In 1999, a Taiwanese trading company came up with a great idea for marketing their line of German-made heaters: use Adolf Hitler as the mascot! Well, it seemed like a great idea at the time. But when the subway billboards went up featuring a miniaturized Führer saluting a heater under the tagline “Declare war on the cold front!” the reception wasn’t exactly warm. What did the company have to say to justify their actions? “Most people in Taiwan are not that sensitive about Hitler.” If you’re facepalming yourself right now, you’re not alone.
Marketing mistakes are widespread in the business world. If only there were a way to protect yourself from making the all-too-common slip of choosing a genocidal dictator to represent your company. If only there were a system to prevent blind spots like that. Well there is such a system, and rule number one is to slow down and think about what you’re trying to accomplish. Then do your best to avoid these five common business mistakes:
- Beating an Idea to Death. Sometimes a great idea deserves to die. Maybe your customers don’t want it, like New Coke. Maybe the world isn’t ready for it, like home urine recyclers. Maybe it’s exceedingly stupid, like the forehead doorbell (which doesn’t exist and never will). The point is this: if you can’t let go of a dead idea, your business will die with it.
- Rushing Through Your Copy. Unless you’re the owner of damnyouautocorrect.com, typos and misspellings will put a big dent in your profits. From your company’s Facebook status updates to your first billboard in Times Square, everything you publish must be proofread. A tiny mistake can make your company look lazy, uneducated and unprofessional. Who wants to do business with someone like that? Working with professional writers, editors and proofreaders is just as important as it’s always been, and maybe even more.
- Thinking Exclusively About Money. Obviously, you care about profits. If you didn’t, you’d be running a convent instead of a corporation. But even though you’re the one who cuts your check, that doesn’t mean you should go ahead and turn into Lex Luthor. Have a professional business appraiser determine your opportunities for profit enhancement, and only cut corners where it counts. Don’t sacrifice the integrity of your brand just to save a few dollars. Like the producers of Schlitz beer, you could end up with an embarrassingly low-quality product. Stay strong, and stay true to your customers as best you can. If you’re lucky, you’ll become a hipster phenomenon.
- Not Having a Clear Business Plan. “A goal without a plan is only a wish.” Yes, it’s a corny saying, but it’s true. Staring out your office window and pretending you’re Donald Trump is not a business plan. A real plan of attack that motivates your employees is fundamentally different from a fistful of pie charts and a positive attitude. While you might think you’re some type of business maverick and that your ideas are pretty good, you’re spinning your wheels if you’re not implementing them in a testable, systematic way. Conceive and review, share and motivate – that’s the ticket.
- Failing to Maintain a Professional Online Profile. Before you owned your own business, maybe you could get away with half-naked party pics on Facebook and passive-aggressive status updates aimed at your ex. But now you represent more than just yourself, so it’s time to rope it in. Even if you’ve enabled every privacy setting in the book, an email or a screen cap of an online profile page can easily undo the positive reputation you’re trying to build. So think about what you post, tweet or blog, because once it’s out there, you can’t always take it back
You may think you’re too smart to become the laughing stock of your field. Everyone does – including the types of marketers who think it’s a swell idea to choose Hitler for a mascot. True, some failures are more monumental than others, but a facepalm is a facepalm whether it’s just a single or something on par with the epic Picard double. Don’t needlessly upset Patrick Stewart. Take these tips to heart. After all, robbing your consumers of a few good laughs is a lot better than robbing your business of its profits.
Perry Sheraw is the founder and executive vice president of eBusiness Appraisals. She is a dedicated business owner advocate with a mission to ensure all business owners have access to critical information in order to make the right choices and achieve the highest possible value from their life’s work.