If you’d told me marketing was the most important skill for successful entrepreneurship even ten years ago, I would have laughed in your face. However, over a decade of my own entrepreneurial ups (and major downs), alongside advising thousands of client businesses from zero to profitability, I’ve surrendered to the reality that marketing is the most crucial non-negotiable skill every entrepreneur must master to succeed. After making six figures of my own marketing mistakes, let me save you the time and money by warning you of eight costly errors that can doom your business.
1. Perfection smells fishy
Whether you’re a perfectionist or just someone who wants to put their most professional foot forward, it’s common sense to polish your marketing content — including customer testimonials — until they shine. The problem? Shiny isn’t necessarily reality. When customer testimonials appear too perfect, they can come off as staged (and fake). Believe it or not, that extra round of photoshop and cutting out their brief stutter could be triggering customers’ B.S. sensor. Perfection smells fishy; real, raw, honest, and relatable testimonials will be far more believable and likely gain you more credibility and sales.
2. Customers can smell this, too
I can still remember my throat closing up as the sweat pooled below each armpit during my first live sales call. The objections rolled in, and I croaked like a scared little cricket. Sadly, that wouldn’t be the only sales call I’d flub with my own confidence-betraying desperation. If you take nothing else from this article, remember that desperation repels — and it will likely show on a sales call. If you can harness authentic confidence and the knowledge that you’ll be fine with or without the sale, you’re probably about 50% closer to closing it.
3. There is no “convince” in marketing
Most entrepreneurs approach marketing with one of two mindsets: The first assumes minimal marketing will yield sales (since customers, of course, flock to brand-new companies and products). The second assumes marketing requires hard-core convincing. In reality, neither is exactly correct.
In truth, marketing should not revolve around nagging customers until they finally give in and buy a product. Instead, strategic marketing means finding the ready-to-buy leads who don’t need all that convincing. If marketing feels like pulling teeth, that’s a good indicator you just might be doing it wrong.
4. These fads can wear out their welcome
Have you ever seen those sales pages that go on for miles, veiling their prices below a never-ending stream of aspirational fluff? Or what about a rapid-fire lineup of spammy pop-ups and count-down timers, urging you to hop on the bandwagon and purchase before the sale runs out? While these tricks may have worked well back when they were novel (when customers were a lot less savvy), today, they’re more likely to raise eyebrows for the wrong reasons — even if they’re true. Annoying your audience by overindulging industry marketing standards may do your business more harm than good; dare to be different, and sometimes it’s that difference that sells.
5. This matters more than you think
Years ago, I hired a marketing team who made me scrap all my company’s branding for their new color scheme and graphics. It was different, but I wasn’t really sold on it. You know who else wasn’t sold on it? My target customers. At the time, my company’s product was indisputably better than the competitors’ (more value for a more reasonable price), yet we were getting bulldozed by a few companies with completely different brand images and messages.
Customers buy from businesses and people they like, and branding determines a customer’s first impression of your company. Don’t underestimate the importance of branding and leave it up to an outsourced marketing team or as the last item on your pre-launch to-do list.
6. Discounts are rarely the answer
When sales don’t flood in as fast as you’d hoped, it’s easy to fixate on your prices as the problem and resort to slashing them for an easy revenue boost. Don’t — at least not until or unless you know prices are the problem. As someone who’s struggled to sell $20 products with influencers and ads and also sold $2000 through one email, I guarantee you prices are rarely the reason you aren’t selling. Fire sales and major discounts can be part of a strategic campaign, but they shouldn’t be a last-ditch resort to compensate for subpar marketing.
7. These are yours to lose
The most valuable thing customers can provide your business isn’t their money; it’s their feedback. I can’t tell you how many companies rack up hundreds of sales before thinking to ask for customer feedback, reviews, testimonials or referrals. Real-world social proof doesn’t have to cost a dime, but it could exponentially increase your sales conversion as compared to when you had none.
You can offer customers an incentive for filling out a post-purchase form or even require a service completion form before their last service delivery. Doing just that has cultivated an ongoing stream of hundreds of fresh, new testimonials coming in for my business all the time, freely and effortlessly, with a simple Google form.
8. Timing is everything
Entrepreneurs who don’t understand their product’s appropriate sales cycle are flying blind as they choose to implement or cut marketing initiatives. Some products and price points deserve 2-day conversion windows, while others need 2 weeks, months or years. I have a business in which we keep leads for two to three years; given our low-cost automated marketing, it typically pays off, as we’ve gotten $3,000 sales after sending our 50th email. If we didn’t understand the conversion window for this product and price point, we might have stopped at our fifth.
Once you understand this, you’ll be equipped to set reasonable boundaries for how long you keep and market to leads, as well as reframe your expectations for sales. Just because a company makes millions doesn’t mean it turns leads into sales in milliseconds — most don’t.