Small Business Marketing Mistakes (1): Outpacing Your Customers

small business marketing mistakes


In a recent webinar, Greg Habstritt, creator of the Trusted Authority Formula, identified a number of mistakes in small business marketing made by entrepreneurs and small business owners.  He went on to describe a fundamental mistake that many small business owners make – a mistake that he called. “The Field of Dreams Marketing”.

This mistake arises when you assume you know what your market wants and then create a product or service based on these untested assumptions.  If you have missed the mark with your assumptions, you find that your sales are poor.  This is a very common mistake in small business marketing and I know I have been guilty of this one.

The core problem for small business marketing is that sometimes your knowledge and understanding of the needs of your customers outpaces their own perceptions.  You have probably spent a lot of time working with customers, analyzing your market and offering a range of products/services.  Out of these interactions, you have identified some recurring, foundational problems.  Then based on this knowledge and understanding, you launched a new product/service – but the market did not buy.

Your customers have not arrived at the same conclusions that you have in relation to possible solutions to their problems.  There is a mismatch between your perception and theirs about their problems (needs) and possible solutions.  Until you demonstrate that you are meeting their needs (as perceived by them), you cannot influence their (buying) behavior.

Sometimes, this mismatch in perception can be addressed by patient re-education – an approach that Greg Habstritt and others adopt for product launches via a progressive series of webinars, videos, workbooks and podcasts.  The goal here is ultimately to have your potential customers share the same perception you have about their core problem(s) and possible solutions (reflected in the program/product being launched).  Donald Schon (1984), in “The Reflective Practitioner”, described this approach as helping people to “re-frame the problem”.

However, this re-education approach can be very time-consuming and costly and you need an expensive product to make it worthwhile and considerable credibility (Trusted Authority status) to be able to pull it off.   More often than not, small business marketers don’t have the funds, patience or time to undertake such re-education.  Instead they expend time, money and effort on creating a new product that very few people see the need for – and hence very few sales result again, if any.

A cheaper and more reliable approach is to find out what your customers want – what they perceive their needs to be.  This can be achieved by surveys or via discussions with customers (by phone, Skype, face-to-face).  The starting point is to find out what their “greatest hurt” is – that is, where they are hurting the most in relation to the potential products and services that you are equipped to offer.

In my studies of organizational psychology (1983 – many years ago), I learned that changes in human behavior are motivated either by a desire for pleasure or desire to reduce pain, the latter being the stronger driver of the two.  If you can tap into what is “hurting” your customers, you are better able to create products or services that meet their perceived needs.

Small business marketing options where you have outpaced your customers

Even if you have created a product that “outpaces your customers”, there are some options you can explore to recover from this mistake.

Here are some small business marketing options you could use:

  • Offer free access to some of your key customers to enable them to gain exposure to what the product has to offer
  • Undertake market research to ascertain the core issues as perceived by the customers (this may lead to re-naming or re-orienting your product or creating an entirely new product)
  • Develop a series of products as a marketing funnel leading to the “outpacing” product as the final offering
  • Develop a re-education program incorporating an e-book, podcasts, workbook and webinars that lead to the “outpacing” product
  • Design an introductory product that focuses on where the customer experiences “hurt” – and on-sell from this new product
  • Break the “outpacing” product into separate components that customers can directly relate to.

The solution to remedying this small business marketing mistake may lie in adopting one or more of these options.  The ultimate choice of a small business marketing strategy should be grounded in the business vision and business goals.

This discussion highlights one of the core mistakes that you can make in small business marketing and suggests some options for redressing the mistake.  It also reinforces the need for market research as a central requirement for small business marketing.