How to avoid common marketing mistakes
Marketing should be seen as an investment rather than a cost. But what if you’re spending money unwisely? Here are five common marketing mistakes that are easy to put right.
Mistake 1 - no plan
The first and most obvious mistake is not having a proper marketing plan. I can already hear you saying, “how can I write a jargon-filled strategy when I’m already rushed off my feet?”
The fact is you can’t get where want to be if you don’t know where you’re going. But you don’t need to necessarily write a long plan or commission expensive consultants to do so (we’re not expensive – www.tourismnetwork.co.uk!) Even a back-of-a-beer-mat job is better than no plan. Keep a specific objective in mind. Most people want their business to be more profitable. It’s much easier to actually achieve this if you set tangible targets such as increasing room occupancy by 5% or attracting more guests on Sunday nights within x months.
Even if you don’t have time to sit down and write an extensive plan, organise your ideas and scribble a few notes, trying to answer these questions:
Mistake 2 – vague target markets
It’s tempting to say, “I’ll take anyone who comes to my door”. But what happens when no-one comes? Or when the guests who do come won’t pay the rates you want?
Start out with a clear view of who you really want, and everything else is much easier. Decide on your ideal sectors – for example, do you want leisure or business visitors? Domestic or overseas? I’ve seen countless numbers of fairly sophisticated marketing plans that still don’t have enough detail about their target markets. Try not to just use the traditional market descriptions of age and socio economic background. It’s easier if you can think of them as real people with real needs that you can meet.
Sparing five minutes to write a brief pen portrait of your preferred target markets will save you time later and make all your marketing more effective. And it doesn’t cost anything. Here’s an example: stressed, city-dwellers who are time-poor and cash-rich.
They want to cram in as much as possible into their short break or holiday and are not afraid to spend in order to do that. They crave freedom and relaxation and are happy to use their break as a chance to pamper themselves and indulge in treats, whether it’s a pub meal, long sweet-smelling bath or huge slice of cake.
A pen portrait like this will help you to think about your target market as humans and to develop much more effective services and promotional activities. You’ll make wiser decisions about where to advertise, improve the words in your brochure and website. You might want to make small tweaks to your product or service to appeal to your target market.
Mistake 3 – not being clear about the benefits you offer
Destination managers talk about the beauty of their destination, and accommodation providers about the number of en-suite rooms. No one buys anything unless they have a good answer to the question, “what’s in it for me? If you don’t answer that question properly, visitors have to work so much harder to decide what they want and to differentiate between several places. You need to make sure you’ve answered that question and made the benefits of your product or destination much clearer. Is it obvious how you’re different to, or better than your competitors?
Compare these two descriptions of the same place:
a) “All our bedrooms are individually designed and have en-suite facilities”
b) “ You ’ll be able to relax and unwind in one of our individually designed bedrooms, each with a private bathroom”
The second one is much more appealing because it addresses the reader directly, gets into their mind and shows what sort of benefit is on offer. The reader immediately sees the benefit on offer.
Mistake 4 – Spending a fortune on design without thinking about copy and content
Brochure and web site design can be very expensive. Unfortunately this money is frequently wasted because insufficient thought is put into the content and words. As the previous example shows, turning sentences round so they focus on the guest can be very powerful. “You” grabs more attention and is much more compelling than “we”.
As you write, try to keep thinking, “why? What’s the key selling point?” Considering your visitors’ motivations – such as stressed city dwellers wanting to relax - helps to change the way you describe what you offer. You’re more likely to use the words they want to hear, so they’re more likely to believe you’re offering what they want.
Think too about the images you use. Almost all images can be improved by cropping, to remove undesirable aspects (such as double yellow lines in front of a building) or zoom in on a particular highlight.
Mistake 5 - Assuming everyone wants a bargain
As our description of stressed city-dwellers indicates, for many people value for time is as important as value for money. It’s tempting to try to increase business by discounting but that isn’t always the answer – even now. Some people are just as interested in finding ways to save time, gain time, and enjoy their time more. They may even pay more if you can help them do so.
A few years ago I worked with a group of Indian/Bangladeshi restaurants next to the City of London who were all competing with each other on price. One restaurant offered 2 courses for £5 so the next did… and the next.
Another offered 3 courses for £5 and so the downward spiral went, but they were all still empty. And the quality of the food got worse as the price went down.
They hadn’t stopped to think about their potential clients - the City bankers who were far more worried about being late back in the office after lunch than saving a few pounds and risking food poisoning with poor quality food. I got one restaurant owner to understand this and he started to offer 1 course for £10, guaranteeing that lunch would be good and not take more than 45 minutes. The result: happy customers and even happier restaurant owners – they were able to serve less food and earn twice as much!
Hopefully the message is loud and clear. Improving your marketing doesn’t have to be difficult and it certainly shouldn’t be expensive...
© Susan Briggs 2017