I once heard a speaker compare those who engage in marketing as “feeling happy like a dog with its head outside the car window, ears flapping, eyes glazed, and no idea of where he’s going.” While I am undoubtedly as proud of my profession as you are of yours, there is one significant difference between marketing professionals and most other professionals -very many of you and other small business owners think it is easy to do what marketing professionals do.
Now I will be the first to admit that marketing is not rocket science. But I will also be the first to tell you that marketing is an art that uses some scientific disciplines (such as market research and statistical analysis) and not a science in and of itself. Not understanding the art of marketing is often the difference between failure and success.
Over the years I have coached and worked with numerous small and medium size business owners and entrepreneurs on how to market their businesses better. In doing so, I have compiled a list of 17 of the most common and costly marketing mistakes made by SMEs and professional service providers.
Avoiding these mistakes will not only help you know where your business is going, it will also enable you to attract the right set of core customers; thus helping to ensure the long-term sustainable growth of your business. Here’s my list of 17 Costly
1. Messages do not speak to your prospects – customers have problems for which they seek solutions. Your marketing messages need to be concise and clear about what you can do for them and what benefits they will gain from doing business with you. If your messages are all about you, then it is hard for prospects to understand the WIIFT (what’s in it for them).
2. Messages do not speak with your customers – successful marketing is a two-way dialogue with your customers, not a one-way barrage of messages from you to them. Your marketing should aim to solicit feedback and input from customers, particularly about other problems they currently have or are likely to face in the future. By understanding and anticipating customer needs you can develop new products and services, or form new partnerships, that provide the solutions your customers will purchase.
3. Marketing materials are not professional looking – your marketing materials need to project your professionalism. Photocopied flyers and brochures are for amateurs. It is simple to design and print quality flyers, information sheets, and promotional materials using basic software such as Microsoft Publisher. If you do not have the time to do this yourself, hire a high school or college student. Students today are well versed in computer graphics and the cost of printing a few hundred flyers in colour is next to nothing.
4. Advertising in the wrong media – find out which media your customers are using and put your presence there. Where do your customers turn for information? That’s where your advertisements should be.
5. Promoting features over benefits – customers do not buy services, they buy solutions. Tell them what you can do for them and what benefits they will gain. A feature is your 10-year career. A benefit is that you will relieve the pain in my back. A better benefit is that you’ll teach me how to prevent or minimise back pain in the future.
6. Assuming your audience understands what you offer – your customers are not likely to understand the intricacies of one treatment over another. They seek advice from you and the practitioner who does a better job of explaining each treatment and the options available is the one most likely to have repeat customers.
7. Communicating too many messages – you have a lot to communicate about your services. However, too many scattered messages cause confusion. Don’t try to tell everything in each brochure or advertisement. Focus on one or two key points each time and then point your prospects and customers to a place where they can get more information (like your web site).
8. Failure to cover rational and emotional buying criteria – customers use both rational and emotional criteria when making any critical purchase decision. Your messages need to appeal to both these aspects, and this is particularly true when they are in your clinic seeking treatment.
9. A business that is not properly positioned – there’s a huge difference between a Physiotherapy Wellness Centre and a Physiotherapy Clinic. I am sure in your mind’s eye your own business is different than the other competitors in your market. Understanding this difference and being able to communicate it is at the heart of positioning. How you position your business will have a direct impact on the types of customers you attract.
10. Offering non-differentiated services — if you offer the exact same services as your competitors, with similar operating hours, then the only thing you can compete on is price. There is no such thing as a commodity practice, only practices that are marketed like commodities. The key to growing any business is having the ability to differentiate your products and services from competitive offerings. Also, offering differentiated services often enables a business to increase margins or create additional revenue streams outside consulting fees.
11. Failure to continually market the business — business owners often make two major mistakes when it comes to marketing: a) reducing marketing expenditures during soft economic times and b) failing to invest in marketing when business is good. Marketing is not a tool that can be turned on and off like a tap. A sustained marketing effort is needed in both good and bad times.
12. Not looking for new channels of business – there are numerous ways to grow a practice without increasing the number of therapists and the number of treatment rooms you have. Quite frankly, there is a larger market for helping customers prevent injuries than there is for treating injuries and problems. People pay for gym instructors, nutritionists, holistic therapies, spa treatments, and a wide variety of other services in order to improve their health. Why aren’t more of them also paying you for similar advice and services?
13. Not collecting and capturing information on your customers – your customer base is one of the most strategic assets in your business, yet very few business owners understand how to leverage this asset. Your customers often have rich and exciting lives that you could tap into, if only you knew more about them. This impacts not only your ability to create new products and services for them, but also your ability to leverage customers for referral business.