: Planning based on either excessive optimism or pessimism.
By your very nature, entrepreneurs tend to be upbeat and optimistic; that’s part of being a risk-taker. However, that wonderful optimism needs to be tempered with the reality of a changing economy, changing consumer tastes, and tricky competitors. Surround yourself with people you trust, checking the realism of your planning and decision-making with them. The old adage that “two heads are better than one,” can be multiplied several times with knowledgeable advice from dependable people.
These seven rules might already be working for you. If not, check each of them out in terms of your own reality. Such a self-examination will likely help your business continue to thrive.
Lowell H. Lamberton is Professor of Management at Central Oregon Community College. You may call Professor Lamberton at 541/383-7714 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.