Avoid These Marketing Mistakes

April 11, 2017

By Peter van Aartrijk

Symptoms of poorly constructed executive customer/prospect marketing plans are easy to spot. Things rarely will go well without a written plan, budget, calendar, measurement and avoidable oversights. Here’s a quick list of the elements of a good marketing plan. Check out the video as well.

Brand & Culture Plan

Don’t leave this to guessing. Start with a written marketing and communications plan that articulates with your vision of a better state of affairs for customers (your “why”) should you be successful with your mission (your “what” you do). The strategic and tactical plan will address all the components below to support your business plan.

Target Audience

You can’t be too specific here. If you’re going after small business owners, ask some questions: Who are these people, exactly? How old are they, and where do they live and work? What do they worry about? And how small is small — are work-at-home businesses a target? In what sort of industries?

Also: Examine who you already have on the books. Segment the list carefully. Find the sort of customers you want in the future, and be more intentional about finding and keeping them.


When done well, marketing is an investment, not an expense. Figure spending 1% to 3% of annual revenues on marketing and communications activities, excluding staff salaries. Spend more if you’re expanding, merging, rebranding or introducing a new product line.


Back to our small business customer example. It’s important to get inside the heads of these owners and see your firm, your people and your value proposition from their perspectives. It’s not about what you sell. It’s about what they need from you. Lose the jargon and speak in their language. And it’s always a good idea to test new messaging ideas or creative concepts with some friends, family and customers before you unleash the fury.

Customers First

If you’re not sure where to start with branding activities, for goodness sakes don’t ignore the many friendly folks on the books. All the money you can spend on strangers isn’t worth what you already have. Calls, letters, postcards and emails are effective. Create a customer communications plan first — and perhaps that’s all you do for the remainder of 2017. It’s all about retention and referrals.


Amazing when you write to-dos on a calendar — they actually have a better chance of getting accomplished! Keep a rolling 12-month activities calendar that includes brainstorming sessions, first drafts, final creative design, and the like.


In the days of traditional advertising, there was a penny wise-pound foolish strategy called “Spray ‘n Pray.” (“Have we got a deal for you! Let your ad rep decide where and when your ads run.”) Today, I see the same thing with, for example, online banners and social media posts. Or some will try a one-time postcard mailing. Firms often get distracted, bored or restless with their creative approaches or media selections. Remember: If you have a solid strategy and messaging, stick with it. The best brands communicate uniquely and consistently over a long period of time.


Obvious, yes, but with a twist: Think, too, of responses to measure that are precursors to sales. Thus, nonfinancial metrics such as calls, e-newsletter click-throughs, referrals, online recommendations, quotes, shares and likes. When tracked carefully, you’ll see over time they will correlate with financial metrics — sales and renewals. Track weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly.


Unless you have a multitasking magician at the front desk, stop relegating marketing as a part-time activity. Let’s get serious. Hire someone, even an entry level staffer, or outsource the branding work. You’ll see a positive difference in activity and results.

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