• Daniel K. Berman, PhD

The Single Biggest Marketing Mistake & How to Avoid It

Arguably the single biggest marketing mistake is communicating your message from the perspective of the business or writer, rather than from that of the target audience.

As simple and obvious as it may sound, this important principle is all too often ignored, wasting countless dollars and invaluable opportunities.

Business owners like to talk about themselves, flaunting what they regard as their accomplishments. But the prospects the businesses are trying to reach care mainly about themselves, about whatever problem it is they are trying to solve or whatever need they are trying to fill. That is why this is such a big mistake and why avoiding it can generate such tremendous benefits.

Shooting Yourself in the Foot

Let’s look at an example of the type of copy so many businesses use to represent themselves (this is an anonymized composite of actual website verbiage):

Best Property Management is one of the largest property management companies in the entire region, with the longest continuous history of operation, having been founded in 1950. We also have one of the largest and best-trained staffs in the industry, to match our sterling reputation. BPM is family owned and operated, by the Best Family, whose roots in this state can be traced back more than a hundred years. All members of the Best Family take tremendous pride in their business, which over the decades has survived numerous challenges. These include man-made challenges like economic depressions and natural disasters like earthquakes and floods. When you need property management services, you will want to think of Best Property Management. “Choose the Best in the West over the Rest!”

You may be laughing but this is no joke: I see “marketing collateral” like this every day and I’m sure you do, too, if you’re paying attention.

Targeting Your Audience

Contrast the “self-centered” approach above with the customer-centric approach reflected in the paragraph below:

Are you looking for a property management company that will contribute the maximum to your property’s value by combining superlative upkeep and maintenance with singular expertise in minimizing vacancy rates? Would you like to engage an experienced team that provides tenants with the kind of superior customer service that makes them love where they live so much that they will never want to leave? If you recognize the advantage of a single source for all your property management needs, from landscaping to insurance and everything in between, why not review our numerous five-star reviews from this link and then call Best Property Management today for a free, no-obligation consultation? “Don’t be stressed—just call Best!”

When placed side by side, the difference between the two approaches should be glaringly obvious.

"Everyone's Favorite Radio Station"

So the threshold question when evaluating the message is easy: Is it written primarily from the perspective of my business (telling people what we would like to tell them) or from the perspective of the audience I am targeting (articulating and addressing their problems, concerns and needs)?

If you think this isn’t of importance to you because your business is making money in spite of your message, consider how much better you could be doing if you tried a more enlightened approach. Cumulatively, over the years, you may be leaving millions on the table. Remember: Everyone’s favorite radio station will always be WII-FM (What’s In It For Me?). Greater rewards will be yours if your marketing collateral harnesses this timeless truth.

And by the way: “marketing” is a process that extends well beyond the realm of businesses selling their products or services. When you apply for a job (or seek a promotion), you are marketing … yourself. When you apply to a program of study, submitting an application essay of some sort, the same thing applies. In such situations, your target audience is the school or prospective employer—and you must appeal to their interests the same way a business must appeal to the needs of its customers in order to maximize its success.

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