From the September 2013 issue of Entrepreneur

Marketing is a terrible thing to waste (with apologies to the iconic campaign slogan). You work hard to build a reputation and generate positive word-of-mouth. But are you undermining your own efforts? Consider these common blunders.

1. Your marketing is about you. It should focus on your products and services, right? Well, no. It should focus on what your products and services do for your customers. The former is corporate-centric; the latter is customer-centric. Take yourself out of your marketing, and put your customer at the heart of it. In other words, make your customer--not your company--the hero of your story.

2. You market to yourself. You can mess things up if you make assumptions about your customers based on the preferences and behaviors of you or your friends. Your marketing could well end up discordant with your intended audience--out of touch with their true wants, needs, likes and behaviors. On that point …

3. You don't know your audience. If you aren't the target customer … well, who is? Invest the time and money to identify not just who your customers are but how they behave. How do they live and work? Where do they research purchases? Who influences their buying behavior--peers, review sites, Facebook friends? Have a clear and full picture of the individual you are trying to reach, aka your "buyer persona."

4. You market by committee. Marketing is like parenting: Everyone believes they know how to do it effectively (especially those who don't have children). The best way to neuter the know-it-alls is to have data to back up your plan. Stay away from the unfocused ideas tossed around by the group (which may include your boss!). You know who your customers are, you know how to reach them and you have insight into their mindset. Which is why you may have a problem if …

5. You don't have customer data. I said this above. But it's worth saying twice. Research, not opinion or gut instinct, should be the foundation of your marketing program. That doesn't mean art and creativity have no role. Instead, think of data as giving you necessary insights into new opportunities, and the foundation of marketing that's truly inspired (in every sense of the word).

6. You rely on example instead of analogy. Breakthrough marketing is often innovative in one industry, but it doesn't have to be original to the whole world. As professor Mason Cooley said, "Art begins in imitation and ends in innovation." So look at what other people or organizations are doing--sometimes those outside of business entirely. Marketing expert Seth Godin makes this point repeatedly, and it's one I espouse. Don't wait for a case study in your specific industry or vertical to prove the effectiveness of a marketing tactic. Rather, heed what Godin says on his blog: "Innovation is often the act of taking something that worked over there and using it over here."

7. You aren't shaping shared experiences. In our socially connected world, marketers and traditional media are no longer the sole influencers of purchases. Consumers today rely on the social web of their peers, so marketing becomes about enabling those connections. Are you encouraging and supporting interactions by rethinking the way you reach customers before they identify themselves to you as prospects? Listen on social media, have a search engine and content strategy and engage with potential customers. Which leads me to …

8. You're keeping mum. If a customer reaches out to you on social media, do you respond, or is the inquiry met with silence? Customers expect real-time (or near-time) responses. "There's this sort of window," said Brian Solis, author of What's the Future of Business?, in a recent MarketingProfs podcast. "When someone asks a question, regardless of where it is, if that answer doesn't come within minutes or even hours, the likelihood or propensity to make a decision is greatly reduced. And at 24 hours, you can forget it."