By Gerald G. Smith, BS, MBA – Certified SCORE Mentor

Albert Einstein once famously stated, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Reminds you of some politicians does it not? Well, hopefully, you will not act insanely this coming year. As you plan your marketing and sales activities for 2014, keep the following common marketing mistakes in mind:

Looking and sounding like your competition: The key to success is your value proposition, also known as the major part of your branding or positioning. If you do not have a compelling and strong value proposition, rethink your offering. Your value proposition is the combination of price, quality and service along with those things that make your offer unusual, unique and especially attractive. Your value proposition should be so strong that most prospective buyers will remember it and want to at least talk to you about it if not buy what you offer outright.

Too many businesses, products or services: If you are not achieving the growth you desire, you may need to narrow your focus. Focus on one or two businesses or products and build them into a successful operation before moving on to the next one. You cannot do everything at once. Balancing the breadth of your offering can be tricky. There is a narrow window of too many and too few products. Your profits will tell you if you stray either way. Nine out of ten times, businesses try to offer too much.

Advertising and promoting the same old way: If you are not achieving the numbers you need to succeed, you’ll need to change how you invest for growth. That’s hard to do when you do not have the resources. Who does these days? The important thing is that you pay attention to the results you get from the money and effort you put forth. If you have been running an ad in the local newspaper for four years and cannot see where you get any results, try something else. You can create a lot of marketing activity on the Internet at very little cost, but be sure it pays. A common mistake we see today is businesses getting enamored with all the new high tech methods and ignoring some old tried and true methods. Maybe relationship marketing is not for you and a print ad in the local paper is better. Find out if it is broken and fix it.

Obviously, these are not the only marketing mistakes you can make next year, but they are three big common ones. Avoid these and you can be ahead of the game.

To learn more about marketing and other matters for your small business, contact SCORE, America’s free and confidential source of small business mentoring and coaching. SCORE is a nonprofit association of more than 12,000 business experts who volunteer as mentors. SCORE offers free mentoring and low-cost workshops nationwide. Sign up for a free consultation at