3 Common Marketing Mistakes Independent Business Owners Make and How to Avoid Them

“Hoping” for more customers or more money won’t work.

As an Independent Business Owner, marketing your business can be a daunting task. There are so many things to consider:

…What marketing promotions are the best?

…What’s the best way to reach your target audience?

…How much should you budget for marketing?

…And, perhaps most importantly, what are the biggest marketing mistakes you need to avoid?

Then, to top it all off, running a business is labor-intensive, time-consuming work – you wear a lot of hats. Between employee drama and shortages, rising minimum wages, supplier screw-ups, constantly changing government red tape, customer issues (and other problems too long to list), the last thing you want to think about as a busy Owner is figuring out how to stay on top of the constantly changing ways to cost-effectively market your business to get the return on investment you deserve.

The truth is, if you want sales growth, that’s needs to be your focus. Your time is best spent concentrating your efforts on finding ways to bring more customers into the business, have them come more often and spend more money. It’s the most VALUABLE way you can spend your time.

(If you want to know the dollar value of an hour of your time, check out the article: How to Reduce Stress, Get More Time Off, and Focus on What Matters)

The good news is that as the owner of your business you have a superpower! You are an agile, solo operator who gets to make your own decisions, and can make them quickly.  You can adjust easily and not get bogged down by management hierarchy and red tape. 

Your marketing budget is smaller than a corporate business, but it can go further IF you focus it right and avoid common marketing mistakes by using these proven marketing strategies. 

Cast a Smaller Net

You can not be all things to all people. Your customer is not everybody.

Think about the majority of your best customers. How far are they travelling to do business with you? Chances are it is within 3-5 miles radius. As a rule of thumb, that’s going to be where most of your customers are coming from. If you have an existing customer list, there are online resources that will map a list of zip codes for you. Notice where they cluster.

Most Business Owners make the mistake of trying to advertise too big. They advertise to their whole town, to all people.  Blame the sales reps who come in from the fancy newspapers or trade magazines, the radio or online magazines. They want to sell you space, not sales – and more often than not, that space hits such a large geographical area that you are paying to advertise to people who will never get close to your business.

“All people” are not your customers. Marketing too big is a mistake because you can’t get a good return on your investment when you are marketing that widely. If you place an ad in a city-wide newspaper and someone is reading it that’s an hour away, they’ll never make it in your door, regardless of how enticing your offer. Same with radio spots; you’re paying for a huge audience.

It’s far better to narrowly define who your customers are so you can use the marketing money that you do have to be a dominant choice to the people in that target market. Define who your customers are and do a really good job of marketing directly to them. You don’t need a ton of customers, just a loyal base who return again and again and tell their friends.

Know Who You Are Targeting

Part of a business’s success is knowing who your best customers are. Start by defining their geographic area, then define them in terms of demographics and psychographics. Describe them by age, gender, income, neighborhood type, family situation, career, lifestyle, work location, types of car, or even certain kind of credit card. 

Think about what problems your customers have that your business solves. If you are restaurant, are they busy families in need of take-home meals? Are they people with special occasions to celebrate? Are they college students in search of a fast meal? Or are they vegans and need your plant-based menu? 

If you are an Auto Repair Shop – do you specialize in a particular make, model or era of vehicles? Are you focused on a specific region or community? Do you cater to seniors, or business people who want pickup/drop off service? Are oil changes what people want you for?  What problems do you solve and who needs your solution?  

Most businesses aren’t ALL of those things. Typically, your best customers will have a pattern, and they frequent you because you suit their needs. 

Once you can define your best customers in those terms, it becomes easier to market to them. You can speak directly to them and find ways to get more like them. The mistake many Business Owners make is not focusing on who their best customers are and trying to market to everyone. Your net is too wide to be effective, and often is wasting marketing dollars. 

Measure Your Results

Most people decide that they need to do some marketing because they need more customers, more sales. What they fail to realize is that no different than your food cost or labor cost, marketing must produce results and you need a goal. Otherwise, it’s not worth doing. You’re just guessing what will work! It’s a mistake to not make marketing measurable and accountable – you have to make decisions based on fact rather than emotion.

If it’s not producing results and you can’t measure it, or if you don’t have a goal of measuring it, you should stop doing it immediately. If an ad doesn’t work once, it won’t work the second, or third or seventh time either. You have to measure it and then look at the results. If it was a success, repeat it. If it wasn’t, you can change the offer, the imagery, the design, the target and try again. 

The only way you will know is by testing. You then repeat the process by going back after you measure and evaluate the results, you go back and implement the marketing strategy again. This is a circle. You keep doing it and keep measuring and evaluating the results until you’re happy with the results. Once you’re happy with the results, you automate it. You figure out a system so that you don’t have to be involved in it.

Like a George Foreman grill, you set it and forget it. The only thing you should be doing is looking at the results and making sure they meet your expectations and if they start to change, you test again. Delegate the repetitive process and only look at the results. You need to start thinking Return On Investment NOT Cost and Expense. The next time you are considering a marketing campaign, ask yourself how you will know what your ROI will be? If you can’t figure that out, walk away.

These are only the first three mistakes we often see – there are six others that we’ll share in the upcoming blogs.

In the meantime, join one of our Marketing Experts for a free Marketing Consultation Call to see how you can help repair any marketing mistakes you might be making, and what you can do to quickly to grow your businesses sales and profits.