The Number One Small Business Marketing Mistake

Marketing mistake 1

By Chris Ripley

 I’ve been working with small businesses for almost nine years, helping them with their marketing and business development. In almost every company I find this one major marketing mistake – failure to have a strategic and tactical marketing plan.

A strategic and tactical marketing plan – to some it may sound like a daunting task reserved for big companies with large staffs with the time to devote to long-term planning. I disagree. Your strategic marketing plan consists of three simple elements that most business owners already know, they just need to take the time to think about them for a few minutes and write them down. These are the elements of your strategic marketing plan:

1. Your Message or “What you say” – What is the message you would like to communicate to your customers and prospects? What separates your businesses from the competition? Why should someone buy from you versus the other similar companies in your market? This is the message you want to communicate to your target market.

2. Your Market or “Who you say it to” – Who are you targeting? Where do they live? How much do they make? While this may seem obvious to you it’s worth taking some time and thinking about it. Most people agree most businesses earn 80% of their profit from 20% of their customers. Think about who are your best customers – how can you get more of these customers and how you can lop off the bottom 20% of the customers who actually may cost you profit. Your strategic marketing plan should have the ideal target market for your business.

3. Your Media or “How you say it” – Where do your customers go to get more information about your product or service? What media should you use when communicating with your prospects and customers? Today over 60% of the people go online to search for information about an upcoming purchase. If your spending your money on Yellow Pages ads you may be better off lighting a match to it – at least it will provide you some warmth during these cold winter nights.

While most business owners may be able to answer these questions themselves, I encourage you to do a little market research to help you answer these questions.

Ask you customers where they go to get information about purchasing your product or service. When a new customer joins your flock ask them why the chose you over the competition. Try to learn a little more about the demographics of your customers by capturing their address to keep in touch with them and learn where your customers live. Try to monitor and document the results of your marketing and advertising results, don’t just sign on the bottom line for the loudest and most pushy advertising salesperson.

Your tactical marketing plan to will come from your strategic plan. Next week I’ll talk about creating your tactical plan.

Chris Ripley is a Waldorf-based marketing and business development consultant and author of “Online Marketing 101” available at and He is an adjunct professor at the College of Southern Maryland and the University of Phoenix. His Web site is and you can find him on Facebook at or Twitter at chrisripley. You can contact him at or 301-328-2113.