Mangled messages – Avoid these promotional pitfalls

There are very few products or services which can claim to be so unique, exciting or in demand that they ‘sell’ themselves. So, for businesses of any size, having a good marketing strategy is vital. But in a highly competitive world where technology, trends and customer attitudes are changing all the time, it’s all too easy to get it wrong. Here are 7 common marketing mistakes to avoid.

1.    Not defining your USP

Every business must have a unique selling proposition that sets it aside from its competitors. This is something that you do particularly well, or are especially expert in, and you’d like your customers to remember you for. Be careful not to choose the same USP as any of your competitors. Volvo has spent decades shaping its USP as a maker of very safe cars. Even in you’re Audi or BMW, you’d be better off promoting some other element of expertise as your USP.

2.    Having an inconsistent message

Don’t dilute your marketing strategy by changing your core message every time you decide on a new advertising campaign – or the MD’s spouse dreams up another idea over coffee with friends. Have the same look and feel across your advertising, logo, slogan, branding, leaflets, website and signage. By all means update and tweak occasionally, but customers like consistency and going off at frequent tangents will only cause confusion. Oh, and don’t forget to incorporate your USP into your messages wherever possible.

3.    Being insensitive to multi-culturalism

South Africa has a multitude of languages, religions, races and cultures. An advertising campaign, slogan or payoff line may seem very clever to you, but could be perceived very differently by a multi-cultural audience – with dire consequences for the business. Avoid this common marketing mistake by first testing your ideas on a variety of people from other backgrounds. For example, Puffs Tissues sold well in America, but not so well in Germany, where ‘puff’ means ‘brothel’.

4.    Overdoing the hype

Don’t act like ‘Dodgy Dan the used car man’. Customers, particularly in this post-recession new world order, distrust marketing hype and an over-the-top approach. By all means punt your business – people expect you to. But don’t over-hype. In particular, be careful with the claims that you make, because you may be called upon to make good – or held to account if you can’t. The tough new Consumer Protection Act also means you could end up in court for making unsubstantiated claims.

5.    Not doing market research

Relying on ‘gut feel’ is a frequent error when it comes to evaluating the marketing strategy of a small business. Even if you can’t afford to employ a market research company, you can put your own cost-effective system into place. Get your sales team to ask new customers where they heard of you; ask the receptionist/telephonist to do the same. If you’re thinking of introducing a new product or service, do field testing prior to launch. Ask trusted customers for their input – they’ll feel ‘included’ and valued.

6.    Reacting too slowly

Social media, above all, demands speed of response over quality. If you have a website, Facebook page or are on Twitter, your audience expects immediate feedback, particularly if negative comments are being made. Hoping the problem will ‘go away’, or waiting for the MD to return from leave before commenting, is an all too common marketing mistake. The only thing that this will achieve is to leave the field wide open for the (often ill-informed) critics. Also, don’t be flippant in your responses. Nestlé found this out to its cost when Greenpeace activists protested on it its Facebook site over the company’s alleged use of palm oil from deforested areas of Indonesia.

7.    Advertising infrequently

Advertising should be ongoing – not just on the odd occasion that you need new customers. Being regularly top-of-mind, particularly if your product or service is only used occasionally or it takes customers a long time to make the purchase decision, is vital. If a large print ad is beyond your means, opt for smaller ads more frequently, or use a cheaper method like Google Adwords. A common marketing mistake is to advertise once in a publication/website and not do so again because ‘there was no response’. Frequency helps persuade potential customers to make that call.


‘Strategic Marketing’ magazine