The Biggest Marketing Mistake You’re Making Right Now

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Hands down, the biggest mistake I see in marketing — marketing for small businesses and nonprofits and arts organizations and individual artists and entrepreneurs — is not being clear about who you’re marketing to.

This one key question, if left unanswered, can cause breakdowns for your business on EVERY level.

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Writing a blog? Who should read it?

Building a new website? Who should use it?

Instagramming? Who should follow?

Boosting Facebook posts? Who should see, share and like them?

Sending an email? Who should open it?

When you aren’t deliberate about who you’re talking to, you can be sure you won’t reach anyone of relevance or value. Any content you’ve worked hard to create will lose its gleam right off the assembly line, gathering dust in a corner.

Don’t waste any more time, energy or money on your writing, videos, social media or website without answering this question:

“Who am I making this for?”

Hint: “The general public” is not an acceptable answer.

If you don’t know the answer, that’s OK. Hit pause, take a walk in the park, look at the real “why” of your business, ask for help.

If you don’t know the answer and move forward anyway, the content you’re trying to create will be mediocre… at best.

If you fall into the “but every person in the universe is my target audience” camp, you need to start categorizing that general public of yours. Immediately. Does your nonprofit actually cure diseases or rescue puppies? Yes, I believe you, everyone is on board with your mission. BUT that still doesn’t mean you are copywriting for anyone to secure donations, find volunteers, or inspire a social movement. Even those three actions alone could be three different demographics on your email list.

Why do you need to segment your audience?

Why do people love monogrammed towels and Google’s birthday doodle and Spotify’s Discover This Week playlist? Because they love to feel understood and valued on a personal, individual level. In a world of automated replies and less and less human customer service, feeling understood and heard is huge.

If you know who you’re talking to, you can then shape your content precisely for your people. Your customers, your clients, your audience, your tribe. Believe me, I know how hard this can be. I’m a digital marketing consultant for goodness sakes, and I veer off the track, too.

Case in point: my Instagram.

Amy Jacobus Marketing Instagram

But if I want to use Instagram to build my business (which I should), my Instagram is not for me.

Confession Time.

If I followed my heart, the only thing I’d post on Insta would be photos of my devastatingly handsome dog, Edison. (Really. I don’t think you all realize how many times per day I’m tempted to share how cute he is. I work from home, and he is constantly adorable.) But if I want to use Instagram to build my business (which I should, and I’ll write more on that in another article), my Instagram is not for me – it’s for other solopreneurs, future #girlbosses, small business owners, and arts and nonprofit professionals who are looking for inspiration and advice.

If I want to continue posting only photos of Edison, then I need to be comfortable with the fact that I will not gain followers who want to work with me, learn together or collaborate on projects. Instagram will not be a way for me to grow my business. It will be a way for me to build a fan club for my dog.

(Which could be fun, right, guys?)

But since Edison does not contribute to my Brooklyn rent, nor does he care how many people love the photo of him in a winter coat, I would rather devote more time and care to building a beautiful feed of marketing tips and design inspiration for like-minded creatives, copywriters and go-getters. I would rather share things I’ve learned, meet new friends and find new inspiration through exchanges with geniuses in the arts, selfless and savvy nonprofit leaders, and local business wizards. You can bet I’ll be thinking of my audience with every future post.

Now, make 100% sure you’re thinking of yours.

 I strategize, consult and manage digital marketing and communications for small businesses and creative entrepreneurs. I’m based in Brooklyn, because I have a thing for exposed brick, cozy, local coffee shops and the can’t stop, won’t stop energy of New York.

Because I work with small companies, I get the chance to really know my clients – what makes them tick and how and why they should stand out in a crowded marketplace. A lot of my clients have a smaller staff, a limited budget and are already stretched thin for time. This leads us to tailor marketing strategies and solutions to each company’s unique needs and actual capacity.