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Avoiding The Top Marketing Mistakes

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As a marketing consultant who works with entrepreneurs on start-ups and business growth initiatives, I see the same problems repeatedly. The problems are not technical or related to specific products or services. The problems are fundamental and routed in marketing leadership.

What Are These Problems?

The First Problem Is Ambiguity (a lack of clarity)
Many companies suffer from the absence of clear and specific definitions for who they are, whom they serve, what problems they solve, how they create value for clients, and how their positioning differs from competitors. Clarity on these points is the bedrock of any company and their subsequent sales and marketing efforts. The absence of clarity here reverberates through everything that follows.

The Second Problem Is A Lack Of Commitment
Without clarity on the first set of questions, it is very difficult to commit to a business or marketing initiative. The two most common responses are to waffle and not commit, or to over commit with limited justification. In both cases, hope is the strategy. Fortunately, an appropriate degree of research, planning, budgeting, and forecasting is the answer.

The Third Problem Might Be Called Narcissism (a fixation on ourselves)
As entrepreneurs, we often spend too much time thinking about our product or solution. We spend an inordinate amount of time describing what we do, what we sell, and how it works. While these descriptions are important and do have their place, the vital questions of why a client would want the offer and how they would benefit gets lost somewhere along the way.

The Fourth Problem Is Abdication of Leadership
Many entrepreneurs are unfamiliar with one or more key areas like sales, marketing, technology, or accounting, and they would rather have someone else handle them. Rather than delegate the roles effectively, they often abdicate to consultants. This unspoken assumption leaves the consultants unaware they have become the leaders in the client’s mind, rather than the contractor who they perceive themselves to be. The unfortunate result is that no one ends up leading. The results are very predictable.

Why Are These Issues Such A Problem?

While these issues are not fundamentally difficult to solve, the problem is recognizing them in the first place. Since we do not know what we do not know, we focus on what we think we need, rather than what would really help.

What Are The Implications?

Because these problems are so foundational, their implications affect nearly every aspect of a business moving forward. The bottom line is that these problems affect your bottom line. They encourage doubt and hedging, confuse staff and clients, extend timelines, make everything cost more, and limit success in nearly every negative way imaginable.

What Are The Solutions?

The first solution is to hire a leadership or marketing coach to help you see what you can’t see on your own. It is nearly impossible to see the outside of a box from inside the box, so get some outside perspective.

The second solution is to get clear and committed with respect to the fundamentals of your business. Get everything simplified, refined, and written down on paper and in spreadsheets before you jump into action. Reaching agreement and committing to a plan of action is the end goal.

The Business Is Already Running, Is It Too Late?

It’s never too late. The only problem with getting clear and committed after the fact is undoing the work you’ve already completed. It is frustrating, but the silver lining is your experience will give you greater clarity and more confidence in the answers and plans you generate.

What Do I Do Next?

If you relate to these stories, we’re not surprised. Every entrepreneur deals with these issues at some point. The real questions are when, and how much back peddling you are prepared to deal with in the interest of moving forward.

If your desire for progress is strong, go back to the core questions and clarify them once-and-for-all.

The core questions are:
  1. Who are we, and what do we stand for?
  2. How do we define our core target clients?
  3. What significant problem do we solve, or opportunity do we create?
  4. How do we position ourselves as different from competitors?
  5. How do we profit from these efforts?

When your answers are clear and you commit to a specific course of action, you’ll feel a renewed sense of commitment to what got you started in the first place. You will appear as more of a leader that people will choose to follow. The net result is usually a burst of acceleration in your chosen direction.

About the Author

John Watson is the president of Accrue Performance Marketing and the author of Mastering Marketing, the Being Profitable Program, several ebooks and an avid blogger. He serves as a sales and marketing coach and fractional Chief Marketing Officer for companies that cannot yet justify a full-time CMO. He's focused on helping startups and growth-focused companies develop powerful brands, customer-centric websites, sales leads and complete commercialization programs.

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