Let me start by saying that effective marketing is the lifeblood of any successful business, big or small. Having said that, smaller start-up businesses often don’t have a lot of excess cash to splash around so I hate to see their money go to waste on marketing strategies that are unnecessary.
Based on what I’ve seen both from clients and my own journey of trial and error, here are some of the most common ways that people waste money on marketing, and how to turn it around.
Using social media to build a following
Social media is great, but too many small businesses jump in with no strategy, other than to “build a following.”
Back in the day when Facebook’s reach was high you could get away with it, but thanks to Facebook’s constantly changing algorithm, only a tiny fraction of your followers ever see your content in their News Feeds, and you have to pay to get your content seen. Furthermore, if you do decide to go with the paid post option and you don’t target your audience correctly, you will most likely end up paying for clicks from people who are not relevant to what you are selling.
Also keep in mind that there is a difference between building an audience and building a quality audience. Make sure your content is relevant to what you want to say and what you want to sell. Posting photos of yourself half dressed holding Skinny Bunny Tea is probably not going to get people to engage with your business unless you are selling products to a certain male demographic or a bikini body guide that condones these types of products.
I recommend using your current social media accounts to build your own list and start communicating more via email. Write quality tips and content that your followers will value and your open rate will increase every week.
Expecting too much too early and giving up
You all know the doom and gloom statistics – 80% of all Australian small businesses will close, sell or change hands within the first 5 years, so drop the ego and cut the unrealistic expectations.
Yes – we all want to see growth and measurable results within the first few months, but if it doesn’t all fall into place, pull it together and don’t give up.
Expect an 18-month ramp-up period, find a mentor with proven results and learn to market like a BOSS!
Not finding their target market
If you don’t understand your customers, you might as well flush your marketing budget down the toilet.
Study the hearts, minds and behaviours of your audience. Do this before you define strategy, before you buy advertising and before you create content. Figure out what to say to them, how to say it, and where to say it. The whole point of your marketing is to reach your audience. You have to KNOW who they are.
Tip: call your best members and survey them so you can start to attract more people just like them. Find out why they train with you, how they heard about you, what they read, what they do in their spare time, where they go on holidays etc. The top 20% of your customers often account for more than half your revenue.
Attempting the ‘hail Mary pass’
The ‘hail Mary pass’ is a sporting term that describes when an NFL quarter back has made little progress down field and in desperation attempts one long risky pass downfield, to go for glory. This technique ‘sometimes’ works for the very best players in the game. In most cases, however, it results in an intercept or a mini disaster for the team, leaving them worse off than before the pass was attempted.
Many gyms do the same in that they make the mistake of being unorganised and undereducated with marketing techniques and once a year blow majority of their marketing budget on one over-rated marketing company or gimmick they found online. I dub this the “The hail Mary marketing technique”.
You are your business’s NFL quarter back and you are responsible for the strategy used. Instead of losing your composure and leaving everything to the last minute, the best method is to have many plays (marketing strategies) in your play book and to constantly look throughout the year for small opportunities to make progress. Start with low cost marketing like emails, referral campaigns and then test and measure the results. REMEMBER: If you can’t get this new tactic to work at $1,000, it’s not likely to work at $10,000, either.
Marketing evolves fast these days, so I recommend trying a couple new things each year. It’s fun to learn new skills and you will be surprised how old contacts sometimes respond to new types of marketing. Just because newspaper ads, lead boxes and letter box drops worked 20 years ago, doesn’t mean they still do now.
About the author
Steve Grant, founder of Gym Hub, is a passionate entrepreneur with 18 years of fitness industry experience including 4 years as a Health and Wellness Lecturer at ACPE and 8 years as the owner of one of Sydney’s most profitable fitness studios.