Inc Well | Small Business Advice for Chicago Entrepreneurs
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How to Avoid Classic Business-Building Blunders

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As a small business owner marketing your product or service, you want to interest, intrigue and compel your audience to engage with you. You know your niche and the people it serves, so it should be easy to get them excited about what you have to offer that's different from everyone else... right? It might seem that way, but it isn’t. And there are lots of critical mistakes companies make in trying to distinguish themselves. I’ll identify them here — avoid them at all costs.

Mistake #1: Discounting

Many small business owners believe emailing newsletter discounts, posting coupons to Facebook, or even tweeting the latest sale will boost sales by getting customers in the door or on their sales page. Discounts work for big box chains who purchase in bulk, but they can be a trap for small businesses. I recommend avoiding discounts – not just because they destroy profit margins, but also because they don't achieve the results you're intending. Who’s motivated to buy something for a 10 percent discount?

Solution: Bundle

If you want to inspire your customers to come shop, offer them a bundle. Tell them, “If you spend $50 or more, you’ll get a free item worth $5. Your customers get excited and feel a sense of urgency to shop (they're getting a free prize!), and you get to keep a healthy profit margin (the same math works in reverse; the item that retails for $5 only cost you $2.50, and it's still a much better driver of action).

Mistake #2: Focus on Products


When you connect with your audience via email and social media, there’s a pressure to do more than just describe what’s for sale. Why not become a welcome guest in their inbox by sharing knowledge and recommendations instead?

Solution: Share Expertise

In today’s competitive marketplace, mom and pop stores can trump big box stores by being an educational source for customers. People love to learn about other people. You can even reward the best suggestions with a free item.

Mistake #3: Being Boring


Many small business owners view marketing, especially social media and online marketing, as a tedious add-on task. Guess what? If you're not having fun, you'll come across as boring and your audience will pick up on it.

Solution: Engage!

The best way to grow customer relationships is to invite them to engage and participate. Engagement can be anything that’s fun for you and your customers. Have them post photos, share stories, and teach each other.

About the Author: Audience engagement expert Danny Iny (@DannyIny), a.k.a. the "Freddy Krueger of Blogging", is the co-author (with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark, and many others) of Engagement from Scratch! He also teaches marketing that works for small business owners and entrepreneurs at Firepole Marketing.

Related Topics Guest Blog, Marketing, Social Media
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