Ten rookie marketing mistakes to avoid

Guest post from Maria Ross, founder and chief strategist of Red Slice  a branding and marketing consultancy and blog based in the US. She is the author of Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget available on Amazon.co.uk

I've seen some great marketing in my almost 20-year career - and also some "what the heck were you thinking?!" moments, including many committed by yours truly. These mistakes are not limited to small business either - the big guys are guilty, too. Here in no particular order are 10 rookie mistakes that can waste your marketing dollars and hinder sales:

1. Scattershot messaging: Does your company information on the website match your elevator pitch, match your ad messages, match your collateral? If you have 6 different versions of a company descriptor floating around, you're wasting valuable opportunities to make your message memorable.

2. Amateur design: Sometimes design that looks simple is actually painstakingly done by a true professional. Simple does not equal cheap. If you were going to be pitching on Dragon’s Den, would you skimp on your appearance with a cheap suit or sloppy attire? I think not.

3. Trying to sell to everyone: Contrary to what you might think, your market is not EVERYONE. You have a specific value that you provide to a specific type of person. Go after that person. Tiffany doesn't try to sell jewelry to everyone who buys jewelry; Dolce and Gabbana does not try to sell dresses to anyone who wants to buy a dress.  Hyundai doesn't try to sell to everyone who needs a car.

4. Focusing on quantity vs. quality: Spending money on an event that attracts 5,000 people is great - if those 5,000 people will ever buy from you. It's better to microtarget your marketing whenever you can to yield less leads but better conversion.

5. Confusing advertising with PR: Advertising is something for which you pay and everyone knows it. It's biased and you 100% control the message. PR is when 3rd parties like the media, analysts or critics write or speak about you - or ask you to write or speak. You can influence it but you have no say over the final piece. Neither comes cheap if you do them right (in both $ and/or time) but make sure you know what you're investing in.

6. Confusing awareness with direct response marketing: Awareness is a phase al buyers must go through before they buy from you - they have to know you exist, right? But you can invest in awareness campaigns without ever yielding a direct, qualified lead right away.  Qualified leads fall out of the funnel that awareness creates. Awareness activities like events, PR and the like may not necessarily lead to immediate sales. Those happen over time as you nurture those people.

7. Forgetting the noise: It's not enough to run one ad or sponsor one event or send one email and think you're going to get a response. There is too much noise in the marketplace vying for attention and, while you're mom thinks you are so important, your prospective customers may not! You may be sick of your brand and message after 6 months, but others have not had a chance to digest it.

8. Playing Me-Too: If you're making all your marketing moves based on what competitors are doing, you're making it harder on yourself. Often the way to differentiate from a sea of look-a-likes is to zag when they zig. If they are all using the same language to describe what they do, for example, can you say something different?

9. Investing in one-off tactics vs. integrated campaigns: An integrated campaign is a multi-touch, multi-media endeavor. And it packs more punch. When you negotiate, see what else you can get for your money (ie, an online ad, a webcast sponsorship, a special emailing, the chance to write a contributed article, etc.) Focus your efforts around key themes, rather than reinventing the wheel each time.

10. Failing to articulate your mission, values and goals: Without documented clarity, you're floating in the wind. Ground yourself by articulating exactly what your business does (and does not) stands for and what you envision your impact to be. It's not enough to "know" it: write it down, share it, post it, own it. These will guide you into a clear brand strategy that will make your marketing  - and business - decisions easier.

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