Want to take the guesswork out of your marketing? You won’t kick risk to the curb completely, but you can save yourself headaches by studying failed methods and businesses. Take a look at these five common mistakes and how you can avoid them:
I never liked the mantra “assume makes an ass out of you and me,” but there’s some truth to it.
One epic example of this error comes from the beloved Pets.com, one of many startups from the dot-com boom in the 1990s. The company thought consumers would want to buy pet supplies online instead of in stores.
After spending millions of dollars on high-end marketing campaigns (and appearing in The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade), Pets.com had made its adorable sock puppet mascot the center of media attention. Despite its popularity, the company hadn’t figured out how to compete with brick-and-mortar pet stores on convenience or price and was bleeding cash with unsustainable free shipping.
What was their big mistake (besides overspending)? They’d neglected an essential step in their startup process: testing the market.
The solution: talk to your prospective customers.
Maybe Pets.com was ahead of its time (look at Chewy.com’s success today, for example). But they could have prevented their downfall by taking the time to ask some simple questions, like:
How valuable would this be to you? Why is it (or why isn’t it) important to you?
What do you like about your current solution?
What frustrates you about your current solution?
Important caveat: be careful of questions like "what's your ideal solution?" Or at least take those answers with a grain of salt. After all, if your customers knew how to solve their problems, they wouldn't wait for you to figure it out.
As Henry Ford famously said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."
Another way to gain clarity is to mirror your prospective customer. Make sure you’re on the same page.
For example, if Ford had conducted such a discovery interview, he might have closed with something like:
"I hear you’re happy with the horse-drawn carriage because it helps your shoes last longer and keeps your feet from hurting so much. But one thing you wish you could change would be how quickly you can reach your destination. That’s important to you because you like to be reliable. Did I get that right?”
If you already have an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), go deeper and let your customers try it out. Offer it to a group of beta testers in exchange for feedback. Or set up a simple landing page and “go fishing” for customers. Let them sign up for more details or updates. Will anyone bite?
Don’t skip testing unless you want frustrated customers. Apple ran into this hurdle when it introduced its 2013 laptop model. The power button was too close to frequently pressed keys (like delete), and users were shutting their computers down by accident. The Apple team had developed a blind spot toward this design glitch, which they could have easily avoided by testing before going to market.
2. The mistake: being old-fashioned.
Some old-fashioned things are charming (donuts, antiques, holding the door, might I add a phone call to the list?). But the execution and timing have to be right.
If you’ve never experienced the shrill irritating ring of the telemarketer or pushy salesperson call, consider yourself lucky. But if you have, chances are that’s the last experience you want to give your customers. On the other hand, a well-timed phone call can be your foot in the door. So, how do you know when to reach out?
The solution: use an updated system.
Manual or outdated systems make it too easy for leads to slip through the cracks (ever try keeping track of customers with a spreadsheet?). Instead, try nurturing genuine human relationships with email marketing, setting automated reminder tickets, or tracking your opportunities with deals. When your leads are warm and excited to hear from you, you’ll have a well-organized system telling you who to get in touch with and when.
3. The mistake: avoiding the water cooler.
Have you ever been late to a conversation when the room goes quiet?
The virtual equivalent happens every day. People WILL talk about you online, so you may as well join in the conversation (and the sooner, the better).
Dell learned this lesson the hard way in 2005. Jeff Jarvis, an influential blogger, bought one of Dell’s computers and ran into issues. After receiving no help from customer service, he became the catalyst for an online bash-Dell party. Other disgruntled customers flooded the blog with disappointing sentiments, and before Dell jumped in to respond, the company had taken quite the digital punch to the gut.
The solution: get involved.
In Dell’s case, It took years of intentional social media listening for the company to recover, with around 5000 employees monitoring various social media channels at all times.
If you don’t have the resources to hire 5000 social media professionals, try Google Alerts. It’s free and helps you monitor any new content or mentions.
4. The mistake: not backing your claims.
Anyone can say, “we have the best customer service.” But is it true?
The only people who can answer that are your customers. After getting involved in the conversation (see above), the next step is easy.