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The Real Reason Most Marketing Fails Every business is different. Except for how they botch their marketing.

By Shaun Buck

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Most businesses -- yes, even yours -- go about marketing all wrong. I have been helping small business owners for many years (I define small businesses as $100,000 to $10,000,000 per year in revenue) and I constantly see businesses of all shapes and sizes make HUGE mistakes when it comes to their marketing.

The No. 1 mistake I see small business owners make is (drumroll please) blaming the medium when their marketing doesn't work. In most cases, the medium takes all of the blame for the failure of the campaign. But blaming the medium is just amateurish.

Marketing is like a chain; the weakest link in the chain is the problem — and, in many cases, it's not actually the medium. The real problem is the tracking, the offer, the copy, the follow-up process, the sales process, or even the product being sold. But still, nearly 100% of the time, small business owners blame the medium for the failure of the campaign. In reality, the medium had nearly zero chance of working, because your business likely had eight other problems that needed to be fixed before the medium could ever make an impact.

This is a difficult problem to solve, and you might not know where to start, but let's take a crack at it.

You MUST track all marketing.

This is so easy to do! Get call tracking numbers, use PURLs, ask questions, and record answers … it really isn't much more difficult than that, but almost no one does it.

Related: 5 Signs You Need to Start Tracking Marketing ROI

Be realistic with your numbers.

Most businesses have no clue what it costs to bring in a new lead or client. This is partly because they aren't tracking their data, but how can you know if a medium is working or not without knowing your cost to acquire a new lead or customer?

The sales process.

Not very many people review the sales process when evaluating media … and that's another BIG mistake. If you are getting new leads, but you're not closing them, chances are you have an issue with your sales process. The default answer is that ABC medium only produces bad leads, but that may or may not be true. Unfortunately, you won't know if it's the fault of the medium or the sales process unless you're tracking and checking in by listening to sales calls, and tracking the amount of follow-up being done or, in most cases, not being done.

Related: Take Advantage of These 6 Hidden Gems to Instantly Hijack More Leads

The offer/copy.

To be frank, your offer or copy might just, well, suck! And even if it doesn't, it could be suffering from a wrong message-to-market match. If you're advertising a product or service that's designed for moms in Men's Health Magazine, hoping that we husbands will buy it for our wives, your ad will have little to no chance of success.

On top of checking on and fixing any of these areas in your business that need attention, you have to embrace a few other concepts. These are the bonus ideas I mentioned earlier.

Relationship marketing is NOT the same as lead generation marketing.

It has been said that a high tide raises all boats. Which is why, years ago, I was dedicating a lot of my time to the search for the Bigfoot of marketing. That singular piece of marketing that would generate all the leads I needed to be fat and happy. I know a few people who claim to have seen a Bigfoot, even a few who claim to have a Bigfoot in captivity! But I personally don't have my own Bigfoot, despite years of trying to capture him. Since I have failed to capture a Bigfoot, I have to do a lot of marketing using many different forms of media.

As I type this, my team is busy creating, printing, and mailing out new-mover mailers for clients. Last week I mailed out a postcard campaign, and soon my newsletter will be dropped in the mail to be delivered. On top of that, we had five additional marketing pieces hit the press in an effort to drive in new leads. Although we track our leads and sales down to the last dollar, I have found that the "Rule of Seven" (people need to see or hear about you seven times or more before they take any action) is still very true. By reaching out to prospects in many different ways, with many different media, you can and will increase your response rate. But you need to realize that, in many cases, other media helped you to get that new lead or sale.

Your business is NOT different!

Am I starting to sound like a broken record? I know I've said this time and time again. I even have clients who understand this concept, and have chatted with me about the topic, only to add in the infamous "but" when they start talking about their own businesses.

For instance, we recently had a client tell us that her demographic was much too sophisticated to read the style of newsletters we print. The funny thing was, when she was describing her ideal client, she was describing me! She then showed me the newsletter service she was currently using (instead of us — big mistake) and I literally laughed out loud when I saw her definition of what a "sophisticated person" would read. But I digress. At the end of the day, your business is not different, nor is it the exception. At least, 99.99 percent of the time.

Confusing retention and relationship marketing with lead generation marketing.

This happens more than you might think. Most people tend to lump retention and relationship marketing with lead generation -- HUGE mistake. These are two separate categories that need their own separate budgets, rules, and regulations for measurement.

Let's use newsletters for example. If someone receives your newsletter in the mail, reads it, and two days later refers a friend because you were at the top of their mind, how do you track that? The friend doesn't walk in and say, "My buddy Joe was reading your newsletter and because of that, you were top of mind. When I needed a dentist and mentioned it to him, he referred me to you." Assuming this practice tracks referrals, at best this new patient was marked as "referral," but what caused the referral? I will refer you back to the "High Tide" quote in the paragraph above. The same goes if you send a gift to a client. You need to develop relationships with your clients, new and old. Not having one can (I mean, will) cause you to miss out on a large percentage of increased referrals and upsells … to name a few.

Here's my final point. Once you have some traction with whatever media you are using, don't cancel it right away simply because it wasn't a home run hit. One of the most difficult things a business owner has to do is get their media to work. So if you have media that is working, but not performing up to par, you need to take a look at any and all ways you can improve the results before you cancel. The goal is to get stuff working — and canceling too soon is a surefire way to self-sabotage your success.

Related: 5 Marketing Changes Small Businesses Need to Make in 2016

Shaun Buck

Entrepreneur, Speaker, Author, & CEO of The Newsletter Pro

Shaun Buck is the co-author of No B.S. Guide to Maximum Referrals and Customer Retention (Entrepreneur Press, March 2016) as well as CEO of Boise, Idaho-based The Newsletter Pro, the largest custom print newsletter company in the world—printing and mailing millions of newsletters annually for diverse industries all over the globe.

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