A smart marketing strategy is critical to the success of your business. But many companies have misconceptions about marketing that can hamper their ability to successfully promote their products and services in a competitive marketplace.

Here are seven common marketing misconceptions that can limit the effectiveness of your marketing plan and cause you to miss sales opportunities.

  1. “We’re too small. We don’t need a marketing plan.” A marketing plan is the blueprint for how you present your organization to the market. It outlines your target audience, messages, channels, tactics, offers and budget. Without an integrated, cohesive plan, you could be confusing your prospects and wasting money. Every business—even a one-person business—needs to plan its marketing to get the best return on its marketing investment.
  2.  “We have a marketing plan: We’re running ads.” An advertising campaign can be a valuable marketing tactic, but it’s a tactic—just one of the many ways you might deliver your marketing messages to your target audience. You need an integrated plan that spells out multiple tactics and how they’ll work together to achieve your goals for awareness, lead generation and sales.
  3.  “We already know what our customers think.” People just like your current customers are your best prospects, so it’s crucial to understand your customers: who they are, what they think, how they feel and why they choose to buy from you. Many marketers believe they already know what their customers think, but what if they’re wrong? Customer research by an independent, professional resource is a critical first step to gaining this insight.
  4. “We need to market to prospects, not current customers.” Never assume your customers are yours for life. Everyone who buys from you needs regular reinforcement of the reasons to continue buying from you and not from one of your competitors. Promote to prospects, but always promote to customers, too.
  5.  “We’d love to try that marketing channel, but we can’t afford it.” Marketers often make incorrect assumptions about the cost of marketing channels such as broadcast advertising or direct mail. Don’t rule out a channel because you think it’s too expensive. Explore your options thoroughly. You may find that channels you thought were out of reach can be accessed affordably.
  6. “We don’t need to be on social media.” No matter what you sell, you can be certain your customers, prospects and competitors are actively using social media. If you don’t take part, you’ll be left out of conversations that are shaping your marketplace. Get started with social media now.
  7. “Sales are down, so we need to cut our marketing budget.” Tough times force companies to make tough budget decisions, but marketing is one place you should try not to cut. Effective marketing helps you break out of a sales slump. More important, if you stop engaging with your customers and prospects, competitors will be standing by to take your place. Don’t give them the opportunity.

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Jean M. Gianfagna is a marketing strategy expert and the founder and president of Gianfagna Strategic Marketing which provides marketing strategy and creative services to leading business-to-business and consumer marketers. Read her blog for more marketing tips at http://www.gianfagnamarketing.com/blog.