Mistakes are awesome! You read that right. Mistakes, blunders, boo-boos, errors, missteps and even embarrassments are not bad; they are good for you and they are good for your business. I love them and you should, too.
"Everything you want is on the other side of fear." – Jack Canfield
A Raging Case of Marketer, Heal Thyself
Yes, even marketers make stupid mistakes. And I've made a few really stupid, whack-on-the-side-of-the-head, what-were-you-thinking kinds of mistakes. Today, I'm going to share my three biggest marketing blunders, why I made them, what I learned and how you can avoid these same stupid and expensive blunders.
Blunder #1: How I Took $1500 I Didn't Have to Build a Brand I Didn't Have — Twice
According to the United States Department of Labor, more than 2 million people quit their jobs every month. In 1999, I was one of those people. I left my cushy job as worldwide director of marketing at a manufacturing company and decided to do marketing my own way. There was just one problem with that. I wasn't quite sure what that meant. Undaunted, I quickly took what was a HUGE chunk of money for me and immediately hired an agency to develop a logo, business cards and stationery. I didn't have a good company name, I wasn't quite sure what service or benefit I would provide and I had no idea who my customers were. I only knew that I wanted a new start with a pretty logo. Clearly, I hadn't learned my lesson the first time, and several years later, I went and did it again. Big mistake.
Investing in logos, business cards and other visual branding is as logical a first step to building your business as investing several thousand dollars in purchasing fitness equipment and a wardrobe in the hopes that the mere act of spending money will magically eliminate those twenty pounds you've been trying to lose.
In truth, your visual branding should be the very last thing you do. Once you've established the basics of who your ideal customers are, what's important to them when they are buying what you are selling, and exactly what benefit you offer that will make them choose your brand, you will have everything you need to develop a brand that truly reflects who you are and what sets you apart from your competition.
Blunder #2: Focusing on Customers Who Don't Value What You Have
This is a typical startup marketing mistake, coming in a close second to selling everything to everyone. And yes, even though I'm a small business marketing expert, I made this mistake. Twice.
The idea was to leverage my strengths and experience in B2B marketing and work with manufacturers. On the surface, this seemed like an obvious strategy. I knew that manufacturers didn't want to spend money on marketing. I knew that they would prefer NOT to hire a full-time marketing person, and I knew that I had insider information, skills and experience that would help them be wildly successful. There was just one thing that I hadn't considered: The target customers that I had chosen didn't understand or value what I was selling. They were happy to hire me, they were happy to pay me, but they turned out to be extremely difficult customers for me. I wasted the first five years trying to convince a group of customers who did not want to be convinced. Clearly, I hadn't learned my lesson the first time, and several years later, I did it again. It wasn't manufacturers this time, it was a completely different industry. Same mistake. Big mistake. Again. Really?
Just because you know and understand a specific industry doesn't mean that they are your ideal client. To look at it another way, just because you are passionate about food, doesn't mean that you should open a restaurant. The way to avoid this colossal waste of your time and energy is to dig a little deeper into what drives you, determine why you do what you do and then identify the specific type of customer who will value that the most.
David Newman, author of "Do It Marketing" says it best: "Your ideal customer is the person who is so bad at what you do well that they will immediately see value and appreciate what you have — at any price." Look across all of your potential customers and simply choose to speak to the target that you've selected in a language they understand.
Be uncompromising in this regard. Everyone is not your customer. You can't sell anything to everybody. Choose your ideal customer, identify their unique challenges and then structure your product or service to meet those specific challenges. Don't be afraid to choose. The more specific you are, the more these ideal customers will see you, find you and choose you.
Blunder #3: Ignoring Trademarks and the Legal Side of Branding
This particular blunder didn't crop up until year seven of my business. This was a blunder that stemmed from selling myself and my brand short. I simply didn't think that I was big enough or important enough to protect my brand and certain branded products and services.
It all started with an email from someone who had read an article I had written where I happened to have used a certain phrase that I had perceived as generic but that this person had trademarked. Nothing bad happened. It was an honest mistake and I simply changed the phrase. But this experience got me thinking about my own brand. It was then that I realized that my website was actually a brand. That a process model that I used was a brand. I immediately called an attorney and started the process for trademarking and protecting my brand.
The lesson here is clear: If you have a brand, a name, a process, a system, a phrase or even a website, don't underestimate the power of your brand and your name. Take an inventory of brands that are represented in your business, and take the time to identify which of these deserve to be trademarked. There are several benefits to doing this. It will add credibility to your business, enhance your brand and open up doors for you to build additional content, write a book and be seen as an expert in your field.
Make It and Move On
The world of marketing is fraught with mistakes. They are inevitable. And the worst part of it is that you often aren't going to know that they are mistakes until your marketing campaign or program is running and failing or experiencing backlash. Always remember that it only seems like a mistake because you don't like the result or the outcome.
But when mistakes happen (and they will), resist the urge to freak out, retreat or berate yourself. Instead, embrace the moment as a gift and take the next right step.