In 2020, a reported 200,000 small businesses were forced to shut their doors forever due to the devastating impact of COVID-19.
Now, almost two years later, businesses are still struggling to recover from the pandemic – resulting in desperate attempts at hooking new customers. From free next-day delivery to discounted monthly intro rates, companies of every size are bending over backward in hopes of surviving these uncertain times. But there is one thing most businesses aren’t even talking about: marketing.
Many business owners make the fatal mistake of putting their marketing strategy on the back burner. They flush thousands of dollars down the drain by offering their product at a discounted rate, or worse – advertise in a way that’s bland, boring, and hard to understand.
Marketing is more than simply selling to your customers – it’s a relationship.
And in a world built on relationships, a killer marketing strategy just might be the lifeboat in an ocean of post-shutdown business shipwrecks. To help you and your business navigate these treacherous waters, here are seven common marketing mistakes business owners are losing money on – and how you can avoid them to become your customer’s preferred point of purchase.
1. You’re Still Waiting for Things to go ‘Back to Normal’
I won’t beat around the bush: nothing is ever going ‘back to normal.
At the time of this article’s publication, we are 18 months into a worldwide pandemic that has profoundly impacted sales, supply chain, and the effectiveness of someone reaching their target audience. As it turned out, COVID-19 wasn’t a storm to weather; it was a hurricane that permanently changed the face of the global economy.
The good news? As the storm breaks, opportunities to win new customers are virtually endless. As a Business Coach at a full-service Marketing Agency, I’ve spoken to countless business leaders experiencing record-low sales because their pre-pandemic marketing efforts are no longer funneling them customers. I often hear them use the phrase, “When things go back to normal,” to justify waiting for the ideal time to start promoting their business again. However, there are two problems I see with this behavior.
‘Returning to normal’ is a common hope for many people in business right now. But if we look at nearly every major event in history, we see ‘normal’ as something that’s constantly changing.
- Number One: in business, any opportunity you miss to promote your business and brand is an opportunity for your audience to forget about you.
- Number Two: ‘normal’ isn’t coming back!
One of the best examples of this can be found in America during World War II. In the face of incredible tragedy and national rationing of resources, very few small business owners would have expected America to experience economic abundance at the end of the war. However, the American economy boomed! In addition to the 17 million new jobs created, industrial productivity soared by 96 percent and continued to grow well into the early 1970s. A horrific event brought with it the opportunity for countless citizens and returning soldiers to find work and contribute to the growth of American society. If it weren’t for the business leaders and workers who adapted and persevered to keep their doors open during the war, many of these job opportunities wouldn’t have been available.
Bottom Line: No, we aren’t going back to life pre-COVID — but the companies choosing to adapt their promotional strategies will be the ones who come out the best prepared for the post-pandemic economy.
2. Your Marketing is Unclear and Confusing to Your Customers
No one could have predicted the way COVID-19 would throw businesses for a loop. As a result of the economy’s constant ups and downs, many business owners have become desperate to better connect with their customers. And while posting funny videos on TikTok might work for some, sacrificing clarity for ‘cool factor’ leaves your customers in the dark about what you’re selling.
Here’s the truth: You can’t sell your product if your customer doesn’t understand your product.
What’s more, your customer isn’t likely to fork over their hard-earned money unless they know exactly how your product is going to make their life easier. Being Insta-famous isn’t enough.
Digital marketing experts estimate the average person views between 4,000 to 10,000 advertisements in a day. If your message isn’t crystal clear, your product is doomed to become background noise.
Bottom Line: In limited language, explain what you offer, what problem it solves, why they need it, and how it will improve their lives.
Leave the cute puppy videos to the other guys.
3. You’re Promoting too Much
Ever heard of ‘noise marketing’? It refers to any marketing effort or information that distracts from a brand’s overall message.
Noisy’ can mean too many emails, too many posts on social media, or too many TV ads.
Most marketers will tell you to post frequently so your target audience “can’t ignore you.” This is dangerous advice. If you are constantly blowing up your audience’s feed, your attempts at relevancy are going to have them running to the Unsubscribe button, not your Buy Now button.
Instead, be more strategic with how you market and post about your business. Stick to a regular posting schedule and make delivering great value your top priority. Doing this will clearly demonstrate two essential things to your customer:
- You’re a company that understands their attention is valuable.
- Providing great value is more important to you than blowing up their news feeds with weak marketing.
Strategy will always beat activity. (Read more about this in Mistake No. 5.) A strategic approach will make your company the superior choice in your customer’s minds. Meanwhile, your competition will continue to annoy customers by haphazardly throwing marketing efforts at the wall, hoping something will stick.
Bottom Line: Your customer’s attention is valuable, and your marketing should treat it that way.
4. You’re not Promoting Enough
Sound contradictory? It might seem so – but stick with me.
While you don’t want to overload potential customers, they still need to know you exist. This strategy point is an opportunity to find a happy balance between too much versus too little. And the only thing worse than using too many words to say nothing is saying nothing at all. Your customer can’t buy your product if they don’t know where to find it. So, where should you be promoting?
Find your customers in the spaces they spend the most time: their phones, social media accounts, and email inboxes. Further, your social media campaigns, email blasts, digital ads, and website should contain a clear call to action at every single step of the marketing journey.
You might feel like you’re overwhelming your customers or being rude by having a clear, concise call to action – i.e., BUY NOW, GET STARTED, ADD TO CART. The reality is, it takes the average person seven times to hear or see something before they’ll act on it.
Bottom Line: if you’re not showing up and asking your customers for the sale, you won’t get it.
5. You’re Confusing Activity with Having a Strategy
If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s this: there is no shortage of marketing professionals trying to sell the ‘silver bullet’ to desperate business owners. Contrary to what you might have heard, there is no quick fix. Truly effective marketing always goes hand-in-hand with powerful, intentional strategy.
At the company I work for, 8Bend Marketing, we currently have multiple Marketing Specialists whose sole job is to remain laser-focused on one niche area in which they have complete expertise. I share this for no other reason than to inform you that ‘marketing’ is a beast. It’s an umbrella term for dozens of complex specialties that each require years to master.
However, a common belief among business owners is that marketing can be tackled from one single angle. For many, that’s having an active social media platform and calling it a day. Here’s the hard truth: investors will not invest millions of dollars into a brand without knowing the marketing plan and strategy. Experienced investors aren’t looking to see how frequently you’re posting. They don’t care about likes, comments, and follows. Instead, they’re looking for how your company communicates and the value of your products and services through multiple, strategic marketing efforts.
You might feel like this is overkill. It’s not.
Having a plan of action doesn’t make you uptight, rigid, or controlling. It proves you’re intelligent and able to make more informed decisions for your company that will allow you to reach your goals and leave the competition in the dust. Begin by clearly defining your business goals and the role your marketing needs to play in achieving them.
There are three great questions all business leaders should answer before choosing which marketing activities to employ…
- What challenge does your customer want to overcome?
- How does your product/service help them solve that problem?
- Why should they spend their money with you and not the other guy?
Once you understand what problem you’re helping them solve, you can approach your customer with a compelling sales pitch about how your offering can dramatically improve their lives.
Bottom Line: You need a clear plan of action, beginning with the first time a person hears your business’ name and ending with a sale.
As Brene Brown says: clarity is kindness. Formulate a clear, compelling strategy and stick to it.
6. You aren’t Marketing where your Customers are Hanging Out
With the growing popularity of remote work, consumers spend more time in front of screens than ever before.
This increased demand to be online hasn’t gone unnoticed by marketers. Pre-pandemic, companies would split their marketing efforts between online (social media, email, Google Ads) and offline (billboards, print media, television). Now, those efforts are almost entirely digital.
Simply put, if you aren’t posting online, your customers aren’t seeing you. Sure, paper flyers are fun. Billboards and TV commercials are amusing. But digital advertisements and email lead generators meet consumers where they spend 90% of their time: on phones, tablets, and laptops.
Bottom Line: If you aren’t marketing where your customers are hanging out, they won’t see you.
7. You Place too much Emphasis on Social Media
Too many business leaders think that online/digital marketing is only advertising on social media. That’s simply not true.
This narrow focus causes many companies to forget one critical thing: the internet operates independently from social media. Depending on what you’re selling, your customers might not even be spending time on the social media platform where you are running ads.
First, the secret is to focus your social efforts on one channel to establish a relationship where your audience spends the most time. Utilize tools like polls, AMAs, and live streams to gather valuable data from your audience about where they linger and what they want to see. TikTok might be the best place for a youthful frozen yogurt company, while a more buttoned-up legal business might prefer to engage on LinkedIn. From what data you gather, grow your influence across the platforms where your customers hang out.
Bottom Line: Social Media isn’t everything when it comes to marketing online.
– BONUS –
8. You’re Putting too much Value on Vanity Metrics
Simply put, likes, comments, and shares mean nothing compared to other marketing metrics.
(‘Vanity metrics’ are data points that indicate online popularity but do not help you understand or promote conversion in a way that informs future strategies.)
Yes, it feels good to see that little red heart light up on your Instagram page – but post likes, comments, and shares don’t always equal sales for a business. If you’re measuring the success of your social platforms on vanity metrics alone, it’s time to rethink your strategy. Every single social media post should be connected to a product or service. And while every single post may not include a CTA, your goal when posting should always be to drive customers to your cash register.
I know a friend who went viral on TikTok with a clip that racked up 9 million views. That’s 9 million potential customers. However, he didn’t secure a single sale when he attempted to monetize and engage with his newfound audience by marketing his life coaching business. His mistake? He created an entertaining post without giving his audience an idea of how to engage with him and his coaching services. Make it stupidly easy for your customers to purchase from you by making your cash register unmistakable.
Think about it: if you walked into a clothing store and they had the check-out in the restroom, would you think they were being thoughtful or confusing? Of course, you don’t want to become known online as a walking, talking advertisement who’s always hunting for the sale. However, hiding your intent from customers isn’t going to help your bottom Line either.
Remember: If you have a killer product and genuinely believe what you offer will enhance your customer’s life, Don’t be shy about letting them know. Make it clear on your social pages and in your content how your product/service is helping people solve their problems.
Bottom Line: Vanity Metrics don’t = business success.
Josh Davis is the co-founder and President of 8Bend Marketing. Josh is a skilled marketing strategist, copywriter, and StoryBrand messaging expert who is passionate about helping customers clarify their messaging and stop losing deals they should be winning.