Marketing

Simple Marketing Strategy Don’ts

While marketing may look like black magic to those who don’t have a knack for it, it’s not the mystery it may seem to be from the outside. Excellent marketing is merely the concentrated application of empathy to strategy. The accessibility of Internet marketing has done some remarkable things for small businesses, and often, you’ll see entrepreneurs handling absolutely everything–their PR, communications, and marketing–solo.

Every business owner knows that cutting costs where you can is a brutal necessity, and while they may want to hire someone to handle it for them, they may not have the funds to do so (or they haven’t made just enough disastrous marketing decisions themselves to find the funds to do so).

Getting started isn’t too difficult, though–this, I promise. I don’t want to discourage you from seeking to hire someone when the time is right; having someone experienced to take this off of your hands is worth the money, entirely (think of how, in the developer community, folks talk about how the costs of development and design are an investment–this is the same thing). That said, if you aren’t ready to hand over the face of your company to a new person, either financially or emotionally (the stress of giving up control!), I’m here to give you a few tips to get started–with what not to do.


Be Too Broad

Yes, of course you want everyone in the world to buy your product, but targeting everyone is going to water down your message. Even if you think everyone would benefit from your product or service, figure out who is going to benefit the most. This is where scenario-izing–and statistics–become extremely useful.

If you’ve done a little bit of research on how to get your marketing going, you’ve probably already heard the term “buyer persona,” which is just a fancy term for a profile of the kind of customer you want. Use the demographic information you already have (Who are your current clients? Who is already interested in your product? Who comes to your website? Who follows through?) to create one buyer persona, and use your aspirational demographic (Who would benefit from your product/service, but hasn’t seemed to catch on yet? Who do you want to snag, but haven’t grasped yet?) to create another.

Here are a couple of resources that can help you jumpstart creating buyer personas for your company:

You’ve heard that cliche about how you can’t please everybody–and it’s true. In fact, by being a little polarizing, creating a niche, and focusing on the people who are your ideal candidates, you’ll guarantee yourself more steady business. If you’re trying to serve everyone, you’ll end up serving no one–and your business will fall to pieces in the process.

…And Too Narrow

That said, there’s probably not only one kind of person in the world who would benefit from your product. Some business owners can get too focused on the primary function of their service. Chris came up with a great analogy for this: If the iPhone was only for making calls (and marketed as such), it never would have been so wildly successful. Instead, it has revolutionized the way we communicate, interact, absorb information, and more.

If you insist that your product is only for one very specific kind of person and purpose, you’re going to miss out on crucial business.

Be Inconsistent

Developing trust is a crucial aspect of marketing and sales. When you are marketing, you’re developing a relationship with your audience, and like any relationship, trust is going to be the foundation on which you build.

Whether it comes to building trust as an individual or building trust as a brand, consistency is vital. Being inconsistent tells your clients that you cannot be relied upon to follow through; your marketing needs to reflect what an upstanding company you are! That means not only in terms of the actual work produced, but in terms of your outward activity and messaging. By having a cohesive approach to your branding and a schedule for whatever updates you send out (be them ads, blog posts, or social media updates), you establish that you are present, engaged, and dependable. Your

Tear Down the Competition

If you want to look for the dark side of marketing, it’s not hard to find; some people like to rely on redefining common industry terminology and set themselves apart by diminishing its value, tearing down their competitors’ legitimacy, or outrightly claiming that their competitors are garbage.

The inclination is easy to fall into–when you work within any industry, you know the players, and you know the kind of work that they do. Every community comes with its own melodramas and gossip, and it can be easy to think, “Why should this person have what I want?” Whether the statements being made are true or not, you have to consider what function they serve–and whether or not they’ll actually get you the business you believe you deserve.

Our relatively small community that thrives on mutual support and admiration, and as a result, these tactics are unquestionably frowned upon–for good reason. This approach is a trespass of one of the well-acknowledged and cherished tenets of the WordPress community–which is that we aim to prop people up, rather than tearing them down.

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Competition makes all of us better at our work; our competitors are our motivators, our teachers, and our colleagues. This community is small enough that there are many friendships and collaborations across company lines, and while you may not work together now, you certainly may be in the future. By tearing down your competitor, you’re merely destroying relationships that may aid you–individually or as a company–in the future.

From a customer perspective, this strategy is still a failure; it’s a whole lot like watching a car crash in slow motion–horrifying entertainment that you just can’t turn away from. While sure, your site hits may benefit from the rubbernecking, the primary feeling you’ll be inspiring in your customers is one of mistrust. Many of us have learned that if someone is saying something nasty about someone else to you, they are likely saying the same thing about you to someone else.

Don’t torpedo trust by integrating that into your marketing strategy; let your wonderful work stand on its own merit, and be confident enough to back that up. The race for clients isn’t presidential, and smear campaigns do more harm than good.


These are just a few common mistakes made when people set out to create their strategy (or when they don’t have a strategy at all), and there are certainly more. Creating a strategy for how you present your business to the world doesn’t have to be complicated; all you have to do is use a little bit of empathy and apply the qualities and communication you would use in a one-on-one to a larger scale.

Think about the things that you look for in a brand (reliability, high quality products/service, competence, friendliness, usefulness, excellent communication, etc.). Think about the ways that people connect to you authentically and effectively. Take those things and apply them to your own marketing strategy to, in turn, connect to your customers–and potential customers–in an undeniably powerful way.

2 thoughts on “Simple Marketing Strategy Don’ts

  1. I agree completely with your recommendation to not tear down the competitors. We are a city of 6 million but our service contains relatively few other companies. Basically everybody knows everybody – if our business is slow during a particular season, perhaps because of weather or some outside force, we easily and quickly learn if it’s equally slow for everybody. This is very useful as it prevents a “panic button” approach to advertising or other costly expenditures that will probably not bring about improved results no matter what. There’s enough business to go around to all of us.

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