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The Five Marketing Mistakes Every Entrepreneur Makes (and How to Avoid
by Kevin Epstein

Every marketer makes mistakes. As an
entrepreneur with a limited budget, and
only a few chances to make your business
a success, the goal is simply to avoid
making too many.

The five marketing mistakes every entrepreneur is tempted to make are:

•        Betting On the Big Event: Gambling Instead Of Planning
•        Depending on Others / Outsourcing the Wrong Things
•        Marketing Nonexistent Product
•        Failing to Measure
•        Adding Complexity

The good news is that you don’t need to learn from your mistakes – you can learn
from other people’s mistakes, saving yourself trouble. Here’s how.

1. Betting On the Big Event: Gambling Instead Of Planning.

The first mistake many marketers make is to spend all their marketing dollars in one
place without calculating the odds of success first.

Attending a trade show, local fair, or even taking the time to attend local business
events can be prohibitively expensive. If the event doesn’t generate the expected
associated volume of sales, you may soon have no company to market.

So be sure you plan, not gamble.

•        Always do the math on expected costs and resultant sales, underestimating
sales when you plan. Remember this equation: your profit = [# of potential leads] x
[likelihood of making sale] x [size of sale] – [total costs of attending event]

•        Equip yourself to make the most of the event. Put yourself in the customers’
shoes – why should they stop by your table or chat with you? What will they see or
hear? What will you talk to them about? What will they leave with? Why should
they give you a business card? Answer those questions and come prepared.

•        Shop around, and understand whether your money could be better spent.
Given the profit equation above. Is there another way you could get as much in
sales for less money?

2. Depending on Others / Outsourcing the Wrong Things.  

The second mistake many marketers make is to make their business’ success or
failure depend on your hired consultant’s success or failure.

Many entrepreneurs forget that if the consultant they hired fails to perform a critical
task, it’s not only the consultant who fails.

So keep the critical things under control, and be sure of your help:

•        Check references. Call people and ask about your consultant’s reliability and
quality. Ask to see their prior work. Ask for situations where they failed. Be

•        Communicate and align expectations. Have a written agreement on costs,
timelines, ownership of final results, and what those results will look like.

•        Have a backup plan. What happens when the consultant doesn’t deliver?

3. Marketing Nonexistent Product.  

The third mistake many marketers make is to over-market without business
substance to back up your claims.

Never over-promise and under-deliver on your product or service – it will
permanently drive away customers. Strive to match customer expectations and
product (or service) delivery.

It doesn’t matter if you’re delivering a lot or a little – either way, customers are
happy when they get slightly more than they expect. So give it to them:

•        Understand your customers, and what they value about your business. A
customer who expects a burger and fries in 5 minutes for $2 and gets it in 2 minutes
for $1 will be happier than one who gets a steak… in 30 minutes for $50.

•        Sell what you have, not what you’re planning to have – presented so your
customers can understand how what you have today matches what they value. Don’
t sell the steakhouse you will be – sell the “fast and cheap… and tasty” you have.

•        Use “vision” presentations carefully, in a pre-thought-out way, to stall
competition or explain why owning the current product is of more value than
waiting. Why wait thirty minutes and pay $50 when you can have a full meal now,
and cash left over?

4. Failing to Measure.  

The fourth mistake many marketers make is to complete a marketing program and
realize they have no idea if it “worked” or not, or how to improve it next time.

What you’d like to know about any marketing program is how many people who
became aware of you through that program went on to eventually buy something
(vs the number of people who became aware of you through other more or less
expensive methods).

So take the time to prepare. Remember, if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist:

•        Understand what to measure – and always measure the program’s linkage to
sales. Do you really care about cost per person lured to your storefront… or per
person who buys something from you? (It’s usually the latter).

•        Build ways of measuring into your marketing program. Are you asking
people to call you? Set up a specific phone extension. Email? Add a special email

•        Change one variable – one aspect of your program – at a time, then repeat and
re-measure. Did your sign not generate replies? Change the design or location, not
both at once.

5. Making Life Complicated.  

The fifth mistake many marketers make is to make it hard for prospective customers
to understand and purchase their product.

Simple is good! Most people can only hold five to nine pieces of information in their
short-term memory at one time. If you present a marketing message longer than
that, people won’t remember it.

Your goal should be to make the purchase process as frictionless as possible for the
buyer – as every barrier you put in their way is one more opportunity for them to
change their mind about buying.

So keep it simple for your customer.

•        Say it simply – use concise, basic descriptions. A “solution for business
continuity” gets less attention than one that talks about “Zero failures”.

•        Make it simple to do – it should be easy to do business with you. If your
customer has to spend more time and attention on completing your process than
they’ll see in return (use $100 per hour as a value of return), you’re doing them and
yourself a dis-service.

•        Don’t ask too much of your customers – all you really want is their business.
Balance the value of that which you’re offering against the possibility of collecting
multiple bits of information over a longer set of interactions – and don’t attempt to
force the qualification process so that only the truly desperate reach your sales

You now have a three-step plan to guide you through each of the five most
common traps marketers experience.

So, are you safe? Absolutely not! You’ll certainly make other mistakes as you grow
your business. If you don’t, you’re not being aggressive and creative enough with
your marketing.

But don’t worry. The unwritten “fourth step” in every three-step plan is the age-old
lemon lesson: when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Consider the number
of great discoveries that were made by mistake – penicillin, Post-It brand notes, and
Coca-Cola all originated with an error. As the entrepreneur, the final outcome of any
situation often rests in your hands. So when it all seems to be going wrong, relax;
take a deep breath, ask what the situation lets you provide to customers, and dive in.

About the author: Kevin Epstein is a Silicon Valley marketing executive with a
Stanford MBA, a degree in high energy nuclear physics, several technology patents
in his name, founding experience at three successful small-business retail ventures,
and more than fifteen subsequent years of experience in guerrilla marketing tactics.
Since 1992, his marketing programs have generated more than 5 million sales leads
for companies of all sizes in all major global markets. Kevin is also the author of
Marketing Made Easy (Entrepreneur Magazine Press, 2006).   Originally from the
New England area, Kevin currently resides in Northern California with his
wife and two children. Kevin may be reached through his
Blog or website, at
Stupid Marketing
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