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I spend a lot of time talking with small business owners about how they can get new customers and grow their business. I love hearing about new and innovative ways that companies and business owners have used to market their brand, build some buzz, and get their company in front of the right prospects. While I hear a lot of great ideas, I also hear some things that make me, as a marketing consultant, cringe.
Sometimes it is as important for business owners to understand what not to do as it is to know what they need to do. It is also important to remember that not every tactic or strategy is right for every business. What can turn out to be the worst marketing advice for one business may be marketing gold to another. Having said that, there are some pieces of marking advice that qualify as the world’s worst for any business.
1. Focus on the Products
Countless business owners have been advised to do things like “Build a better mousetrap,” or “Just make it and people will buy it.” Michael Greaney, of Universal Values Media discovered that focusing on the product isn’t always the best advice. After spending all of their money on developing their product, they didn’t have any money left for getting the word out about it.
The fact is; even companies with the best products in the world, (such as Apple) use marketing and advertising to get the word out about their product.
2. Directory and Phone Book Listings
One of the biggest challenges all small businesses face is figuring out which channels are the right match for their business. Spending valuable marketing money on ineffective channels is bad news for any business. Ryan Schmudlach of Wisconsin Canoe Company said that he was advised to invest a significant portion of his startup funds in phone book listings because “That’s where people will find you.” But Ryan went with his knowledge of where his customers hung out and invested in adwords instead. He’s glad he did because his business has doubled in sales every year since.
Martha De la chaussee from Advocate Tax Group LLC has a different story. She paid for expensive online directory listings, participated in social media platforms, and invested in several different kinds of advertising mediums. None of these channels provided her with the leads, prospects, clients, or cashflow expected. Honing in on where her niche customers were and finding ways to reach them directly provided far better results with less effort and expense.
This is a great example of how things that work for one business can be ineffective for others and emphasizes the need to laser focus on your niche.
3. Give it Away for Free
Another thing I hear about all the time from small business owners is that “everyone” in their field said that if they did this one thing, they would have all the clients they could need. Unfortunately, that is rarely true for any business and putting all your eggs in one basket can leave you with a lot of eggs but no cash flow. Zenobia Garrison, of Success Transitions, took this advice when she was starting out in her coaching business. She focused on building private clients by offering free sessions which was touted as the fastest way to positive cash flow and a full client list. But without a specific focus on the right niche, she discovered that spent a lot of time helping people for free without gaining a single client. Once she focused her marketing efforts on the right prospects and adopted marketing strategies that fit that niche she started to see results.
This is a great example of why it is important to understand who your target market is because even though offering free sessions is a good tactic, it doesn’t work for all prospects.
4. Social Media Marketing
Another area where bad advice can really take a bite out of a marketing tactic’s benefit is when it leads to using a great platform for the wrong thing or in the wrong way. Ian Aronovich, the CEO of GovernmentAuctions.org made this mistake. Based on the advice from others, the company initially used its social media presence for promotion purposes only. Posting to their Facebook page meant plugging the business and linking to the website. They found it difficult to build a following or expand their fan base because they weren’t doing anything to engage or encourage interaction with their fans. Once they changed gears and started using contests, giveaways, and casual interactions with fans to give people a reason to “Like” them, they were able to build a valuable social media community.
This is a great example of how the right thing used the wrong way can be just as ineffective as doing the wrong thing or nothing at all.
5. Guerilla Marketing
While guerilla marketing can be effective in attracting attention to your business, it may not be the attention you desire. Merrick Pickens from Oak Mortgage Group in Dallas, Texas was advised to “Pay some dude to tattoo your logo on his chest and go workout at the gym where he can recruit for you as a walking billboard. It might be expensive but if you pay him a commission he can get it removed later.”
Michael Esser, copywriter and author for hire was told “build it they will come.” What he discovered was that just because you have a website doesn’t mean people will find it. It takes time to build content and gain top search engine rankings. And while having a website is one tactic in your marketing strategy, it’s not the only thing you should do.
Lesson learned. Diversify your marketing.
Can you relate to these stories of the worst marketing advice received? I know I can. The lesson for me are don’t take advice from people who don’t know your business, your customers or your market. Also, I suggest that before you invest heavily in any marketing strategy, test it out first to see if it works.
Have your own “worst marketing advice” story? Share it here!
Want to get more inexpensive and practical small business marketing ideas, grab a free e-book called “Build Buzz for Your Biz, 23 Creative and Inexpensive Marketing Strategies That Will Get You Noticed” at http://23kazoos.com.
Wendy Kenney is the bestselling author of How to Build Buzz for Your Business available on Amazon.com, and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Newsday.