6/15/2015 | Chuck Leddy

Business marketing is vital for midmarket companies. It determines how your organization reaches out to new prospects and converts them into customers. Good marketing sends the right message to the right prospect, creating awareness and demand for your services. However, poor marketing wastes precious time and money, and may also damage your reputation.

The best business marketing messages focus on the customer's needs first.

If you're creating a marketing plan for your business, here are six common mistakes you should avoid:

  1. Not marketing your products. Some companies believe their offerings are so good that they don't actually need to market them. Even if you have supreme confidence in your product or a dislike for self-promotion, failing to share information with potential customers is the biggest mistake of all. No matter how wonderful the offering, customers simply won't buy it if they're not aware it exists. Business marketing helps prove that potential clients need your services. Of course, you don't have to be like the stereotypical, seedy salesman from a Spaghetti Western. Share how your product will truly benefit customers. Don't wait for them to find you; reach out and find them.
  2. Neglecting to plan out your marketing efforts. Before you invest a penny, be sure you know exactly what you're doing and have clear goals for results. Don't try to market to everyone because your message could get lost in all the noise. Concentrate your resources to have the greatest impact, and do market research so you'll know your target customers' needs, the way they consume information and how they make purchasing decisions. Know how buyers will interact with your product and plan your marketing strategy accordingly. Also, be sure to test your messages using hypothetical personas and real prospects. Have marketers share their content with every division and collect feedback. Getting more internal input will help sharpen the ideas and correct potential mistakes. More importantly, show the content to your best customers before launch. Asking important clients to help with your marketing efforts not only improves your messaging, but also engages them and builds trust.
  3. Not having a clear, consistent focus. Always differentiate yourself by promoting whatever you want to be seen as a leader in. Stake out one position to maintain throughout your marketing campaign. If your messaging switches from being a quality leader to emphasizing low prices, fast delivery or customer service, you're simply fostering confusion. Don't try to be all things to all people. Sit down with your company's leadership team to discuss your value proposition and positioning strategy. Know who you are to your customers — customers want their needs met first, after all, and your product is a tool for meeting those needs. If you're not seeing your messages through your customers' eyes, then potential clients won't pay attention to you.
  4. Failing to send your messages through multiple complementary channels. We live in a multichannel world, and prospects don't get all their information from one source. For example, if you've made a great five-minute video testimonial with your most satisfied customer, don't just post it on YouTube and your website. Share the video via your Facebook page and Twitter stream and email it to relevant customer lists, then have your salespeople show the video when they interact with potential customers. Integrate all your channels to maximize ROI.
  5. Forgetting to include calls to action. Your message is clearly centered on customer needs, and you've sent it through the right channels. The result? You've created a lot of positive feelings. But you still need to tell the engaged prospect what to do next. This step is your call to action. Should customers visit your website to order the product? Should they call or visit you, or sign up for your free newsletter? Converting a prospect into a customer is a journey, and your call to action must keep it moving forward.
  6. Not measuring results. If you can't identify whether or not your marketing efforts are working, then you have a problem. As part of your planning process, determine how you'll measure success. This will enable you to modify your message if needed, and having the capacity to revise helps you stay ahead of the competition.

Has your company ever developed a marketing plan? How did you measure success, and what steps did you take to revise your messaging when necessary? Tell us by commenting below.

Boston-based Chuck Leddy is an NCMM contributor and a freelance reporter who contributes regularly to The Boston Globe and Harvard Gazette. He also trains Fortune 500 executives in business-communication skills as an instructor for EF Education. Circle him on Google+.