Avoid the 4 Most Common Marketing Pitfalls

By nature, entrepreneurs and marketers tend to be optimistic folks.  But let’s face it, despite our great marketing ideas and positive outlook; things don’t always work out as planned.  Over the next few posts I’m going to briefly address what I believe are the top reasons why marketing results don’t always live up to expectations, and what you can do to avoid these pitfalls.

So let’s jump in to this week’s post with Pitfall number 1:

Lack of a Clear Unique Selling Proposition (USP)?

Wait.  If you’re inclined to skip this topic because you feel like it’s just marketing jargon, please don’t.  From my experience, this is a game changer.  You see, a properly crafted unique selling proposition forms the foundation of your entire go-to-market strategy. It drives every single part of the marketing and sales process. If you have clarity around your unique selling proposition, marketing and selling can feel downright easy. If you lack clarity in your unique selling proposition, sales and marketing can feel like you’re walking uphill both ways.

What is a Unique Selling Proposition?

Higgins-Marketing-Group-Avoid Common Marketing PitfallsSimply put, it’s what sets you apart from your competitors.  Why should someone buy from you instead of your competitors?  If YOU don’t clearly know the answer to this question, then I will 100% guarantee your prospects don’t know the answer. This is a big problem that will lead to losing business over and over and over again.  You’re just one of the masses.

That doesn’t mean your product or service has to be one-of-a-kind. Few are.  Just look at the number of pizza chains, daycare facilities, law firms, website design firms, and business consulting firms that exist.  It does mean, however, you need to differentiate yourself in some way – maybe it’s your overall philosophy, your level of customer service, your highly specialized expertise or experience, your pricing model, etc.

Let me give you a couple examples you’re already familiar with:

Walmart is the place to go for the lowest price. (that’s maybe or maybe not be true for everything, but that is the USP that’s been drilled into our psyche since most of us were toddlers)

Subway is a healthy alternative to other fast food chains. (it depends on what you order, but again, this is a USP we all hear on a daily basis)

Yes, these are companies with huge marketing budgets, but the USP is not about the spend.  Let me give you another example.  This is from one of my clients who owns a daycare and private elementary franchise in the Orlando, FL area.

StarChild Academy offers the strongest academic preschool and private elementary school programs in Central Florida.  (That about sums it up right?  If you want your child to have the most advanced academic experience in the area, this is your place!)

A Great USP Means You Can’t Be All Things To All People.

Walmart clearly isn’t going after folks who prefer shopping at Neiman Marcus… and that’s “OK” (assuming you’d be “OK” with doing 473 billion in net sales!).  They are not trying to be all things to all people.  Your business is no different. Many small business owners are hesitant to take a stand and carve out a market niche, fearing they’ll be limiting sales opportunities – when in fact, the opposite is true in almost all cases.  While your message may not resonate with all people, in cases where it does resonate, you have an immediate competitive advantage.

Don’t be afraid to take a stand and carve out a niche, just like WalMart, Subway,and StarChild Academy.  Your business will be better for it.

How To Identify Your Unique Selling Proposition

Before providing a few tips, my general recommendation is to have an external marketing consultant help you with this, whether that’s me or someone else.  It’s not because we’re smarter or that we know your business better than you – that’s definitely NOT the case.  It’s because a true objective, outside view of the situation is an absolute requirement to nailing down your unique selling proposition.  In many cases, leaders within the business are actually “too close” to the product/service/company to take a 100% objective view.  The goal here is to view the situation just like a brand new prospect would see it.  A good marketing pro will be in a better position to view things from the outside, deliver candid feedback, and start you down the right path.  If you want more details or pricing info, visit Higgins Marketing Group’s Unique Selling Proposition page.


Here are a few tips to help you hone in on your Unique Selling Proposition…

Why did your current customers choose you?  Why do they stay?

Higgins-Marketing-Group-Avoid Common Marketing PitfallsThere is no substitute for talking with your current customers.  Often you’ll be surprised by what you hear.  You might think they selected you because of your software’s great new data export feature, when in fact it was because you were the only company that offered a 30-day money back guarantee.  If a customer has been with you a good while, ask them the direct question… why do you stay?  Maybe you’re easy-to-work with, maybe your customer service team jumps through hoops, maybe you update your products on a frequent basis.  Any of these might begin to form the foundation of a great unique selling proposition.  Talk to your customers!

Is there a guarantee you’d be willing to offer that you competitors won’t?

Guarantees are powerful.  It shows you’re confident in your offering and that you’re prepared to stand behind it if a customer is not satisfied.  For your prospect, it makes you stand out from the crowd, it reduces their risk and makes it easier for them to say “yes.”  Again, this makes some business owners a bit nervous.  Is there a chance you’ll need to refund some money? Sure.  But what could a strong guarantee mean in gaining customers you never would have landed?

Are there unique and tangible results that can be highlighted by your customers?

Here’s a idea… maybe your unique value proposition is based on the fact you actually deliver results!  Sounds like a basic thing, but I bet most of your competitors are primarily pitching their products, not the results that real customers are experiencing.  By making your existing customers a central part of your ongoing marketing, you are elevating yourself from the ranks of all your competitors pitching product features.  Over time, this becomes a strong unique selling proposition that is implicit in everything your prospects see and hear about your company… you have raving customers who are willing to share their experiences, they are pointing to specific business results that demonstrate the utility of your offering.  What better way to be seen as unique!

What are the masses doing?

Higgins-Marketing-Group-Avoid Common Marketing PitfallsThis one is more of a signal about what to avoid.  In most markets, there comes a time when what WAS once unique, is no longer unique.  It may seem like every website you visit for a product or service all say the same thing… “we’re easy to use, we’ve got great service, we’re affordable”.  If this sounds like your market, don’t add to the noise.  Don’t be just another company leading with these things.

No question ease-of-use, customer service, and price are all important to the prospect, but don’t lead with this.  Push yourself to identify something truly unique that you can lead with (in order to open the door with your prospect), then build value around the “less unique” aspects as a secondary objective.  Remember, people expect your product to be easy to use and they expect you to offer good service.  Even though these things may truly be differentiators for your company, it can be a hard case to make when everyone is saying the same thing.

Hope this helps!

In next week’s post I’m going to help you address Pitfall #2: Over-complicating Your Marketing Message