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Learn from My Mistakes...

February 11, 2014

Having gone to the Wharton School of Business, many of my classmates went on to work with big companies after graduation. However, being a cog in a big company never had much of an appeal to me. I longed to work someplace where I could have a bigger impact.

So over the past 20 years, I have worked for and consulted to nearly 100 small and midsize businesses. I even owned my own web design firm for a couple of years. And I have learned a lot of what works and what doesn't for different businesses. However, my most valuable lessons have come from my own mistakes.

Mistake #1: Wrong or Unclear Target Market

Far too many companies are unclear about who is their real target market. Your target market must have a need for your product or service and be willing to pay for it. I did not have a clear understanding of the second item when I had my web design firm. That is why it only lasted a couple of years.

My greatest successes in marketing have come when we clearly understood who the target market it is, why they need our product or service, and that they happily pay money for it. That is why understanding a company’s target market is the first step I take with new clients.

Mistake #2: Differentiator Does Not Matter to Potential Clients

Differentiating your business from the competition is a marketing 101 principle. However, the mistake that I see businesses making is that they differentiate themselves in a way that does not matter to potential clients.

I did this with my web design firm: Most small businesses just don’t care enough about having an effective marketing website (at least they did not 10 years ago). It does not matter that it would have been a good investment for them. They just wanted something that looked nice.

Many businesses choose to compete on price, even when that is not the primary decision making factor for the vast majority of consumers. Plus, there is often something different about your business that you may not see.

That is why I talk to a business's customers to get a good understanding of what makes them different, and why they chose to do business with them versus all of their other options.

As I tell my two boys, you can learn a lot from your experiences... if you are paying attention. My goal for Factor Four Consulting is to help other companies benefit from my marketing knowledge, and particularly what I have learned from my mistakes, so they can achieve success faster.

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