The term “mistakes” has a negative connotation: You've made a decision or implemented something that didn’t go as planned; now you have to deal with the repercussions.
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Yet most mistakes, even ones that in the moment seem massive, end up being only temporary setbacks. In fact, they usually end up as positive assets because they teach valuable lessons about how to improve your business or approach.
Unfortunately, not all mistakes are this innocuous. Some, in the marketing realm, actually do long-term harm to your campaign. And, as described below, most of these mistakes are especially damaging because they aren’t obvious. Fixing a blog post with a spelling or accuracy issue is one thing. But when you exhibit a fundamental misunderstanding of best marketing practices, it’s much harder to smooth over the effects.
So, if you’re a new entrepreneur, or unsure if your marketing campaign is going well, take a moment to make sure you aren’t making these five truly damaging mistakes:
1. Ignoring the brand
Trying to market your business without a brand is like throwing a house party without specifying the address. Your brand serves as a foundation of identity for new and old customers alike. It should underline and inform all messaging you put out, from the content of your website to the images on your Facebook banner.
When people see your brand, or notice your logo, or pick up on your style of speaking and area of expertise, they’ll form an opinion of certain traits of your business. Without that connection, your material is floating in space with no association. Plus, the more connections you build, the more familiar your customers will become with your brand, and the more likely they’ll be to buy from you. Without that presence or consistency, you won’t be able to build relationships — and you might not even get credit for your work.
2. Marketing to everyone
You have to choose whom you want to market to, but too many entrepreneurs make the simple choice: market to everybody. After all, “everybody” is the largest possible audience, so it offers the largest possible return, right? Wrong. Even if you could somehow use one selection of platforms to get a specific message to everyone in the world, that message would be too generic for the entire population to value or remember.
Instead, to stand out, you have to be unique, and if you want to make an impression, you have to be relevant. Being both unique and relevant requires you to create specifically crafted messaging for one segment of the population at a time.
3. Making assumptions about an audience
All that being said, there are some marketers who understand they must create messaging for specific audience segments but still don't do it effectively. In large part, this is because they’ve made broad assumptions about their target audience, rather than relying on data and research to support their ideas.
For example, they might assume that middle-aged men interested in their product would want a stoic, professional voice and bare-bones, straightforward information, when in reality, this audience would prefer a more casual tone, with humor. As a general rule, you should question every assumption you make. Are you making your marketing decisions because of the way you think things work, or because of the way things actually work? Data is your only path to the truth.
Related: 7 Marketing Mistakes That Could Sink Your Business
4. Investing too much (or not enough)
Successful investment in a marketing campaign demands a careful balance. Investing too much money at the start of your campaign, before you’ve gotten to know your target audience intimately, can create excess waste. You don’t know what platforms work best because you haven’t had the opportunity to test them, and you’re essentially gambling on what you think might work in your favor.
On the other hand, investing too little will leave you with few results, and barely enough data to form any meaningful conclusions.
5. Failing to experiment
Marketing isn’t a point-and-shoot game, no matter how much we sometimes want it to be. It’s a game of setting and resetting expectations, getting asymptotically closer to a “perfect” strategy, without ever quite getting there. The only way to get better is by experimenting — trying new things and being bold with your strategies, to see which ones work and which ones fail.
If you aren’t actively experimenting, you can’t possibly improve, and that means you’ll remain stagnant in your long-term progress. Never rule out a strategy unless you have data proving it to be ineffective; and never turn down an opportunity to learn more about your brand and customers.
In sum, these mistakes aren’t just the most damaging for new entrepreneurs — they’re also some of the most common. I’ve spoken and worked with dozens of entrepreneurs who have banked their entire strategies on some of these ideas. And, the good news is that if you catch these mistakes early enough, you can stop the bleeding and restore your strategy to a much more effective state.
If, at this moment, you can identify yourself making them, you’ve already won half the battle.
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