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It’s one thing to try out an idea, jump on the latest bandwagon or take a risk only to look back and think, “Wow! What a mistake!” Those are often “good mistakes” – the kind you learn from and can use as a springboard for your next endeavor.
But it’s another entirely to make one of those “stupid mistakes” that are so pernicious and so avoidable that all you can do at the end of the day is slap yourself on the forehead and wonder why you did it.
These are the kind of mistakes that you can correct almost immediately, if only you realized you were making them. So here’s a not-by-a-long-shot definitive list of those mistakes so that you can begin turning them into opportunities instead of headaches.
Mistake 1: No Follow Up
How many times have you met with a prospect, talked shop, and sent off a proposal only to hear the proverbial chirping cricket in the background? This happens a lot. Heck, I know I’ve done it to more than one poor soul who has offered me their services only to find me very scarce about five minutes after their proposal hit my email inbox.
This can happen for a bunch of reasons. Maybe the budget was too high or the timeframe too long. Maybe your prospect wasn’t quite ready to do business yet. Maybe she was just price shopping or idea shopping. Maybe his brother was getting married that month and your proposal was the last thing on his mind.
Whatever the reason, if you fail to follow up you simply fail. You’ll never know why your prospect didn’t bite, so you’ll never know how you can improve your approach with your next prospect. Even if you find out that a prospect has hired someone else, you should still follow up to find out why.
This is not meant to be a challenge or a confrontation. Consider it reconnaissance. Thank your prospect for the opportunity and ask why he chose another company. Information will only help you grow.
Set a schedule for following up with prospects so it becomes second nature and you never have to wonder whether you should/shouldn’t, did/forgot.
Decide that X days after a meeting, you’ll call. And X days after a proposal, you’ll email. And X days after that you’ll check in. And after X weeks or months, you’ll send another email or make another phone call just to be sure you’re not leaving any loose ends.
Make it simple and finite. You can’t chase people down forever but if you have a process for following up you know you’ll never miss an opportunity simply because you neglected to call back. Most people don’t make decisions quickly so you’ll need to be patient and persistent.
Finally, always ask a prospect – especially if he doesn’t become a customer – if you can keep in touch for the long haul. That might mean checking in every six months or so, or keeping her on your email newsletter list. You just never know when needs and circumstances will change.
Mistake 2: Not Having A Process – Or Having Too Much Process
This is a double-edged mistake. It’s all about finding the Goldilocks zone of marketing. If you don’t have a process, you’ll be doing things randomly, haphazardly and most likely ineffectively.
If you have too much process, you might find yourself perpetrating unnecessary inefficiencies just for the sake of sticking to the process.
This is true whether you’re managing a social media campaign, email campaign or direct mail campaign. It’s true for everything from SEO to proposal writing. You need a basic process in place but you need to be flexible enough to change it up when it’s not working.
Let’s use email campaigns as an example. Without a process, you won’t have any idea what you’re sending emails about, who you’re sending them to or what the content should be.
You could make it up as you go along but that won’t help you plan, track what you’re doing and make adjustments to improve.
No process means you’ll be sending out emails whenever, about whatever, to whomever… and what kind of marketing is that!?
A good process might include a weekly schedule for sending emails, an email template with four specific content areas to fill, and a three-month plan of message topics and calls to action.
Too much process means you’re so hung up on filling those four content areas that you neglect the actual content and cram in whatever you can just to fill the spaces. Or it may mean continuing down the weekly email path even though you noticed your unsubscribe rate jump as soon as you went above monthly.
Too much or too little process can set you up for unnecessary failure. Start with a basic plan and give yourself the freedom to change as you start to see trends and patterns and as you discover new, more effective ways to do things.
Mistake 3: Ignoring Analytics
Quick: how many unique visitors did you have to your website yesterday? What percentage of your Facebook audience is female? What’s the open rate on your last email campaign?
If you can’t answer those questions quickly then you’re probably not measuring the results of your marketing efforts. If you’re not measuring results, how do you know if what you’re doing is working? If you don’t know what’s working, how do you know what to do next and where to put your efforts and budget?
A lot of people are scared of analytics. As far as I can tell, the only people totally comfortable with numbers are accountants and engineers.
But analytics don’t have to be big and scary. They can be as simple as looking at your Facebook Insights to see how many people your posts reached. Better than last week? Worse? The rise or fall of a simple line on a graph can tell you that you’re doing great or you need to adjust your efforts.
I’ll tell you this much: if you don’t have Google Analytics (or some analytics) on your website, you should be slapping yourself in the forehead right now. Bad enough to ignore your analytics, but to not have them at all? That’s just crazy.
If you’re new to analytics and numbers scare you, start small. Look at how many visitors you had on any given day. See how long they spent on your site. Check out the keywords they used to get to your site. Books have been written about analytics, for good reason.
You can dig deep and analyze yourself cross-eyed. But in between marathon analytics sessions, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be checking your analytics for five minutes every day to track a couple of high level details and see how your marketing plans are going.
Mistake 4: Waiting For The Phone To Ring
Marketing can be exhausting! All that planning, engaging, creating, analyzing… isn’t it awesome when you can finish up your email newsletter, shoot off that Facebook post, then sit back and wait for the prospects to start pouring in?
…what? They’re not calling? They’re not breaking down your door after that last brilliant comment you made on Twitter that was retweeted forty times? You mean… you’re not done?
I want to be that person too – the one who can charge whatever hourly rate I’m in the mood to charge just because it’s Tuesday afternoon, the one who’s in such high demand that I have to kindly pat the beggars on the head and turn them away. But for me, and I imagine most (all) of you, we have to work just to get work.
It doesn’t matter how brilliant you are, how great your last blog post was or how clever you are on Twitter with your tens of thousands of followers… you still have to work if you want work. That means you can’t simply “market” and then wait.
You’ve got to constantly be reaching out to customers, new and old. You’ve got to be creating opportunities for yourself through networking, conversations and testing the waters with potential prospects.
If you have an existing customer who you haven’t spoken to in several months, shame on you. Pick up the phone right now and say hello. It doesn’t matter if you need their work or if they need your services. You need to stay connected with people and be present.
Within the past week I won two new jobs with existing clients simply because I called at the right time. If I had sat back and waited for them to absorb my amazing marketing vibes I would never have gotten those jobs.
Do they get my email newsletters? Are they following me on Facebook? Sure. But were they thinking about me for one split second? Heck no, they’re busy.
Build your authority, your brand and your credibility through marketing. But don’t assume that just because you’re marketing that people are going to come to you. Never assume that business will just come to you. Sometimes you’ve got to go and get it.
Mistake 5: Thinking Your Audience Is “Everyone”
Who is your ideal customer? If you said anyone or everyone then you’ve got about a 100% chance of failure. It’s not humanly possible to appeal to everyone. Just ask anyone with two friends or more than one kid.
You may not have defined it yet, but you have an audience. There is a specific demographic of people that wants/needs/can afford your products or services. The sooner and the better you can define that audience, the better chance of success you’ll have.
I cannot stress enough that there’s no way to market to “everyone”. People have different interests, different wants, vastly different abilities to pay for what they want. You’ve got to figure out who you’re targeting so you can build a plan around hitting that bull’s-eye.
So sit down right now and think about who your ideal customer is. I literally want you to get a picture of someone in your head – gender, age, income level, hobbies, pet peeves, family status, profession, sense of humor.
That person needs to become your BIF – your Best Invisible Friend. I want you to know that person inside and out so that you know exactly how to market to him (or her), what tone to take when you write, what colors to use on your site, how creative you can get with your social marketing.
Your BIF will help you craft your marketing strategies around a particular need, fear, desire or interest. Your BIF will help you avoid running amok and trying arbitrary marketing ideas and tactics. Your BIF will slap you across the face if you ever think about adding one stupid pin to Pinterest or clap when you post a video blog.
I’m even going to let you have more than one BIF. But never forget who they are because the minute you do, and you start trying to have a universal appeal, your business is going to fall flat on its face.
Trust me, I know how hard this can be. If you had asked me 13 years ago who my ideal customer was, I would have told you, “Anyone who pays me.” That may pay the bills for a while but it will never help you succeed.
I haven’t said anything that’s especially difficult to correct. Mostly it’s just about recognizing the mistakes and then fixing them before they can cost you any more business.
Mistakes happen. How you address them means the difference between growing your business or trudging along just getting by.
I’d love to hear what mistakes you work to avoid, so please share your thoughts with me and let’s help each other stay on track!