From the October 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

In virtually every area of business, entrepreneurs find pitfalls along the way. Marketing is no exception. As the owner of a business that helps other businesses market themselves more effectively, I have spoken with hundreds of entrepreneurs about various promotional efforts. Regardless of their industries, time and again I see owners of companies large and small making the same costly mistakes. Avoid these mistakes, and you'll save energy, disappointment--and a substantial amount of money:

1. Putting all your eggs in one basket. If your entire marketing budget is used on just one method of promoting your business, you won't realize the highest return on your investment. Diversifying your efforts will increase the frequency and reach of your messages and stretch your marketing dollars.

2. Not measuring results. Measuring the results of your marketing efforts allows you to reinvest in vehicles that are working--and ditch those that aren't. Try tactics like surveys, coded coupons, in-store response cards or focus groups to find out how well your messages are being received.

3. Firing before you take aim. If you find yourself throwing money at every promotional opportunity, take a step back and realize the benefits of planning. Set objectives, define the audience you wish to reach and set your budget over the next six to 12 months. Once you have a plan, you'll realize the value of multiple advertising insertions, elimination of vendor rush charges and prevention of unwise purchasing decisions--like those 15,000 imprinted kitchen magnets that seemed like such a good idea at the time.

4. Eliminating marketing efforts when things get tight. When cash flow slows, advertising, direct mail and other forms of marketing are the easiest expenses to reduce, right? But cut these, and you eliminate the very activities that will bring in new customers to turn your business around. Keep your communication going, even when times get tough.

5. Not getting help when you need it. If you find you're too busy to handle your marketing efforts or that your materials aren't looking as professional as they should, it's time to call in the reinforcements. Hire a full- or part-time employee, a marketing or public relations agency, or an independent business consultant, but make sure you're getting the message out in a manner that reflects your business.

6. Fixing programs that aren't broken. If your advertising campaign or direct-mail program is producing results, don't change it just for the sake of changing it. Once you see returns slow down, look for new approaches, but always test them before implementing changes on a full scale.

7. Allowing ego to get in the way of common sense. Ego tempts very bright people to do very dumb things. Your marketing decisions should be based on factors that will positively impact some area of your business--usually its bottom line. Hiring an expensive multinational agency for a small account, sacrificing valuable frequency for full-page advertising and buying blanket mailing lists without matching criteria to your customer profile are all examples of an ego that's sabotaging effectiveness.

8. Relying on hunches. It came to you in the shower: the Big Idea for promoting your business. So you put all your marketing dollars into, for instance, painting your delivery trucks with neon colors. Before you blow your money on hunches, however, you need to do your homework. Talk to your customers and others who may have done something similar. Then test your theory by trying a small-scale version of the Big Idea. If the initial results are promising, go full-steam ahead. If not, you've saved yourself a big neon headache.


Gwen Moran is president of Moran Marketing Associates, a public relations and marketing communications agency in Ocean, New Jersey.