Top 5 marketing mistakes SMEs make in year one

Establishing trust and engaging with customers is more important than lead generation, says Bryony Thomas

The first thing I always hear from any sales-focused entrepreneur is that they need to generate more leads. This simply isn’t true. Before any lead generation activity can take place, there needs to be a solid, watertight marketing plan in order for those leads to be effective.

When there isn’t, money is often wasted on lead generation which doesn’t convert because the foundations aren’t in place.

Below are my top five marketing mistakes I often find SMEs make and how to address them to make your marketing watertight.

Solely focusing on lead generation

Often SMEs say that what they need from their marketing is more leads. But across the thousands of company assessments I’ve run, fewer than 10 per cent indicate lead generation as the top priority. Pouring money into lead generation isn’t effective, even wasteful, when you don’t have a solid marketing foundation.

For example, one problem in your marketing process may be that customers feel forgotten after they’ve purchased from you, there’s no follow up to ask for a review or no thank you note in with the delivery that they received. Identifying the small hiccups and fixing these can help to strengthen your overall marketing plan and helps to avoid wasting budget on reaching out to new customers.

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024

Not establishing customer trust

In the first instance, many SMEs can get trapped into thinking that their product or services alone will carry their business. But even if your product or service is good, people may still not be committing to purchasing. This is when you have to look at whether people trust your business, product or service. For instance, there comes a time when someone is about to part with their money – when a quiet voice in their mind will ask… “are you sure?” If a few things don’t come together to align with the emotional connection they’ve built then the answer to that inner voice can be… “no, something doesn’t feel quite right here”. What you’re aiming to create is trust. You need to be the sort of brand they want to spend time (and money) with.

For example, a mish-mash of visual and written styles when communicating with your customer can erode trust. Or, your tone on social media may be informal but during the checkout process it switches to legalese. Be consistent with your tone, your visuals and your overall branding. This is the easiest step to start building trust with your customers.

Misreading time spent with customers

It’s no secret that effective timing is an essential ingredient of successful marketing. Spotting seasonality and maintaining frequency are the easy things to manage. Getting people to actually want to spend time with you is more of the challenge. To pull people through the buying decision, you need to identify how much time they are willing to give the process. This is something SMEs often fail to identify. The longer the buying process, the greater the time the customer has to be left to mull over the decision before explicitly committing to a purchase. Pushing the buying process however can turn customers away and can create negative connotations with your brand.

Forgetting to appeal to emotions

Most SMEs have the right messages, it’s the order that they get wrong. This manifests in a number of different ways. The first is being too logical too soon, you will find people are actively put off because they need to make an emotional connection, first. Listing facts and figures just doesn’t tick that emotional box and often the sale is lost before the journey has even begun. It’s only when you’ve triggered an emotional response that people become interested in the logical side of your offering. Once people feel that they have a problem and are excited that you may provide the solution (emotional connection) they will switch into a logical frame of mind where they seek to verify that.

Failing to back up your claims

Following on from the above, after you’ve made an emotional connection you need to make a logical one. It’s essential you substantiate the claims you make with your products or services. Before you can establish a logical connection, you need to prove each claim you make. Proof auditing involves identifying the promises you make, and mapping proof to each one. Proof includes such things as reviews, testimonials, awards, research, statistics, etc.

Wherever you promise that a customer will see a benefit in buying from you, evidence this with some proof that clearly demonstrates this and you will build trust. If a potential buyer cannot see the proof in your claims, they will avoid buying or using your services all together.

Bryony Thomas is the founder of Watertight Marketing

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024