Misconceptions about marketing small businesses

Common marketing misconceptions

This year has already seen the establishment of over 350,000 new businesses. That’s not a typo. The majority of start-ups and small businesses understand the importance of marketing in helping them to stand out from the crowd. But many have a few misconceptions about it that can prevent them from growing their business in the direction they want to go. 

Misconception 1: ‘We don’t need to think about marketing just yet’

There are two elements to this: ‘we don’t need to do any marketing because we have enough customers’, or ‘we don’t need to do any marketing because we’re still developing our offering.’ You might have more customers than you can manage now, but effective marketing is a long game and thinking about your strategy now is vital if you want to sustain your current level of business activity and retain customers. It doesn’t have to mean a sudden influx of enquiries – although wouldn’t that be nice? It can be about raising your visibility, strengthening your customer service or building your future pipeline. In all likelihood your competitors are marketing already, so if you put it off you’re effectively giving them a head start.

If you’re still in the product or service development stage, thinking about marketing is even more critical. Defining a unique and sustainable brand proposition, setting the right pricing and sounding out your target audience are all strategic marketing activities that can help to strengthen your chances of success from the start. In short, it’s never too early to think about marketing.

Misconception 2: ‘We don’t do marketing’

I might not know your business yet, but I’m willing to bet you do some sort of marketing – you might just not recognise it as such.  If you have a website, you are marketing. If you’ve got some nice partnership referral arrangements in place, you’re marketing. If you focus on treating your customers well so they send all their friends and family to you, you’re clearly doing some great customer relationship marketing. Even if you’re doing nothing externally, internal marketing, i.e. the way you treat your team and how engaged and loyal they are, makes a big difference to your success.

What you’re more than likely not doing is following a focused strategy that connects with your business goals, and without that you’re not marketing effectively. Marketing without a strategy is like trying to access the internet without WiFi; you’re just not going to connect.

Misconception 3: ‘We don’t need to do marketing – we just need to sell’

Sure, you can get fantastic results from a short-term targeted campaign, but the real value of marketing is building brand recognition and customer loyalty over a period of several months – years even. The marketing rule of seven has been proven over and over again; in order to attract prospects to buy your products or services they need to see or hear your message an estimated seven times. So the more touch points your target audience have with your brand, the more likely you are to get the sales you want – not just the quick wins, but the long-term ones too. A combination of social media content, PR, SEO, advertising, e-newsletters and sponsorship can all help to generate this awareness and drive sales.

Misconception 4: ‘Marketing is too expensive and time-consuming’

There may be some initial set-up costs, but ongoing marketing activity should be a relative expense based on the expected return. It wouldn’t be sensible to invest £1,000 if you’re only trying to make £500 in customer purchases. But if you invest £1,000 and it generates £10,000, you’d probably agree that it’s justified. Even then, as business owners it can be tempting for us to try and do everything ourselves to cut financial costs, but the real cost then is our time.  Trying to do your own marketing can take you away from interacting with clients or developing new business opportunities, but outsourcing some strategic marketing consultancy can actually free up more of your time. For example, rather than trying to keep up with multiple social media channels, it’ll help you determine those that are worth investing your time in, and it’ll show which activities (networking, customer communications) are going to give you the greatest results.

Misconception 5: ‘Marketing is about convincing people they need my product/ service’

Contrary to its sometimes negative reputation, marketing isn’t, or shouldn’t be, about convincing people of their needs. It’s about ensuring your product or service fulfils a genuine, existing need for a particular group of people, and then developing an authentic message that connects with them. That’s why market research is so important at the product or service development stage. But because it’s difficult to show an immediate return on investment, it’s often pushed to the bottom of the list – quite understandably for small businesses. If you’ve not done any research previously, then keeping up to date with market changes and listening to feedback from your customers will help you determine whether your offering is fulfilling a genuine need or if it needs to change. If you get this right, the need for a ‘hard sell’ approach is eliminated.

Misconception 6: ‘We need a new logo’

Perhaps you could do with a visual make over – but your brand is about much more than your logo. Take Alzheimer’s Society’s new brand; it’s not been developed out of a love of bright colours and modern design; each visual choice is tied to a clear strategic goal and set of values and has taken audience feedback into account. In their words: “We needed a brand that will make dementia impossible to ignore, and which matched our mission: to change the landscape of dementia forever.” (Vivienne Francis, Director of Marketing and External Affairs).

Whether you’re looking to rebrand because you’re changing direction, trying to communicate a different message, or changing the services you offer, seek some strategic guidance before focusing on design. This will help you clarify if/ why you need to rebrand, help you plan how to launch your new brand, and how to ensure that it’s consistently reflected across your existing marketing channels.

If you’ve been privy to these misconceptions about marketing, you’re certainly not alone. The good news is that getting a strategic marketing plan in place isn’t as daunting as it might sound. If you don’t have the time or experience in-house, outsourcing a few days’ work to an experienced marketing consultant can be a great way to ensure your marketing is connecting with your goals and helping your business flourish.

To find out more or put any other marketing misconceptions to rest, please get in touch.

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