Avoid the Three Pitfalls Most Small Business Owners Fall Into Part III – Marketing Management

Having coached many small business owners for over a decade while also starting up a couple of small businesses ourselves, here is what we have learned — running a small business can be fun!  However, we have observed that there are three pitfalls many business owners tend to fall into that really takes the joy out of running a business…and the numbers from Statistics Canada back this up:

One in three small businesses will fail* and most small businesses fail because of:*

  • Weak financial management
  • Weak planning and accountability
  • Weak marketing capabilities

In this post, we’ll discuss how to avoid making the marketing management pitfalls that most small business owners make.


And on to the fun stuff!  Everyone loves to talk about marketing.  Guess which of our workshops always filled up!  At the risk of being somewhat annoying here we’re going to reiterate that you must have your other ducks in a row first (that would be the business model, business plan, strategic plan, and the financial plan and financing).   Then….we’ll talk marketing and the pitfalls, which are:

  1. Not knowing who your customer is.
  2. Not knowing what your competitive advantage is.
  3. Failing to create a plan and to follow that plan.

Who is your target customer? So many of our clients fall into the trap of thinking their customer is themselves and, therefore, speaks the same language and has the same attitudes, motivations and purchasing behaviours.  If this is you, you are wrong, wrong, wrong.

Equally dangerous is failing to understand how many of your target customers there are in your chosen marketplace and, therefore, failing to understand how that will impact your potential for sales.

What you need to know:

Who your ideal customer is:  what they think, their attitudes, where they hang out, what they read, what social media they use, how many of them there are, what influences their purchasing behaviours, how often they might buy what you are offering.

The impact of knowing these thing is that is will strengthen your ability to market wisely, to better communicate in a language your ideal customer will respond to, and to know where and how to best reach them. You will be able to better foster trust and, therefore, attract and keep them as customers.

How do you find this out?  You have to beat the bushes – do some research on the internet, ask people, do a survey, do keyword analysis searches, study your competition….or hire an expert to help you. There are a lot of resources available through Google and in small business support agencies and your own industry associations to help you refine your understanding of your ideal customer and how to communicate to them effectively.

What is your Competitive Advantage?  The next thing that will make your marketing world go round is clarity on what your competitive advantage really is.  (Hint – it is not necessarily your product or the over used and rarely delivered on promise of ‘top quality’.)

You have to know what makes your business, your services or products unique.  To figure out your competitive edge, ask yourself, and possibly your customers, these questions:

  • What do I deliver and how do I deliver it that is different, better, groovier than everyone else offering something similar?
  • Why do people buy from me instead of the competition?

Knowing the answer to these questions and being able to put your competitive advantage into words will help you refine your marketing and communicate in a more meaningful way to better attract the attention of your ideal customers.

Planning your marketing:

The four P’s of marketing are not Procrastination, Panic, Paralysis and Planlessness.

Marketing is a plan for communicating to your ideal customer in a way that has them understand that you understand their challenges and have the solution they are hoping for.

There are a lot of resources out there to support you in developing a marketing plan. The key thing to keep in mind, however is that marketing is trial and error….and it is only successful if consistent and persistent.  Don’t just try one thing and then abandon it if you don’t suddenly get customers. 

It takes time and real effort to capture attention, build an audience, gain their trust and you won’t do that if you don’t just follow the plan and stick to it for while….it is only after you have some history with your tactics that you will be able to see the patterns of where your successes are and what needs some refinement.

We love the planning stage for marketing and to be honest, we use a simple set of bullets to clarify our key communication messages and to whom they are aimed, but then we use an Excel spreadsheet which outlines everything across a timeline so that we can coordinate and integrate different messages and campaigns across our blog, our email campaigns, networking, workshops, etc….  it is our media calendar/campaign calendar/schedule for everything we do in our marketing.


Do you want a copy of it?  Just sign up and download it here.


In Part I of this series we discuss how to avoid the first Pitfall:  Weak Financial Management

In Part II of this series we discuss how to avoid the second Pitfall:  Weak Business Management



*Key Small Business Statistics – January 2009, Industry Canada

*Failing Concerns: Business Bankruptcy in Canada, 1997 Statistics Canada