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Marketing for SMEs isn’t an easy task. You have a budget to worry about and there are so many ideas out there. That makes it easy to make the marketing mistakes that could tank your business.


Bad business marketing.

It’s the bane of every single business owner. But if you’re running an SME, bad business marketing is a genuine threat to your company. If you can’t correct your course and fix your marketing issues, the entire business might collapse.

You pump too much money into systems that just don’t work. Or, you don’t commit yourself fully to a marketing strategy, which is just as dangerous.

Your goal is to avoid the SME marketing mistakes that can sink small businesses.

That’s where ActionCOACH comes in.

Here, we’re going to look at some of the biggest mistakes that SMEs make with their marketing.

And here’s the thing.

There are so many that it’s all too much to fit into one article. That’s why we’re making this the first in a two-part series that covers all of the mistakes to avoid when marketing for SMEs.


SME Marketing Mistake #1 – Not Having an Overall Marketing Plan

If there’s one person you should listen to when it comes to marketing for SMEs, it’s Brad Sugars.

He’s the founder and chairman of ActionCOACH and he’s helped a ton of companies break away from bad marketing.

Brad says that many SMEs don’t even have marketing plans to begin with.

“A solid marketing plan is the cornerstone of a business plan. How many salespeople do we need? Well, that depends on marketing. How many operations people do we need? Well, that depends on marketing.

…Everything starts with marketing in a business.”

Despite this, so many SMEs don’t have defined marketing plans. And if they do, it’s usually a couple of pages that offers a basic outline.

That’s not enough!

You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t have a plan. Sit down today and define every marketing strategy that you want to use. Dedicate a budget to each section of your plan and make sure you have people constantly working on bringing new leads into the business.


SME Marketing Mistake #2 – Sending Conflicting Messages

Your business has a brand. And that brand consists of messages that you send out to potential customers.

People latch onto those messages and become supporters of your brand. If you’re really lucky, they may even become advocates for your business.

That’s the ideal situation.

The problems come when your messages start getting muddled. That’s an easy issue to run into for an SME. You’re still trying to find your feet when it comes to marketing so you’re throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks.

But think about what people see of you when you’re doing this. Every conflicting message tells people that you don’t know what you stand for. Worse yet, conflicting messages can make people doubt your authenticity.

Even large businesses can make this mistake. Just take a look at what happened to Dove.

Dove is a cosmetics brand that has created an inclusionary message over the years. Their marketing materials all focus on how everybody is beautiful in their own way.

That’s a great message to put out. And it’s what makes the company’s “Transformation” Facebook ad so strange.

Dove ran an ad that featured a black woman transforming into a white woman after taking her top off.

This runs counter to Dove’s previous messages that everyone is beautiful in their own skin.

A social media backlash ensued and Dove had to pull the ad.

Solidify your message from the start. And check all of the marketing materials you put out to ensure they maintain consistency with that message.


SME Marketing Mistake #3 – Piggybacking on Trends Poorly

There’s nothing wrong with piggybacking on trends to support your marketing efforts. Some would even argue that this is one of the cornerstones of social media marketing. You figure out what people are talking about and put out content that appeals to that audience.

But it can all go wrong, as the United States Airforce found out:

You may remember the ‘Yanny or Laurel’ debate that went viral on social media. It involved a little audio clip that some would hear as Yanny and others would hear as Laurel.

It was a little bit of light-hearted fun that several major brands latched onto.

Then, the US Airforce sent out the following Tweet:

“The Taliban Forces in Farah city #Afghanistan would much rather have heard #Yanny or #Laurel than the deafening #BRRRT they got courtesy of our #A10.”

In an instant, they turned a fun little trend into something that conjured up images of death and destruction.

Unsurprisingly, they eventually deleted the tweet after receiving a ton of internet backlash.

This is a cautionary tale for any SME that wants to try its hand at social media marketing. If you’re going to latch onto a trend, make sure you maintain the trend’s original spirit.

The US Airforce completely misread their audience, which turned sentiment against them.


SME Marketing Mistake #4 – Not Having Enough Strategies or Processes

Brad Sugars has also covered the processes and strategies issue when it comes to marketing for SMEs.

“Now ultimately for lead generation, if you want a growth business you’ve got to have seven to ten strategies that are working.

…If you've only got two or three strategies for new customers coming to your business it cannot be a growth business.”

You can’t assume that a single marketing strategy will do the job. You’ll miss out on a huge segment of your potential audience if you only focus on one strategy.

This is an issue that runs straight to the heart of your marketing. For every section of your marketing plan, you need to have at least five strategies in place.


SME Marketing Mistake #5 – Not Encouraging Referrals

Why doesn’t your business have a referral program?

People trust the opinions of their friends and family over any marketing material that you might put out. If you don’t have a referral program, you’re not encouraging your existing customers to talk about you.

And that means you’re missing out on tons of new customers.

According to Nielsen, 92% of people trust information about your business that comes from people they know. Furthermore, people whom your customers refer you to are four times more likely to buy from you.

ActionCOACH client Lifestyle by Design discovered the power of referral marketing for themselves.

Lifestyle by Design started out as a small carpentry company. Over the years, they developed into a full-service building business.

But they always struggled with their marketing before they came to ActionCOACH.

Working with ActionCOACH business coach Brett Burden, the company introduced a referral program. Any previous client that refers a new client receives a $2,000 travel voucher.

Since they started working with Brett, the company has more than tripled their annual turnover.

If you provide an amazing service, your customers will want to talk about you. They just might need a little encouragement. Don’t make the mistake of ignoring the potential that referral marketing offers.


SME Marketing Mistake #6 – Focusing on Yourself Instead of Your Customers

Brad Sugars points to another common form of bad business marketing that SMEs often adopt.

They talk about themselves more than they talk about their clients.

Brad says that so many SMEs focus on themselves.

For example, they’ll say things like “we have 20 years’ experience.” The problem is that this language doesn’t involve the customer. Someone reads that sentence and they just see you tooting your own horn. Thus, they lose interest.

Brad says that it’s far better to say “Here’s how you can benefit from our 20 years’ experience”. By switching the “we” for “you”, you’re placing the focus on the customer instead of the business. That makes for more engaging marketing that ultimately leads to sales.

Don’t make the mistake of making it all about you in your marketing. Instead, focus on what the customer needs and how your services benefit them.


SME Marketing Mistake # 7 – Not Knowing Your Numbers

Not knowing your numbers is one of the biggest mistakes that you can make in business.

It’s an absolute killer for marketing. You need to track so many different numbers to create effective strategies.

These include, but aren’t limited to, the following:

  • How many leads you get per day/week/month.
  • Where all of those leads come from.
  • How much you’re spending on each source to get those leads.

You need those numbers to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

That’s what Junglefy discovered when they worked with ActionCOACH.

Junglefy’s focus on green walls, roofs, and other installations means they have an in-built focus for their marketing. They’re able to appeal to the environmental crowd.

They had strong products. But their marketing team was completely underdeveloped.

ActionCOACH business coach Andrew Laurie helped them change all of that. He helped Junglefy set up marketing Key Performance Indicators so they could track their numbers.

Since starting with Andrew, Junglefy has more than doubled its annual revenue.

Figure out what numbers you need to track and put systems in place to stay on top of them. Changes to those numbers tell you what’s right and what’s wrong with your marketing. Use that information to make improvements.



SME Marketing Mistake #8 – Ignoring the Importance of Trust

Seth Godin is an entrepreneur, speaker, and marketing guru. Businesses have followed his advice for years to help them create marketing plans that work. Seth points to a particular mistake that many business owners make. They ignore the importance of trust when it comes to marketing.

Seth says:

“Attention and trust are the two most valuable elements of our economy going forward, and big companies have a long history of just burning it, wasting it. The alternative is to be the kind of organization that markets with people instead of at them.”

He points out that we’re living in the most informed age in human history. People have access to so much information about your business and it’s all at their fingertips.

They need to trust you before they’ll buy from you.

If you’re not hitting the right trust signals, your marketing team will struggle. Consistent messaging, authenticity in your vision, and working with your customers are all keys to building this trust.


SME Marketing Mistake #9 – Inviting Controversy

Some will tell you that controversy sells.

But that’s usually not the case. In fact, inviting controversy onto your doorstep damages trust and makes people less likely to buy from you. That’s something that the betting company William Hill learned the hard way.

It all started with a simple tweet about the Melbourne Cup:

“Dreamed of cheering on a winner in a race named after you? Here’s your chance! Help us #NameAHorseRace #WillHill.”

It’s fairly innocuous as marketing tweets go. But William Hill didn’t realise that they were about to invite the controversy that surrounds the Melbourne Cup onto their doorstep.

Many of the names they received referenced issues related to animal abuse and the death of racehorses. Their marketing campaign sank without a trace soon after it started.

The strange message behind this is that it’s sometimes better to say nothing at all. If you identify a topic as having the potential to spark controversy, it’s best to avoid it and follow other strategies.


SME Marketing Mistake #10 – Not Having a Marketing Team

Let’s come back to Brad Sugars for one more mistake to round out the first part of this article series.

Brad says that many SMEs struggle with marketing because they don’t have a team dedicated to it.

“Today, a lot of marketing is human capital. A lot of marketing is about the person sitting behind a desk.”

Brad goes on to discuss how you need a team to handle your website and your social media. You need people to talk directly to customers in an age where they can ask questions instantly using Facebook.

Having no team means you’re not equipped to deal with modern marketing. 

The right people can make a huge difference when it comes to your marketing. Avoid the mistake of not hiring a team because you think you can do it all yourself.


The Takeaway

If you can avoid these ten mistakes, you’re on the right track to building a marketing plan that works.

But these aren’t the only mistakes that you need to avoid. We have 10 more for you to learn about in Part Two of this series.

But maybe you don’t want to wait to get started on improving your marketing. If that’s the case, an ActionCOACH can help take you to the next level.

Just contact the team today to get started.


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