Every entrepreneur is obsessed with success. It may not be front and center on the mind every single day, but dig deep enough, and all of us wants to meet our monthly goals, our annual goals, and do well enough to stay in business without going in the red.
We thrive off of being able to do our own thing, and manage our own dealings, without working toward someone else’s dreams… Well, unless they’re clients, of course.
But in order to be successful, you have to consistently make mistakes.
That’s a hard lesson learned that I couldn’t quite wrap my head around when I was first starting out. I spent all my time reading every marketing book I could find, jotting down all the things that I needed to do in order to be successful.
But not a single passage in those books told me that it was okay to make mistakes, enough to develop a list of what not to do when running a business. Essentially, develop a crisis code for your business. Much like you have a list of things to focus on doing, it’s smart to have one reminding you not to make certain mistakes again. Once is enough.
So, I’ve decided to round up my hard lessons learned, developed by making mistakes for half a decade. These are all the mistakes I made and now avoid making over and over. Read them, learn from them, and remember: it’s okay to make mistakes as long as they’re new ones you can add to your list of actions to avoid.
#1 Don’t Take Messaging For Granted
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if your brand look is aesthetically pleasing, or if your product is top notch quality, because if your messaging is muddled everything will fall flat no matter how amazing it is.
Initially, I took my copy somewhat for granted. I figured as long as I was putting something out there every now and then, I would be fine. Turns out, that’s not how it works. In order to make sure your audience knows the benefits of your product offerings, you need to be both consistent and clear.
That means posting more often than not, making sure your landing pages are quality, and always being very direct about why they should even bother to purchase anything from you versus your competition.
That means you need to:
Find what makes you stand out from the rest.
List off the benefits of your goods and services.
Always invest in getting to know your customers.
And make sure to tell your story.
And I want to clarify those last two: you need to understand your customer base in order to learn how to best deliver your own, honest story. Find what you share in common, because there’s always something. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be appealing to a particular target audience.
Use surveys, use polls, measure your metrics to see what they say about your audience’s likes and dislikes. And then share your own relatable story about your business. What made you want to develop this particular product? What made you want to start a business?
#2 Numbers Never Lie
Marketing is all about the numbers. If something does or doesn’t work, the numbers will tell you. That means that if you develop a product that you think is helpful, revolutionary, and even essential, but the numbers claim otherwise… the numbers are right.
Sure, you could alter the copy, you could try a different ad campaign approach, because that could well be hindering sales. But if you make all of those changes, and the numbers still tell you that your product just doesn’t cut it, then you just have to listen.
And that’s not the only way numbers guide you. If your numbers are high, it means your approach on marketing, on product design, on basically everything, is working. But what’s working now may not always work. Times change, people evolve, and technology shows us new methods every time. We used to shop brick and mortar, exclusively, and now plenty of stores and shopping malls are closing thanks to online shopping.
And the minute a big change happens, and your numbers begin declining, despite you not altering anything, then you should know it’s time to rethink your strategy. Because it’s always inevitable, no matter what your business model is.
#3 There’s Nothing Better Than Building A Brand
Here’s a hard lesson learned: people don’t care about you as an individual, they care about you as a brand.
It sounds awful, but think about it: when you feel loyal to Target, are you feeling connected to George Dayton, its founder? No, chances are you didn’t even know his name. You feel connected to the brand because of several factors, possibly including but not limited to their style, their upbeat marketing, their inventory and how well-stocked all their locations seem to be, how they seem to have everything you could ever want or need under one roof, etc.
That’s because people enjoy things that a) provide what they want and need to solve their “problems,” and b) reflect a part of themselves. In regards to Target, we all want to be that upbeat person who seems to have everything figured out, much like their whole brand.
This is why every step of building a brand is so important. You should always be working on your story, on getting it out there as much as you can. You want people to know why your business even exists. Even if you can’t see the immediate impact of doing so, it’s always worth your time in the long run, guaranteed.
#4 Don’t Dedicate Time to Something Unworthy
Here’s a dose of reality: your time is gold. Everyone’s is, because life is much too short to spend it doing things we don’t want to do, or investing in things that aren’t going to lead us where we want to go.
But speaking in business terms, there’s a lot on your to-do list. On an average day, you need to check email, answer conference calls, meet client deadlines, figure out product launch details, work on your marketing, your guest posting, etc. The list goes on.
So when you decide to do anything, you have to ask yourself one question: “Is this worth my time over something else right now?”
That means everything you do needs to benefit you in some way. And when you market something, it needs to be top notch, well developed, smartly designed, and great quality. It needs to be worthy of your time, because otherwise, you’re better off walking away from your desk.
That’s because your customers don’t want to purchase anything that isn’t made with intention. Customers don’t want a mediocre item that you put out for the sake of having another product to sell. They want to feel catered to, and understood. Remember, the objective of a brand is to connect with likeminded people. You want to be the reliable brand they think of when they need something specific, or when they want to convey a certain message to the world at large.
#5 Always Develop Partnerships
In business, it’s normal to feel alone, especially if you’re a solo entrepreneur. You’re used to researching your competition, so you can better stand out from the pack.
But not everyone is your competitor, and you’re not the only entrepreneur in the world. You’re not alone.
In fact, there are more established entrepreneurs out there who can help you in the form of partnerships, allowing you to tap into their audience, and vice versa. They are tools you can use in a mutual agreement, but also even befriend, if things even go that route.
Partnerships allow you to grow without having to blow your budget. It’s marketing intelligently, using your own resources, as well as someone else’s, to get a combined message out.
Think of partnering with brands that sell products that could work in conjunction with yours. For instance, Apple has partnered with the design label Hermès to put out Apple Watch bands.
By working together, Apple provides something very compelling to their audience who may want to splurge on something more long-lasting, and fancy. And Hermès gets to sell a new product of their own, the bands, at a much higher rate because of their exclusive deal with Apple Watch. When it comes to smart watches, most think of Apple’s first, and the designer brand knows that.
#6 Avoid Being the Guinea Pig
Ever heard of the rule that you should never invest in first generation tech? When a new device comes out, there’s plenty of kinks, no matter how excruciating the testing and design phase was. It’s your first time putting out an item that may or may not have everything people want in practice, not just in theory.
It’s during the second, and even third generations that items truly begin to shine to their fullest potential.
The same goes when new marketing channels pop up. You may be inclined to try them all, to be everyone at one time, but there’s one massive flaw with that plan: those new channels are unproven. You don’t know if they’ll be around in the next year or two, let alone the next six months. Why spend time on those new channels, when you’re essentially gambling your time away?
You’re better off spending that time on a proven channel, like Instagram, or Facebook, which have been around long enough to prove their value.
#7 Enjoy the Ride While It Lasts
Every single channel that works eventually commands so much attention that it becomes oversaturated. And with that, comes three paths: they fade away, they stick around and don’t work like they once did, or they stick around and continue to work, albeit that’s rare.
Standing out on Instagram used to be a lot easier, now everyone stepped up their game. If anything keeping up with the herd is the new task, making sure that what you’re putting out is of the same caliber as other accounts.
With Facebook, you used to be able to send out invitation emails to everyone in your address book, but that’s not really realistic anymore. Most people already have an account on the platform.
That means that when you find a channel that works for you, you need to enjoy the ride while it lasts, because chances are it won’t work forever. You can continue to leverage it as much as you can while the time is right, but once too many competitors join in, it’s time to scale back.
#8 Sales & Marketing Should Be One Person’s Duty
Understanding the beginning, middle, and end, is how a sale is made. That means figuring out how someone finds out about you, what it is they want/need, how to sell, then upsell, and retain that customer.
In other words, you need to know the steps they take before becoming a recurring customer. Which means you need to have one person, usually a Chief Revenue Officer, in charge of figuring out what those steps are. Doing so will allow this one person to better market your product, and make more sales.
Now, the big caveat here is that sales and marketing are normally two different departments. But in the corporate world, miscommunication and even the lack of communication, is much too prevalent. Hence, when the departments have their own boss, the two leaders tend to have a disconnect.
By appointing one leader for both departments, this person avoids a disconnect, is well-informed of how the marketing is affecting the sales, and can make adjustments as needed.
#9 You Must Think Long-Term
Yes, business is a number’s game. You may think that as long as your numbers are where you want and need them to be, you can stay in business.
But not so fast. In reality, you need to have a long-term goal in mind. A vision for where you want to be as a brand in the next five years. And once you achieve that goal, you need to set another one, for another five years.
The reason why this is so important is because chances are high that your competitors have already done this step. And that means they’re already making preparations in anticipation of their big changes. They’ve probably even taken some steps toward those goals already, on a small scale. The steps necessary to make their long-term goals possible.
If you haven’t taken any steps, and you have no long-term goal in mind, then you’re already behind. They’ll be hitting their strides, making high-impact moves, while you’re still stuck where you are now.
#10 Don’t Rely On One Channel
This goes back to #7: every single channel starts off decently enough, some even proving to be great successes, but ultimately, they crumble. That’s because they get oversaturated, making it increasingly difficult to stand out, no matter how great your content is.
So, don’t make the mistake of relying on one channel. It may be your greatest accomplishment for now, with high numbers and plenty of conversions, but the time will come when that channel dries up. You ideally want to have 1-2 other channels at all times.
#11 Expect Trends to Become More And More Expensive
It’s a myth that marketing can be cheap. Sure, it may start off cheap as you kick things off in your business with limited capital… But ultimately, you’ll need to ramp things up as your business grows.
Think about it like clothing. You grow out of it as you come into your own, and what do you find? That your clothes as a child used to be far cheaper than your clothes now, as an adult. You can’t keep using the same elementary tactics on a growing business, because it simply won’t work. And you have to pay more for those more advanced tactics.
To stay afloat, you’ll have to focus on conversion optimization, which means running at least one A/B test per month, based on data. Every decision you make needs to be based on fact, on something proven.
#12 You Should Always Be Scared
It sounds terrible, I know, but think of it this way: we humans grow by perpetually throwing ourselves into uncomfortable situations. Only then do we allow ourselves to gain experience, and learn much-needed lessons. Only then do we understand different perspectives, and become useful resources for others.
And it’s much the same way for business. If you’re not scared, you’re in a comfortable zone, and although that’s nice to have for short phases at a time, it’s not smart to stay in them for too long. Otherwise, you run the risk of missing opportunities, missing out on revenue, and having your audience outgrow you. Remember, you have competition. Chances are they are always pushing the limits, which means you can’t afford to be idle.
#13 Get Influencers Sooner Than Later
People connect with other people, not big brands. When was the last time you heard someone say they truly connect with Walmart, or even Apple? No, they connect with people behind the brands, like Huda from Huda Beauty, or even Steve Jobs from Apple.
This is why you should invest in influencers early. They are faces that people can point to and say “This is how I found that one brand.” It’s a human gateway to enter people’s lives. And when paired with a relatable company story, based entirely on human needs? It’s the right recipe for success.
#14 You Don’t Really Know Everything… And That’s Okay!
Don’t forget: marketing is much like tech in that there are changes being made as you read this sentence. There’s new iterations, new releases. Everything gets updated several times per year. That means that no matter how well you master a marketing tactic, it won’t matter if you stay stuck in time.
This is why learning is so important. You should always be striving to learn new ways of doing things, staying on top of the latest marketing trends, and even reading what other businesses are up to. It may seem tedious, but it may give you an edge and the ability to try new marketing approaches that you might have otherwise missed out on.
#16 Avoid Arrogant Marketers At All Costs
Taking an all-encompassing approach here, arrogant people become that way because they invest plenty of time and energy into something, master it, and then reach a point where they don’t feel they could get any better. They believe they are at the very top, and that there’s no more room for growth. Hence, they tend to enjoy their hard-earned position at the very top, and often talk down to anyone who tries to show them a new way to do something.
But that’s not the toxic environment you want to cultivate in your business, right? Having arrogant marketers is never a bright idea. It stunts everyone’s growth, keeps your marketing at a standstill, and often results in unnecessary drama.
And more than that, you ideally want an open-minded marketer anyway. Someone who clearly knows their fair share, and can keep up, but who is also willing to try new approaches. This will help you stay on top of new marketing trends, explore new avenues, and even promote a healthy, creative environment at the workplace.
Remember, if your marketing team isn’t experimenting at all, just adhering to what they know, there’s something wrong with the leadership. So start scrutinizing there first.
#17 Give Your Marketer 3 Months to Prove Him/Herself
That is how long it takes to start showcasing skill and competency in marketing―3 months. This is because they need to find their groove, figure out how your business works and how people react to your content, assess any mishaps, find glaring issues and more hidden issues, etc. Essentially, setting everything up, and gaining that familiarity, takes that long.
That means if you hire on a marketer, or decide to go the marketing consultant route, give them 3 months before you begin to evaluate their efforts. Anything prior to that won’t show you a clear picture.
And if you’re still not impressed after that, feel free to sit down to assess the situation. It could be that it’s just not a good fit.
#18 Remember, People Love A Good Story
There’s a thing about stories that connects humans. After all, it’s why people collect memories, thrive off of gossip, and typically form bonds.
And stories have always been effective in business. They give you a more relatable, human angle. Instead of making revenue and sales the focus of your business, you wind up making more sales by looking to connect with others.
That’s why you should make your business story very easy to find. Think about why you went into business, what your company mission statement is, and how you relate to your target audience. For instance, maybe you run a catering business after you had your wedding and realized that there weren’t enough options in your local area. Maybe you chose to solve a local problem, and give other brides a chance to have more of the stylings that you wanted for your wedding.
#19 Don’t Brush Off Trends
In fashion terms, we’re often warned not to follow trends, but to invest in timeless pieces that you can wear in several different ways. And yet, the same cannot be said in marketing.
If you see some marketing terms pop up, it’s a bright idea to jump on the bandwagon, even if you don’t think the trend will see past the next six months. This is because you want to make customer acquisition easier and affordable. And trends make it easy for people to not only find you, but to take a look at your offerings.
Suddenly, by following trends and using the relevant hashtags, you’re more searchable on popular platforms, and you’re giving people the content they want to see.
Tools like Google Trends can help you figure out what’s popular at any given moment. You can perform general searches in any region worldwide, or type in specific terms to see which relevant searches are being made. It’s a great way to assess competition as well.
#20 Always Optimize for Revenue
Most marketing guides will emphasize the beauty of sales funnels. They’ll teach you how to design one, and tell you what to do when people get stuck in a certain stage.
But here’s the thing: although funnels are valuable, they’re not worth being the focus of optimization. Looking at monthly visitor numbers, or leads isn’t enough.
Your tracking needs to encompass everything possible, and at the end of the day, everything should be working toward…
That means if you optimize toward revenue, you can assess when something is lacking, regardless of what part of the funnel it is.
And when you’ve made a sale, congratulate yourself and move onto the upselling, the repeat business, and the cross-sells. There’s always work to be done.
#21 The Rule of Seven
There’s a saying that people need to see your brand 7 times before even considering a purchase from you. That means you need to be everywhere you can. Everywhere from Instagram and Twitter, to Facebook ads and top-product articles (guest posting, partnerships).
The more you make yourself visible, the more in-demand you’ll be. And the higher the demand, the higher the chances of making sales.
#22 Always Test Things That Are Working
Just because something is working, it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be tested. If anything, it should be tested more, to see why it’s working. What is it about this particular thing or activity that makes it so successful, and how can you replicate that into other areas of your business?
Or taking on another approach, it’s nice to reassess that this business element or decision is still helping you out. Just because you tested it six months ago doesn’t mean it’s still working.
#23 Accept It: Most People Don’t Read
It’s a terrible truth that people just don’t read. They only read in certain circumstances:
When something is truly compelling, and promises to help them in some way that is important to them, the readers.
When something is broken up by other forms of content, such as images and video.
When something is carefully labeled for searchability, normally through the use of headlines (see #24).
The content you wrote is easily skimmable, thanks to spacing and relevancy.
In other words, your copy needs to do more than provide value and entertainment. It needs to adhere to at least one of the criteria listed above in order to convey your message.
#24 Headlines Overrule Over Content
That’s right, headlines. Think headers, titles, subtitles, anything that details what the next couple of paragraphs are going to be covering. This makes your content skimmable, and it guarantees to the reader that you have what they’re looking for.
Suddenly, they don’t need to waste time trying to figure out if they clicked on a helpful article or not. They are presented with something that either meets their needs at the time, or that doesn’t.
#25 Start Over Every Year
In business, you can’t double down on the actions that proved successful the year before. This is in large part because as your business grows, its needs change. Suddenly, channels dry up, you’re making more revenue, but your ads aren’t proving as effective, etc. Too many changing variables.
This is why it’s so important to mentally start over every year. New marketing initiatives, new challenges, new goals. Draw lessons learned from the last 12 months, use that experience, but don’t assume that you can keep recycling old tricks.
There are many lessons to be learned in your mistake making. Much like any other area of life, business is built under the pressure of success, of making smart choices, but…
Sometimes the smartest thing is to take a step into the unknown, open to learn something new. Even if you fail at something, you’ll learn a lesson that will make success in another area of your business possible.
So, which 3 marketing principles do you think you’ll implement first, and why?
Feel free to let me know in the comments section below, I love to hear from you!