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Common marketing mistakes

Industry News

Understand the basics of building brand awareness and avoid these hurdles to create a strong plan.

BusinessWeek.com | December 15, 2011

Many companies make mistake after mistake based on gaps in their understanding of how marketing really works. Here’s a quick review of 10 of the most common errors to help you avoid the worst of them.

Aiming at everyone. No company can be all things to all people; as much of a cliché as that is, it’s true. Companies paint themselves into a corner because of a misplaced fear that by targeting one group they’ll be turning away others. But aiming at everyone is an oxymoron; the best marketers understand that by narrowing their target audience they can increase the intensity of their brand’s appeal, piquing interest and driving margins. You’re better off being the first choice of 10 percent of the population than being one of 10 options for everyone.

Betting on rationality. This mistake is subtle, but dangerous. Marketing planning is often a left-brain effort, where rational exercises like determining budgets and plotting strategy take place. But consumers don’t make decisions where logic and argument reside; research suggests that emotion not only influences most purchase decisions, it tends to trump reason along the way. Don’t try to convince your prospects; connect with them. They’re depending on their gut more than you realize.

Letting market research trump everything. Too many marketers invoke data as if information had mystical qualities. To say market research has its limitations is to understate the point; some of it can be flat-out misleading. Consumers don’t always realize how they feel, what they think, or why they do what they do, and even when they’re well aware they won’t always tell you the truth. Research is a valuable tool in a marketer’s shed, but used improperly it can cost you a finger (and perhaps your head).

Getting seduced by the new. We live in fast-paced, exciting times, with new marketing and media options sprouting up every day. While they’re all worth a look, none is worth upending your efforts for. It’s easy to be seduced by the siren songs of new tactics, but wisdom says to stick to what works while you evaluate what might. Some company has to be first to give something a shot, but it should rarely (if ever) be yours.

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