Most painful marketing mistakes — Lack of strategy

Today I’m beginning a new series on the most painful small business marketing mistakes. Follow me for the next few days and you’ll get the whole picture!
Mistake number one is also the deadliest blunder of them all: NOT HAVING A STRATEGY.
I had lunch with a potential new client the other day. He opened an innovative retail business last year and has spent tens of thousands of dollars on advertising. He’s tried everything — print, radio, TV, Internet, billboards. He’s had sales, promotions, and PR events but can’t seem to move sales.
So I asked him, “Who’s your customer?” He said at first he predicted it would be middle-aged women, but then he noticed mostly couples entering the store. He said senior citizens need his product but he doesn’t know how to target them. He tried ads in the UT student newspaper to appeal to college students but it got him nothing. And he thought locals would frequent the store but has seen people drive in from Kentucky and Alabama, too.
You can see that it’s impossible to have an effective advertising campaign without clearly defining who you’re selling to, the customer needs you’re meeting, competition, pricing, and your points of differentiation. In fact, if you don’t KNOW these things, you are probably going to fail.
My friend is firing “buckshot advertising” … just shooting here and there, hoping he to get lucky and hit a customer. What he needs is a guided MISSILE (see, you knew you would figure out the photo eventually!) … and that’s where strategy comes in.
What makes up a strategy?
Some of the key elements of a marketing strategy are:
  • Target demographic and market segmentation
  • Market positioning and points of differentiation
  • Product and service attributes – finding under-served needs
  • Competition and external influences, threats and opportunities
  • Marketing channels
  • Pricing
  • Communications and branding
  • Distribution
Developing your strategy
Going through a methodical process to research and identify your marketing approach is the most important thing you can do for your business. And it’s so LIBERATING! You don’t have to guess any more. You don’t have to play advertising roulette. You can sell with confidence and it will work because you have data, insight and a PLAN!
How do you develop a marketing strategy? If you want to try the do-it-yourself approach, there are many possibilities (free) out there through the SBA and other small business websites. Even Microsoft Small Business and Yahoo Small Business have excellent templates.
The problem is not finding a methodology, it’s having the skill and experience to actually do it. Without a background in marketing and research, most people get frustrated trying to put together a meaningful marketing strategy. It’s difficult and it’s so important. Unless you’ve cornered the market, the effectiveness of your plan is probably the difference between profitability and failure.
Call in the troops
One alternative is to look for help. If you pardon my act of shameless self-promotion, that would be me. It’s the kind of work I have done for more than 25 years. If you need me to do the whole project or just need a little guidance, I would be glad to help. There is nothing more rewarding than watching a business grow and come alive with the help of a focused marketing strategy! To learn more, please visit my website at
Whether you go it alone or use the services of a marketing professional, please don’t overlook this marketing essential! If you don’t have a marketing strategy, you probably don’t have a business.

All posts

The Marketing Companion Podcast

Why not tune into the world’s most entertaining marketing podcast!

View details

Let's plot a strategy together

Want to solve big marketing problems for a little bit of money? Sign up for an hour of Mark’s time and put your business on the fast-track.

View details