Can you avoid the biggest marketing mistake?

No matter the size of your business, it is easy to create an echo chamber where you can convince yourself that your idea is great, even if for whatever reason it is flawed.

The biggest marketing mistake that businesses make is not keeping in mind the wide diversity of their customer base.

Remember that not all people share the same values, experiences, and expectations that you do, and this could potentially cause a group to have an unexpected reaction to your marketing strategy.

For example, Nabisco recently received strong negative reaction after sending free cookies to the residents of 50 small towns in the US. While it might seem crazy to some that anyone could be upset with receiving a free cookie in the mail, many people saw the promotion as condescension on the part of a major corporation towards “simple small town folks.” The executives at Nabisco probably never considered that reaction because they were unaware of the apparent divide that existed between themselves and their consumers.

So how can this type of situation be avoided?

First, it is important that there is diversity among your decision making team. It is essential that people of different ethnicity, gender, level of education, and economic background are found at the highest levels of your company. The people making the decisions in your company should ideally be as diverse as your base of customers. This will help prevent the types of cultural misunderstandings that can lead to bad public relations or worse.

Most small businesses might not have a team large enough to do this, but don’t despair. You can always reach out to a small sample of customers and get feedback.

Another way to incorporate different viewpoints into your strategic planning is by creating a board of consumer advisors. This group should be made up of customers from a wide range of backgrounds. Their input should be taken very seriously in your marketing decisions, as in the end it is their opinions about your advertising and products that matter, not yours.

Learning as much as you can about your customers and what they want is the best way to become a more effective company.

It is crucial that any marketing strategy you choose to employ is thoroughly tested in a controlled environment before being rolled out to the general public. Small scale tests will allow you to see what your customers have to say about it before implementing it, and you may save yourself some time, money, and embarrassment. There is nothing worse than a marketing disaster for the image of your business.

You don’t want to be seen as out of touch.

Finally, the best way to avoid the biggest marketing mistake that businesses make is to walk a mile in the shoes of your customer. Practicing adopting the point of view of the your various consumer bases will allow you to understand and empathize with them better.

Do not assume you know everything there is to know about people. Meet as many different customers and potential customers as you can and really listen to them. Companies that don’t cater to the needs and desires of actual people aren’t around for very long.