Five Common Mistakes To Avoid When Marketing Your Small Business

By Paul Morin

Is marketing your small business not going as well as you would like? There’s always room for improvement! Avoiding the following five common mistakes is essential for effective marketing and sales. If you’re committing these mistakes in marketing your products and/or service, correct your approach as soon as possible — and you may be surprised how quickly your sales and profitability start heading in the right direction.

Common Marketing Mistake #1: Not Focusing On The Prospect

More than 90 percent of the marketing materials I see are focused on the many wonderful attributes of the SELLER! Their marketing communications focus on them — where they went to school, how big their business is, their wonderful office location, the great technology they have, etc.

Is this what prospective customers really care about? Or are they more concerned with hearing that you understand their problems and can help them with the challenges they’re facing right now?

Rather than telling them that your company is such and such, try telling them that you and your company understand the problems they’re facing. Tell them you understand them and, in fact, your whole focus is on helping people in their exact situation address those and similar issues. You’d like them to know that you can’t get enough of helping people like them, and you’ve done it effectively, over and over again.

You can and should, of course, let them know that you and your company have the necessary qualifications to get the job done and solve their problem. But rather than just listing your credentials, get that message across by telling them the many stories of how you’ve successfully helped others with the same challenges they are facing. Show them the knowledge and insights you’ve applied to help clients solve similar issues.

Common Marketing Mistake #2: Trying To Be Too Clever

If you read and study enough advertising and marketing pieces, you will realize that the vast majority are trying to be clever — too clever.

The point of marketing and advertising is not to show people how smart you are or how great your vocabulary is. The point is to get your prospects to take a specific action. To call you. To buy your product. To join your e-mail list. The surest way to NOT make this happen is by using too many big words or fancy concepts and images, or by using subtle graphics that you think are cute or clever, but that leave the prospect wondering what you’re talking about.

Prospects are bombarded by advertising and marketing messages and images these days. This constant bombardment has forced people to be even more selective regarding what they pay attention to. Not surprisingly, what most often grab and hold prospects’ attention are messages that are clear and are clearly relevant to issues they’re facing right now.

So, get into the habit of writing very directly in all your business writing — and especially in your advertising and marketing materials.

Common Marketing Mistake #3: Emphasizing Features Rather Than Benefits

The famous example goes, “People don’t buy a hole puncher (or drill), they buy the ability to make holes.” Or people don’t buy a driver (golf), they buy the ability to hit the ball further and straighter off the tee and impress their friends.

When you are marketing your product or service, don’t expect that simply writing up a long list of incredible features will magically incentivize your prospect to take out their credit card (or check book, or purchase order) and buy what you have to offer. It simply does not work that way for the vast majority of buyers.

Rather than tell them, “my product is all this,” or “I’m all that,” tell them, “You have this issue you are confronting and what I am offering is the best way to solve that problem, quickly and economically, as we have proven over and over, with challenges just like yours.”

Common Marketing Mistake #4: Not Offering a Guarantee

Your prospects are worried that your product won’t work for them. So put their worries to bed by offering a risk-reversal — that is, a satisfaction guarantee. Unconditional, strong and long guarantees usually deliver the best conversion rates to you.

This may seem like a big risk to you. But if it does, ask yourself this question: How good is my product or service? If you believe in what you are offering, you’re less likely to have a big concern about offering a satisfaction guarantee. But if you’re still concerned, offer the guarantee for a limited time and see how it goes.

If you look around, you will notice that most of the savviest marketers out there offer a “no questions asked,” unconditional money-back, 30-day (minimum) guarantee. This is not easy to apply to certain products and services, of course. But for most, it works very well.

Common Marketing Mistake #5: Not Creating a Sense of Urgency

You need to have a call to action at the end of your sales letter or other marketing piece that tells your prospects exactly what to do next (e.g., “get out your credit card and click here to get started now … “). But you also need to give your prospects a good reason to act NOW, otherwise they may become distracted and never come back to your marketing piece. As discussed, prospects are bombarded with other offers and other sensory inputs on an almost constant basis these days. We increasingly live in the “age of distraction.”

The solution? Create a sense of urgency by:

  • Reminding the prospect that her or his pain and problems will be over by buying the product or service.
  • Offering a limited-time discount or bonus offer.
  • Offering a limited quantity of products.
  • Offering a bonus or discount to the first few hundred (or whatever number makes sense in the context of your offer) people who order.

You just learned about five common marketing mistakes that may be causing your marketing not to work as well as it could. To the extent you haven’t already, get to work now on correcting these issues. It will be some of the most productive and profitable time you ever invest.

Don’t just pick and choose the methods you like best. Instead, address all five mistakes … and enjoy the results!

I look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Paul Morin is the founder of Morin has worked with various entrepreneurial companies in senior management roles and has led the development, review and selective implementation of several hundred start-up and corporate venture business plans, financial models, and feasibility analyses. You can e-mail Morin at
Originally published: Sep 24, 2011

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