As you can see, lately I’ve taken a detour from my Owning A Restaurant series. Today, I’m going to put a foot back in and give startup owners some advice on how to avoid a few common small business marketing fails; with a little word on leadership thrown in at the end to round out my advice.
An infographic can be found at the end if you’d like to hang it up in your office as a quick reference guide.
Common Small Business Fails.
Over time, I’ve been lucky enough to work with a few fledgling business owners. I’ve also been in their shoes before. I made an attempt at starting my own business a few years ago and thought that, based on what I had learned in my previous experiences, there was no way I would commit the same mistakes I saw everyone else making.
Somehow, though, when you’re in the thick of things, all you’ve learned or all of your plans go out the window when variables are thrown at you.
Knowing this, I’ve created a quick reference guide of the 7 most common small business fails that I and others have made in the past. When you feel things getting hopeless, ask yourself these questions to see if you’ve made the right decisions for your business.
Hang the infographic on your office wall and use it as a quick checklist before you hit the eject button.
Did you add a marketing budget to your business plan?
Did you take the time to create a solid business plan? If so, did you allow for a marketing budget?
I didn’t realize the importance of this until it was too late. I’ve had conversations that lasted hours and days with small business owners who didn’t plan their business and therefore failed to grasp that marketing is an investment and not an expense.
When your local Chamber of Commerce representative or website ad rep stops by to talk to you about buying some ad space, listen to the stats they tell you about how many people in your immediate area they have the power to reach.
If even a percentage of those people visit you in person or online, imagine how that will help your business. Now weigh those sales projections against your small investment into marketing.
Do you have a professional website?
First of all, do you even have a website? If not, slap yourself right now. Go on! Do it!
There are two ways to have a website built for you. The right way and the cheap way.
The cheap way may involve doing it yourself. That’s great if you’re an expert or have the time to learn to do it. But too often, owners throw up a site that’s not well thought out, doesn’t flow, is not easy to use or appealing to their customer’s eye. This all ends up costing them more down the road when they figure out the site wasn’t done right the first time. I could go into even more detail on the problems a bad website can cause, but to save time I’d suggest you click here instead.
So what is the right way? Well, let’s go back to your business plan. If that was done right, you’ve now got money to invest in marketing. Your website is a huge part of your marketing investment. I could argue that it might be the single most important investment in your business’s future that you can make. It’s your identity, it’s your restaurant’s hub, it’s what your consumers will go to first whenever they think of you.
Have you established a strong brand identity?
So you were smart enough to have a company like Hype Strategic help you create a professional looking website, but did you take advantage of their branding advice? I didn’t, but wish that I had.
When your client goes to your website, you want them to have a reason to be interested in you. You want them to recognize your business, your products, and your services in a crowd.
It’s a well-known fact everyone knows what to expect when they see those golden arches, everyone gets pumped when they hear the phrase, “Just Do It,” and everyone knows who’s playing in the football game when they see that navy-blue star on a silver helmet.
When customers do see your logo, motto, or products, are all five of their senses and their emotions engaged?
Are you staying true to your brand?
No? Why not? I just told you how important it is to establish a brand identity! Come on! You’ve put so much time into business planning and product development! You’ve invested time and money into marketing!
Why on earth would you think it’s smart to dilute your brand now by thinking that everyone is a potential customer? How are you going to speak directly to actual spending customers if you don’t personalize your message to them?
Build your following through the strength of your brand.
Are you taking advantage of social media?
Speaking of a following, are you using social media? Are you using it the right way, or are you just on there because everyone says you should be?
Behind having a professional website, social media is the most important way of communicating with your customers.
The trick with social media is: it’s actually all about engaging with and having a conversation with your customers and consumers in real time. Don’t just post an occasional message about your nightly specials on your Facebook page. Don’t just tweet a message about your website. Don’t just show a generic picture on Instagram.
Talk to your followers. Let them know why your service or food will make their everyday life better by taking advantage of the power of conversation over vast distances.
This means you’ve got to monitor your profiles and messages frequently. If a patron sends you a message via social media, they usually expect a response within the hour, if not sooner.
Social media is also the absolute best way to display your excellent customer service.
What’s your competition doing?
Successful businesses study their competition so that they know how to position their products or services to stand above the competition.
Follow them on social media. Get to know their marketing campaigns and business model. Seeing what they do will spark ideas on how to beat them.
Here’s some interesting trivia on knowing your enemy. Did you know the saying, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” was actually never found to be documented until Michael Corleone said it in The Godfather Part II? I’m serious. It must be true because the internet said so.
Are you using your leadership skills?
I hate to burst your leadership bubble here but, unfortunately, not everyone is. We all think we are. Ask yourself these four questions:
Do you understand all of the above and how it will help your business to succeed?
It’s great to be a do it yourself and fly by the seat of your pants kind of person, but if you can’t see the big picture and how it all comes together you won’t be successful.
Are you delegating?
You can’t do everything yourself. Simple as that.
Are you managing money, people, and expectations?
As an owner, those are the three top-level areas you should focus on managing. If you find you’re having to do a single job all the time, something is going wrong.
Can you get out of your own way?
Being a leader doesn’t mean you should be a control freak. Sometimes it’s best to step back and let your employee prove that you didn’t make a mistake when you hired them.
I am always ready to help you with anything on this list. My first piece of advice, reach out to me. I’m always available to help.